8 Reasons to Study in California

portrait of Reese Lopez
by Reese Lopez
Published on November 12, 2021

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Famous for its warm weather, coastal beaches, and sprawling cities, California occupies a unique place in American culture. The state may be better known for Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but several colleges in California rank among the best in the country. Elite institutions like Stanford, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Los Angeles, attract students from across the world.

The entertainment industry, a bustling tech sector, and an emerging green economy all make California a hotspot for jobs. Those who study in California can find plenty of professional and academic opportunities, but choosing the right college still requires careful research. Our guide can help you determine if California is right for you to study.

Why Should I Study in California?

Climate and Geography

California's beauty and mild climate make it a desirable location for many college students. The state's size creates a wide variety of climate conditions in different regions, including hot deserts and snowy mountains. However, major cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles generally remain temperate throughout the year.

California is also known for its natural beauty. The state is home to diverse landscapes, including mountains, deserts, forests, and beaches. California residents can also access some of the country's finest national parks, such as Yosemite National Park, Redwood National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.

Cultural Diversity

California maintains a national reputation for both cultural and racial diversity. Latino/as became the state's largest ethnic group in 2014. In 2021, they comprise 39% of the state's population, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Asian and Pacific Islander residents make up 15% of the state's population, while African American residents make up 6%.

Well known as a center of liberalism in the United States, California's major cities and college towns are generally diverse and progressive. The state is home to many LGBTQ friendly schools, including progressive campuses like University of California, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University.

Tech Opportunities

Also known as a tech hub, California offers many professional and educational opportunities for students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Bay Area colleges like Stanford University and Berkeley are well known for graduating prominent figures in the tech industry and producing startup technology ventures.

Learners who study in California can benefit from internships and other learning opportunities at some of the country's top technology companies, such as Apple and Google. Internships and other professional connections can often help students land a job after college. California also hosts a variety of coding bootcamps, another pathway into the tech industry.

Academic Opportunities

Many of the country's top colleges are in California. The UC System features some of the best public colleges in the United States, such as Berkeley and UCLA. The state is also home to the California State University System, which enrolled more than 485,550 students across 23 campuses in 2020.

Private colleges such as Stanford, the University of Southern California, and the California Institute of Technology attract students from around the country. Smaller, more selective liberal arts colleges in California include Pomona and Harvey Mudd. Students can also enroll in coding bootcamps, vocational schools, and community colleges in California.

Green Industries

California ranks as a national leader in growing green jobs and the green economy. The state has enacted legislation to curb carbon emissions and create new careers in sustainable industries. Major sectors of California's green economy include wind power, solar power, and biofuels.

Unsurprisingly, many of the best colleges in California also rank among the greenest universities in the country. Academic programs such as environmental science and sustainability studies prepare students to pursue a wide variety of environmental careers after graduation. California also ranks among the top states for green jobs, ensuring many career opportunities for students.

Outdoor Recreation Activities

California is home to a diverse landscape that offers many opportunities for outdoor activities. Students can easily access surfing, skiing, hiking, and camping, often within a short drive of major cities. National parks like Yosemite and Sequoia rank among the most popular in the country.

The Sierra Nevada mountains offer some of California's most popular skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Lake Tahoe hosts many popular ski resorts, such as the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and the Heavenly Ski Resort.

California also features some of the top beaches on the West Coast. In the Los Angeles area, Malibu and Santa Monica offer popular ocean views.

Food Culture

California's cuisine reflects the state's deep cultural diversity, with strong Latin American, Asian, and European influences. Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego host some of the country's top restaurants. The state's focus on local and organic cuisine, first developed in progressive cities like Berkeley, has also proven highly influential on a national scale.

California residents can find some of the country's finest Mexican food, including top-notch tacos and burritos. The state also lends its name to the California Roll, a sushi staple. Vegetarians and vegans can find plenty of food options at restaurants around the state.

Access to Entertainment

As an American cultural hub, California offers a wide variety of entertainment options for students. Global metropolises like Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area play host to live music and sporting events. They are also home to famous movie theaters, museums, and other institutions. Even smaller college towns like Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara offer plenty of engagement for students.

Major sports teams in California include the Los Angeles Lakers, the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Golden State Warriors. Some of the state's best-known museums include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Where Should I Study in California?

Best for Climate and Geography: San Diego

San Diego boasts consistently warm weather, with an average annual temperature of 72 degrees. The city also features a low annual rainfall total and few cloudy days each year. San Diego's location on the coast also offers access to some of the state's finest beaches.

Best for Cultural Diversity: Oakland

Located in the Bay Area, Oakland ranks among the most diverse cities in the country, with high percentages of Black, Hispanic, and Asian residents. The city is home to many schools, including Mills College and the California College of the Arts. Oakland's proximity to Berkeley and San Francisco also makes it possible for students to commute to these cities.

Best for Tech Opportunities: San Francisco Bay Area

Known worldwide as a tech hub, the Bay Area hosts many of the country's leading technology companies. Major companies including Twitter, Uber, Facebook, and Google all operate in and around the Bay Area. Prominent colleges like Berkeley and Stanford feed directly into the region's tech industry.

Best for Academic Opportunities: Claremont

Located just outside of Los Angeles, Claremont is home to the Claremont Colleges, a consortium of seven prestigious private schools. Claremont draws together seven distinct institutions into an area of less than one square mile. Members of the Claremont consortium include Pomona College, Scripps College, and Claremont McKenna College.

Best for Green Industries: Berkeley

Well known for its progressive values, the city of Berkeley ranks among the top cities for green jobs. The presence of UC Berkeley offers many academic and professional opportunities for students interested in pursuing green jobs. Neighboring cities Oakland, Hayward, and San Francisco also offer many green employment opportunities.

Best for Adventure and Outdoor Activities: South Lake Tahoe

The city of South Lake Tahoe sits nestled between the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the shores of Lake Tahoe, offering unmatched outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and waterfront activities, depending on the season. Nearby Tahoe National Forest offers additional opportunities for skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, and mountain biking.

Best for the Food Culture: Napa Valley

While Napa Valley may be best known for its vineyards, the area has also built a reputation as a foodie paradise. Pricy fine dining and thoughtful wine pairings characterize the Napa food scene. Visitors can find some of the area's finest restaurants in Napa's many luxury hotels and resorts.

Best for Entertainment: Los Angeles

As the cultural hub of the West Coast, Los Angeles offers unmatched opportunities for entertainment and nightlife. Music, film, and other entertainment industries play a major role in the city's economy and culture. Major colleges like UCLA, USC, and the California Institute of the Arts attract students from around the world.

Is Studying in California Right for Me?

California's weather, culture, and prestigious colleges offer obvious appeal for college-bound students. However, those who want to study in California have several factors to consider. The state's high cost of living and out-of-state tuition rates may pose a serious financial barrier for students who don't already live in California.

California does host a particularly high number of top-ranked public colleges, and several members of the UC System qualify as Public Ivies. Private colleges like USC and Stanford also add to the state's academic prestige. But out-of-state students should weigh the benefits of attending colleges in California against potential living and tuition expenses.

For students interested in certain career fields, such as technology or film, California offers undeniable appeal. Professional opportunities within the Bay Area's tech industry or Los Angeles's film industry may be worth the cost. However, students who live outside of California should also research education opportunities closer to home.

Frequently Asked Questions About Reasons to Study in California

What are three things California is known for?

California is well known for its mild weather, progressive culture, and role in the motion picture industry. The state also has a reputation for natural beauty, including coastal beaches and tall mountains. Additionally, California's Silicon Valley has greatly influenced the global tech industry.

Some of California's other well-known landmarks and tourist destinations include Disneyland, Alcatraz, and Yosemite National Park. The state is also well known for its vineyards, producing about 60% of the country's wine. Cities like San Francisco and Berkeley are also historically significant as centers of the U.S. counterculture.

Is California good for international students?

California attracts more international students than any other U.S. state. More than 160,000 international students studied in California in 2019, according to The Los Angeles Times. Some of the best colleges in California for international students include USC, UCLA, UC San Diego, and Berkeley.

Around 42% of California's international students come from China, and more than 12% come from India. While the state offers top-notch education, tuition rates for international students are quite high. Top public colleges charge around $44,000 annually for international tuition, compared to just around $10,000 for in-state tuition.

Is California a good place to go to college?

Many colleges in California offer elite academics, pleasant weather, and plenty of recreation activities. For students interested in certain career paths, such as tech or film, the state is an obvious choice. California also hosts some of the country's top colleges, including Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, and USC.

For out-of-state students, however, tuition can be quite expensive. Top-ranked public colleges like UCLA and Berkeley charge annual out-of-state tuition rates that approach or exceed many private schools'. Private colleges like Stanford and CalTech also feature tuition far above the national average.

What is special about the University of California?

The University of California System boasts a level of funding and academic prestige far above most state university systems. Several institutions in the UC System rank among the best public colleges in the country. UCLA and Berkeley, in particular, maintain national reputations and feature more selective admission rates than many private colleges.

The UC System includes several other colleges deemed Public Ivies for the quality of their education. These schools include UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz. In general, UC colleges boast high funding, top faculty, and quality academics.

California boasts more colleges than any other state. But what are the best college towns in California? Learn more about our top picks. Choosing the right college is a big decision. We break down the most important factors in determining which school is the best fit for you. Choosing a college is an important milestone for students. Learn about the six factors you must consider before committing to a school.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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