11 of the Best Colleges in Orange County, California

11 of the Best Colleges in Orange County, California

With over 40 miles of a sparkling coastline, multiple nationally-ranked schools, and a variety of successful Fortune 500 companies, Orange County, California, may be one of the best places to live in the country. This is the case whether you plan to study or settle down here. 

So much goes into the decision of where to attend college or receive your education. Whether you’re looking for yourself or for a family member, if you’re set on Orange County, you have a lot of excellent choices. Let’s take a closer look at the top 11 colleges and universities in Orange County, California.


University of California, Irvine

The University of California, Irvine (UCI) is consistently recognized as one of the top 10 universities in the USA. UCI offers an array of degree programs. Students can choose from 87 undergraduate, 59 graduate, and 46 doctorate programs. 

The public university has over 37,000 students, with just under 30,000 of them undergraduates. About half the courses offered enrolled fewer than 20 students. The Irvine campus is in a beautiful and green suburban setting. Founded in 1965, they accepted 30% of their applicants in the Fall of 2020. As the safest city in the country, it’s no wonder that this once-rural area is so popular.


Pepperdine University, Irvine 

Pepperdine University’s main campus is in Malibu, but their Irvine Graduate Campus houses most of their graduate programs. It is not a traditional college campus since it does not have housing or other standard student services. However, Pepperdine’s stellar educational reputation carries over.

Founded in 1937, Pepperdine is a small, private, Christian college. Pepperdine offers graduate programs in all 5 of its schools with several majors and degree programs available. Irvine itself has much to offer, especially if you enjoy dynamic cuisine from all over the globe and ample nature reserves.


Chapman University

Located in the heart of the city of Orange, California, Chapman University is best known for its 4-1-4 academic calendar. It’s a medium-sized private university founded in 1861, with over 7,400 undergraduate students. In the Fall of 2020, they admitted 58% of applicants.

Some of their most popular majors include business administration, cinematography, and speech communication and rhetoric. They also boast an 89% freshman retention rate, indicating a high level of satisfaction among students. Approximately 73% of their students graduate in four years, and the staff to student ratio is 1:4. 

There’s also always something to do in Orange. It’s close to Anaheim, home of Disneyland and Downtown Disney, but also not too far off from the exciting Six Flags Magic Mountain.


California State University Fullerton

Cal State Fullerton is the only university in the California State system located in Orange County. It is a prevalent school among California natives and out-of-staters as well. There are over 37,000 undergraduates, and the campus occupies more than 200 beautiful Orange County acres.

Cal State Fullerton admits about 68% of its applicants, making it selective but not as picky as many other state schools. Almost 75% of the classes offered enroll between 20 and 49 students, and the faculty to student ratio is 1:26. 

With a vibrant nightlife filled with clubs of all kinds, there is always an adventure to be had in Fullerton. It’s also close to Los Angeles, known for its cuisine and art scene.


Vanguard University

Founded in 1920, Vanguard University is tiny, enrolling just under 2,000 undergraduates. Despite its small size, US News and World Report ranks it 46th in regional universities for the western United States. It is a private Christian Pentecostal school. 

Vanguard admits about half of its applicants with a wide range of test scores. Its ratio of students to faculty is 16:1, and some of its most popular majors include social sciences and education. Its freshman retention rate is 75%, indicating decent student satisfaction. 

Located in Costa Mesa, you’ll be sure to be able to explore different cuisines from all over the world. Plus, you can enjoy the convenience of being in the home of the annual Orange County Fair.


Concordia University, Irvine 

Concordia University in Irvine is a small, private university that enrolls less than 2000 undergraduate students. Despite that, in the fall of 2020, they admitted 78% of their applicants. On their 70-acre campus, the student-to-faculty ratio is 20:1. 

Health sciences include some of their most popular majors. Other popular areas of study are liberal arts and sciences, history, and parks, recreation, and kinesiology. Irvine is also known for its many shopping centers, including the Spectrum and Diamond Jamboree. It’s also close to Newport’s Fashion Island for those who want designer wares.


Fullerton College

Fullerton College is a popular community college located in Fullerton, California. Opened in 1913, it’s one of the oldest and most successful state colleges in Orange County, California, and the nation as a whole. They currently enroll about 23,000 undergraduates who are educated by more than 900 full- and part-time faculty.

Fullerton offers 122 associate’s degrees, 110 career technical education certificates, and 25 transfer associate’s degrees. Fullerton is close to Huntington Beach and has an abundance of green spaces, including Laguna Lake Park and the Fullerton Arboretum. Besides its vibrant nightlife, the city has many interesting architectural sights, with the most striking being the Crystal Cathedral.


Orange Coast College

Orange Coast College is a community college located in beautiful Costa Mesa, California, near some of the state’s best beaches. They enroll 22,000 students annually. They have unique nautical and oceanography programs that draw students from around the world, in addition to more than 135 degree and career education programs.

If you’re hoping to transfer to a University of California school or California State University campus, then Orange Coast is a good choice. They’re number one among Orange County, CA schools for transfers to those universities. 

Not only do they offer free tutoring and career guidance to all their students, but the campus is located directly across from the fairgrounds, where events of all kinds are held, from gem fairs to boxing tournaments.


Soka University of America

Soka University of America is a relatively new private college founded in 1987 in Aliso Viejo. It is a small school with less than 400 undergraduates in the Fall of 2020. Although the student body is small, it is diverse, drawing students from about 60 countries.

Soka admits about half of its applicants, and its student-to-faculty ratio is only 7:1. About 96% of their classes have less than 20 students enrolled in them. If you’re looking for a very personalized experience in a tight-knit yet diverse community, then Soka may be the right school for you.

Aliso Viejo is a beautiful city that’s perfect if you enjoy being outdoors. It’s located only two miles from the coast and has the Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park, which is the perfect destination for hikers, biking enthusiasts, or equestrians. 


Coastline Community College 

Coastline College is located in Orange County with several campuses as well as a robust online learning community. Coastline works hard to help its students transfer to four-year institutions. They design their courses and programs to be transferable to the University of California and California State schools and private colleges.

The federal government has recognized Coastline Community College for its services as a Hispanic Serving Institution and as an Asian American and Native American Pacific-Islander Serving Institution.

Coastline has campuses in three cities: Westminster, Newport Beach, and Garden Grove. Each has something unique to offer.

Westminster is known for its inexpensive but quality shopping at its indoor mall; Garden Grove has a thriving theatre community with diverse venues, such as the Gem Theater, the Festival Amphitheater, and the Grove Theater Center. Then there’s the famous Newport Beach, known for its shopping, great restaurants, and stunning beaches, like Crystal Cove.


Brandman University

Brandman University is part of the University of Massachusetts Global network of schools. In the fall of 2020, it had about 6000 undergraduate students. It is a private college but has relatively low tuition and fees in comparison to other schools. They accepted 95% of applicants.

Some of the most popular majors at Brandman include psychology, liberal arts and sciences, and organizational leadership. The student-to-faculty ratio is 21:1, and almost 80% of its classes had fewer than 20 students.

Brandman is located in Irvine, just off of Laguna Canyon Road. If you follow this road, you’ll pass several state parks and green spaces that are perfect for hiking. You’ll end up in the small artist haven of Laguna Beach. Less crowded than the more famous Newport Beach, you can enjoy the surf, see a variety of art galleries, and eat at one of the best local ice cream parlors in Orange County—Chantilly.


Good Luck

Good luck in the admissions process! If you don’t currently live in the area, Fisher Real Estate can help you relocate nearer to you or your family member’s school of choice. 

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