15 Best Ivy League Schools in California 2024

Ivy League Schools in California

Are you aiming for an Ivy League education? If yes then you might be curious about Ivy League schools in California. It is a common question because California is a popular place with lots to offer to the students. 

Ivy League schools are highly aspirational because they provide top-notch opportunities. Many students dream of attending one. So, if you are considering California for college, you might wonder if there are Ivy League options there. Let’s learn more about it in this article. 

However, if you’re exploring college options in California and considering financial aid, you might find our article on Online Colleges in California That Accept Financial Aid helpful for making informed decisions.

Key Takeaways

  • There are no Ivy League schools in California.
  • Ivy League schools are a group of eight universities in the northeastern United States.
  • These schools are very selective and have a long history.
  • California has many other excellent universities that are not Ivy League.
  • These universities offer a great education and many opportunities for students.

Which Ivy League Schools Are There in California?

If you are dreaming of attending an Ivy League school in California, you are not alone. Many students share this aspiration. However, currently, there are no Ivy League schools in California. 

Ivy League schools are very selective. So not every college holds this prestigious title. Despite California being home to many renowned colleges, none of them are Ivy League.

We know you are surprised to learn that although California has some highly aspirational colleges none of them are Ivy League schools. Being Ivy League goes beyond just being popular or reputable. It is about meeting specific criteria that these schools fulfill. The best Ivy league schools in the US are not just about fame. They are known for their academic excellence, great faculty and top-notch facilities.

While this news might disappoint those hoping for an Ivy League experience in California, there is still plenty of good news. California boasts several excellent colleges, such as: 

  • Stanford University
  • Caltech
  • UC Berkeley
  • Pomona College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • USC
  • UCLA.

These schools are known to offer top-notch education and numerous benefits for their students, even if they don’t carry the Ivy League label. So, if you are aiming for a high-quality education with various advantages, these colleges can be the perfect option for you.

What Makes a School an Ivy League School?

During the 1950s, Ivy League schools got their name to show they were top-notch. It started because they were all in the same athletic group, called Ivy. 

Over the period, the term became more about describing schools that were tough to get into and offered lots of perks to their students. The students started noticing that Ivy League graduates made more money in the long run.

These days, lots of schools offer great chances for a successful career, not just Ivy League ones. In California, especially, top schools set you up for high-paying jobs just like Ivy League ones. 

That is why the term “Ivy League” is not as special as it used to be. Even regular colleges are becoming super popular. Here are some Ivy League schools that still hold that title:

  • Brown University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • Yale University
  • University of Pennsylvania

Why Are Ivy League Schools in California Hard to Get Into?

Even though California does not have Ivy League schools. It has got some of the most famous colleges you can think of. These colleges are super popular. So getting into them is tough. 

As they are so well-known, they get tons of applications from students every year. And with limited spots available, they have to turn down a lot of applicants.

When you apply to top Ivy League Schools in California, you are up against thousands of other applicants with similar qualifications. So, expect the competition to be fierce. This means that these colleges get way more applications than they can accept. It leads to a high number of rejections. 

But it does not mean they only take a handful of students. To increase your chances, make sure your application stands out by meeting all the eligibility requirements.

Simply having a flawless application won’t guarantee your entry into these elite schools. You need to make your application shine. 

You need to tell the faculty members why you are the ideal candidate. Otherwise, your application may get overshadowed, and you won’t receive that acceptance letter.

List of Top 15 Ivy League Schools in California 

If you are dreaming of attending an Ivy League school in California, it is important to know that there are not any Ivy League schools in the state. Although Ivy League schools in California are prestigious, California has plenty of other fantastic colleges to offer.

The bright side is that California boasts many top-tier colleges, even if they are not classified as Ivy League. These colleges are highly desirable and provide excellent opportunities. Let’s have a look at some of them.

1. Pomona College

Pomona College
Pomona College

If Pomona College is not on your radar yet, you should check it out. It is ranked fifth among National Liberal Arts Colleges. Pomona is part of the Claremont Colleges. It means you can take classes at seven different schools in Southern California. 

They offer 80 summer internship programs. It gives you a chance to boost your skills. Also, nearly half of Pomona students choose to study abroad during their degree.

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1470-1570 SAT, 33-34 ACT
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,700

2. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California
The University of Southern California

The University of Southern California is California’s oldest private research university. It boasts the largest film school in the country.  It has top-notch programs in fields like occupational therapy and psychology. 

Despite having a hefty tuition fee of over $56,000 yearly, nearly 40% of full-time students receive financial help. It averages $41,313 in grants.

Also, as a student here, you can immerse yourself in LA’s vibrant culture, with access to theaters, museums, and a bustling film and television industry.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 13%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1410-1540 SAT, 32-35 ACT
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 20,700

3. UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley is a part of the UC system. It ranks 20th among the nation’s top schools. It consists of 14 schools and colleges, offering a wide range of specialties from optometry to environmental design. 

With an affordable in-state tuition of about $14,000 per year, California residents can attend UC Berkeley. Also, students have access to a vast library with 12 million volumes and over 1,200 extracurricular activities.

  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 14%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1310-1530 SAT, 31-35 ACT
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 32,143

4. Scripps College

Scripps College
Scripps College

Scripps College is situated at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. It is known for its top-notch programs in humanities, covering subjects like art history and music. With its beautiful campus, many students choose to reside in on-campus housing throughout their four-year journey.

With a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, Scripps offers personalized learning experiences. Being part of the Claremont Colleges network means you have access to resources from other schools. This broadens your social circles and academic horizons.

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 30%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1380-1520
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1091

5. Pitzer College

Pitzer College
Pitzer College

At Pitzer College, you are part of the Claremont College Consortium. It gives you access to resources from other colleges like Claremont McKenna and Scripps. But what makes Pitzer special?

Well, all faculty members have a Ph.D. in their field, which helped Pitzer rank third in producing Fulbright scholars last year, ahead of most Claremont colleges. The small class sizes average only 16 students. You get personalized attention. The student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1.

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 18%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1330-1510, 30-33

6. Soka University of America

Soka University of America
Soka University of America

At Soka University of America, you get a unique education. With campuses in California and Japan, they focus on global citizenship. It is a small school, so you get personalized attention. 

Soka is famous for its Peace Studies program. You will study conflict resolution, human rights history, and peace ethics.

  • Location: Aliso Viejo, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 52%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1200-1400, 24-28
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 400

7. University of California, Irvine

University of California, Irvine
University of California, Irvine

The University of California Irvine is one of the UC schools. It offers excellent programs like Honors College and Philosophy. It also has notable pre-med and Engineering programs. The UCI Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the country. 

It is situated near Orange County beaches. The campus is built around Alridch Park, giving it an open layout. That’s why it has been ranked as one of the coolest schools for 12 years straight.

  • Location: Irvine, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 29%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1230-1430, 25-33
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 29,400

8. California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology is ranked as the 9th best national university in the U.S. Caltech aims to advance human knowledge and contribute to society through research combined with education. The university actively involves undergraduates in research projects both during the academic year and over the summer. 

Caltech is organized into various academic divisions such as Biology & Biological Engineering, Engineering & Applied Science, and Humanities & Social Sciences. Also, it provides an Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP). Here, students can create customized curricula by selecting from Caltech courses, research opportunities, and independent study options.

  • Location: Pasadena, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 4%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1530-1580 SAT, 35-36 ACT
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 948

9. Stanford University

Stanford University
Stanford University

Stanford University is often called the “Ivy of the West”. It ranks third on the list of best National Universities. It is famous for its small class sizes, with nearly 70 percent of classes having fewer than 20 students for each professor. 

The university offers popular majors like computer science, engineering, and physical sciences. It is well-known for its research opportunities. Another compelling reason to consider Stanford is its impressive freshman retention rate of 98 percent. It indicates high student satisfaction.

  • Location: Stanford, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 4%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1470-1570 SAT, 34-35 ACT
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 7,645

10. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College
Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College is a part of the Claremont Consortium. It boasts having the happiest students. It is ranked second in the USA. You will find various majors here, from econometrics to experimental psychology. It offers plenty of academic choices. 

As an added perk, you can take extra courses even after completing your major. It gives you a broader skill set and more experience for your future career or graduate school applications.

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 11%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1530 SAT, 32-35 ACT
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,324

11. Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College
Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College is a part of the Claremont Colleges. It focuses on training future engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. It also provides courses in social sciences and humanities. If you are interested, you can even complete your major through their Independent Study Program. 

With a student-faculty ratio of 8:1, you will get plenty of personalized attention, and there are hundreds of clubs to join on campus. This gives you even more reasons to consider attending Harvey Mudd.

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 10%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1480-1560 SAT, 34-36 ACT
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 889

12. UCLA

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

If you are unsure about your college major, UCLA offers over 3,800 courses across 125 majors. In addition to the vibrant city of Los Angeles, you will find hundreds of clubs like the Disney Club and 1girl at UCLA. The club pairs female students with middle school girls as mentors.

Also, UCLA has the highest proportion of undergraduates receiving Pell Grants among top-tier schools in the U.S. This makes it an attractive choice for students who are seeking financial help.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 11%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1290-1520 SAT, 30-34 ACT
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 32,119

13. University of California, San Diego

University of California, San Diego
University of California, San Diego

At the University of California San Diego, you have a lot of options. With 150 different majors and over 600 student groups, there is something for everyone. The research opportunities are plentiful. 

UCSD is ranked 20th globally. It has top-notch science programs like Cell Biology and Pharmacology. If you want a big-school experience with specialized research options, UCSD might be the perfect fit for you.

  • Location: La Jolla, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 34%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1480, 27-33
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 33,300

14. Occidental College

Occidental College
Occidental College

At Occidental College, you get a unique city experience. It is located in Los Angeles. It is a small school with many majors. There are over 40 majors to choose from. The student population is less than 2,000. 

The classes are small, usually with fewer than 25 students. Occidental also offers special programs. For example, the Kahane United Nations program sends students to intern at UN organizations in New York.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 38%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1340-1490, 30-33
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,900

15. Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University

At Santa Clara University, you will find one of the nation’s highest graduation rates. This university is situated in the heart of Silicon Valley. You will have access to countless opportunities and internships, especially in business and engineering.

Santa Clara University is known to combine cutting-edge technology with a focus on social responsibility. They will encourage you to work towards a more sustainable and compassionate world. They promote research in all areas of study.

  • Location: Santa Clara, CA
  • Acceptance rate: 54%
  • Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1330-1490, 30-33
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 5,895
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,186

Why Are Ivy League Schools Not There in California?

It is not entirely clear why California does not have any Ivy League schools. One reason might be that Ivy League colleges were established a long time ago, and none happened to be founded in California. 

Just like other prestigious colleges, Ivy League schools have deep historical roots and have been around for a long time. They are concentrated in specific regions where they were initially established. 

Because Ivy League institutions are traditional. You won’t find any new ones, especially in California, where demand for such prestigious colleges is high. 

It might be disappointing if you are dreaming of going to an Ivy League college in California because, well, there aren’t any. You would have to look elsewhere.

But don’t underestimate the colleges in California just because they are not Ivy League. They offer some of the best opportunities for students, even without the fancy titles. 

Many of California’s top universities provide more benefits and chances than Ivy League schools. So, if you are set on studying in California, it is worth considering all your options.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many Ivy League Schools are in California?

California does not have any official Ivy League schools. Many of its higher education institutions offer outstanding academics and highly selective admissions. You will find excellent options here.

2. Which Ivy League School is the hardest to get into?

Getting into Harvard is the toughest Ivy League school. Out of 43,330 applicants, only 2,008 are accepted. It accounts for only a 4.6% acceptance rate.

3. Why is it called Ivy League?

People often share a folk tale about the origin of the term “Ivy League”. They suggest it comes from the Roman numeral “IV,” indicating a league with four members. This belief was popularized by the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins.

4. Why are Ivy League Schools so famous?

Ivy League universities have a lot of money. This money comes from their rich history and accomplished alumni. This allows them to provide top-notch facilities and resources for students. Also, their prestigious reputation attracts a diverse and engaged student community.


The Ivy League attracts many applicants worldwide every year. It may seem appealing at first but don’t limit yourself to these schools. Whether you are a California resident or an outsider, remember that California State has 281 colleges and universities. They offer diverse specialties, from science to business, and performing arts to medicine.

Even though California does not have Ivy League schools. However, its universities stand out with excellent academics and selective admissions across the globe. 

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