Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A woman typing in a library.

Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna: Which College is Right for You?

If you are trying to decide between the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, and Claremont McKenna College, you are not alone. Both are highly respected institutions that offer exceptional academic programs and opportunities. However, deciding which one is the right fit for you depends on a variety of factors. In this comprehensive article, we’ll take a deep dive into the similarities and differences between Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna, so you can make an informed decision that suits your academic goals and personal preferences.

Overview of Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

Let’s start with a brief overview of each institution. UC Berkeley, located in Northern California, is a public research university that is known for its top-notch academics, research facilities, and beautiful campus with views of the San Francisco Bay.

It is consistently ranked among the top public universities in the nation, and it’s one of the most sought-after schools in California for those seeking a high-quality education. Claremont McKenna College, located in Southern California, is a private liberal arts college that offers rigorous academic programs with a focus on leadership and social responsibility. The college is part of the Claremont Colleges consortium, which includes five other undergraduate colleges and two graduate schools.

UC Berkeley has a diverse student body, with students from all over the world. The university offers over 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including majors in engineering, business, social sciences, and humanities. The campus is also home to numerous research centers and institutes, including the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Space Sciences Laboratory.

Claremont McKenna College has a strong emphasis on preparing students for leadership roles in their chosen fields. The college offers majors in fields such as economics, government, and international relations, and has several research institutes and centers, including the Kravis Leadership Institute and the Rose Institute of State and Local Government. The college also has a strong commitment to community service, with many students participating in volunteer programs both on and off campus.

Location and Campus Size: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

One of the biggest differences between Berkeley and Claremont McKenna is their location and campus size. As previously mentioned, Berkeley is located in Northern California and has a sprawling campus that spans over 1,200 acres.

Students walking around the campus of a school.

It’s a large campus with a diverse student body of over 40,000 students. On the other hand, Claremont McKenna is located in Southern California and has a much smaller campus size of approximately 69 acres. It’s an intimate campus with a tight-knit community of around 1,300 students.

Despite the difference in size, both campuses offer unique advantages. Berkeley’s large campus provides students with a wide range of resources and opportunities, including numerous research centers, libraries, and sports facilities.

Claremont McKenna’s smaller campus, on the other hand, fosters a close-knit community where students can easily connect with their peers and professors. Additionally, the smaller campus size allows for more personalized attention and support from faculty and staff.

Academic Programs and Majors: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

Both UC Berkeley and Claremont McKenna are renowned for their academic programs and majors. UC Berkeley offers over 350-degree programs across various disciplines, including engineering, computer science, business, and natural sciences.

They are particularly well-known for their STEM programs, with several Nobel laureates among their faculty. Claremont McKenna, however, specializes in the liberal arts and social sciences. It offers 32 majors and 13 interdisciplinary academic centers, including the Center for Writing and Public Discourse and the Kravis Leadership Institute, which are designed to develop students’ leadership qualities.

In addition to its STEM programs, UC Berkeley also offers a wide range of humanities and social science majors, including anthropology, history, political science, and psychology. The university is also home to several research centers, such as the Berkeley Institute for Data Science and the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, which provide students with opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research.

On the other hand, Claremont McKenna’s focus on the liberal arts and social sciences allows students to develop critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills that are highly valued in today’s job market.

The college also offers several unique majors, such as Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE), which combines the three disciplines into a single program, and Science and Management, which integrates science and business courses to prepare students for careers in biotechnology, healthcare, and other related fields.

Admission Requirements and Acceptance Rates: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

Admission to UC Berkeley and Claremont McKenna is highly competitive, with a low acceptance rate at both institutions. UC Berkeley, being a public university, has a more extensive application process with a minimum requirement of the ACT or SAT scores, high school transcripts, essays, and recommendations.

Female student reading a likely letter.

On the other hand, Claremont McKenna is a private college that is need-aware in its admission process and considers a student’s ability to pay tuition among other factors. Their application process also requires SAT or ACT scores, high school transcripts, essays, and recommendations. Claremont McKenna has a slightly lower acceptance rate than UC Berkeley, typically accepting only around 10% of applicants.

It is important to note that both UC Berkeley and Claremont McKenna have holistic admission processes, meaning that they consider a variety of factors beyond just test scores and grades. Extracurricular activities, leadership experience, and community involvement are all taken into account when evaluating applicants.

Additionally, both institutions offer various programs and resources to support students throughout their academic journey. UC Berkeley has a robust undergraduate research program, providing opportunities for students to work alongside faculty members on cutting-edge research projects.

Claremont McKenna, on the other hand, has a strong emphasis on leadership development, offering leadership courses and programs to help students develop their skills and become effective leaders in their future careers.

Campus Life and Student Activities: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

Campus life at UC Berkeley and Claremont McKenna is vastly different. Given the larger student body at Berkeley, the campus vibrates with a different kind of energy. There is always something going on, be it a protest rally or a football game at Memorial Stadium.

Berkeley has a diverse range of student organizations, clubs, and sports teams for students to participate in, whereas Claremont McKenna has a smaller student body, so there may be fewer activities compared to Berkeley, but they are very close-knit and inclusive, making it easy for new students to feel at home.

Despite the differences in campus size and student body, both UC Berkeley and Claremont McKenna offer a variety of opportunities for students to get involved in community service and volunteer work.

At UC Berkeley, students can participate in programs such as the Berkeley Project, which organizes large-scale service projects throughout the city, or the Public Service Center, which connects students with local non-profit organizations.

Students walking around the school campus.

Similarly, Claremont McKenna has a strong emphasis on community service, with programs such as the Kravis Leadership Institute’s Social Sector Leadership Program, which provides students with hands-on experience in the non-profit sector.

Another notable difference between the two campuses is the availability of on-campus housing. UC Berkeley has a large number of dormitories and apartments available for students, but the demand often exceeds the supply, leading to long waitlists and high housing costs.

In contrast, Claremont McKenna guarantees on-campus housing for all four years of a student’s undergraduate education, with a variety of housing options available, including traditional dorms, suites, and apartments. This allows students to fully immerse themselves in campus life and build strong relationships with their peers.

Faculty and Class Size: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

At UC Berkeley, faculty members are leading experts in their fields, including some internationally recognized faculty members. However, given the size of the university, it’s increasingly difficult for undergraduate students to access these faculty members personally.

On the other hand, Claremont McKenna’s professors are known for their dedication to their students and their teaching, with an average class size of 17 students. Students are encouraged to work closely with faculty members and engage in research projects together.

Despite the challenges of accessing faculty members at UC Berkeley, the university offers a wide range of research opportunities for undergraduate students. With over 100 research centers and institutes, students have the chance to work on cutting-edge projects alongside faculty members and graduate students.

Additionally, UC Berkeley’s faculty members often collaborate with industry partners, providing students with valuable connections and real-world experience.

At Claremont McKenna, the small class sizes allow for more personalized attention from faculty members. This not only leads to a better learning experience but also fosters strong relationships between students and professors.

Many students at Claremont McKenna report that they have formed close mentorship relationships with their professors, which have helped them in their academic and professional pursuits after graduation.

Research Opportunities and Facilities: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

UC Berkeley is one of the top research universities in the world, with over $730 million in research funding per year. The university has a range of research centers and facilities, such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Space Sciences Laboratory, and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science.

Similarly, Claremont McKenna offers research opportunities in areas like economics, government, and international relations, with students encouraged to collaborate with faculty members on research projects.

UC Berkeley’s research facilities are not limited to the sciences. The university also has a strong focus on humanities research, with centers like the Berkeley Center for New Media and the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion. Additionally, the university’s proximity to Silicon Valley provides unique opportunities for research in technology and entrepreneurship.

Students working on something while in the classroom.


Claremont McKenna’s research opportunities extend beyond the campus as well. The college has partnerships with research institutions like the Keck Science Department, which allows students to conduct research in fields like biology and chemistry.

Furthermore, the college’s location in Southern California provides access to a diverse range of research opportunities, from environmental studies in the nearby mountains to political science research in the state capital of Sacramento.

Career Services and Alumni Network: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

Both UC Berkeley and Claremont McKenna have a robust career services center that provides students with a range of resources, including job and internship search assistance, career counseling, and employer networking opportunities.

UC Berkeley has a large and loyal alumni network, with notable alumni including Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and actress Lily Tomlin. Claremont McKenna’s alumni network is also impressive, with notable alumni such as billionaire philanthropist George Soros and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

However, there is a key difference between the two universities’ alumni networks. While UC Berkeley’s alumni network is more diverse and spread out across various industries, Claremont McKenna’s alumni network is more concentrated in the fields of finance, politics, and law.

This means that students at Claremont McKenna may have more direct access to alumni working in these specific industries, while UC Berkeley students may have a wider range of industries to explore through their alumni network.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid Comparison

As a public university, UC Berkeley’s cost of attendance is typically lower than that of private institutions like Claremont McKenna. However, the cost of attending UC Berkeley can still be high, and students may need to take out loans to cover their expenses.

Claremont McKenna is considered a more expensive option since it’s a private college. However, it also has a generous financial aid program, and around 50% of its students receive financial aid.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance and financial aid packages can vary greatly depending on individual circumstances. Factors such as family income, academic merit, and residency status can all impact the amount of aid a student receives. It’s recommended that students research and compare the cost and aid options of multiple schools before making a final decision on where to attend.

Student Success Rate and Post-Graduate Outcomes: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

UC Berkeley and Claremont McKenna both have impressive post-graduate outcomes. UC Berkeley is ranked among the top universities for graduate employability and has produced numerous successful entrepreneurs and industry leaders across the board.

Group of students sitting on the bench while talking.

Similarly, Claremont McKenna has a high success rate, with many of its graduates pursuing careers in finance, law, or consulting. Both institutions have a strong alumni network and resources that aid students in finding jobs or graduate programs post-graduation.

However, there are some differences in the student success rates between the two institutions. UC Berkeley has a larger student body and a lower acceptance rate, which can make it more competitive and challenging for some students.

On the other hand, Claremont McKenna has a smaller student body and a higher acceptance rate, which can provide a more personalized and supportive learning environment for students. Additionally, Claremont McKenna has a strong emphasis on undergraduate research and internships, which can give students valuable hands-on experience and a competitive edge in the job market.

Campus Diversity and Inclusivity: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

UC Berkeley has a diverse student population, with 33% of undergraduates identifying as Asian, 18% as white, 12% as Latinx, and 3% as Black. The campus community is also very active in promoting diversity and inclusion, with numerous student organizations and events dedicated to promoting equity and social justice.

Similarly, Claremont McKenna is committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity on its campus. The college has a range of programs and resources, including the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, that provides support to students of diverse backgrounds.

Moreover, UC Berkeley has implemented various initiatives to ensure that students from underrepresented communities have access to higher education. For instance, the university offers a comprehensive financial aid program that supports low-income students. Additionally, the campus has established partnerships with community colleges to facilitate the transfer of students from diverse backgrounds.

Similarly, Claremont McKenna has taken steps to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. The college has a strong commitment to recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty and has implemented programs to support the academic success of students from underrepresented communities.

For example, the college offers mentorship programs and academic support services to help students overcome any challenges they may face during their college journey.

Prospective Student Experience: Berkeley vs Claremont McKenna

A crucial part of choosing the right college for you is visiting the campuses in person. At UC Berkeley, you can take a self-guided tour of the campus, attend an info session, and meet with current students.

At Claremont McKenna, you can also schedule a tour of the campus and attend an information session. Both universities also offer virtual campus tours, and we highly recommend visiting both campuses to get a feel for their culture and student life.

Group of students talking in a classroom.

During your visit to UC Berkeley, you can also explore the surrounding city of Berkeley, which is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene. You can visit the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, catch a show at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, or grab a bite to eat at one of the many local restaurants.

Similarly, when you visit Claremont McKenna, you can explore the nearby city of Claremont, which is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. You can visit the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, browse the galleries at the Claremont Museum of Art, or enjoy a meal at one of the many outdoor cafes in the village.

Tips for Choosing the Right College for You

Choosing the right college for you can be an overwhelming process. Here are some tips that can help you navigate the decision-making process:

  • Think about what you want to accomplish in college.
  • Consider your academic and career goals.
  • Visit the campuses and talk to current students.
  • Compare the cost of attendance and financial aid packages.
  • Consider the size and location of the campus.
  • Think about campus culture and what kind of community you want to be a part of.

Another important factor to consider when choosing a college is the availability of extracurricular activities. These activities can help you develop new skills, make new friends, and enhance your overall college experience. Look for colleges that offer a variety of clubs, sports teams, and other organizations that align with your interests.

It’s also important to consider the quality of the faculty and academic programs at each college. Look for colleges that have experienced and knowledgeable professors in your field of study. You can research the faculty and academic programs online or by talking to current students and alumni.

Conclusion: Which College is the Best Fit for You?

Deciding between UC Berkeley and Claremont McKenna College is a tough decision. Both institutions offer top-notch academic programs, a wide range of extracurricular activities, and a commitment to student success.

Ultimately, the decision will come down to your personal preferences, academic goals, and financial situation. The best way to make an informed decision is to visit both campuses, talk to current students, and gather as much information as possible. Use the above comparison to guide you, but also trust your instincts and choose the college that feels like the best fit for you.

Young woman smiling in the school halls.

It’s important to remember that the college you choose will have a significant impact on your future. Consider not only the academic and extracurricular opportunities, but also the location, campus culture, and overall atmosphere.

Think about what kind of community you want to be a part of and what kind of experiences you hope to have during your college years. Remember, the decision is ultimately yours and there is no one “right” choice. Trust yourself and choose the college that aligns best with your goals and values.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.


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