Choosing a University

Choosing a university or college to meet your needs requires some careful thought and planning. There are many different factors to take into consideration, including cost, culture, academics, and fit. Here, you will find many resources to help guide you in making this decision. Be sure to check out additional resources in the Transfer and Career Center.


How to Choose a College or University: Important Considerations

How to Choose a College– Download printable PDF

Find Your Best Fit College - Downloadable Presentation

Deciding on which schools to apply to is a big decision. Many students think the best schools are the most prestigious schools, but really, students should choose schools that best fit their needs. To figure out your best fit, reflect on the following:



  • Do you want to live on or near the campus, or live at home and commute to school?
  • Would you prefer to stay in the same area of the country, or move to a new area?
  • Given that most colleges and universities offer a variety of social and cultural events and activities, is the additional stimulation and variety offered by a city also important to you?
  • Do you have a particular academic interest, career interest, or hobby that might make easy access to a certain location desirable?
  • Do factors such as personal medical or religious considerations, or other personal matters dictate a particular environment?
  • How would location impact transportation costs (consider flights, gas, parking permits, etc)?




Size of School:  

  • Is it important to you to know most of your classmates?
  • Would you prefer to be in a situation where you are always seeing and meeting new people?
  • Do you prefer having mostly small classes? Even if your chosen school is large, most of the classes for your major may be small. Ask a representative from that school to know for what the average class size is for transfer students in your major.
  • Would you like the intimacy that is associated with smaller colleges?
  • Do you prefer the relative anonymity possible at a larger college or university?
  • Do you want to have regular interactions with your professors? Look for schools with a low student to faculty ratio.





Student Body:

  • Would you like a single sex school? A coed school?
  • Do you prefer that most students come from your geographic area?
  • Do you prefer that the students come from all parts of the country and/or world?
  • Would you prefer a school with a particular religious affiliation and students of that religious belief?
  • Is it important to you that there be a significant socioeconomic mixture of students? If so, you may want to check the percentage of students receiving financial aid and the average award.
  • Do you prefer a competitive academic environment where most of the students are at or above your own level of ability and achievement?
  • Would you feel more comfortable in a less pressured academic environment where you would be at the high end of the admitted students in terms of ability and achievement?
  • Do you want an environement where students are academicaly competitive with eachother, or who collaborate around academics?
  • What type of campus culture do you prefer? To know, visit the schools! The Transfer Club hosts campus tours every semester.





















  • Do you prefer a school that is dedicated to the pursuit of one particular field of knowledge? Or do you prefer a school that has a fairly comprehensive selection of courses and majors so that you can interact with other students in many different fields?
  • Does the school have you major? If so, what courses are required? What options for electives do you have? Do they offer your major as a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts?
  • How competitive are academics? Do professors grade on a curve?\
  • What is the average class size? Do you prefer large 100+ lecture halls, intimate 10 student discussion round tables, or somewhere in between?
  • Do you prefer a faculty whose primary or total interest and responsibility is in undergraduate teaching and who, therefore, may be more easily accessible to you outside the classroom and office hours?
    • Or, do you prefer a faculty whose responsibilities may include both undergraduate and graduate teaching as well as research, and who may not be quite accessible outside the classroom and office hours, but who bring ongoing research into the classroom?
  • Do you mind if some of your classes are taught by graduate students instead of full professors?
  • Are you interested in innovative programs that allow for independent study, study abroad, individualized majors, working experience for academic credit, or the like?
  • Do you require specific services to better facilitate your learning? Such as accomodations, tutoring, colleges success courses, etc.?
  • Research the career center, what internships are available? What employers recruit at that campus? What majors are they recruiting for? How many students are employed from your major? Where are they employed? How many go to graduate school?
  •  Are there opportunities to work on special projects or research in your major’s department as an undergraduate student?







Campus Life:

  • Are fraternities/sororities important to you?
  • Would you prefer a school with specific extracurricular activities (e.g., publications, athletics, student government, clubs, professional organizations)?
  • Would you prefer a school with a large and varied extracurricular program?
  • Do you want a university with a large and active sports program?
  • What is the demographic of students at the college? Consider socioeconomic status, age, racial makeup, international students, political preference, religion, etc. How many transfer students are enrolled? Would you prefer to be amongst many like you, or in a very diverse population? Do you feel like you would belong?
  • Would you like an club/learning community on campus that supports studnts of certain religious, ethnic, gender, or other idenities?










  • Make sure the schools you have chosen to apply to are eligible to provide federal financial aid.
  • Use the school’s net price calculator on their website to get an estimate of the aid you are eligible for. All schools that can offer federal financial aid are required to have these calculators available online. Just google search the school’s name and “financial aid calculator”.
  • Research institution specific scholarships - right away! Often times the scholarships will be due before or at the same time as the application to the school. Don’t let the deadlines pass you by.
  • Do not dismiss a school simply because you feel it is too expensive. There is a big difference between the advertised price and the price many students actually pay. You will not know until you receive your financial aid award letter, after you apply. So, apply to 3-5 schools, then choose the one that best fits you and your needs, including financial needs








*Need more help? Check out the resources on the Transfer and Career Center website under Choosing a University.






General College Search:

University of California Admissions – University of California application instructions, deadlines, planning and university program information.
California State Universities – how and when to apply, plan, and much more. – Compare schools, estimate your financial need, compare financial aid awards, search for scholarships, and more.
US News & World Report – Most reputable college ranking guide

College Transitions - lists transfer admit rates by institution 


Search by Major:

UC Majors - a comprehensive list of all majors at the UCs

UC Transfers by Major - data on admit rates by UC campus and major 

Transfer Bound - a database of all majors at the UCs and CSUs

College Board - list of private and out of state institutions by major


Understand Financial Aid Options:

College Data - can search colleges by the amount of financial aid they offer 

College Affordability and Transparency Center - Hosted by the US Department of Education, has information on how much it costs to attend different colleges, how fast those costs are increasing, and information on why those costs are increasing.



Learn about School Culture:

Niche - students review their college campus and grade their schools on a variety of metrics 

Princeton Review - interviews of students and reporting on academic culture, student body, and campus life


Virtual Campus Tours

Everyone always says you should never enroll in a school you haven’t visited, but how do you do that if you live many miles away? Virtual campus tours are a way for you to see the campus without having to fly or drive. While it can never replace an in person tour, as you miss things like getting a feel for the campus culture or energy of potential future classmates, it is still a great tool in helping you find the right university for you. 
Visit Campus Tours Website  to explore campuses today.

Minority Serving Institutions


Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)

The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.”

Historically black colleges and universities were established primarily to serve the higher education needs of the black community, however they are open to students of any ethnicity.  There are 105 historically black colleges and universities in the country, with most located in the South and East Coast.  They all award bachelor’s degrees in many fields. Some also award masters and doctorate degrees.

The California Community College system has partnered with 39 HBCUs to offer students Transfer Admission Guarantees. For more information regarding the Transfer Admission Guarantees with HBCU schools, click here.


Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)

The association currently represents more than 400 colleges and universities that are committed to higher education for Hispanic students. HACU is committed to improving access and quality of post-secondary education for Hispanic students. In order to qualify to be an HACU school, the school must have a Hispanic student population of at least 25% enrolled full time. HACU schools enroll 40% of all Hispanic students in higher education.


American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)

UC and CSU catalogs

Understand what your academic path would look like once you transfer by researching graduation requirements for your major. 

University of California

UC Berkeley
UC Davis
UC Irvine
UC Los Angeles
UC Merced
UC Riverside
UC San Diego
UC Santa Barbara
UC Santa Cruz

California State University

California Maritime
Cal Poly Pomona
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
CSU Bakersfield
CSU Channel Islands
CSU Chico
CSU Dominguez Hills
CSU East Bay
CSU Fresno
CSU Fullerton
CSU Long Beach
CSU Los Angeles
CSU Monterey Bay
CSU Northridge
CSU Sacramento
CSU San Bernardino
CSU San Marcos
CSU Stanislaus 
Humboldt State University
San Diego State University
San Francisco State University 
San Jose State University 
Sonoma State University