The Best CSU Schools Ranked – 2023

April 18, 2023

best csu schools ranked

Residents of the state of California are blessed with an embarrassment of public university riches. In addition to the exceptional University of California (UC) schools (see UC rankings here), there are an additional 23 universities housed within the California State University system. Our list of the Best CSU Schools Ranked will also share data such as: Undergraduate Enrollment, the Number of Freshman Applicants, Acceptance Rate, the average GPA of accepted applicants, and the Transfer Acceptance Rate. In creating these Cal State rankings of all 23 undergraduate degree-granting schools, we want to make crystal clear that all 23 have something positive to offer academically AND come at a bargain price. In fact, two years after graduating, CSU grads from all campuses enjoy an average salary of $50k; ten years later, the mean figure rises to $79,000.

Our rankings are based on selectivity, the number of standout academic programs, career services offerings, and postgraduate outcomes. Again, we encourage our readers not to make too much of the numerical ranking of the schools. These rankings can be a useful tool when trying to take in the admissions landscape, but this doesn’t mean you should automatically pick the 9th-best school over the 13th-best. Rather, we recommend using these rankings only as a starting point as you investigate the CSU campus that will best suit your unique academic and career goals.

To provide a quick reference, our Best CSU Schools Ranked are as follows:

1) Cal Poly SLO
3) Long Beach
4) Cal Poly Pomona
5) Fullerton
6) San Jose State
7) Fresno
8) Northridge
9) Santa Bernardino
10) Los Angeles
11) Chico
12) San Francisco State
13) Monterey Bay
14) Cal Maritime
15) Bakersfield
16) Sacramento
17) Sonoma State
18) East Bay
19) San Marcos
20) Channel Islands
21) Stanislaus
22) Cal Poly Humboldt
23) Dominguez Hills

Now, let’s transition into a meatier version that features academic, outcomes, and admissions data.

The Best CSU Schools Ranked – 2023

*Acceptance rates on our list of the Best CSU Schools Ranked are from the Class of 2026, unless otherwise noted. These numbers have been released by the university, but are not “official” as of yet.

1) Cal Poly SLO

Resting atop our Cal State rankings, Cal Ploy SLO’s School of Engineering is the university’s crown jewel. Over one-quarter of all degrees conferred are in engineering, and Cal Poly gets recognition in many specialty areas of the field including industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, computer engineering, and civil engineering. Like many California public universities, Cal Poly has become more competitive in recent years.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 20,963
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 58,944
  • Acceptance Rate: 30%
  • Average GPA: 3.9
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 20%

For more admissions-related information, visit How to Get Into Cal Poly SLO.

2) San Diego State University                     

Business/marketing accounts for 21% of the degrees conferred, making it the school’s most popular area of study. Next in line are the social sciences, engineering, and psychology. At the time of receiving their degrees, roughly 75% of newly-minted SDSU graduates already have their next phase of life planned. Despite the intimidating acceptance rate, there is plenty of room at this school for strong but less-than-perfect applicants.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 31,724
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 77,250
  • Acceptance Rate: 39%
  • Average GPA: 3.8
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 37%

For more admissions-related information, visit How to Get Into San Diego State University.

3) Cal State Long Beach

Ranked among the top 10% of all universities in return on investment, Long Beach, this highly diverse school is renowned for increasing social mobility. It was recently classified as a doctoral university with “high research activity”. The 355,000+ alumni are a successful bunch, boasting an average mid-career salary of $109,000.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 32,710
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 74,741
  • Acceptance Rate: 40%
  • Average GPA: 3.7
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 47%

4) Cal Poly Pomona

One of the top public schools on the entire West Coast, Cal Poly Pomona ranks well in the areas of social mobility, innovation, and undergraduate teaching. They offer top-notch programs in areas like civil engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, and aerospace engineering. The College of Business Administration, Collins College of Hospitality Management, and landscape architecture programs are also notably strong.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 25,180
  • Number of Freshman Applicants:49,721
  • Acceptance Rate: 55%
  • Average GPA: 3.7
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 53%

5) Cal State Fullerton

Offering 58 undergraduate degree programs, the Fullerton campus, which was founded in 1957, serves high-caliber students at its 236-acre campus that rests 35 miles outside of L.A. Cal State Fullerton has the largest student body of any CSU school and boasts standout programs in business and engineering. This exceptionally diverse school is number three in the entire nation for degrees earned by Hispanic students.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 34,781
  • Number of Freshman Applicants:48,749
  • Acceptance Rate: 67%
  • Average GPA: 3.7
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 61%

6) San Jose State University

Made up of 28% first-generation students, SJSU serves a student population that is 36% Asian and 28% Hispanic. Founded way back in 1857, San Jose State has developed a sterling reputation in the areas of electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Its Silicon Valley location is a huge plus for students looking to obtain internships and eventual employment in the booming tech industry.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 26,651
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 34,783
  • Acceptance Rate: 75%
  • Average GPA: 3.6
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 70%

Best CSU Schools Ranked (Continued)

7) CSU Fresno

There are 71 undergraduate degree programs offered at CSU Fresno, a school that among many other academic achievements, also operates the first school-based commercial winery in the country. There are more than 200 active student-run organizations on this bustling campus. Fresno shines in the disciplines of civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 21,279
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 18,682
  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Average GPA: 3.5
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 68%

8) CSU Northridge

Prior to 1958, Northridge was part of Cal State L.A. The most popular majors include Psychology, Cinema and Television Arts, and Criminology & Justice and a solid 81% of freshmen return for their sophomore year. The urban campus, situated in Los Angeles has been featured in countless movies and television shows.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 31,957
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 26,276
  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Average GPA: 3.4
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 68%

9) CSU San Bernardino

Fifty-five miles east of Los Angeles, you’ll find CSUSB’s 430-acre campus. Home to 70 baccalaureate and master’s programs, 80% of those who attend are first-generation students and 58% are Pell Grant recipients. The student population is two-thirds Hispanic and 63% female. The strongest programs can be found in the engineering department.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 16,813
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 15,581
  • Acceptance Rate: 91%
  • Average GPA: 3.4
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 79%

10) Cal State LA

Rounding out the top 10 Cal State schools, is the Los Angeles campus. The most popular majors at Cal State LA are Business Administration, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Child Development, and Sociology. Twelve professors have won the Trustees’ Outstanding Professor Award, more than any other CSU campus. Strong business and engineering offerings lead to a tremendous return on investment and this public institution.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 22,536
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 33,941
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Average GPA: 3.3
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 78%

Best CSU Schools Ranked (Continued)

11 CSU Chico

Dating all the way back to 1887, Chico has more than 300 academic offerings and 200+ student organizations from which to choose. Solid nursing and computer science options as well as an outstanding engineering program are available at this campus whose graduates exhibit exceptional social mobility and low debt.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 12,885
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 22,137
  • Acceptance Rate: 92%
  • Average GPA: 3.3
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 59%

12) San Francisco State University

SFSU is an extremely diverse university, including 39% Latinx students and 27% who identify as Asian. Thirty percent are the first in their family to attend college. One of the more liberal-leaning campuses in the United States, the school has solid offerings in the areas of communications and psychology.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 21,868
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 30,966
  • Acceptance Rate: 91%
  • Average GPA: 3.3
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 88%

13) CSU Monterey Bay

Altogether, CSUMB offers 25 undergraduate degree programs to go along with 30 minors. Almost three-quarters receive financial aid and 53% are first-generation students. Situated just one mile from the beach, students enjoy a relaxing life outside of the classroom. Inside the classroom, the university’s most popular programs are in Business, Psychology, Liberal Arts, and Computer Science.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,009
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 12,582
  • Acceptance Rate: 92%
  • Average GPA: 3.4
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 87%

14) Cal Maritime

Cal Maritime has the highest employment rate within three months of graduation out of any of the 23 CSU campuses in our Cal State rankings. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1 and an average class size of just 20 students, Cal Maritime Academy is one of only seven degree-granting maritime academies in the United States. Available majors include marine science, business, global studies, and mechanical engineering. There are only seven total majors offered.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 798
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 820
  • Acceptance Rate: 88%
  • Average GPA: 3.4
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 85%

15) CSU Bakersfield

This urban campus has been part of the CSU system for over 50 years. Popular majors at Bakersfield include Business, Liberal Arts, Psychology, Criminal Justice, and Biology. CSUB is over 60% Hispanic; it offers 65 total undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Almost two-thirds of graduates stay in the immediate area and contribute to the local economy post-graduation.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,964
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 14,156
  • Acceptance Rate: 85%
  • Average GPA: N/A
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 86%

Best CSU Schools Ranked (Continued)

16)  Sacramento State

When it was founded after World War II, Sonoma State had only 235 total students enrolled. Today, Sacramento State is the sixth largest campus in the CSU system. Impressively, they have boosted their 4-year graduation rate by 212% since 2016. The average class size at Sacramento State is 31 students.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 28,389
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 25,550
  • Acceptance Rate: 92%
  • Average GPA: 3.4
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 89%

17) Sonoma State

Out of 57 bachelor’s degree programs offered at Sonoma State, the five most popular are as follows: Business, Psychology, Biology, Nursing, and Kinesiology. A solid 64% of all students receive some level of financial aid. There are six residence halls on this 269-acre campus which are all named after types of wines.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,851
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 10,866
  • Acceptance Rate: 93%
  • Average GPA: 3.4
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 74%

18) Cal State East Bay

Earning high marks for social mobility and return on investment, Cal State East Bay also possesses an excellent business school as well as a plethora of strong online programs. More than 150,000 alumni can be found in upper management at companies like Adobe, Google, Apple, Bank of America, Oracle, and Tesla. Students contribute a collective 90,000 hours of community service each year.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 9,862
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 14,882
  • Acceptance Rate: 81%
  • Average GPA: 3.2
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 83%

19) CSU San Marcos

This suburban 340-acre campus was founded in 1989 and is located close to Southern California’s top beaches. The most popular majors include: Business, Health Professions, Psychology, Communications, Journalism, and Biology. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is a particularly competitive program that uses supplementary admission criteria to screen applicants.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 12,917
  • Number of Freshman Applicants:
  • Acceptance Rate:
  • Average GPA: 3.3
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate:

20) CSU Channel Islands

The greatest number of students at this campus pursue diplomas in the areas of psychology, business, health studies, and biology. Viewed as one of best Hispanic-serving institutions in the country, CSUCI is the youngest member of the California State University system having been founded in 2003. The school has already been recognized for facilitating social mobility and the nursing program sports impressive post-graduate outcomes.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,470
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 15,000
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Average GPA: 3.2
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 52%

Best CSU Schools Ranked (Continued)

21) Stanislaus State

Located in the heart of the state’s Central Valley, this campus near San Francisco offers 49 bachelor’s degree programs. It is the only CSU campus to offer a degree in cognitive science and has four total undergraduate colleges. Stanislaus State boasts a reasonable 22:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 100+ student-run clubs.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,691
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 6,345
  • Acceptance Rate: 93%
  • Average GPA: 3.5
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 89%

22) Cal Poly Humboldt

In 2022, Humboldt State University transformed into Cal Poly Humboldt, the CSU system’s third polytechnic university. The school’s enrollment is expected to grow substantially as more dorms are being added. Traditionally, psychology, environmental science, and business have been among the more popular major selections.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,303
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 9,239
  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Average GPA: 3.3
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 84%

23) CSU Dominguez Hills 

Last but not least in our Cal State rankings, is CSU Dominguez Hills. Receiving high marks in the area of diversity, affordability, and accessibility, CSUDH attracts many strong students to its 346-acre campus. Business, Psychology, Sociology, Criminal Justice, and Nursing are among the most commonly selected majors. In total, there are 54 undergraduate majors spread across six colleges.

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 13,816
  • Number of Freshman Applicants: 19,313
  • Acceptance Rate: 88%
  • Average GPA: 3.2
  • Transfer Acceptance Rate: 88%

CSU Schools Ranked – Additional Resources

Prospective applicants to CSU schools may also benefit from exploring some of our previous blogs: