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Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Are you thinking about going to college in the state of California? Well, there are a few schools that top all others, and a few might surprise you.

Let’s start off with some basic principles before going any further.

According to CNBC, California is the 3rd most expensive state to live in (behind New York and Hawaii). While tuition is the focus for most students when evaluating college costs, in the state of California it is also important to factor in the cost of living. If you are planning on attending a University in California, your "all-in" expenses are bound to be higher than in other states. It is important to consider Tuition + Room & Board to minimize debt post-graduation.

UCs are NOT always more expensive than Cal State Schools. A very common misconception is that UCs are always more costly than Cal States, which is true in some cases but not all. Let's compare CSLA to UCLA. For this example, we will use an in-state residents' cost of attendance. If you go to CSLA's website, you'll see a price tag of just over $29,000 if you live off-campus. When looking at UCLA's website, there is a price of $36,000 (living off-campus). But, let's say you come from a family whose household income is about $70,000. The updated price tag AFTER student aid for CSLA is $11,089 and for UCLA, just $5,802. With this, we can see that UCs typically give more federal aid to lower-income households.


When we think of Science, we usually think of a person in a lab coat either doing complicated calculations or conducting some sort of experiment. But, let's be honest, scientists do so much more than solve difficult calculations and conduct experiments. These are the people that look for ways to improve our health, find cures for diseases, or even fight our world hunger problem. The three most popular subjects for Science include Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Based on this trilogy, it's clear what school stands out above all others.

University of California - Berkeley

According to US News, UC Berkeley is ranked 3rd in Physics, 2nd in Chemistry, and 1st in Biological Sciences. One thing that makes UC Berkeley so unique is how specific you can get when selecting a major. For example, when you attend school, you don't say "I want to be a Biology major", instead you'd say something like "My major is Molecular and Cell Biology". A mouthful, but a lot easier for a future employer to understand what you're good at when looking for a job. On top of that, the school also has its own college completely dedicated to Chemistry (probably why they're ranked 2nd in the nation). Evidently, the major selection for Science goes on and on.

Honorable Mentions: UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Davis


Okay, so we know future doctors must take some science classes but what separates pre-med students from scientists? One word, medicine. The study of medicine is trans-disciplinary which means that there is so much more to it than just science. There is the study of English, Ethics, Management, etc. In other words, there is an intersection of different fields of study that doctors must know. Though an argument can be made that UC Berkeley is a better program, we're going to focus on another college that deserves the spotlight.

University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA)

In 2021, UCLA has been ranked the #1 Public University not just in California but the entire nation. With over 5,000 courses and 140 bachelor's degree programs, UCLA is a stellar school. But what makes UCLA so special for Pre-med students? Well, there are lots of things. One, the institution offers a Pre-medical Enrichment Program (PREP) that is designed for non-residents, from disadvantaged backgrounds with the means of getting them ready to study medicine. Two, the David Geffen School of Medicine. Established nearly 70 years ago, this is a top 10 medical school that any hospital wished their doctors had attended.

Honorable Mentions: UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, San Francisco State University


Another one of the fastest-growing majors is Communication. What is great about having a Communication degree is how much you can do with it. For instance, if a student majors in Environmental Science, it might be hard trying to get a job as a Psychologist. However, as a Communication major, you have many different options to choose from. That being said, if you're a student who doesn't quite know what they want to do yet, this can be a great option for you.

University of California - Santa Barbara

In 2020, UCSB’s Departments of Communication was ranked 6th in the world. With a statistic like that, comes competition when applying for the program. That is why the school offers students a chance to declare themselves as a Pre-Communication major when they first enroll. If a student can get into the program, they can expect to have a wide variety of classes. This can be Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, etc. All in all, if you're one to get bored easily, it's almost guaranteed you won't with this field of study.

Honorable Mentions: UC San Diego, UC Davis, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo


UCLA and UC Berkeley are both phenomenal business schools and without a doubt fall into the top three in the state. However, for this major, we'll do something different. Instead of just talking about the best business school, let's discuss the best bang for your buck business school.

University of California - Irvine

Tuition costs, graduation success rates, school quality, and post-grad earnings are all things that are considered when organizations come out with their rankings every year. Amongst public universities, UCI is RANKED #1 for Best Value school. Over half their students don’t even pay tuition after aid! But instead of just discussing how well-priced of a school UCI can potentially be, let’s talk about the business school.

The Paul Merage School of Business is located in the center of Irvine which is a breeding ground to so many cutting-edge businesses like Amazon, Google, Disney, Experian, Pacific life, and so on and forth. The school focuses on not just creating steady employees but creating leaders that want to move up in the world. And let's say you want to go to graduate school and start your own business. Paul Merage even has a Masters of Innovation and Entrepreneurship program that can help you get your business off the ground. Many times, when a student finishes undergrad, they go to work for a large corporation that wants to see them pan out. So, in return for the employee's hard work, they may just offer to pay for their Master's. If you're one of those people that want to come out of school with little or no debt and surpass a normal job, UCI is a great place to start.

Honorable Mentions: UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis


Just like Science, the final major we'll look at will also have many subcategories that are much more specific than just the major "Engineering". Some of these Engineering subcategories worth mentioning are Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, and Biochemical. For this, we won't just look at the "best" school but instead the best bang for your buck.

University of California - San Diego

With the San Diego area still being one of the fastest-growing parts of California, it's apparent that this city will need its fair share of engineers. The Jacobs School of Engineering offers opportunities for numerous types of engineers. In fact, this engineering school has had three undergraduate programs ranked in the nation's top ten. These programs include the Mobile and Web Applications track (ranked 7th), the Bioengineering and Biomedical track (ranked 8th), and the Biocomputing, Bioinformatics, and Biotechnology track. It's also worth mentioning that the staff at this school receive a lot of recognition for their research and accomplishments. For example, two professors just developed software that helps teach students to sketch 2D projections and 3D shapes. Practice what you preach!

Honorable Mentions: UCSB, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

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