Top 10 Excellent Colleges in L.A.

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The East Coast may claim home to the City That Never Sleeps, but the West Coast has the City of Angels. Aspiring actors, musicians, entrepreneurs and the like flock to Los Angeles, California for one thing: to make dreams a reality. After all, hiking SoCal’s beautiful mountain ranges and surfing at the idyllic sunny beaches will make you feel like anything is possible. But where do the best and the brightest go to in the Los Angeles area to learn how to make their dreams come true? We’ve got the answer.

10. Pitzer College

Pitzer College creates an intimate environment while still offering all the resources of a big school. How do they do this? All seven of the Claremont Colleges (including Claremont McKenna, Pomona, Scripps and Harvey Mudd) work closely together to offer students the resources of a big school while keeping their own student body numbers low to provide the personalized attention offered by small schools. Plus, Pitzer boasts over 60 different clubs and organizations clubs. We’re talking everything from breakfast and brewing to reggae and skateboarding. Aside from clubs, Pitzer’s green bike-share program lends out bikes to students in exchange for few hours of volunteering. Promoting green initiatives with physical activity and volunteerism? Talk about killing three birds with one stone.

9. Pepperdine University

Any Zoey 101 fans out there? You may know Pepperdine as the Pacific Coast Academy (aka the coolest boarding school ever). Turns out, Pepperdine and the rest of Malibu look just as picturesque in person as on TV. PU loves sending their students abroad—try two-thirds of the student body—to Lausanne, Heidelberg and Buenos Aires, etc. When students grow weary of gallivanting around the world, they can participate in programs like Surf Convo and God in the Wilderness that combine spirituality with Pepperdine’s beautiful natural surroundings.

8. Loyola Marymount University

Walk onto campus and never again wonder why LMU consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful college campuses. The school’s hilltop location overlooks the city of L.A. and the Pacific Ocean. But LMU offers more than just a pretty view. LMU delivers extensive career and professional development support. Not only does LMU’s career development staff outline what resources will be most helpful during a student’s freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year, but their very own LionJobs links students and alumni to job and internship opportunities most suited to their interests. “I love LMU because of the community and the relationships I have created. I’m constantly being challenged inside and outside the classroom, and learning to become comfortable with the uncomfortable,” said senior Kaitlin Quigley.

7. UC Santa Barbara

Palm trees, the ocean breeze and a mountain backdrop—what more could you need? UCSB students have a reputation for being some of the fittest kids in the nation. Outside of class, expect to see your fellow classmates surfing in the ocean waves or jogging across campus. But aside from the athletics, Santa Barbara offers over 200 majors, degrees and credentials. Who wouldn’t want to add a Global Peace and Security or Sociocultural Linguistics minor onto their English degree? But have no fear, students who feel intimidated by larger lecture classes seek refuge in the school’s Campus Learning Assistance Services. CLAS offers workshops and tutoring on a smaller scale to give students time to adjust into a large, scholastic setting. “As someone who has lived in Northern California all his life, coming to UCSB was a major change of pace,” said senior Daniel Chan. “In the end, being here by myself allowed me to open up to trying new things and pursuing opportunity when it presents itself because the alternative was staying the same rather than growing as a person the last four years of my life.”

6. Pomona College

Only three miles away from the base of the San Gabriel Mountains foothills, Pomona College’s scenery takes ‘breathtaking’ to a whole new level. But you gotta work hard to get here—only 9.1 percent of applicants make the cut. The 1,640 undergraduate students who did, however, now make the most of their prime location near the mountains and the beach. One of PC’s most prized traditions, Ski-Beach day starts with skiing and snowboarding in the mountains and ends with s’mores and sunsets on the beach. When students escape Pomona’s nature and find themselves back on campus, they work hard to earn their degree. PC’s alumni network of about 25,000 offers students a seamless transition into the workforce from college, if they so please. No more moving in with Mom and Dad for a year while you “figure things out.”

5. Scripps College

Beyoncé reinforced the idea that girls run the world, and Scripps College makes sure that comes true. With an undergraduate student body of under 1,000, this all-women’s college works tirelessly to make their student’s career aspirations come true. Over 90 percent of the freshmen class meet one-on-one with the school’s Career Planning and Resources within their first three weeks on campus. Talk about getting a head start. Plus, 82 percent of students have at least one internship during their time at Scripps. Within three months of graduation, over 50 percent of students start working full-time. Beyoncé would be proud.

4. Claremont McKenna College

Leave the cutthroat mentality at the door—though Claremont McKenna teaches the best and the brightest, students don’t view each other as competition. Instead, CMC students go above and beyond to help each other out with their studies. The school’s government and economics programs may lure over 40 percent of the student body, but don’t be turned away if your interests stray. While the politically-inclined thrive on CMC’s political-activist atmosphere, anyone feels at home. Sports-enthusiasts, coffee-fanatics and music aficionados all have a club to indulge their interests. The Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum also hosts four speakers a week. Past speakers include Spike Lee, Bono and former President Bill Clinton.

3. Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd refuses to play by your typical college rules. Though they offer only nine majors, all focusing on engineering, science and mathematics, Harvey Mudd won’t let their students leave without a fully-rounded curriculum. Harvey Mudd still considers itself a liberal arts school, and students take humanities courses as part of their studies. Don’t worry, book nerds: You’ll get to read Othello for class-credit. “Harvey Mudd is an exceptional school because it approaches a technical education in an incredibly creative manner. The in-class education is designed around struggling with problems you don’t immediately know how to solve, problems where you have to call upon more than the formulas you learned in class. It’s applicable to all aspects of life general; you learn to thrive and think creatively in difficult environments,” said freshman John Little. Mudd students know they receive a once-in-a-lifetime curriculum, hence the reason why their retention rate stands high as a whopping 98 percent. If you managed to be one of the 13 percent admitted, you never want to give that up that accomplishment.

2. University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)

UCLA gets a whole lot of screen time both in major picture films and on TV. You know when your favorite character visited Harvard, Princeton or Yale? Yeah, they were actually on the UCLA campus. UCLA’s Westwood location houses the school in a quaint but quirky bubble. From tiny boutiques to Diddy Riese Cookies, you never need to leave Westwood (though you probably should explore the rest of L.A., too).  The faculty  also includes 13 Nobel laureates, 12 MacArthur fellows and 3 Pulitzer Prize winners. As far as sports go, students proudly brag about their D-1 teams. On game days, the entire student body turns blue and gold. “After having been here a while I can say that there is definitely an atmosphere of competition, but rather than it being a negative influence, I found myself challenged to grow in ways that I would never have experienced anywhere else,” said senior Karen Tolentino. “Everyone here feels very honored and happy to be here and there is a ton of school pride- way more than most schools I’ve seen, which was one of the things that stood out the most when I first arrived. I love this school and couldn’t be prouder to call myself a Bruin.”

1. University of Southern California (USC)

Lights, camera, action. Film students have long been drawn to USC for its film school (George Lucas did go here after all), but USC draws more than just aspiring filmmakers. Beautiful brick buildings and glorious gardens make the sprawling landscape of Los Angeles feel close-knit—while still providing students with all the luxuries of a big city. “One common thread I’ve noticed between all students at USC is that everyone has a community. Regardless of majors, interests and causes, you’ll find others just as passionate as you are—about anything. College is what you make of it, and I’ve made USC my home,” said sophomore Ivana Giang. With an impressive student retention rate of 97 percent, a student’s four years at USC really do become the best four years of his or her life. For a school of its size (hello, 19,000 undergrads), USC boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of only nine to one. Forget getting lost in a hundred-person lecture hall. At USC you know your professor by name and, more importantly, they know your name, too.

Natalie is a senior English major at the University of Michigan. She loves listening to terrible pop-punk music and complaining about inclement weather.

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