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In light of the record-breaking number of applications the University of California received this past fall, and the rising selectivity across all the UCs, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of students are turning their attention to the California State University system.

CSU boasts many accolades related to quality and value and, while each of the 23 campuses is unique and compelling in its own way, they all share a common focus on student support and success, affordability, and multiculturalism. Given the strengths of the CSU system, the next step is identifying which specific campuses are best suited for a student’s interests, needs, and preferences.

While Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and San Diego State are two of the more well-known CSU institutions, with their popularity come predictable increases in admissions selectivity. Here, we’ll focus on highlights from several other CSU campuses:

California State University, Long Beach

For students interested in the performing arts, Long Beach offers strong programs for theatre arts and dance. High school seniors interested in the theatre program do not need to audition, but they are required to audition as college sophomores to gain entrance to the BFA program in acting. The top-ranked dance program also requires an audition. CSULB’s central location provides a plethora of performance opportunities on- and off-campus. The campus also has a major focus on sustainability, striving for zero waste and following strategic energy and water action plans. Students who are environmentally minded are likely to feel at home in this community.

California State University, Fullerton

The College of Business and Economics at Fullerton is an AACSB-accredited institution in both accounting and business, and the campus’s central location in Orange County is another draw for many students interested in business. Cal State Fullerton students can study at Mihaylo Hall, which was built by implementing environmental sustainability practices and cutting-edge technology. The school also offers programs focusing on the success of women in business through mentorships such as The Women’s Leadership Program and the Titan Women Collective.

California State University, Northridge

Who can conceive of Southern California without the entertainment industry? For students interested in film and television, the CSUN Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication could be a great fit. The Department of Cinema and Television Arts (CTVA) offers internship opportunities and resources for students excited to engage with the local entertainment community. Unsurprisingly, CSUN’s CTVA earned spot #17 on The Wrap’s Top 50 film schools for 2021.

Cal Poly Humboldt

Built alongside the breathtaking redwoods of Northern California and only five miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Cal Poly Humboldt campus is set in a unique location for students interested in studying the environment. It’s fitting that many of Humboldt’s strongest programs are housed within the school’s College of Natural Resources and Sciences. Students can expect to engage in undergraduate research and fieldwork and to thrive in an educational environment centered on personal attention from faculty.

California State University, Fresno

For students interested in the world of winemaking, Cal State Fresno has a robust viticulture and enology program. Students can connect with alumni by becoming members of the Viticulture Club or the Enology Society. Additionally, Sonoma State has a Wine Business Institute housed under the umbrella of their School of Business and Economics.

Cal Poly Pomona

The College of Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona is one of the nation’s top-ranking engineering programs, graduating over 1,200 engineers every year. Pomona also has a Pride Center that provides a safe space for LGBTQIA students and allies. Part of their mission is to “serve the campus community by promoting empowerment and social justice on topics of sexual orientation and gender identity.” The Pride Center sponsors Queer Chats that allow community members to connect on topics related to various identities such as the “QT People of Color Chat” and the “Bi, Pan, Omni Chat.”

California State University, East Bay

CSU East Bay has an application-based College Link Program that provides tailored support and resources for students with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) who are seeking accommodations. The goal of the CLP is to increase student independence and success by providing support for the development of skills in academics, social life, career preparation, and independent living. Some of these supports include the CLP Creativity Lab, which partners with the theatre and dance department, and the Conversation Club.

San Jose State University

The San Jose State computer science department is become increasingly well-respected, no surprise given the impressive accomplishments of both students and faculty at SJSU. The department hosts CS Talks, which provide community members with opportunities to learn and connect with visiting speakers from the CS industry.

California State University, Monterey Bay

CSU Monterey Bay’s location by the sea goes hand-in-hand with its stellar Marine Science department. The department offers opportunities like Marine Science Research and the Research Diving Program. CSUMB is the only CSU campus directly adjacent to a living ocean laboratory, making the marine science department even richer with relevant resources for budding marine scientists. Plus, who wouldn’t want to become a CSUMB Monte Rey?

There is clearly an abundance of options to explore at the CSUs, and those listed above are just scratching the surface. As transitions transpire (such as the recent announcement that the CSUs are dropping standardized testing) and more opportunities arise within the CSU system, remember to stay savvy by doing your research. We encourage you to visit individual CSU admission pages virtually and visit campuses of interest in person for updated admission policies, and to be aware of the CSU’s impacted majors at each campus.


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