Berkeley vs Occidental: A Comprehensive Overview

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

College Decision Day

Berkeley vs Occidental: A Comprehensive Overview

If you’re considering pursuing higher education in California, you might be wondering which college to attend. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview and comparison of two well-known colleges: Berkeley vs Occidental College. Let’s dive in and explore the differences between these two institutions.

Introduction to Berkeley and Occidental

The University of California, Berkeley, and Occidental College have unique histories, but both offer excellent academic programs and top-tier education. Berkeley is a public research university, founded in 1868 and situated in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s one of the most prestigious universities in the US, with a reputation for excellence in the sciences, engineering, and law.

Berkeley archway

Occidental, on the other hand, is a private liberal arts college, established in 1887 and located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles. It has a reputation for high-quality undergraduate programs, with an emphasis on a broad-based education in the humanities and social sciences.

Despite their differences, both Berkeley and Occidental share a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Berkeley has a long history of activism and social justice, with a student body that is known for its political engagement. Occidental, too, has a strong tradition of social responsibility, with a focus on community service and civic engagement. Both institutions offer a range of resources and support for students from diverse backgrounds, including first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color.

Historical Background of Berkeley and Occidental

Both colleges have rich histories. Berkeley was founded by the state legislature shortly after the start of California’s Gold Rush, with the goal of providing higher education to the state’s citizens. It was initially known as the “College of California” and was affiliated with what is now Mills College. In 1868, it became the University of California when it joined the state’s public university system.

Occidental, meanwhile, was founded by a small group of Presbyterian ministers to provide higher education, with an emphasis on Christian values and service. It was originally located in downtown Los Angeles but moved to its current location in Eagle Rock in 1914.

Despite their different origins, both Berkeley and Occidental have played important roles in shaping California’s educational landscape. Berkeley has long been known for its academic excellence and groundbreaking research, with numerous Nobel laureates and MacArthur “genius grant” recipients among its alumni. Occidental, on the other hand, has a reputation for its strong liberal arts curriculum and commitment to social justice, with notable alumni including President Barack Obama and actor Ben Affleck.

Today, both colleges continue to attract students from around the world and offer a wide range of academic programs and extracurricular activities. Berkeley remains one of the top public universities in the country, with a diverse student body and a strong commitment to public service. Occidental, meanwhile, has expanded its offerings to include majors in fields such as media studies and urban and environmental policy, while maintaining its focus on providing a well-rounded education that prepares students for a lifetime of learning and service.

Location and Campus Size of the Two Colleges

The location of a college can have a significant impact on the student experience. Berkeley is located in northern California, in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area. It has a sprawling, 1,232-acre campus, with almost 43,000 students enrolled. Occidental, by contrast, is situated in Los Angeles and has a much smaller campus, covering just 120 acres and serving just under 2,000 students.

Despite the size difference, both campuses offer unique advantages. Berkeley’s large campus provides ample opportunities for students to explore and discover new interests, while Occidental’s smaller size fosters a tight-knit community and personalized attention from professors. Additionally, Berkeley’s location in the Bay Area offers access to a thriving tech industry and cultural attractions, while Occidental’s location in Los Angeles provides opportunities for internships and networking in the entertainment industry.

Admission Requirements and Acceptance Rates

Both schools are highly selective, with rigorous admissions requirements and low acceptance rates. Berkeley, as a public university, has a more straightforward application process for California residents than for out-of-state or international students.

All applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores and complete high school coursework in specific subject areas. In contrast, Occidental uses a more holistic admissions process, taking a candidate’s interests, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation into account in addition to academic achievements.

Scholarship document, admission paper or letter on table.

It is important to note that both schools have different acceptance rates. Berkeley’s acceptance rate for the class of 2026 was 15%, while Occidental’s acceptance rate for the same year was 38%. However, acceptance rates can vary depending on the applicant pool and the competitiveness of the program. It is crucial for prospective students to thoroughly research and understand the admissions process of each school before applying.

Academic Programs Offered at Berkeley vs Occidental

Berkeley offers over three hundred undergraduate and graduate programs across fourteen colleges. The university is particularly well-known for its programs in engineering and the sciences, as well as economics, political science, and business. Occidental, as a liberal arts college, emphasizes undergraduate education and offers forty majors across several fields, including anthropology, psychology, and environmental science.

In addition to their academic programs, both Berkeley and Occidental offer a variety of extracurricular activities and resources for students. Berkeley has over 1,200 student organizations, including clubs for sports, arts, and community service. The university also has several research centers and institutes, such as the Berkeley Institute for Data Science and the Energy Biosciences Institute.

Occidental has a strong emphasis on community engagement and offers opportunities for students to participate in service learning projects and internships. The college also has a variety of on-campus resources, such as a writing center and a career development center, to support students in their academic and professional pursuits.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio at Berkeley vs Occidental

The student-to-faculty ratio is an important consideration when choosing a college, as it can affect the quality of education and how well students are able to form relationships with their professors. At Berkeley, the student-to-faculty ratio is 20:1, while at Occidental, it’s 9:1. This means that Occidental students may have a more personalized classroom experience, with more opportunities for one-on-one interaction with instructors.

However, it’s important to note that a lower student-to-faculty ratio doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better education. At Berkeley, the larger class sizes may provide students with a more diverse range of perspectives and experiences, as well as more opportunities for group work and collaboration.

Additionally, the student-to-faculty ratio is just one factor to consider when choosing a college. Other important factors include the quality of the faculty, the availability of resources and extracurricular activities, and the overall campus culture and community.

Demographics of Students Attending: Berkeley vs Occidental

The demographics of a college’s student population can also be an important consideration for prospective students. At Berkeley, the student body is diverse, with approximately 32% identifying as Asian, 29% as White, and 17% as Hispanic or Latino. Occidental’s student population is similarly diverse but smaller, with a roughly equal split between Asian, White, and Hispanic/Latinx students.

It’s worth noting that both Berkeley and Occidental have made efforts to increase diversity and inclusivity on their campuses. Berkeley has implemented various programs and initiatives to support underrepresented minority students, such as the African American Initiative and the Chicanx/Latinx Student Development Office. Occidental has also taken steps to promote diversity, including the creation of a Diversity and Equity Board and the establishment of a Center for Gender Equity.

Campus Life: Student Organizations, Clubs, and Activities

College life extends beyond the classroom, and both Berkeley and Occidental offer a wealth of extracurricular activities. Berkeley has over a thousand registered student organizations, covering a wide variety of interests, including academic, social, and political groups. Occidental also has a range of student organizations and clubs, with a particular emphasis on social justice and community service. Both colleges offer opportunities to participate in sports, music, debate, and more.

Group of students walking in the stairs.

In addition to the numerous student organizations and clubs, both Berkeley and Occidental offer a variety of activities and events throughout the year. These can include guest speakers, cultural festivals, and performances by visiting artists. Students can also participate in community service projects, such as volunteering at local schools or working with non-profit organizations.

For those interested in sports, both colleges have a range of options, from varsity teams to intramural leagues. Berkeley is known for its strong athletic program, with teams competing in the Pac-12 conference. Occidental also has a competitive athletic program, with a focus on Division III sports and a commitment to promoting gender equity in athletics.

Athletics Programs Offered at Berkeley vs Occidental

Sports can play an important role in many students’ college experiences, and both Berkeley and Occidental offer a range of athletic opportunities. Berkeley, as a Division I school, fields teams in nearly thirty sports, including football, basketball, and baseball. Occidental, as a Division III school, which is part of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, has a smaller athletics program and field teams in sports such as soccer, volleyball, and tennis.

Despite the difference in the size of their athletics programs, both Berkeley and Occidental offer excellent facilities for their student-athletes. Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, for example, is a state-of-the-art facility that can seat over 60,000 fans and is home to the school’s football team. Occidental’s athletics facilities, while smaller, are also modern and well-maintained, with a recently renovated gymnasium and tennis courts.

Both colleges also offer a variety of intramural sports and recreational activities for students who are not interested in playing on a varsity team. These programs provide opportunities for students to stay active and healthy, while also building friendships and a sense of community on campus.

Cost of Attending: Berkeley vs Occidental

One critical factor to consider when choosing a college is the cost of attendance. Berkeley is a public university, which means in-state students pay lower tuition than out-of-state or international students. The in-state tuition at Berkeley for the 2022-23 academic year is $14,226, while the out-of-state tuition is $43,980.

Room and board and other expenses can add an additional $20,000 or more per year. Occidental, as a private college, charges the same tuition for all students. The tuition for the 2022-23 academic year is $60,566. Room and board and other expenses can add an additional $17,000 or more per year. Both colleges offer financial aid packages, which can help offset these costs.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance is not the only factor to consider when choosing a college. Other factors such as location, campus culture, and academic programs should also be taken into account.

Additionally, students should research and compare the financial aid packages offered by each college to determine which one will provide the most support for their individual needs. It’s also worth considering alternative options such as community college or online programs, which may offer lower tuition rates and more flexibility in terms of scheduling and location.

Career Prospects for Graduates of Berkeley vs Occidental

The ultimate goal of attending college is often to prepare for a successful career. Both Berkeley and Occidental have excellent career centers, which can help students prepare for jobs, internships, and graduate school. Berkeley’s career center offers a range of resources, including workshops, job fairs, and one-on-one career coaching.

Occidental’s career center also offers career coaching, resume reviews, and interview preparation. Berkeley graduates have excellent career prospects, often finding jobs in high-paying fields such as tech and finance. Occidental graduates tend to have success in fields such as education, the arts, and public service.

However, it’s important to note that career prospects can also be influenced by factors such as location and industry demand. For example, Berkeley’s location in the San Francisco Bay Area provides graduates with access to a thriving tech industry, while Occidental’s location in Los Angeles may offer more opportunities in the entertainment industry.

Additionally, the demand for certain professions may vary over time, affecting the job market for graduates. Therefore, it’s important for students to research and consider these factors when making decisions about their career paths.

Research Opportunities Available at Both colleges

Research is an essential aspect of higher education, and both Berkeley and Occidental offer opportunities for students to conduct research in a variety of fields.

Berkeley is particularly well-known for its research in the physical sciences and engineering, with a range of state-of-the-art facilities and top-notch faculty. Occidental emphasizes undergraduate research, with opportunities for students to conduct research in environmental studies, neuroscience, and more.

Engineering students working together on a lab.


Additionally, both colleges offer research opportunities in the social sciences, humanities, and arts. At Berkeley, students can participate in research projects in fields such as sociology, psychology, and history.

Occidental offers research opportunities in fields such as literature, art history, and music. These research opportunities allow students to gain hands-on experience in their chosen fields and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their respective disciplines.

Conclusion: Which College is a Better Fit for You?

Both Berkeley and Occidental are excellent institutions with much to offer students. Choosing between the two depends on your individual academic interests, career goals, and personal preferences. Berkeley is an excellent choice for students interested in pursuing research in the sciences, engineering, or law.

Occidental, on the other hand, is a great fit for students interested in a broad-based liberal arts education with an emphasis on community service and social justice. Consider all the factors outlined in this article carefully to determine which college is a better fit for you.

Want to learn more about getting into College? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.



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