Are you in earnest search of a world-class education that’s accessible, affordable, and excellent by all standards? A University of California education checks all those boxes and more. UC schools are not only considered the best nationally but also globally.
It is no secret the University of California system is widely known even among non-natives of California. And that’s not by mere coincidence. UC schools shine in almost every sphere be it sports through UCLA football, intellectualism through top-of-the-line faculty members, or even through membership to the UC alumni network.
That said, the incessant question still remains, what are the best UC schools? Understanding UC rankings is what helps you chart the best education and career path for a brighter future.
Founded in 1869, the UC system has become highly esteemed for its exceptional service, scientific research, and academic excellence. With such a reputable resume, the UC system appeals to over 200,000 applicants each year.
Attending UC schools is a dream come true for many college and undergraduate students. Not only do UC schools boast of some of the best faculty members comprising Academy Award Winners, Nobel laureates, and MacArthur Fellows but also has facilitated some of the nation’s groundbreaking researches that translate to hundreds of inventions each year.
What’s more, everyone attending UC wants to be associated with the alumni network, which largely comprises some of the world’s brightest minds, Fortune 500 CEOs, as well as Olympic medalists.
If all these are not a hallmark of prestigious and all-rounded education, then what is? UC has helped thousands earn all that and your case will be no different once you set foot in there. Before picking any of the best UC schools, however, it is imperative that you review the list of UC rankings outlined below and make an educated decision for a successful professional journey.
Ready to begin your long-awaited journey into UC? We can help you get started through our admissions consulting, especially if you are looking for medical school admission.
Who Else Thinks University of California Schools Is the Best?
Six of the University of California campuses were recently featured among the top 10 national public universities in the United States. These UC rankings are based on US News and World Report’s 2022 Best Colleges rankings.
Each fall, the online magazine publishes a comprehensive list of high-ranking American colleges and universities. The major considerations in their rankings are undergraduate admissions selectivity, financial resources, and academic reputation.
The six best UC schools highlighted in the report included:
- University of California, Los Angeles
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of California, Santa Barbara
- University of California, San Diego
- University of California, Irvine
- University of California, Davis
Broadly speaking, the US News magazine further expanded their coveted list, which saw eight of UC’s undergraduate campuses make it to the best 100 public and private universities across the United States.
What better place to kick start your professional journey and be counted among the best of the best?
The Best UC Schools Are Also Very Sustainable
Rankings by Sierra Club and Princeton Review placed UC schools as a nationwide leader in University sustainability. The UC system is actively working to meet its environmental-conscious goal of realizing carbon neutrality come 2025.
Different UC campuses are engaged in various projects to support this mission. All that concerted effort could not go unnoticed. Sierra Club, through its official magazine Sierra, produces an annual Cool Schools list that recently ranked more than 300 undergraduate colleges and universities.
Interestingly, five of UC’s campuses found their way to the top 20 cool schools for their unwavering efforts in creating sustainable learning environments. UC Irvine was the leader in these efforts and stood at position 2 overall. This was followed by UC Berkeley, UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Davis.
UC Irvine is currently undertaking more than 100 programs and initiatives related to sustainability, has several LEED Platinum buildings, and boasts of sustainable vehicle infrastructure, all of which have largely drawn the nation’s attention to it while attracting a significant pool of undergraduate students.
UC Berkeley was also recently honored for its unique campus sustainability plan of completely decarbonizing the school by 2028. That was not all. The school received more green accolades for its revolutionary water-resilience projects to effectively cope with drought.
UC Santa Barbara was acknowledged for its Edible Campus program, zero-emissions electricity policy, food justice student reading group, not to mention its ambitious efforts to broaden its Green Offices and Green Labs certification to remote working areas.
UC Merced could not miss the list of recognition. The school was praised for not only achieving carbon neutrality way ahead of schedule but also for its student’s sustainability badge requirement. The campus’s list of achievements also involved its Pop-Up People’s Pantry program that ensures the community is fed through the school’s greenhouse.
In addition to the Sierra rankings, UC schools were also recognized by the Princeton Review. In its 2022 Green Honor Roll, the review applauded UC Irvine, UC Merced, and UC Berkeley for attaining the highest possible sustainability scores nationally.
These rankings essentially evaluate whether campus students have a quality of life that is not only healthy but also sustainable. Therefore, if you are actively engaged in environmental stewardship and would love to keep your passion alive, joining any of the nine UC best schools is definitely a prudent choice.
What Schools Make Up Our UC Rankings List?
Before plunging into a comparison of the best UC schools, let us first review the list of the UC campuses we’ll be discussing in this guide. They include:
- UC Berkeley
- UC Davis
- UC Irvine
- UC Merced
- UC Riverside
- UC San Diego
- UC Santa Barbara
- UC Santa Cruz
UC San Francisco has been omitted from the list because it only provides graduate and professional degrees. However, our main focus is on the UC campuses that provide undergraduate degrees.
How Are UC Rankings Determined?
While the UC system doesn’t expressly rank its campuses, other third-party entities do. Therefore, what you are looking at right now is an unbiased ranking from reputable sources.
As earlier mentioned, the best UC schools appear on the US News and World Report every year, and based on that data, it is possible to determine a more definitive order of UC rankings. The online magazine affirms that the best UC schools are those that wholesomely satisfy a student’s needs. That extends beyond just academic needs.
Generally, the methodology employed by US News and World Report to rank schools entails a number of factors including:
- Faculty resources (i.e. class size, mean faculty salary, and student: faculty ratio)
- Social mobility
- Undergraduate academic standing (assessed through the university’s deans of admissions’, provosts’, presidents’ opinions)
- Rates of student graduation and retention
- Students financial resources (measured per student-spending on academics such as research)
- Selectivity of students (determined through high school class standing and SAT/ACT scores of incoming students)
- Graduation rate performance
- Mean alumni giving rate (percentage of graduates that donate to their school each year)
- Graduate indebtedness
From this criteria, the US News and World Report methodology adequately covers multiple aspects of a school including faculty soundness, different learner outcomes, alumni engagement, as well as the school’s overall standing in the space of academia.
This process, therefore, is considered thorough and credible, and it forms an excellent foundation for our UC rankings list.
What Is the UC Rankings List for 2022?
The following ranking of best UC schools is drawn from the US News and World Report rankings for best colleges and universities to consider across America in 2022. Each ranking is accompanied by an enclosed figure that represents the campus’s position when stacked against the rest of the ranked United States colleges.
This year’s rankings mark the 37th year of college rankings by US News and World Report depicting just how important to students, families, as well as the general population these rankings are.
|UC Rankings||US News and World Report Rankings||Year Founded||GPA Range||ACT Range||SAT Range||Acceptance Rate||Location in the US|
|UCLA||1 (20)||1919||4.19 to 4.32||31 to 35||1350 to 1550||10.8%||Los Angeles|
|UC Berkeley||2 (22)||1868||4.12 to 4.30||29 to 35||1320 to 1540||14.5%||Berkeley|
|UC Santa Barbara||3 (28)||1891||4.10 to 4.29||28 to 34||1290 to 1510||29.2%||Santa Barbara|
|UC San Diego||4 (34)||1960||4.07 to 4.29||29 to 34||1310 to 1520||34.3%||La Jolla|
|UC Irvine||5 (36)||1965||3.96 to 4.26||27 to 34||1280 to 1510||29.0%||Irvine|
|UC Davis||6 (38)||1905||3.95 to 4.25||26 to 33||1230 to 1490||49.0%||Davis|
|UC Riverside||7 (83)||1954||3.7 to 4.13||21 to 31||1110 to 1380||65.8%||Riverside|
|UC Merced||8 (93)||2005||3.39 to 4.00||18 to 27||980 to 1260||87.6%||Merced|
|UC Santa Cruz||9 (103)||1965||3.81 to 4.20||24 to 32||1170 to 1440||58.8%||Santa Cruz|
What Does the Ranking Methodology Entail?
As seen above, the UC rankings drawn from US News and World Report revolved around several measures of academic quality.
The data was collected during a spring and summer survey of more than 1,400 colleges and universities conducted across the US in 2021. The ACT and SAT scores were largely sourced from testing periods running from 2019 through 2020.
So, How Do You Narrow Down the Best UC Schools?
College rankings provide a perfect analysis to make your selection of the best UC schools easier. However, they may not tell the whole story. Before picking your UC school of choice, therefore, it is wise to base your decision on more than just what the rankings provide.
A holistic review is imperative because each UC campus prides itself on unique selling points specific to them. The campuses’ personalities differ greatly as well as the student experiences they provide. It is imperative to note that a particular UC campus may possess great rankings nationally and seem more prestigious as compared to its counterparts but still fail to meet your needs.
At the end of the day, a student’s specific needs matter most. So, before choosing the best UC schools for your undergraduate studies, consider the community, research opportunities, location advantages, and academic quality each campus offers to its students.
Why Do the Different UC School Communities Matter?
Besides location, each UC campus in California is largely defined by its student community and history. This distinctive vibe resonates differently with different students. Let’s start by comparing the oldest and the youngest members of the best UC schools, where the oldest is UC Berkeley and the newest is UC Merced.
UC Berkeley boasts of a rich history of political activism. It is no wonder the students that go here have a visible inclination toward politics. Such students are driven by the strong desire to perpetually fan the flame of political activism by taking part in political movements and other social impact activities.
Born in 2005, UC Merced is not historically rich like its counterparts, a factor that makes it unique. Students attracted to the school possess a deep desire to pioneer its history and be part of defining its position in the UC system.
In addition to history, the nine UC campuses considerably differ in the size of their student bodies. Being the youngest, UC Merced is also the smallest with a student capacity of about 8,000. Next in the size rankings are UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Santa Barbara each with a student capacity in the region of 20,000. Lastly, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and UC Davis have an undergraduate enrollment of 30,000 each.
That said, if you are after a small college environment, UC Merced could be your best option. Alternatively, you could settle for UC San Diego that is systematically fragmented into several residential colleges despite receiving huge enrollments. The fragmented colleges (i.e. Seventh, Sixth, Roosevelt, Warren, Marshall, Muir, and Revelle) are meant to inspire intentional student communities.
However, if you are pursuing a large college feel, you might feel most at home by enrolling at UCLA, the biggest UC campus. Setting foot here comes with other privileges like an unmatched sports culture throughout California.
Why Consider the School’s Location?
In case you have lived or transited through California, then you know how diverse the people and culture of the gigantic state are. They all vary from location to location within the state. That includes academic culture as well.
The nine UC campuses highlighted above are scattered all over California. That means they all provide a certain degree of location uniqueness and overall setting to align with certain students’ needs perfectly while rubbing others up the wrong way. So, here is why campus location matters.
· Better Career Exposure and Growth
When analyzing the location of your ideal UC campus, remember that some sections of California are career magnets for certain specific industries. A place like Los Angeles is well known for its unparalleled entertainment careers.
So, if your dream is to study hard and penetrate the world of film someday, you would be better off attending UCLA compared to UC Berkeley for instance, because while at UCLA, it will be much easier to access unique opportunities that give you an upper hand when soliciting internships that lead to solid careers. While at it, you also get a great opportunity to broaden your career network with like-minded professionals.
That doesn’t negate the location privileges that come with other UC campuses. Campuses like UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego are neatly located near massive water bodies. With that in mind, a student pursuing a career in oceanic or marine studies might stand a great chance of succeeding in their profession. UC Berkeley borders Silicon Valley, the global hub for technology and innovation-related careers, which means that it offers a great starting point for your tech job.
· Holistic Campus Experience
Other than career appeal, different UC campus locations may also appeal to particular student personalities differently. A campus like UC Irvine sits right at the epicenter of Orange County. As such, it would mostly appeal to overly vibrant students, especially those with a knack for weekend fun. There is a lot to explore in the county including Disneyland and the wide range of activities that go down at Newport Beach every single day.
For the rather calm and peace-loving students, UC Davis would make a perfect match. The campus is set in a small town deeply nestled in nature’s tranquility. For such students, exploring the outdoor atmosphere would make a perfect weekend activity.
Well, this is not to necessarily emphasize weekend activities on campus or push you to make your decision entirely based on a singular aspect. The real emphasis here is that selecting the right schooling location can help you transition through college better by providing a wholesome learning experience.
How Do You Identify the Most Suitable UC Major?
Overall, the UC system provides more than 800 degree programs. Most majors are offered in all the nine UC campuses with only a handful of programs unique to a specific campus. This might actually help you narrow down your choices of the best UC schools, especially if you wish to major in a field offered on only a few campuses.
Check out these special programs and look for a major that suits you.
- UC Irvine for BA in Literary Journalism
- UC Santa Barbara for BS in Zoology
- UC Davis for BS in Entomology
- UCLA for BA in Arabic
- UC Berkeley for the Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (MET) program (i.e. BS in Business Administration plus BS in any engineering discipline)
- UC Riverside for BS in Mathematics (Secondary School Teachers)
- UC Santa Cruz for BS in Robotics Engineering
- UC San Diego for BS in Nanoengineering
In addition to the above list, it is also important to mention here that only two UC campuses provide undergraduate nursing degrees: UC Irvine and UCLA.
Furthermore, UC San Diego has an added advantage when it comes to offering majors anchored on marine life and ocean sciences. This is because it houses one of the most ancient and biggest institutions for ocean science research globally (i.e. the Scripps Institution of Oceanography).
These are just some of the endless privileges you receive by choosing to undertake certain programs at specific UC campuses. Therefore, before narrowing down your options for the best UC schools, take some time to review and understand the majors available within the UC system.
Why Should You Consider Specific UC Faculty and Research?
More than two-thirds of UC students take part in research as part of their undergraduate studies. And no, this is not just a preserve for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math disciplines. Both the UC faculty as well as students immerse themselves into robust research across all disciplines and majors.
So, as you contemplate your various options of the best UC schools, do not forget to review the type of research you are likely to conduct under the different UC campuses. To inspire your decision, consider your favorite field of study, the kind of lab you would love to be part of, as well as the faculty member you would love to research under and learn from.
To do this, you could consider the recent research milestones of different UC schools. A faculty team from UC Santa Barbara, for instance, is currently working on the impact of wildfires on weather patterns. Another team from UC Irvine lab is presently at the advanced stages of creating a more precise and affordable COVID-19 antibody test.
This is just a small representation of the major scientific strides witnessed within the larger UC system. A lot more is happening at the students’ individual level. That leaves you with endless possibilities when finding a research lab, faculty team, or field of study that best resonates with your educational and career interests.
How Do You Pick the Best UC School to Enroll In?
When it comes down to it, how do you make that life-changing decision? Remember, you cannot afford to choose wrongly for that would be a lot costlier.
While the UC rankings discussed in this guide simplify your college search process, you should not ignore other extra factors that are equally impactful when choosing the best UC schools. If you are still at the contemplation stage trying to weigh your different options, you can add the following guidelines to your checklist of the best UC schools.
· Thoroughly Research Each UC School
At the core of your extensive research is a physical campus visit. Personally visiting all the nine UC schools or at least those you are strongly considering is a big plus. Why? Because it gives you the perfect uninterrupted opportunity to assess the school, its facilities, culture, and community inch by inch and clear all your doubts. Not to mention that it presents a perfect opportunity for an adventurous excursion if you are new to California.
Nonetheless, if that is not an option for you, there are other convenient alternatives available. You can start by going the virtual way. Take a virtual tour of the different UC schools through the popular college search tool, YouVisit.
If the tour is not enough, you can speak directly to the UC admissions team to gain more insights into the features and general culture of each of the nine campuses. Another viable option would be to engage either current UC students or alumni, especially on social networking platforms if you cannot meet them in person.
In your extensive research of the different UC campuses, you will probably discover certain aspects that strongly draw you to a specific campus or features that totally disagree with what you are looking for in a good school. This will help you narrow down your list of best UC schools quicker.
· Evaluate Your Alignment With the School’s Community
Is the UC campus you are considering a good fit for you? To answer this burning question, assess the school from different angles in relation to your specific interests.
What matters most to you in a college experience? Would you rather be on a large or small campus? What best resonates with you, a suburban or urban campus location? What types of activities or extracurricular activities motivate you best? What do you fancy doing during weekends?
If you can answer some of these questions correctly, you will have significantly slashed your hard task of selecting the best UC schools. It is not uncommon for students to drop a highly prestigious college for a less fancy one simply because it was a poor fit for them. The truth lies in how you feel when you are within the campus environment.
Do you feel at ease both inside and outside the classroom? If yes, then you will have no problem sailing all the way to graduation and even become a proud UC alumnus with one of the most memorable college experiences during your tenure.
· Accurately Match Your UC Major With Your Career Interests
In case you didn’t know, it is possible to have several major options ending up in the same career. That calls for keener attention when considering your options of the best UC schools. Before exploring the different majors on offer from each UC campus, try to identify and single out the specific aspects of the major that directly touch on your passion, which ultimately fuels your career trajectory.
Does the class you are aiming at sound interesting to be part of? Is a certain faculty member the highlight of the fascination? Are you likely to derive any unique resources, opportunities, or experiences from the academic department that would help shape the success of your career? What are the odds of the campus partnering with big industries or other potential industry players to augment their students’ professional progress?
From your assessment, if the campus provides definitive answers to these questions, you can safely consider it for your next undergraduate stop.
· Make Several UC Applications
Did you know you can actually apply to all the nine UC campuses through a singular application? Well, now you know. Once you have successfully narrowed down your list of the best UC schools, you can choose to apply to some or all of them. Just note that the more UC schools you apply to, the costlier it will be with up to a maximum of $ 630 for all nine campuses.
Since the minimum application fee is only $ 70 per campus, it would be wise to throw three or four applications for a safe landing, considering how competitive entry into UC best schools can get.
Accounting for your academic and personality preference is not enough when making your application. You must go a step further and take into consideration your admission chances at the various UC campuses because their selectivity scores differ greatly.
To better calculate your admission odds, review the acceptance rate, ACT, SAT, and GPA scores outlined earlier because these are some of the most critical factors during selection.
With all that in mind, let nothing hinder you from actualizing your lifelong dream of attending the best UC schools.
Let Us Help You Get Into UC!
We are well aware that joining university is a major life decision but no one said you have to make it alone. Our UC rankings are specially created to relieve most of the stress involved in the school research and selection process while helping you discover a campus that’s a great fit.
Our mission at International Medical Aid (IMA) is to provide a safe and reliable starting point for students comparing schools. Moreover, with our admissions consulting, you can safely chart your way through medical school with significantly higher rates of success.
Moreover, if you are one of those students interested in expanding your horizon of international experiences, our global internship programs will suit you perfectly. Reach out today and let’s get you started. Good luck getting into UC!