The Best Liberal Arts Colleges in California

October 31, 2022
By AdmissionSight

The Best Liberal Arts Colleges in California

It’s possible that the western region of the United States is best known for its huge institutions that specialize in fields ranging from STEM to basketball, but it turns out that this region also has some wonderful options for the best liberal arts colleges in California, for anyone who wants to study the liberal arts.

The state of California is home to more than a hundred schools and universities that offer four-year degrees. Approximately twenty of these institutions meet the requirements to be categorized as “liberal arts colleges.” It might be difficult to know where to start when looking into colleges in the state of California because there are so many schools to select from.

This ranking of the top liberal arts institutions in “The Golden State,” California, is intended to be of assistance to students and families who are searching for a high-quality liberal arts education in the region known as “The Golden State.”

Male student answering an exam with his fellow classmates.

The best liberal arts colleges in California provide their students with an exceptional education as well as a one-of-a-kind educational experience. Private colleges and universities tend to be less large than public universities and place more emphasis on fostering students’ development as well-rounded thinkers rather than merely preparing them for specific professions. Students don’t have to be concerned about large resources being put into graduate students at one of the best liberal arts colleges in California because the majority of these institutions are primarily undergraduate.

What are the Best Liberal Arts Colleges in California?

What are the best liberal arts colleges in California? To answer, each of the ten liberal arts institutions discussed in this article has a spot on the list of National Liberal Arts Colleges compiled by US News; the ranking of each institution is determined by where the school falls on the US News list. The following is a list, without further ado, of the best liberal arts colleges in California.

Pomona College

Pomona College is widely considered not only the top liberal arts school in the state of California but also one of the very best educational institutions in all of the world. Pomona is known for having an exceptionally tight-knit campus community, one in which the distinctions between living and learning are frequently blurred. It is accurate to say that 94% of students reside on campus throughout their entire four years of college, and the majority of professors live within 5 miles of the university as well.

View of Pomona building at day time.

Pomona University is the last school on this list to be a part of the Claremont Consortium. Students at Pomona can choose from more than 250 different clubs and more than 2000 different subjects across the university’s five schools. There is absolutely no scarcity of opportunities for the learner who is self-motivated.

Pomona College maintains a tradition of excellence in the liberal arts by maintaining an average class size of fifteen people. This allows for a more personal and interactive learning experience for both students and faculty. Pomona students engage in in-depth discussions on a wide range of academic topics, including the liberal arts, technology, philosophy, and any other academic field a person with an inquisitive mind could ever dream of, in these intimate class settings.

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College, which is also a member of the Claremont Consortium, may be found on a secluded campus that is bordered with trees around 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Due to its “need-blind” admission policy, Claremont McKenna College is able to attract a student body that is both extremely diverse and extremely accomplished.

The Center for Global Education at Claremont McKenna College is one of the most interesting new programs being offered at the college. The CMU Center for Global Education provides students with hundreds of opportunities to participate in a wide range of educational pursuits since the university is dedicated to the development of global leaders. Students have the opportunity to move into our nation’s capital for a semester while engaging in independent study and learning at institutions such as the Pentagon and the National Library through participation in “The Washington Program,” which is one of the Center’s signature programs and is simply referred to as “The Washington Program.”

Students who participate in “The Silicon Valley Program,” another initiative run by the Center for Global Education, receive preparation for both the field of technology and the field of entrepreneurship by participating in real-world learning activities in Silicon Valley. Students enrolled in the Silicon Valley Program are given the opportunity to network with corporate executives at leading technology businesses and participate in internships that are structured like cooperative work arrangements with Silicon Valley employees.

Harvey Mudd College

Every institution that makes up the Claremont Consortium has its own distinct personality, with Harvey Mudd being the one that is most accurately characterized as the “tinkerer.” The intellectual development of students into thinkers, creators, and makers is a point of pride for Harvey Mudd. In order to achieve this goal, Harvey Mudd is currently working on the construction of a brand-new, cutting-edge building that will be known as the McGregor Computer Science Center. This building will be 36,000 square feet in size and will include both classrooms and advanced facilities for the ever-expanding Computer Science department.

The mission of Harvey Mudd College is to broaden the educational opportunities available to students in ways that go well beyond the traditional classroom setting. In order to achieve this goal, students at Harvey Mudd College take part in an exclusive program called the “Clinic Program,” which is reserved for Harvey Mudd juniors and seniors.

Students at Harvey Mudd College are referred to as “Mudders,” and the Clinic program gives them the opportunity to apply their ambition and intelligence to problems and projects that are based in the real world. The projects are heavily reliant on technological components and include extensive integration of concepts from computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, and other relevant fields.

Scripps College

Scripps College, which is the only institution in the Claremont Consortium that is exclusively for women, provides a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity for young ladies who are interested in the liberal arts. According to a number of publications, Scripps College is consistently listed among the best residential liberal arts universities for women in the United States. Even though every single student at Scripps is a woman, the school’s demographics demonstrate a remarkable level of variety. More than forty percent of the student population identifies as a person of color, and five percent of students come from outside the United States.

Soka University of America

There aren’t many American universities that have been able to match Soka University of America’s meteoric ascent in prominence. Soka University has already amassed an endowment worth more than one billion dollars and has been ranked among the top 30 liberal arts colleges in the country by US News despite the fact that it has only been in operation for twenty years, which is an extremely short period of time in the context of the history of colleges and universities.

What is it about the Soka experience that makes it so profound and distinctive for its students? To begin, Soka is a university that provides its students with experiences and beliefs that are relevant on a worldwide scale. To achieve this goal, it is a prerequisite for graduation at Soka University that students complete some portion of their education outside the country. The student does not need to pay any additional money on top of their regular tuition in order to participate in this study abroad opportunity during their junior year. China, France, Japan, and Spain are some of the countries that provide the chance to participate in study abroad programs.

Pitzer College

Pitzer College, located in Claremont, is the next institution on this list. It is a distinctive liberal arts college that takes pride in preparing its students to enter the world as socially responsible global citizens. To this aim, students and professors at Pitzer are well-known for their commitment to the local community. In fact, Pitzer students volunteer for a total of 100,000 hours of community service each academic year.

Pitzer is well-known for being a member of the “Claremont” schools, which is a consortium of five liberal arts colleges that are consistently ranked among the top universities in the world. It should not come as a surprise that each and every Claremont College is represented on this list of liberal arts colleges in California.

What sets Pitzer apart from other colleges that are considered to be in the top tier? When we look at the student reviews that have been placed all over the internet, we can see that the atmosphere at Pitzer is both supportive and diverse at the same time. In addition, students at Pitzer College have access to the shared resources of all five Claremont Colleges, which allow them to collaborate with their classmates and make use of the various campus locations.

Occidental College

Occidental College has a campus that is hidden away in the hills of the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles. Occidental College boasts a cutting-edge campus that is replete with cutting-edge facilities, historic buildings that have been meticulously conserved, and an unequaled location in one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the world.

The Kahne United Nations Program is considered to be a hallmark effort for Occidental College. Students enrolled in this program will uproot their lives and spend one semester in New York City, where they will compete for coveted internship positions with organizations affiliated with the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations. This particular curriculum provides students who are interested in unique diplomacy chances with an opportunity that is unparalleled by the majority of other liberal arts universities across the country.

Alumni from Occidental College are consistently ranked among the most accomplished graduates of any liberal arts institution. They include winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize, the Academy Award, the BAFTA Award, and the Emmy Award.

Thomas Aquinas College

The next institution on the best liberal arts colleges in California list, Thomas Aquinas College, is a superb educational establishment with an interesting quirk: the college does not provide any majors or minors to its students.

You read that correctly: Thomas Aquinas rejects the conventional ideas of college majors and minors in favor of an educational system known as the “Great Books” approach. This is an instructional strategy in which textbooks are replaced with classic works of literature. The idea behind this is straightforward: Thomas Aquinas wants to teach students using primary source material from the world’s most brilliant minds rather than using summaries derived from secondary source material.

As a result of the methodology that Thomas Aquinas developed with the Great Books, classroom discussions typically revolved around the texts that were originally penned by Homer, Plato, and Aristotle. The exceptional dedication of Thomas Aquinas College to the development of the free-thinking mind makes it an intriguing option for the advanced collegiate student. Thomas Aquinas College is perhaps the most distinctive liberal arts college in California.

Whittier College

The following institution on this list is Whittier College, which is located in Southern California and is a private liberal arts college with about 1,700 students. Whittier is an excellent option for a student who is looking for a close-knit, primarily undergraduate experience at a school that is not only known for having rigorous academics but also for having incredible and consistently sunny weather. Whittier was ranked by Washington Monthly as one of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the country.

Students at Whittier have the option of selecting a major from one of thirty different departments, or they can participate in the Whittier Scholars program and design their very own major. By giving students the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning activities and by assisting students in identifying areas of interest with the assistance of faculty mentors, the Scholars program at Whittier College distinguishes itself from other liberal arts colleges.

Westmont College

Westmont College in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA. Westmont College is an interdenominational Christian liberal arts institution whose aim is to educate students to become thoughtful thinkers as well as trustworthy leaders.

There are thirty different majors available to students at Westmont College’s Liberal Arts Division. Business and Marketing are two of the most popular majors. In addition to the programs that are offered on the main campus, Westmont also offers a variety of off-campus programs that last for an entire semester in a number of other countries and cities, such as Israel, Costa Rica, and Washington DC.

Students who are looking for a top-tier liberal arts education in addition to a close-knit community will find that Westmont is a good alternative for them because the campus is full of events like these.

What are the Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education?

Since we already delve deeper into the nuances of liberal arts and the best liberal arts colleges in California, you might wonder what are the benefits of a liberal arts education. The production of a person who was morally upstanding and ethical, well-versed in a variety of subject areas, and highly articulate was supposed to be the end result of a liberal arts education.

A teacher talking to a female student holding her book.

However, modern liberal arts curricula enable students to study a much wider variety of topics than their predecessors did, while still adhering to the fundamental goals of traditional liberal arts curricula, which are to produce well-rounded individuals who have a general knowledge of a wide variety of topics and who have mastered a variety of skills that can be applied in a variety of contexts.

If you are still unclear about whether or not a degree in the liberal arts is right for you, the following are some of the most important advantages of having such a degree:

Preparation for work in a variety of sectors

If you take a degree that focuses on only one subject or career, you won’t have as solid of a foundational understanding of as many different fields as you would if you took a general education degree.

College students talking about internships.

Introduction to career choices

Because of the wide variety of topics covered in a liberal arts degree program, students have the opportunity to become familiar with topics that they might not have otherwise been exposed to. This gives them the ability to make a more educated decision regarding the field in which they wish to pursue their professional endeavors.

Stepping stone to other careers

The education that you receive in the liberal arts can provide you with the knowledge necessary to more easily transition out of the career that you are currently in and into another.

Liberal arts degrees are appealing to employers

Employers acknowledge that graduates of liberal arts programs possess the required transferrable abilities to adapt to a constantly evolving workplace.

Foundation for graduate study

A prospective graduate student with a background in the liberal arts will have the ability to learn across a varied range of studies and will have the foundational knowledge necessary to move straight into graduate study in any subject they choose.

Skills to become a valuable community member.

Education in the liberal arts provides its graduates with the necessary qualities that can enable them to adapt and thrive in the world, communicate with and understand other community members, and have a broadened perspective. This education goes beyond what is taught in academic institutions and in the workplace.

Ivy League students gathered around a room preparing for an activity.

Want to learn more about getting into one of California’s best liberal arts colleges? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over ten 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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