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There are many factors that come into play for high school students when deciding where to apply to college. Academic prestige, available fields of study and cost are all primary aspects to consider when weighing options, but perhaps the biggest component in the decision-making process is location.

Some students want to stay close to home, some want to get as far away as possible, and some have specific regions of the country that they’d like to explore. At StartClass, we decided to rank the best schools in each geographic area of the country.

There are eight designated geographic locations—New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the Great Plains, the Southeast, the Southwest, the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. For the purpose of this series of geographic rankings, StartClass has combined certain areas to narrow the field down to five regions:

  • The West: incorporates both the Far West and the Rocky Mountain regions.
  • The Northeast: incorporates both New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
  • The Midwest: incorporates both the Great Lakes and the Great Plains.
  • The Southeast and the Southwest are not combined with any other location.

Each region will get its own ranking of top schools, starting with the West. Schools in each region are ranked by our Smart Rating system, which is based on financial affordability, career readiness, admissions selectivity, expert opinion and academic excellence. All data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Education.

The West region has plenty to offer—great weather year-round, virtually limitless outdoor activities and, as this list shows, plenty of options for a top-tier education.

#25. University of Portland

Location: Far West
Total Students: 4,036

Ranked No. 2 among universities in Oregon by our metrics, Portland is the second-largest private school in the state. Popular degrees include registered nursing, biology and mechanical engineering.

#24. Gonzaga University

Location: Far West
Total Students: 7,605

Gonzaga is the largest private school in Washington. The four-year graduation rate is 69 percent, which puts the school in the top 10 percent nationally.

#23. UC Irvine

Location: Far West
Total Students: 28,895

As the first public school on the list, UC Irvine presents a much more affordable option for California residents. Popular degrees include biology and business, and the school’s median post-graduation salary of $48,000 is among the top 20 percent in the country.

#22. Scripps College

Location: Far West
Total Students: 1,009

By our metrics, Scripps is the No. 47 liberal arts college in the country. Its four-year graduation rate of 83 percent is in the top 10 percent nationally, as is the school’s endowment of $279,771 per student.

#21. Pepperdine University

Location: Far West
Total Students: 7,315

Located in picturesque Malibu, Pepperdine is one of the top private schools in the state. With 77 programs available, it offers a diverse field of study, and popular degrees include business administration, psychology and advertising. The school’s median post-graduation salary of $46,800 is in the top 20 percent nationally.

#20. Claremont McKenna College

Location: Far West
Total Students: 1,328

Ranked as the No. 5 liberal arts college in California by our metrics, Claremont McKenna boasts a very high four-year graduation rate of 85 percent. The school has an endowment of $451,165 per student and has a small student-faculty ration of 9:1, which places it in the top 10 percent nationally.

#19. Soka University of America

Location: Far West
Total Students: 412

This small liberal arts college offers undergraduate degrees in just one field of study—liberal arts—with concentrations in environmental studies, humanities, international studies, and social and behavioral sciences. Soka University of America offers 100 percent undergraduate financial aid and has an average out-of-pocket cost of $14,772.

#18. University of San Diego

Location: Far West
Total Students: 8,321

This private, Catholic university has a diverse field of study, with 71 programs available. Its student body is 57 percent female, and popular degrees include business administration and finance.

#17. University of Washington-Seattle

Location: Far West
Total Students: 43,762

Washington is the largest school in the state, and is also the state’s highest-ranked public school, per our metrics. The median post-graduation salary is $49,900, and the average out-of-pocket cost is $9,395.

#16. UC Santa Barbara

Location: Far West
Total Students: 22,225

By our Smart Rating system, UCSB is the No. 5 school in the UC system. Its total research expenditure of $204 million is among the top 10 percent of schools nationally. Popular degrees at UCSB include psychology, sociology and international studies.

#15. Willamette University

Location: Far West
Total Students: 2,855

Willamette is the top school in the state of Oregon, according to our rating system. Its 70 percent four-year graduation rate is in the top 10 percent nationally, and popular majors include psychology, politics and economics.

#14. UC Davis

Location: Far West
Total Students: 33,307

UC Davis is the sixth-largest public school in California. Its total research expenditure of $643 million is among the top 10 percent nationally, and it has a median post-graduation salary of $48,000. Popular degrees include psychology, economics and biology.

#13. Colorado School of Mines

Location: Rocky Mountains
Total Students: 5,790

Colorado School of Mines is the highest-rated public school in the state, according to our rating system. The school is devoted to engineering and applied science, with popular degrees including engineering and math. The median post-graduation salary is $65,000, which is in the top 10 percent nationally.

#12. Occidental College

Location: Far West
Total Students: 2,128

With a tuition of $46,652, Occidental is the most expensive college in California. The school’s four-year graduation rate of 81 percent is among the top 10 percent of schools nationally, and popular degrees include economics, international relations and biology.

#11. Colorado College

Location: Rocky Mountains
Total Students: 2,061

Colorado College is the most expensive school in the state, with a tuition of $44,222. Popular degrees include sociology, economics and biology.

#10. Whitman College

Location: Far West
Total Students: 1,541

Whitman scored the highest in our Smart Rating system for schools in Washington, with a 98 overall. The school has a four-year acceptance rate of 80 percent, and popular majors include biology, psychology and English.

#9. UC San Diego

Location: Far West
Total Students: 29,517

UCSD has a median post-graduation salary of $50,000, which is among the top 20 percent nationally. Its average SAT score (1915) and ACT score (28) are both in the top 10 percent nationally.

#8. Santa Clara University

Location: Far West
Total Students: 8,770

Santa Clara is a private, Jesuit university with a four-year graduation rate of 77 percent. The school’s median post-graduation salary of $54,000 is in the top 10 percent nationally, and popular degrees include finance and accounting.

#7. UCLA

Location: Far West
Total Students: 40,795

UCLA is the largest public school in California. It ranks No. 2 among public schools in the state, according to our metrics. Its median post-graduation salary of $50,000 is in the top 20 percent nationally, and popular degrees include psychology, political science and history.

#6. USC

Location: Far West
Total Students: 41,368

USC is the largest school in California and one of the largest in the country. The school’s median post-graduation salary of $51,500 is in the top 10 percent nationally, and it has a four-year graduation rate of 73 percent.

#5. UC Berkeley

Location: Far West
Total Students: 36,198

UC Berkeley is the highest-ranked public school in the state, according to our Smart Rating system. The school’s average SAT score (2040), average ACT score (30) and median post-graduation salary ($55,000) are all in the top 10 percent nationally.

#4. Pomona College

Location: Far West
Total Students: 1,610

By our metrics, Pomona is the No. 3 liberal arts college in the country. The school ranks in the top 10 percent nationally in the following categories—four-year graduation rate (91 percent), endowment ($1.13 million per student), average SAT score (2195) and average ACT score (32). Popular degrees include economics, neuroscience and mathematics.

#3. Harvey Mudd College

Location: Far West
Total Students: 807

Harvey Mudd is the smallest school on this list and ranked as the No. 2 liberal arts college in the country, according to our metrics. It has a very high median post-graduation salary ($70,000) and a small student-faculty ration at 8:1. Popular degrees include engineering, mathematics, and computer science.

#2. Stanford University

Location: Far West
Total Students: 18,346

Stanford has the lowest acceptance rate (5.1 percent) of any national research university in the country. Its total research expenditure is $1.03 billion, and its median post-graduation salary is $60,000. Popular degrees include human biology, computer science, and biology.

#1. California Institute of Technology

Location: Far West
Total Students: 2,181

By our metrics, Caltech ranks as the No. 4 research university in the country. Its average SAT score (2300) and ACT score (34) are both among the top five percent nationally, and its student-faculty ratio is 3:1. It has a median post-graduation salary of $66,500, and popular degrees include mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and computer and information sciences.