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Study in California

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There are many reasons to study in California: world-class universities with a welcoming attitude towards international students, a sun-kissed climate, world-famous beaches, exciting cities, a high standard of living, an assortment of cultural riches and an undisputed position at the cutting edge of modern technology, to name a few.

Home to Los Angeles – the entertainment capital of the world and the US’s second-largest city by population – California is known as the “golden state” due to its history in gold mining and its characteristic golden-brown hills in the summer. Now, this golden nickname also seems an apt reference to the state’s renowned glamour; from 2003 to 2011 it was even run by a movie star – Arnold Schwarzenegger (“the Governator”), famous for his roles in action films such as The Terminator and Predator

California is also famed for its prestigious universities, which include the world-famous Stanford University, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

If you have your sights set on studying in the golden state, scroll down for more information about top universities in California, student life, and some of our favorite facts about California.

Universities in California


As you might expect, given the fact California is home to Silicon Valley and some of the most innovative companies in the world, universities in California include many of the most prestigious institutions in the US. In the QS World University Rankings® 2019, California’s Stanford University is ranked second in both the world and the US, while the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is ranked fourth in the world. 

Stanford is located in the northwest of the Silicon Valley region, while Caltech is in Pasadena, close to Los Angeles. Both are the top private research universities in California – but another two of the top universities in California are part of the state’s public university system. The public University of California system has 10 campuses, and its two main universities, the University of California, Berkeley (known as UCS, UC Berkeley or just Berkeley, and widely known as “Cal”) and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) rank at 27th and 32nd in the world respectively.

Other top universities in California include:

*For information about ranking categories, and answers to other frequently asked questions, click here.

Several Californian universities also have the distinction of achieving impressive spots in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2019, with three in the global top 10: Stanford and UCLA share second place, while the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) is eighth. All three are ranked particularly highly for the alumni outcomes and employer reputation indicators. Find out more here.

Life in California

Los Angeles

As well as the film industry based in Hollywood, California is also a major power when it comes to music, having produced artists including *deep breath*: The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2Pac, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa, Mötley Crüe, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Iron Butterfly, along with a number of established orchestras.

Alongside its central position in contemporary pop culture, California is also a significant contributor in the agricultural, aerospace, biotechnology and manufacturing sectors, and is famously home to Silicon Valley – one of the world’s leading centers of high-tech innovation.

The state’s diverse spread of talents is matched by the diversity of its cultural and ethnic composition. According to the most recent US Census data (2010), approximately 38 percent of California residents class themselves as Hispanic or Latino and 13 percent as Asian. Just over six percent are black, and almost five percent have two or more races. California is considered one of the most liberal US states, with a tolerant attitude towards LGBT policies, and it was one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage.

In addition to the vibrant metropolises of Los AngelesSan Diego and San Francisco (all three of which rank among the world’s top 100 cities for students), California also has some of the US’s most stunning and diverse natural scenery, ranging from blissful beaches to snow-capped mountains. It’s no wonder, then, that California also has a reputation for its environmentalism and conservation efforts, and some of the strongest environmental laws in the US. 

Indeed, California’s numerous national parks, including Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park (the native home of the giant sequoia trees – the largest living organisms on Earth), would be reason enough to visit by themselves. The state’s stunning natural attractions include imposing cliffs, clear streams and waterfalls, groves of giant redwood (sequoia) trees, an inland salt lake, two large lakes (Lake Tahoe and Clear Lake) and a diverse range of habitats and wildlife.

In short, whatever your passion – be it technology, music, world cultures, conservation, acting, photography or computer programming – if you study in California you’ll find an environment conducive to all forms of discovery, exploration, adventure and entrepreneurship.

Facts about California 

San Francisco

  • Located on the west coast of the US; borders with Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, Mexico to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west
  • State capital is Sacramento and largest city is Los Angeles
  • Total population is around 39.5 million, the largest population of any single US state and approximately 12 percent of all US residents
  • State motto is Eureka!
  • You will likely spend between $9,800 – 11,100 on room and board per academic year while you study in California.
  • About 45 percent of California’s total surface area is covered by forests
  • Of the thousands of companies headquartered in Silicon Valley, those in the Fortune 1000 include Apple Inc., Adobe, eBay, Google, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Netflix and Yahoo!
  • California cultivates at least half of the fresh fruit produced in the US
  • It has the largest trees (giant sequoia), the tallest trees (coast or California redwood) and the oldest trees (bristlecone pine) in the world
  • Per capita energy use is one of the lowest of any US state 
  • Fastest growing solar energy market in the US – with several solar power plants and the capacity for 1.2 gigawatts, the equivalent of two large conventional power plants
  • Several dams across the state provide hydro-electric power
  • Contains both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States
  • Known for its car culture, California’s well-known Golden Gate Bridge was once the longest suspension bridge main span in the world
  • Famous actors and actresses born in California include Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood and Gwyneth Paltrow

Choose to study in California and you really will be spoilt for choice in all kinds of way – from great universities, to activity-packed cities, and diverse post-graduation employment prospects.

This article was originally published in December 2010. It was most recently updated in September 2018.

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First off here are some more facts of California:
-Silicon valley has 10,000 companies
-CA GDP ranks it at 6th in the world
-It has a strong federal government presence
-regulations are very strict so legally most are safe

cons: everything is far from each other:
-CA is everal hours away from SF...Las vegas ia bout 3 hours from Los Angeles if you leave at the right time
-Plane tickets cost a lot (Tokyo-> Bangkok is 14 hours but $350....SF<-> LA is 4 hours but more in cost sometimes)
-Valley is a multi-billion dollar agriculture industry so student life is not a priority.
-Cost of California living is asinine
-most major cities have a high crime rate. (my advise to women from abroad..dont be out alone, have 3-4 friends with you)

This article is kind of misleading. I am form California and I can tell you that the UC system is amazing for graduate schools; however, for undergrad it lacks hands on ability. Cousin go to: Davis, LA, and Berkeley..(I went out of state) and here are some things wrong with your claims

1) Outside of: Berkeley, LA, and SD the other UC are considered sub-par..Davis and Santa Barbra can make some claims in certain area but not overall.
Riverside, Irvine, Merced, and Santa Cruz are not that good. When I gradate in 2011 from high school, I was accepted to there programs/campus for simply being a 3.8+ gpa student (I had a 4.2)..as they did thousands of other students...most of us did not go to them for 3 reason:
1: They are not very strong as they were advertised to be.
2: some are in the middle of no where and not very accommodating
3: employers dont take them seriously.
2)The student faculty ratio is not very good in most UC.-You get massive lectures and often are no able to make strong connections with professors for jobs or recommendation.
-getting "hands on experience" is not in class..with massive class numbers and amount of students there for the name only aspect of the degree
-You are forced to go to grad school, if you like it or not because if you go into the industry most dont have the ability to actually do what you're taught.

3) California i heavily saturated with talent. There are places in the US that will pay a lot more, allow advancement, and compensate moving by helping relieve some debt issues.
California is also not a majority Latino state so if you are Spanish speaker then you will have more success then most.

4) In the state it is widely know that many state schools beat the UC in many subjects at the undergraduate level because of the California University Master plan
-2 years at the community college or JC, then go to the CSU for bachelors, then go to a UC for graduate, and pursue a PhD at the private level
-Cal Poly SLO: ranked as the best overall undergraduate engineering program
-Sac State ranked as on of the best Civil engineering programs in the state and west coast
-Nursing in ranked higher at Long Beach Sac State
-San Jose State is better than every UC except Berkeley for computer engineering/science and electrical-eng, because it is in the heart of Silicon valley.
-SJSU, Sac State, Long Beach, SLO, and SDSU are ranked very high on the internship rankings. (Sac state in the capitol so many of the students get to go the state agency for experience, as well as numerous are able to get into the FBI and CIA internships as well)

---Dont just follow the name. DO YOUR RESEARCH ABOUT CALIFORNIA. I have seen too many students come here in hopes of making it big; but, most end up going back to their country.
---make some connection with American students...most international never talk to us and it stay to themselves. That wont help you find a career here.
---RESEARCH SUBJECT NOT SCHOOL..what school is good for your major, not over all.

Thank you for your inputs on the Universities/Colleges in CA.
Can you suggest the good ones for Biological Science, Medicine and Medicine Related, Bio-Med Engg, Genetics in California other the UC


How can I get scholarship ? Also plz tell me the charges to study in California

Hi Abdul, here's a list of scholarships to study in the US. We also have an article on the costs of studying in the US, but to find out exact tuition fees for your course, you should check your chosen institution/s official website. :)

hi, my self Rekha n Chikkanagoudar. I am completed MSc in Home science specialization in Human development and family studies so my question next in 2016 i want join Phd in Home science in Australia/ Canada or America . Please inform me what should i do to join Phd with scholarship. Please anwer my question. Thank you

Hi Rekha, to get you started, you might like to have a read of our Top Grad School Guide, which contains practical information on studying at graduate level in particular countries. You can read more detailed information on studying in one of these countries via our complete guides. We have scholarship listings for all three countries, which you can browse from here, and we also have a blog post on how to find PhD funding. Hope this helps!

Hello, My name is Kakhramon from Uzbekistan. Now I'm studying at Riga Technical University in Riga, Latvia. I'm the first course of master Business Finance so my question next year may I transfer my study to the United States of America. If possible what should I do. Please answer my question. Thank you an advance.

Hi,I'm Elizabeth from Armenia! I'm interested in master degree programmes in Business(Finance). The thing is I need some good advice for choosing University( that specialized in Business subject) On the other hand I'd like to be familiar with ways of payment( are there some kind of student loans for international students)? Thanks in advance

Hi there , i am Kushan from Sri Lanka , could you please tell me am i suppose to pay my tuition fees after the visa or before apply the student visa, also like to know about possibility of the finding part time work. thank you very much indeed

Hi Kushan. Our guide to getting a US student visa should help clarify the process. You may also want to take a look at our guide to studying in the US, and the US section of the latest QS Top Grad School Guide.

hi i am marcial, i wanted to study in USA for to achieve my dreams. i finished my bachelor of science in civil engineering in University of the Cordilleras in Baguio City. I took my board exam and passed on May 2015. i worked overseas for 1 and a half years as a civil engineer. Now, i want to take my masters degree in USA as an international student with an F1-visa. Can you help me about my plans and what can you suggest and also financial matters ? thank you very much!

Hi Marcial. You may want to check out the US section in the latest QS Top Grad School Guide - this includes information about visas, applications and costs. We also have a guide to the costs of studying in the US, and a guide to US student visas, as well as an overall guide to studying in the US. Hope this helps you get started!

Hi am angela, I have had so many obstacles that has stopped me from education I really want to be somebody in life, am scared I will never achieve my dream, I want to study pharmacy, how do I get a scholarship for this as money is a huge problem for me.

Hi Angela, please take a look at our list of scholarships to study in the US. Alternatively, you may be able to find a scholarship that suits you from one of our other articles listing scholarships, or from browsing the official websites of the universities you're interested in applying for. :)

I am Solomon from Ghana, I have BSc Computer Science and Engineering and I need college in California that offer MSc in computer and networking security.

Iam marwan from algeria I study Information and Communication Technology I want to complet my edecation in California I have Master degre

How do I get a full scholarship to Californian Universities?

Hi Shannen, I'd advise that you research a number of Californian universities to see if they offer any independent scholarship funding (this info will be listed on their website). Use our state-by-state guide if you're unsure which leading US universities are based in California. External scholarships are also an option, a number of these are listed in our article 'International Scholarships to Study in the US' and our full range of scholarships articles might also be helpful. For information on applying to scholarships, see our Scholarship Applications FAQ. Good luck! Laura

Hi i am prince, am new to this whole stuff can i get a friend to pass me through

Hi Prince. I'm not quite sure what you mean - can you clarify your question?

Am a Ugandan>>>IT specialist...am interested in a masters in cyber security come fall 2015....Can anyone advise on the best university in California which offer this course

Hello Laura Bridgestock, Hope you are fit & sound. I am very interested to complete my post graduation in Mechanical Engineering from USA. But i have query. Is IELTS accepted in USA's universities? Can IELTS score be converted in TOFEL score?
Please inform.

Hi Tanbin, IELTS scores are accepted internationally - including the USA. The official IELTS website has a tool which lists all the universities accepting IELTS scores here - http://bandscore.ielts.org/ - select the United States to find the full list. Hope this helps, Laura

to have peace of mind and learn harder

my gre score is 285, will i get good universities in california for my gre score? or i should retake my gre exam again? i am worrid n confused pls help me

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My name's lamia i'm studying architectur in algeria ....and i wanna study in any universities in california

<a href="https://www.google.com.pk/">Google</a>

My name is Muqadas and i want to pursue a Master's degree in Theatre, Film and TV studies or Communications and Media Studies from any universities in California esp those near to San Jose. I have a B.A (Honors) in Media Studies from Kinnaird College for Women Pakistan. Kindly guide me towards Universities that offer scholarships to International students and also what is the GRE score that UCLA and Berkeley require from international students. I await your rely.

Hi Muqadas. We have some information about different types of scholarships here: https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/scholarships

If you attend the QS World Grad School Tour, you could also apply for a QS Scholarship: https://www.topuniversities.com/scholarships

For admissions requirements including GRE scores, I'd recommend checking the university website for the latest guidelines; these may vary depending on the course you apply to.

Hope this helps, and best of luck!


Hi, Im fiorella studying Graphic Design in Peru, but I want to major in Film, what do I need to apply to Standford or Ucla.


am graduate History heritage management and I want to study in scholarship.How can i get help through this system?Please give me a chance and i will show that I am the best and will also not give you chance for my complement.

Hi Andualem.

|Here at QS we offer some scholarships for postgraduate studies, which you can view here: https://www.topuniversities.com/scholarships

In order to apply, you'll first need to attend a QS World Grad School Tour event: https://www.topuniversities.com/events/qs-world-grad-school-tour

If you know which country you'd like to study in, you may also want to take a look at the relevant country guide, for advice on costs and funding opportunities: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study

Hope this is helpful.

I am Andualem Melesse from Ethiopia . i graduated BA in History heritage management from Arba minch Unvirisity so i want to study MA by scholar ship ....so if place answer my question..........

I am Ayanda Patience......i am a Nigerian.....I really want to study abroad..... I am good in art...I want to be an international lawyer..... Interested in sports and I believe it works out...I am really desperate

I am a undergraduate and I want to study astronomy in scholarship.How can i get help through this system?Please give me a chance and i will show that I am the best and will also not give you chance for my complement.

Hi Priya. It depends which country you want to study in. For practical advice for studying in different countries around the world, check out our country guides: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study

Here at QS we also run a scholarships scheme for postgraduate (master's and PhD level studies), swhich you can read about here: https://www.topuniversities.com/scholarships

Best of luck!

i like to take my bachelor's degree from USA. In USA wherever i will take, obviously desire a good university, Cause I'm man. whatever we get and this moment we want more....