The schools on this list have two qualities: terrific weather and a smart student body. Weather is measured by warm temperatures, low humidity, and the average number of sunny--and rainy--days each year. To be eligible for this list, schools had to be located in a region with an average temperature of 60 degrees or higher and have fewer than 100 rainy days per year. Not surprisingly, there isn't a single East Coast college or university in the bunch. With more than 200 sunny days a year, Arizona State takes the top spot, but on this list, California rules with 22 schools that rank high by these measures. The lesson? Students who don't want to sacrifice sun for school should head west.
About the Rankings:
Researchers Peter Bernstein and Courtney Kennedy drew dozens of sources to compile these rankings including information from the National Center for Education Statistics, The Washington Monthly, and College Prowler. A portion of the data they used for this ranking is at the end of this slideshow, but for the full methodologies, see our FAQ here. Ranking Methodology. And if you're not a rankings fan, take a look at this piece by Colin Diver, the president of Reed College, about why schools dislike rankings and how students can use them wisely as part of their college decision-making process.
The average temperature on the campuses of Arizona State University holds a steady 73 degrees throughout the year. This fact, combined with the area's annual average of 211 sunny days and only 36 rainy ones, place Arizona State at the top of Newsweek's list of schools that offer both terrific weather and a terrific education. Arizona State University's climate is even reflected in its mascot, the Sun Devils.
The college, however, has more going on than just a warm, dry weather system. Founded in 1885 as the Tempe Normal School, Arizona State has grown to become the largest public research university in the country, with more than 65,000 students occupying one of four campuses, from Tempe to downtown Phoenix.
Averaging 26 on the ACT and 1200 on the SAT, Arizona State's students take advantage of more than 250 academic undergraduate programs. However, the school has a liberal admissions policy, accepting 90 percent of its applicants.
Stanford University, already a power player among the nation's top universities, can now add some more accolades to its roster. The private liberal arts Ivy in Stanford, California, which claims fearless inquiry and action as its mission, has landed spots on seven of Newsweek's college ranking roundups: most desirable overall (No. 3), most desirable suburban school (No. 1), most diverse (No. 16), best for power brokers (No. 4), best for brainiacs (No. 6), best gay-friendly (No. 11) and the most favorable climate amongst intellectual power houses (No. 2).
The school had 30,429 students apply for a spot on "The Farm", a nickname for Stanford's campus, and Stanford admitted just 9 percent of those applicants to the class of 2013, enrolling 1,694 freshmen for fall 2010. Females made up 49 percent of the freshman class. While all 50 states are represented in the class of 2013, nearly 40 percent of students hail from California.
Asian-Americans make up 23 percent of Stanford's diverse student body, followed by Mexican-Americans and other Hispanic (12 percent), African-Americans (10 percent), international students (10 percent) and American Indians or Alaskan Natives (2 percent).
Tuition at Stanford is currently around $37,000 per year, and 80 percent of students in the 2008-2009 school year (the most recent year data was available) received aid. Perhaps a wise investment--27 of its alums are billionaires.
A lot of big brains have passed through this small university dedicated to science, technology and engineering studies, including 3 Nobel Prize winners, 54 National Medal of Science winners and 6 Crafoord Prize recipients, which earns the California Institute of Technology the No. 3 spot on Newsweek's list of brainiac schools.
The private Pasadena, California-based research college offers a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio that lands it at No. 3 on Newsweek's Most Desirable Small Schools list, No. 7 on the Most Desirable Urban Schools list and the twelfth most desirable school overall. Its favorable SoCal climate (the 124-acre campus rests northeast of downtown Los Angeles) might have something to do with its impressive 98percentstudent-retention rate and is definitely responsible for the school's No. 3 spot on Newsweek's Great Education, Great Tan list.
As promised in its mission statement, the California Institute of Technology "investigates the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society." Good if you can get it--only 17percent of applicants do.
With only 700 undergraduates, Harvey Mudd College ranks 12th on Newsweek's Most Desirable Small Schools list. Its location in Claremont, California, also makes it the tenth most desirable suburban school and No. 4 on Newsweek's list of schools combining great weather with great minds. Harvey Mudd is one of the seven associated Claremont Colleges, which its founders modeled after England's Oxford University; other schools include Pomona, Scripps and Claremont McKenna.
Harvey Mudd students average 1560 on the SATs and 94 percent place in the top 10 percent of their high schools, with only 28 percent of applicants accepted. Though its focus on math, science and engineering make it sound like a technical institute, Harvey Mudd is a private liberal arts college that aims to offer student instruction beyond its nine core science and math-based majors by nurturing interests in the arts and offering instruction in the humanities, history and politics. Newsweek also ranks Harvey Mudd 19th among the top 25 gay-friendly schools in the United States.
Small in size, Pomona College is big on diversity, bright students and kudos--it has consistently ranked among the top ten American liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, has similarly been granted high marks from Forbes, and now places 11th among Newsweek's most desirable schools, fourth most desirable suburban school and second most desirable small school.
The Claremont, California-based private college has only 1,500 undergrads; they major in the arts, humanities, social sciences or natural sciences in a desert setting within an hour of the Pacific Ocean, the Mojave Desert, the San Gabriel Mountains and Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, Pomona was No. 5 for Newsweek's list of academically rigorous schools with terrific weather. Though its Southern California location is a world away from the ivied East Coast universities its founders emulated, the school prides itself on its 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, intimate classes and overall academic excellence. Only 16 percent of applicants are accepted (averaging ACT scores of 34 and SAT scores of 1560), which helps explain why Pomona College is No. 15 on the list of schools for brainiacs. Its 50/50 gender breakdown, gay-friendly atmosphere, and racially, geographically and socioeconomically mixed student body makes Pomona the 20th most diverse school and the thirteenth among the best gay-friendly schools on Newsweek's lists.
Part of Northern Arizona University's mission is "to provide an outstanding undergraduate residential education strengthened by research, graduate and professional programs."
With its location in Flagstaff, where there are 211 days of sunshine a year, one could also argue that the college's mission is to provide students with outstanding weather--which is why Northern Arizona University finds itself at No. 6 on Newsweek's list of competitive colleges with the best climate.
The school, founded in 1899, claimed a record high enrollment of 18,301 in fall 2009, a number that includes Northern Arizona's on-campus students as well as those who earn degrees online. According to CollegeProwler.com, 28 percent of NAU's students are from Arizona, with the majority of students--70 percent--identifying as white, followed by Hispanic (13 percent), Native American (7 percent), African-American (3 percent) and Asian-American (2 percent).
Tuition for on-campus undergraduates for the 2010-2011 school year is $6,964 for Arizona residents and $19,364 for those from out of state.
Talk about a well-rounded applicant. One of seven of The Claremont Colleges, which its founders modeled after England's Oxford University, Claremont McKenna casts itself as an intellectually stimulating and socially fulfilling, yet intimate, school, given its roughly 1,200 undergraduates. It places at No. 20 on Newsweek's Most Desirable Schools list (No. 8 on Most Desirable Suburban Schools and No. 7 on Most Desirable Small Schools). Perhaps that desirability is tied into its sunny California locale--the school is 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles--since it takes seventh place on that list as well.
Claremont McKenna College is one of the most selective liberal-arts colleges in the nation, accepting only 19 percent of its applicants. While its academic programs, competitive application process and high test scores propel it to No. 24 among best colleges for brainiacs, the school also offers a robust sports program with 46 intramural sports leagues and 19 varsity sports, making it No. 17 in colleges stocked with jocks.
Emphasizing education in economics, government and international relations, Claremont McKenna is the starting point for many careers in law, business, government and public policy. Founded in 1946 as Claremont Men's College, the private school went co-ed in 1976.
"UA is a great school in a chill city that has nice weather and beautiful, beautiful people," writes one student of the University of Arizona on CollegeProwler.com. Fitting, since the public school finds itself at No. 8 on Newsweek's list of colleges best for climate and academics. Its influential alums also make the school No. 12 for future power brokers.
Located in Tucson, Arizona, the University of Arizona has approximately 30,000 undergraduates in any given year. Women hold the slight majority here, at 52 percent. Whites make up about 64 percent of the student body, followed by Hispanics at 17 percent, Asian or Pacific Islander at 5 percent and African-American at 3 percent.
Tuition for Arizona residents is $22,382 for the 2010-2011 school year, including room and board. For out-of-state-students, the same tuition and fees rise to $38,740.
The University of California's Berkeley outpost has landed on quite a few of Newsweek's "best of" lists--five to be exact. The school is among the most desirable urban schools (No. 16), most desirable large schools (No. 5), most diverse (No. 18), best gay-friendly (No. 2) and best for climate plus academics (No. 9).
That the school nabbed the number 2 spot on Newsweek's gay-friendly list is no surprise to students. "Berkeley is home to a proud LGBTIQQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning) community, which has a large presence on campus and makes the environment feel more tolerant," writes one student on CollegeProwler.com.
The public school has an undergraduate enrollment of just over 25,500, 53 percent of who were women in the fall of 2009. At 42 percent, the Asian-American community makes up the majority of the student body, while Caucasians make up 31 percent, followed by Hispanics at 12 percent and African-Americans at 4 percent. The student-to-faculty ratio is 15 to 1.
Tuition at the University of California, Berkeley for the 2010-2011 school year is $12,461 for in-state students (more than three-quarters of Berkeley's student body hails from the school's home state) and $35,340 for out-of-state residents, with 65 percent of all undergraduates receiving some form of aid. What's more, Berkeley claims to educate more economically disadvantaged students than all of the Ivy League universities combined, with 29 percent of its students receiving Pell Grants.
Founded in 1880, the University of Southern California started out with just 53 students and ten teachers. Today, the private college welcomes around 17,000 undergraduates each year who enjoy a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, making the college the fourth most desirable large campus and the 15th most desirable urban school on Newsweek's lists.
Unsurprisingly, given the locale for which it's named, the school also comes in at No. 10 on the list of schools that feature both terrific weather and a smart student body. USC also ranks 19th on the list of schools best for future power brokers and 23rd on the list of best gay-friendly colleges.
Admission to the university is competitive, as USC admitted just 24 percent of its 35,753 applicants in the fall of 2009. Admitted students have an average weighted GPA of 4.05 with an average 1470 on their SATs. Meanwhile, 72 percent of students graduate within four years.
The campus population consists of 50 percent women and 60 percent of students come from within California. Caucasians make up 44 percent of the student body, Asian-Americans 24 percent, Hispanics 13 percent, and African-Americans 5 percent.
Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $53,617, with 76 percent of students receiving some form of aid that year.
Scripps College is the women's college of The Claremont Colleges, a collection of five undergraduate colleges and two graduate institutions in Claremont, California. Scripps finds itself ranked 22nd on Newsweek's list of most desirable suburban colleges--its 37-acre campus at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains is listed in the National Register of Historic Places--and 11th on Newsweek's roundup of schools that combine super minds with super climates.
Scripps offered a 10 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio in 2009 and enrolled 898 undergrads, the bulk of which were from California. Ninety-six percent of students reside on campus, and the majority of the student body is made up of Caucasians, followed by Asian and Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, respectively.
Tuition, including room and board, for the 2009-2010 school year was $50,550 and 51 percent of the student body received some form of aid that year.
Founded in 1919 with just over 1,000 students, the University of Los Angeles's campus had 26,500 undergraduates as of the fall of 2009. That figure won't shrink anytime soon: UCLA boasts a 97 percent retention rate for its freshmen. No wonder--the school is among Newsweek's most desirable urban (No. 20) and large (No. 8) schools.
And, like several schools in the system, it sits on the list of schools that offer both terrific weather and strong academics. UCLA comes in at No. 12.
The student body is made up of 56 percent women. Nearly forty percent of its students are Asian-American. Caucasians account for 33 percent, followed by Hispanics at 15 percent and African-Americans at 4 percent. Almost all students--94 percent--hail from California.
Tuition for in-state students for the 2010-2011 school year is $29,682. At $52,561, the cost for out-of-state students is significantly more. In the 2009-2010 academic year, 52 percent of UCLA undergraduates received financial aid, with the average award totaling $17,000.
With its sunny location in Eagle Rock, California, just outside of Los Angeles, Occidental College lands at No. 13 on Newsweek's list of best colleges for climate and academics.
Occidental College has 1,868 students from 46 states and 23 countries. The majority of the student body is Caucasian, followed by Asian-American, Hispanic, African-American, international and Native American. Almost three quarters of the student body live on campus.
Occidental offers a student-to-faculty ratio of 10 to 1, and notes that it received over 6,000 applications for approximately 465 spots in 2009. Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $52,960, and over three quarters of Occidental's students received financial aid.
The University of California, San Diego's campus turned 50 years old in 2010. That's young for a school that has achieved so much, including multiple appearances on "best of" lists compiled by US News & World Report, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review. Newsweek adds another honor to the roster, by placing it 14th among its schools combining terrific weather with a smart student body.
The designation seems appropriate for a research university widely recognized as a leader in climate-science research. And with a student body that averaged 29 on their ACTs and 1360 on their SATs and approximately 147 sunny days a year, it's no wonder the school is so highly regarded. Of course, being amongst the best has its downside: Although the total campus enrollment is 29,110 students, UC San Diego received more than 47,000 freshmen applications for fall 2009. Only about 42 percent were offered admission.
Undergraduates who are residents should budget approximately $25,000 for tuition, room and board, fees and personal expenses for the 2010-2011 academic year; non-residents should budget closer to $47,000.
Sunshine most of the year? Check. Beautiful ocean view? Check. That's just part of Malibu, California-based Pepperdine University's appeal. The other half is the private school's reputation for rigorous academics, putting it at No. 15 on Newsweek's list of colleges that offer the best climate and the best academics.
A relatively young university, Pepperdine was founded in 1937 and is affiliated with Churches of Christ, though students of all faiths are welcomed. "It's a faith-based school," writes one student on CollegeProwler.com. "They advertise this everywhere, so students seriously considering Pepperdine need to be comfortable with asking vocational questions and being exposed to Christian ideas and values. It's not a party school--prepare for learning and adventure--sober."
The school enrolls approximately 7,700 students each year in its two colleges, Seaver College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Graziadio School of Business and Management. Tuition is $36,770 per year.
Soka University of America may be small, but it's big on diversity. Though the much younger sister school to the Soka University of Japan has only been around about a decade--and enrolls just 378 undergrads, the school has already been noticed in Newsweek's rankings, taking spots on four of our "best of" lists. It is the 20th most desirable suburban school in the nation and the 24th most desirable small school.
It is also 12th on the list for diversity. This makes sense when you consider the college's mission is founded on Buddhist principles of peace and human rights and the responsibilities of global citizenship. The college draws over half of its student body from countries outside the United States and includes in its four-year curriculum (and tuition) a semester abroad for every undergraduate.
Located in Aliso Viejo, in Orange County, California, the private liberal arts college occupies 103 acres just miles from the beach, which helps account for its 16th position in the list of schools offering terrific weather with strong academics.
SUA claims a 9:1 student-to-teacher ratio and an average class size of 13 students.
Founded as a prep school in 1851, Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, bills itself as California's oldest-operating institution of higher education. The school became Santa Clara University 60 years later in 1912.
Located at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay, SCU's students enjoy 189 days of sunshine a year. Paired with its "excellent academics" (according to its students on CollegeProwler.com), the Jesuit, Catholic university lands at No. 17 on Newsweek's list of colleges with the best climate and the best academics.
Santa Clara University enrolled 5,200 students in the fall of 2009, 53 percent of who were women. The majority of undergraduates are Caucasian, followed by students from Asian, Hispanic, African-American, Native American and multicultural backgrounds. Roughly half of SCU's students live on campus.
Tuition for the 2010-2011 school year is $37,368 and 81 percent of students in 2009 received aid. Santa Clara University retains 93 percent of its freshman, 85 percent of who will graduate, according to university figures.
"Beach life is addictive," writes one student on the University of San Diego's page on CollegeProwler.com. And with a campus that occupies 180 acres overlooking Mission Bay with views of the Pacific Ocean, how could it not be?
That doesn't mean it's all play and no work for students at this private Roman Catholic school--the school is Number 18 on Newsweek's list of colleges combining a terrific climate with strong academics. Its mission is to advance academic excellence, expand liberal and professional knowledge and create a diverse and inclusive community while preparing leaders dedicated to ethical conduct and compassionate service. The school seems to be delivering on that mission, as the school also ranks 14th on the list of 25 schools with the most service-minded students.*
The University of San Diego, founded in 1949, today has more than 5000 undergraduates and 808 faculty. Women make up 58 percent of the student population. The majority of students come from California, and approximately 63 percent are white, followed by Hispanics (15 percent), Asian-Americans (10 percent) and African-Americans (3 percent).
The school admits 52 percent of its applicants, for a student to faculty ratio of 15 to 1.
Tuition for 2010-2011 is $36,950. In the school year beginning in 2009, 60 percent of students received some form of financial aid.
*For the complete college rankings from Washington Monthly, visit their website at www.washingtonmonthly.com.
Founded in 1851, the University of the Pacific was the first chartered university in the state of California, and since then it's racked up a whole lot more "firsts." It was the state's first co-ed university; in 1963, it launched the country's first bilingual college; and it was the first school nationwide to offer a "four year guarantee" promising students that they would graduate on time. U of P prides itself on giving students a practical education, guaranteeing internship opportunities and offering more than 80 majors and courses of study--a lot for a school of some 3,500 undergrads.
Another point of pride is the school's extensive study-abroad program. Students can study in more than fifty different countries. But why would they leave? Ranking nineteen on our list of schools with the best weather, the university's main undergraduate campus is in Stockton, California, an hour and a half east of San Francisco, and within a few hours of Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and the California Delta. In the 2009-2010 academic year, students paid an average of $40,998 for tuition, fees, and room and board.
Founded in 1965, the University of California, Santa Cruz is a relatively young public institution, and yet has managed to snag a spot on Newsweek's list of top 20 colleges for climate and academics. The school is also ranked the 15th best gay-friendly in the nation.
In a roundup that seems to speak further to UCSC's broad-minded atmosphere, the most popular majors in the fall of 2008, the most recent year data was available, were psychology, art, business management economics, literature and environmental studies, respectively.
The University of California, Santa Cruz has an undergraduate enrollment of just over 16,000. Women hold the majority here, however slightly, at 53 percent. The student body is largely Caucasian (50 percent), followed by Asian-American (22 percent), Hispanic (17 percent) and African-American (3 percent). Tuition for in-state students totals $29,385, while non-California residents can expect to pay $52,263 in the upcoming 2010-2011 school year.
The University of California at Santa Barbara claims spot No. 21 on Newsweek's list of colleges with the best climate and academics. As one student writes on CollegeProwler.com, "Tourists pay money to hang out here for a vacation, and UCSB students get to live here full time!"
Of course, the year-round warm weather and rigorous academics come at a price that no tourist will likely pay on a weeklong vacation. In-state tuition at the public university is around $9,000, while non-residents will pay roughly $31,700. That disparity is reflected in the school's percentage of out-of-state students--just 4 percent. Twenty-five percent of all students receive financial aid, according to CollegeProwler.com.
Close to 19,000 students are enrolled at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and 54 percent of them are women. Caucasians consist of 51 percent of the student body, followed by Hispanics at 20 percent, Asians at 16 percent and African-Americans at three percent.
Chapman University's Orange County, California, location (just an hour outside of Los Angeles), gives its students only 35 rainy days a year and an average temperature of 65 degrees, sealing the school's place at No. 22 among the top 25 colleges with the best climate, as ranked by Newsweek.
One of the oldest universities in California, Chapman University will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2011. Communications and business rank as the liberal arts college's top majors for its more than 4,000 undergrads, nearly 60 percent of who are women. The school accepts less than a third of its applicants, and those who attend averaged a 29 on the ACT and 1340 on the SAT.
On average, students paid $36,764 in tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year, a nearly six percent increase from the previous year, according to Department of Education data. Chapman's mission is "to provide personalized education of distinction that leads to inquiring, ethical and productive lives as global citizens."
With an average temperature of 63°F, 186 sunny days and only 35 rainy ones every year, La Mirada, California-based Biola University is counted as one of the schools with the best climate.
Founded in 1908, the private Christian university's mission is "biblically centered education, scholarship and service--equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ."
Biola admits more than 80 percent of applicants, and students averaged a 27 on the ACT and 1250 on the SAT. Business, communications, theology and psychology are among the most popular areas of study for the school's nearly 4,000 undergrads, and the school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1. Tuition for the 2009-2010 academic year was $27,744, a five percent increase from the previous year.
Founded in 1855 as the first college in San Francisco, California, the University of San Francisco, a private, Jesuit Catholic university welcomes 5,521 undergraduates each year. On average, the school retains 82 percent of its freshmen and 49 percent of all full-time students will graduate within four years.
Students no doubt enjoy San Francisco's year-round balmy weather, as the school ranks No. 24 on Newsweek's list of 25 colleges best for academics and climate. (The majority of these students must know not to leave a good thing behind, as just 31 percent of USF's students are from out of state.)
Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $50,710, with 68 percent of students receiving some form of financial aid. Each year, the school admits around 71 percent of applicants, and currently, women comprise 63 percent of the campus. Meanwhile, Caucasians make up just 36 percent of the student body, followed closely by Asian-Americans at 21 percent. Hispanics are the next largest segment of the population, at 14 percent, followed by African-Americans at five percent. The student-to-faculty ratio is 15 to 1.
At No. 25, Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, rounds out Newsweek's list of top 25 colleges for climate and academics.
Founded in 1937, Westmont is a private liberal arts college with roots in the Christian faith. It enrolls 1,347 students from 36 states and 13 countries, with 63 percent of students coming from within California. Westmont admitted 80 percent of the 1,817 students who applied in the fall of 2009. About 79 percent of those students will graduate in four years.
The majority--63 percent--of the student body is female. Sixty-seven percent of students are Caucasian. Hispanics make up the next largest segment at 11 percent, followed by Asian-Americans at nine percent and African-Americans at three percent. The student-to-faculty ratio is 12 to 1.
Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $48,150 and 96 percent of Westmont students that year received some form of financial aid.