Best CSU Schools

Updated on January 3, 2024

The California State University (CSU) system contains 23 campuses across California, providing affordable and high-quality education. Here are 10 of the best CSU schools based on academics, value, and student outcomes.

California State University, Long Beach

Location: Long Beach, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 39%

Avg SAT Score: 1070

Tuition: $7,000 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $54,800


California State University, Long Beach is one of the most popular campuses in the CSU system, located right next to the beach in the LA area. It excels in programs like nursing, engineering, business, and the arts. The university has a diverse student population over 35,000 strong.

San Diego State University

Location: San Diego, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 34%

Avg SAT Score: 1130

Tuition: $7,800 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $56,100


San Diego State University (SDSU) offers high-quality programs in a variety of fields like business, engineering, sciences, and arts & letters. Its location near downtown San Diego provides great internship and job opportunities. SDSU has an expansive campus and over 34,000 students.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Location: San Luis Obispo, CA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 28%

Avg SAT Score: 1340

Tuition: $9,700 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $68,800


Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is known for its exceptional engineering, business, architecture, and agriculture programs. This university emphasizes hands-on learning with the motto “Learn by Doing.” Cal Poly has a suburban campus setting and about 21,500 enrolled students.

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Location: Pomona, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 53%

Avg SAT Score: 1110

Tuition: $7,000 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $56,600


California State Polytechnic University, Pomona offers excellent engineering, science, business, and agriculture degrees. It has a large, suburuban campus near Los Angeles with over 25,500 students enrolled. Cal Poly Pomona is considered one of the most affordable California institutions.

California State University Northridge

Location: Northridge, CA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 49%

Avg SAT Score: 1030

Tuition: $6,800 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $50,600


California State University Northridge has 346 academic programs and nearly 40,000 students. It’s located in the San Fernando Valley region of LA. CSUN is ranked one of the most diverse universities in the country. Popular majors include business, engineering, health/human services, and social sciences.

California State University, Fullerton

Location: Fullerton, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 48%

Avg SAT Score: 1110

Tuition: $7,000 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $56,800


California State University, Fullerton excels in business, engineering, arts, kinesiology, and more. It has a large, suburuban campus with about 40,000 students enrolled. CSUF focuses on student success outcomes like graduation and employment rates. There are many student clubs and Division 1 sports teams.

San José State University

Location: San Jose, CA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 55%

Avg SAT Score: 1100

Tuition: $7,300 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $75,500


Located in the Silicon Valley, San José State University is known for engineering, business, animation/illustration, and data science degrees. SJSU has over 35,000 students enrolled and is one of the larger, more affordable universities in the Bay Area. SJSU also offers online programs and degrees.

California State University Chico

Location: Chico, CA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 71%

Avg SAT Score: 1050

Tuition: $7,700 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $45,600


California State University Chico is located in northern California, home to about 17,500 students. Chico State offers exceptional programs in business, nursing, social sciences, and more. The university emphasizes community service, leadership skills, and real-world experience through internships.

Humboldt State University

Location: Arcata, CA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 74%

Avg SAT Score: 1000

Tuition: $7,600 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $41,100


Humboldt State is located among the redwood forests near the Pacific coast, providing excellent natural resources and science programs. HSU has around 7,500 enrolled students. Unique degree options include oceanography, wildlife management, forestry, and more. The campus aims to be environmentally sustainable.

California State University Maritime Academy

Location: Vallejo, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 56%

Avg SAT Score: 1140

Tuition: $9,400 (in-state)

Avg Salary: $74,500


The California State University Maritime Academy specializes in degrees like business administration, global studies and maritime affairs, marine transportation, and mechanical engineering. Due to its specialized focus, the university is very small with under 1,000 students. But its graduates see excellent outcomes and salaries.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best CSU school?

Based on academics, admissions standards, reputation, and outcomes, the best CSU school is widely considered to be Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It’s rated as one of the top public universities in the West.

Which CSU has the highest acceptance rate?

The CSU with the highest acceptance rate is Humboldt State University at 74% admitted. Other CSU schools with high acceptance rates include Chico State, Sonoma State, and Stanislaus State.

What is the hardest CSU to get into?

The most selective CSU campus is Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, with a 28% acceptance rate. San Diego State (34%), Cal Poly Pomona (53%), and Long Beach State (39%) also have fairly competitive admissions.

Which CSU school is easiest to get into?

The easiest CSU schools to get admitted to are Humboldt State and Chico State, which both have acceptance rates over 70%. A few other options are CSU Bakersfield, CSU Stanislaus, and CSU Dominguez Hills.

What GPA do you need for CSU?

The average GPA to get into most CSU campuses is 3.0-3.5 unweighted. More competitive schools like SDSU, Cal Poly, and Long Beach State prefer GPAs closer to 3.7-4.0. Your extracurriculars also factor in.

Can I get into CSU with a 2.5 GPA?

You may be able to get into certain CSU schools with a 2.5 GPA if you have good test scores and extracurricular activities. However, for most campuses you will need a GPA of 2.7-3.0 or higher to be a competitive applicant.

Is San Jose State a good school?

Yes, San Jose State is considered one of the better CSU system schools. It’s ranked #139 in National Universities by US News and excels in high-earning majors like business, engineering, animation, data analytics, and more.

How much debt do CSU students graduate with?

The average debt California State University students graduate with is around $17,000. This is well below the national average. CSU schools provide affordable in-state tuition so students can graduate with less debt.

Are CSUs good for pre med?

Yes, many CSU campuses like SDSU, Cal Poly SLO, and Long Beach have pre-med programs and pathways that prepare students very well for medical school. Over 50% of CSU students who apply to med school get accepted.

What jobs can you get with a CSU degree?

CSU graduates find jobs in every industry – business, tech, healthcare, education, engineering, public service and more. CSU schools have career centers to help students get internships and jobs at major companies all across California upon graduation.

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