The 14 best US colleges in the West are dominated by California — here’s who makes the cut

The University of Southern California is one of the best colleges in the country.
University of Southern California/Facebook

Stanford University once again claimed a top spot on Business Insider’s annual ranking of the best colleges in America, coming it at No. 4 for 2016. Referred to as the Ivy of the West, Stanford earned a top spot for a number of reasons: it provides a quality education and graduates students on time, it sets graduates up to earn well-paying jobs early in their career, and it creates a memorable and enjoyable campus experience. (You can read about the methodology in detail here.)

Stanford is the best college in the American West, but it isn’t the only school in the region to make the list. In fact, when we expanded our ranking to the top 100 schools in the country, 14 of the best colleges in the US are located in the West. What’s more, California is home to 13 of those schools (the other is in Washington state), including several private universities and four University of California (UC) schools.

Read on for the full list of the best colleges in the West.

14. University of San Diego

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Location: San Diego, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$56,300

Average SAT score: 1228

Student life score: A-

The University of San Diego was established in 1949 when the San Diego College for Women merged with the College for Men, creating one of today’s leading Catholic educational institutions. Also a leader in international study, more than 70% of USD students live and study abroad through 135 programs in 44 countries.

13. University of California at Davis

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Location: Davis, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$57,100

Average SAT score: 1192

Student life score: A

UC Davis, the northernmost University of California campus, is located just two hours from the Bay Area and is consideredone of the most popular feeder schoolsfor Silicon Valley tech companies. Nearly 26,500 undergraduates attend Davis, 21% of which study in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, atop-ranking, nationally recognizedprogram in the fields of agriculture and forestry.

12. Loyola Marymount University

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Location: Los Angeles, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$55,600

Average SAT score: 1202

Student life score: A

One of the largest Catholic universities in the West,Loyola Marymount Universitycombines tradition and ministry with a rigorous academic curriculum. The 105-year-old school neighbors Silicon Beach, the Southern California counterpart to Silicon Valley, where students have access to internships and employment at hundreds of startups and tech companies, including giants like Microsoft, Snapchat, Facebook, and Google.

11. Pepperdine University

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Location: Malibu, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$61,400

Average SAT score: 1235

Student life score: B+

Perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean,Pepperdine‘s picturesque campus is home to five graduate schools, two of which offer dynamic undergraduate programs: Seaver College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, and the Graziadio School of Business and Management. Through its lauded international program, the private Christian university sends two-thirds of studentsto seven centers abroad, including locations in China, Italy, and Argentina.

10. University of California at Santa Barbara

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Location: Santa Barbara, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$52,000

Average SAT score: 1212

Student life score: A+

UC Santa Barbara is a global leader in science research and home to awell-established environmental studies programthat’s had a profound impact on the local, state, and national levels. Located on a 1,000-acre stretch of central California coast, serving about 19,360 undergraduate students, UCSB’s campus is the site of eight National Science Foundation-sponsored institutes, including theSouthern California Earthquake Centerand theKavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

9. University of Washington at Seattle

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Location: Seattle, Washington

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$52,100

Average SAT score: 1234

Student life score: A

UW’s flagship campus in Seattle – the best college in the state of Washington, according to our ranking – is home to about 28,750 undergraduate students. The school boasts one of the highest college research budgets in the country withmore than $2.5 billion in funding. A UW education is easily accessible, too; the average annual net cost of attendance is just under $12,000.

8. California Institute of Technology

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Location: Pasadena, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $74,000

Average SAT score: 1534

Student life score: B+

One of the most respected science and engineering schools in the world, Caltech manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a federally funded space research facility that led the successful mission to landthe Curiosity roveron Mars in 2012. But the intimate, 1,000-student private school is accomplished in more than just science. Asa certified olive-oil distributor, Caltech harvests on-campus olive trees to produce up to 150 gallons of oil annually.

7. Santa Clara University

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Location:Santa Clara, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$67,700

Average SAT score:1294

Student life score:A+

Located in Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University helps its students take advantage of the location byhosting numerous eventsand speaking engagements that keep students captivated outside the classroom. Its experiential-learning programrequires students to take off-campus immersion trips and get involved with the community. Santa Claraalumshave gone on to work at tech giants like Google, Cisco, Apple, and IBM.

6. Pomona College

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Location: Pomona, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $52,600

Average SAT score: 1454

Student life score: A+

The founding member of the Claremont Colleges – a consortium of five undergraduate colleges and two graduate schools – Pomona College is a liberal-arts school offering close to 50 majors in arts, humanities, and sciences. The selective private school is one of the most affordable on our list, with an annual net cost (the cost of tuition minus the average financial aid award) of $12,557.

5. Claremont McKenna College

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Location:Claremont, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$63,600

Average SAT score:1397

Student life grade:A

Just an hour away from Los Angeles, Claremont McKenna College belongs to the Claremont College Consortium, which allows students to attend small, close-knit classes while also having the option to take courses across seven colleges. CMC offers more than 30 majors and 10 sequences– a group of courses on a subject but not a full major. Its graduates go on tograduate schoolat top-tier universities such as Columbia, Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Yale.

4. University of Southern California

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Location:Los Angeles

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$66,100

Average SAT score:1380

Student life score:A+

Students who attend the University of Southern California will have the opportunitylearn from professorswho are Nobel laureates, National Academy members, and MacArthur Fellows. USC is dedicated to helping its students make the most of their education. ItsRenaissance Ideal gives students the flexibility to put together a program for their majors and minors suited to their needs.

3. University of California at Los Angeles


Location: Los Angeles

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $59,200

Average SAT score: 1289

Student life score: A+

Over the past 100 years, the University of California at Los Angeles has produced13 Nobel laureates, 12 MacArthur Fellows, and a host of athletes who have won more than 250 Olympic medals combined. UCLA has made an impact in the business world as well, with more than 140 companies originating from technology developed at the school.

2. University of California at Berkeley

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Location: Berkeley, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $62,700

Average SAT score: 1350

Student life score: A+

UC Berkeley came in as the third-best public university on the list and is the oldest of the 10 University of California research colleges. The school is a top academic institution and an athletic powerhouse. The Cal Bears havean unmistakable presence at the Olympics, sending 16 student-athletes to compete for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Before this year’s games, Berkeley students and alumni had won acombined 103 gold medals.

1. Stanford University

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Location: Stanford, California

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $80,900

Average SAT score: 1466

Student life score: A+

Known for theproliferation of technology companiesspurred from students’ time on campus, Stanford boasts top-notch computer science and engineering programs, with specialties offered in areas like atmosphere and energy as well as biomedical computation. The school’s four-to-one ratio of students to teachers ensures that every student interacts closely with professors and receives personal attention.