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Study in California

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There are many reasons to study in California: world-class universities with a welcoming attitude towards international students, a sun-kissed climate, world-famous beaches, exciting cities, a high standard of living, an assortment of cultural riches and an undisputed position at the cutting edge of modern technology, to name a few.

Home to Los Angeles – the entertainment capital of the world and the US’s second-largest city by population – California is known as the “golden state” due to its history in gold mining and its characteristic golden-brown hills in the summer. Now, this golden nickname also seems an apt reference to the state’s renowned glamour; from 2003 to 2011 it was even run by a movie star – Arnold Schwarzenegger (“the Governator”), famous for his roles in action films such as The Terminator and Predator

California is also famed for its prestigious universities, which include the world-famous Stanford University, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

If you have your sights set on studying in the golden state, scroll down for more information about top universities in California, student life, and some of our favorite facts about California.

Universities in California

Stanford

As you might expect, given the fact California is home to Silicon Valley and some of the most innovative companies in the world, universities in California include many of the most prestigious institutions in the US. In the QS World University Content® 2019, California’s Stanford University is ranked second in both the world and the US, while the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is ranked fourth in the world. 

Stanford is located in the northwest of the Silicon Valley region, while Caltech is in Pasadena, close to Los Angeles. Both are the top private research universities in California – but another two of the top universities in California are part of the state’s public university system. The public University of California system has 10 campuses, and its two main universities, the University of California, Berkeley (known as UCS, UC Berkeley or just Berkeley, and widely known as “Cal”) and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) rank at 27th and 32nd in the world respectively.

Other top universities in California include:

*For information about ranking categories, and answers to other frequently asked questions, click here.

Several Californian universities also have the distinction of achieving impressive spots in the QS Graduate Employability Content 2019, with three in the global top 10: Stanford and UCLA share second place, while the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) is eighth. All three are ranked particularly highly for the alumni outcomes and employer reputation indicators. Find out more here.

Life in California

Los Angeles

As well as the film industry based in Hollywood, California is also a major power when it comes to music, having produced artists including *deep breath*: The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2Pac, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa, Mötley Crüe, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Iron Butterfly, along with a number of established orchestras.

Alongside its central position in contemporary pop culture, California is also a significant contributor in the agricultural, aerospace, biotechnology and manufacturing sectors, and is famously home to Silicon Valley – one of the world’s leading centers of high-tech innovation.

The state’s diverse spread of talents is matched by the diversity of its cultural and ethnic composition. According to the most recent US Census data (2010), approximately 38 percent of California residents class themselves as Hispanic or Latino and 13 percent as Asian. Just over six percent are black, and almost five percent have two or more races. California is considered one of the most liberal US states, with a tolerant attitude towards LGBT policies, and it was one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage.

In addition to the vibrant metropolises of Los AngelesSan Diego and San Francisco (all three of which rank among the world’s top 100 cities for students), California also has some of the US’s most stunning and diverse natural scenery, ranging from blissful beaches to snow-capped mountains. It’s no wonder, then, that California also has a reputation for its environmentalism and conservation efforts, and some of the strongest environmental laws in the US. 

Indeed, California’s numerous national parks, including  and  (the native home of the giant sequoia trees – the largest living organisms on Earth), would be reason enough to visit by themselves. The state’s stunning natural attractions include imposing cliffs, clear streams and waterfalls, groves of giant redwood (sequoia) trees, an inland salt lake, two large lakes (Lake Tahoe and Clear Lake) and a diverse range of habitats and wildlife.

In short, whatever your passion – be it technology, music, world cultures, conservation, acting, photography or computer programming – if you study in California you’ll find an environment conducive to all forms of discovery, exploration, adventure and entrepreneurship.

Facts about California 

San Francisco

  • Located on the west coast of the US; borders with Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, Mexico to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west
  • State capital is Sacramento and largest city is Los Angeles
  • Total population is around 39.5 million, the largest population of any single US state and approximately 12 percent of all US residents
  • State motto is Eureka!
  • You will likely spend between $9,800 – 11,100 on room and board per academic year while you study in California.
  • About 45 percent of California’s total surface area is covered by forests
  • Of the thousands of companies headquartered in Silicon Valley, those in the Fortune 1000 include Apple Inc., Adobe, eBay, Google, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Netflix and Yahoo!
  • California cultivates at least half of the fresh fruit produced in the US
  • It has the largest trees (giant sequoia), the tallest trees (coast or California redwood) and the oldest trees (bristlecone pine) in the world
  • Per capita energy use is one of the lowest of any US state 
  • Fastest growing solar energy market in the US – with several solar power plants and the capacity for 1.2 gigawatts, the equivalent of two large conventional power plants
  • Several dams across the state provide hydro-electric power
  • Contains both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States
  • Known for its car culture, California’s well-known Golden Gate Bridge was once the longest suspension bridge main span in the world
  • Famous actors and actresses born in California include Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood and Gwyneth Paltrow

Choose to study in California and you really will be spoilt for choice in all kinds of way – from great universities, to activity-packed cities, and diverse post-graduation employment prospects.

This article was originally published in December 2010. It was most recently updated in September 2018.

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81 Comments

Hello I am Asngari from Indonesian, I need study in Ucla and scholarship fullfoinded. Can you help me.

hello

I already had diploma in health information management, how can I apply for higher degree in California institutions. Thanks

How can I appy for the California Institute of Technology for postgraduate?

Hi iam from Pakistan I have to study MBBS @ FOREIGN scholarship please guide me about this.

Hi Omair, please have a look at our lists of scholarships for Pakistani students and list of medical scholarships around the world.

I have done my bachelor and now i want to get my Master degree in USA .i actually want to join for public health.can u plz recommend me good university with scholarship facility.

Hi. I've just graduated university in my country and now I want to get my Master's degree in USA. I'm interested in marketing. Can you recommend good university.

Extrasensory information thank you mam

Hola, soy Andrea Y quiero ser un doctor en enfermedades mentales (psiquiatra). Me gustaría que me recomiendes algunas universidades buenas para estudiarlas porque no soy de EEUU y quiero estudiar mis años de universidad en EEUU.
Respóndeme rápidamente por favor. Necesito saber universidades públicas o no públicas, pero alguna BUENA universidad APROPIADA para estudiar enfermedades mentales. ¡Gracias!

Hi, I’m Andrea. And I want to be a doctor of mental illness (psiquiatrist). I would like you to recommend me some good universites for study it ‘cause I am not form us and i want to study my years of university in us.
Answer me quickly please. I need to know public or not public universities, but some GOOD university PROPERLY to study mental illnesses. Thank you!

I want to M phil in Mathematices so plese suggest me which universty is good and what is the proces Thanks a lort

Hi Ghulam, here's a link to our latest rankings by subject for mathematics - the results can be narrowed down to show only US universities. You can find out about the process of studying in the US in our guide. Hope this helps! 

i want to study astronomy in college please recommend me the best colleges i am an international student

Hi my name is abdirahman i live in somalia i have compeleted secondary but i don't money to study university my dream is to learn medicine but i'm worried and i'm sorry please contact me

Hi Abdirahman, you can browse a range of medical scholarships around the world here. :)

Thanks to the author's information, in order to study in California, Ohio, Toronto, USA, UK.. you need to have good English, accompanied by accredited English certificates IELTS, Cambridge ... to achieve high scores in these English exams, many young people now choose to study in the Philippines to learn English, you can see more about studying in the Philippines.

I want to join Phd in Theology. Please somebody recommend some universtiy for me! Im a international student! Thanks

Hi Gladwin, I can't recommend any particular universities, but you might like to take a look at our latest rankings by subject for theology, with the results narrowed down to show only US universities. :)

My name is Victor Agbenyegah an underdraduate with HND in Civil Engineering. I want to further my studies as Environmental Engineer in your renounced university. Please any advice as to get started. Thanks

Hi Victor, we're not actually a university, we just provide information about studying abroad in different countries/universities. If you'd like to study in the US, our complete guide can help to get you started. Hope this helps. 

I want to do Animation so please suggest me which university is best.

hi

Please tell me If I can get full fund with MA Program average 16.59 out of 20 From Canada Or U.S.A universities in field of Applied Linguistics. Thesis Credit 20 out of 20. Two articles which are Non-ISI Thanks

I want to PhD in mathematics so please suggest me which university is good and what is the process . Thank you !

Hi Rajan, I can't recommend particular universities, but here's a link to our rankings by subject for mathematics, with the results narrowed down to show only US universities. You can find out more about studying in the US at graduate level in our new Top Grad School Guide 2016-2017. :)

I want to find a good university in San Jose, pls recommend some good ones for me. I am international student. Thanks

I would like to know which community colleges front California offer transfer program for Biomedical Engineering undergraduate degree.

Caltech one of my most favourite destination for higher study. Want to study Phd here in medical biochemistry with full funded schlorship...How my dream will be fulfilled completely? Want your right helpful suggestion...

Hi Subir, I've replied to your comment here. It might also be worth checking Caltech's official website for details on funding opportunities for a PhD there. Good luck!

Im currently working on my Bachelor degree in Psychology and i'd like to get my master's degree in forensic psychology or criminal justice. What is the best university in California or within US that provide master's in this field?
Thank you :)

Hi Sadhrina, to help you choose a university, you could view our rankings by subject for psychology, with the results narrowed down to show only US universities. To find out more about studying in the US at graduate level, please take a look at this article. Hope this helps! 

How do i get started with the Admission program and everything ,,,,Just got the A/L certificate in Cameroon...so how do we go about admission and Everything to further my studies in any University in USA.....Please would really do need your help and Guide.,...Thanks and Expecting your soonest reply

Hi Romeo, I've replied to your comment here. :)

Hi, I'm a Belgian student who just graduated a bachelor's degree in Sports Management. I now want to get my Master's degree in America. I read some information about studying it in California, but now I was wondering which university would be the best to study this, even out California. Is there also a course to become a players agent? Could you please help me? I truly appreciate it!
Regards Sebastian

Hi Sebastian, we don't currently rank sports management, but it may be helpful to view our rankings by faculty for social sciences and management, with the results narrowed down to see only US universities. You can read more about masters in sports management courses here. Hope this helps!

thanks for your helpful article. but i wanted to ask, "Can i spend two years at a community college which has a transfer program and then go two university?"
i would be really grateful if you answered my question.

Hi Shaghayegh, yes you can! You can find out more about this :)

Paul S, I really want to thank you for this advice , am a Nigerian that wants to apply for full scholarship abroad , please I'll really need your help especially as am a foreigner...I will certainly appreciate your assistance so I don't end up making mistakes...Thank you

Hi Blessing, please take a look at our list of scholarships to study in the US. :)

I hope somebody or International student would share how to get scholarship in University of Southern California :D

Hi Siti, I'd recommend having a look on the University of Southern California's official website for details on any scholarships they have on offer. :)

First off here are some more facts of California:
-Silicon valley has 10,000 companies
-CA GDP ranks it at 6th in the world
-It has a strong federal government presence
-regulations are very strict so legally most are safe

cons: everything is far from each other:
-CA is everal hours away from SF...Las vegas ia bout 3 hours from Los Angeles if you leave at the right time
-Plane tickets cost a lot (Tokyo-> Bangkok is 14 hours but $350....SF<-> LA is 4 hours but more in cost sometimes)
-Valley is a multi-billion dollar agriculture industry so student life is not a priority.
-Cost of California living is asinine
-most major cities have a high crime rate. (my advise to women from abroad..dont be out alone, have 3-4 friends with you)

This article is kind of misleading. I am form California and I can tell you that the UC system is amazing for graduate schools; however, for undergrad it lacks hands on ability. Cousin go to: Davis, LA, and Berkeley..(I went out of state) and here are some things wrong with your claims

1) Outside of: Berkeley, LA, and SD the other UC are considered sub-par..Davis and Santa Barbra can make some claims in certain area but not overall.
Riverside, Irvine, Merced, and Santa Cruz are not that good. When I gradate in 2011 from high school, I was accepted to there programs/campus for simply being a 3.8+ gpa student (I had a 4.2)..as they did thousands of other students...most of us did not go to them for 3 reason:
1: They are not very strong as they were advertised to be.
2: some are in the middle of no where and not very accommodating
3: employers dont take them seriously.
2)The student faculty ratio is not very good in most UC.-You get massive lectures and often are no able to make strong connections with professors for jobs or recommendation.
-getting "hands on experience" is not in class..with massive class numbers and amount of students there for the name only aspect of the degree
-You are forced to go to grad school, if you like it or not because if you go into the industry most dont have the ability to actually do what you're taught.
YOU HAVE A STRONG THEORETICAL UNDERSTANDING ..BUT VERY LITTLE ACTUAL EXPERIENCE.

3) California i heavily saturated with talent. There are places in the US that will pay a lot more, allow advancement, and compensate moving by helping relieve some debt issues.
California is also not a majority Latino state so if you are Spanish speaker then you will have more success then most.

4) In the state it is widely know that many state schools beat the UC in many subjects at the undergraduate level because of the California University Master plan
-2 years at the community college or JC, then go to the CSU for bachelors, then go to a UC for graduate, and pursue a PhD at the private level
Ex:
-Cal Poly SLO: ranked as the best overall undergraduate engineering program
-Sac State ranked as on of the best Civil engineering programs in the state and west coast
-Nursing in ranked higher at Long Beach Sac State
-San Jose State is better than every UC except Berkeley for computer engineering/science and electrical-eng, because it is in the heart of Silicon valley.
-SJSU, Sac State, Long Beach, SLO, and SDSU are ranked very high on the internship rankings. (Sac state in the capitol so many of the students get to go the state agency for experience, as well as numerous are able to get into the FBI and CIA internships as well)

MY ADVICE:
---Dont just follow the name. DO YOUR RESEARCH ABOUT CALIFORNIA. I have seen too many students come here in hopes of making it big; but, most end up going back to their country.
---make some connection with American students...most international never talk to us and it stay to themselves. That wont help you find a career here.
---RESEARCH SUBJECT NOT SCHOOL..what school is good for your major, not over all.

DearPaul,
Thank you for your inputs on the Universities/Colleges in CA.
Can you suggest the good ones for Biological Science, Medicine and Medicine Related, Bio-Med Engg, Genetics in California other the UC

Mahesh

How can I get scholarship ? Also plz tell me the charges to study in California

Hi Abdul, here's a list of scholarships to study in the US. We also have an article on the costs of studying in the US, but to find out exact tuition fees for your course, you should check your chosen institution/s official website. :)

hi, my self Rekha n Chikkanagoudar. I am completed MSc in Home science specialization in Human development and family studies so my question next in 2016 i want join Phd in Home science in Australia/ Canada or America . Please inform me what should i do to join Phd with scholarship. Please anwer my question. Thank you

Hi Rekha, to get you started, you might like to have a read of our Top Grad School Guide, which contains practical information on studying at graduate level in particular countries. You can read more detailed information on studying in one of these countries via our complete guides. We have scholarship listings for all three countries, which you can browse from here, and we also have a blog post on how to find PhD funding. Hope this helps!

Hello, My name is Kakhramon from Uzbekistan. Now I'm studying at Riga Technical University in Riga, Latvia. I'm the first course of master Business Finance so my question next year may I transfer my study to the United States of America. If possible what should I do. Please answer my question. Thank you an advance.

Hi,I'm Elizabeth from Armenia! I'm interested in master degree programmes in Business(Finance). The thing is I need some good advice for choosing University( that specialized in Business subject) On the other hand I'd like to be familiar with ways of payment( are there some kind of student loans for international students)? Thanks in advance