Choosing a School

Study California logo

With hundreds of great schools and locations to pick from, choosing to study in California is an exciting experience! And with so many options, it might feel a little overwhelming, too.

Don’t worry — we’re here to help!

Here are a few things to consider while you search for the right school.

Step 1: Program of Study

Your first step in considering schools is narrowing down the field you want to study.

  • What are your academic goals?
  • Do you want to get a specific degree or certificate in a certain field with the goal of a career in that area?
  • Do you want a more broad area of study with the goal to explore different interests and experience life in California?
  • Do you want to increase your English language proficiency?

Using the search tool on the Colleges & Universities page, search for schools that match these areas of study and your goals.

Step 2: Location & Weather

Where do you see yourself as you study in California?

  • Big city with bustling streets and skyscrapers?
  • Peaceful small town
  • Balmy weather all year?
  • Four seasons and even snow?
  • Next to the ocean?
  • In the mountains? Desert?

Choose a school in an area that you will be comfortable living in. Our Maps & Regions page shows you the main nine regions of the state and the schools in each place.

Also think about whether you want to live on campus in a dorm or apartment, or find a place to live off campus — maybe an apartment, shared house or condominium. As you explore the colleges on your list, see what kind of living situations they offer.

Step 3: Size

When you think about being a student and attending classes, what appeals to you most?

  • Large university with big classes?
  • Thousands of students enrolled?
  • Smaller college with fewer students?
  • Class sizes that allow you to get to know your classmates and professor?
  • Something in between?

Remember that general education classes may be quite large at any school. Once you start taking the classes specific to your major, you may find a smaller core group of students.

As you search for schools that meet your needs, look at the enrollment number and student/teacher ratio. These will give you an idea of class size and the feeling on campus.

Step 4: Cost

While the price of higher education in the United States can be expensive, don’t let the initial tuition cost numbers scare you away from exploring schools that fit your goals and dreams.

In fact, some schools that may initially seem out of your budget may end up costing less than your second-choice colleges when you explore what they offer to help students attend.

Many schools offer several ways to help students attend, such as:

  • generous scholarships
  • financial aid packages
  • tuition assistance programs
    and more

As you search for your perfect school, look for those with scholarships and explore their financial aid.

And did you know that Study California provides an annual scholarship? Learn more and apply! Applications are open October 1-30, and the scholarships are announced by November 30. 

Step 5: Activities and Campus Life

What types of campus activities do you want to explore when you study in California?

Depending on the size of the school and how many students are enrolled, you may be able to participate in:

  • Clubs — for many different interests, from playing chess to sailing
  • Sports — on nationally ranked college teams or casual intramural teams
  • Events — music, performing arts, visual arts, career-focused, and more

Schools with large student enrollments and on-campus housing tend to have a wide range of campus activities, and most colleges have clubs where students can share their interests and encourage others.

Explore your list of schools and see what they have to offer.

Step 6: Capture Your First List and Start Exploring

As you begin to research schools using these steps, capture the initial list of schools that interest you. 

Then explore each in more detail and see which ones rise to the top of your list. Build a spreadsheet with your schools and add details over time. Do you notice a few common areas keep showing up? Focus on these — they are telling you what’s important to you! 

Add application deadlines, acceptance dates and other important information.

Step 7: Start Applying and Get Ready!

Your dream to study in California is coming to life!

Once you narrow your list to your top 10 schools, it’s time to start applying. This is an exciting time. Don’t let the process overwhelm you. Just stay organized and keep track of deadlines and submission details.

Now is also the time to take a look at the Travel Tools page for other steps you’ll need to complete before you start studying at your perfect school in California:

Step 8: Envision yourself in California!

And, of course, spend time exploring the fun and adventures waiting for your Life in California!

  • Fun destinations
  • Different environments: beaches to deserts, sand to snow!
  • What the weather is like