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Occidental College: A Great West Coast School

Occidental College: A Great West Coast School

Occidental (“Oxy”) gives you lots of reasons to love it, from academics, to financial aid, to location—even to its food! If you and your child will consider a California liberal arts college, Occidental should place high on your list.

Oxy wants its students to roll up their sleeves and dig deeply into something through research.  The school provides both access and support to make that happen.  Undergrads can pursue their research interests through joining a faculty team already engaged on a project, through interacting with the resources that Los Angeles offers (like museums, archives, and other cultural institutions), or even through traveling abroad.  As a financial aid recipient myself, I had to earn money towards my tuition over the summers, which made something like a summer research project inaccessible to me.  Oxy uses grant funding to make such opportunities available to all, including those who must earn money to help pay for school.

Increased access characterizes Oxy when it comes to the economics of college as well.  Compared to other elite colleges and universities, Oxy has among the lowest median family income, signifying an unusually high level of socioeconomic diversity on campus, according to The New York Times.  It ranks in the top third on Kiplinger’s Best College Values list for liberal arts colleges.  Financial aid expert Bill Rabbitt calls Occidental “a better value for a high need family” than some other selective liberal arts colleges.  According to Rabbitt, Occidental meets 100% of demonstrated need; however, only about 18% of accepted students receive merit scholarships, making Occidental less of a value than some other schools—like Clark University, for example—for a non-need family.

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of quality of life.  Oxy ranks #8 on The Daily Meal’s “75 Best Colleges for Food.”  All dining locations at Oxy make food from scratch and in small batches.  If you don’t like what sound like delectable menu offerings (balsamic glazed chicken, butternut squash risotto), you can custom order anything you want.  A little bit of Los Angeles makes its way to campus when food trucks come for lunch every Thursday.  Outside the Oxy campus, Los Angeles awaits.  Anna Hunter, co-founder of a company that provides career support for young professionals, loves her adopted city.  She urges Oxy students to take advantage of their Eagle Rock location, where they can find great hiking and an artsy vibe:  “There’s a lot happening in that part of town.  Eagle Rock is, in a lot of ways, a hidden pocket, a part of L.A. that a lot of people don’t know about.”

Occidental College offers it students access to a top-ranked liberal arts education that includes opportunities for serious research at the undergraduate level.  Those who need it get significant financial aid, resulting in a college community that brings together young people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.  Together, they get to enjoy a welcoming campus, complete with great food, and one of L.A.’s hidden gem neighborhoods that gives them access to both the arts and the outdoors.

By: Eva Ostrum


An award-winning educator, Eva has worked in college admissions on both sides of the desk:  as an undergraduate admissions officer at Yale University – her alma mater – and as a teacher, school administrator, and private college admissions coach supporting students and families through the process.  She is the author of The Thinking Parent’s Guide to College Admissions:  The Step-by-Step Program to Get Kids into the Schools of Their Dreams (Penguin Books, 2006) and the executive producer of Turusma:  A Young Man’s Journey to College, a documentary short that screened at juried film festivals both in the U.S. and abroad and won an award for excellence at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival (2002).  Eva has taught at the high school and college levels, served as a school leader, and consulted on educational interventions and policy for public and private organizations around the country.  She has appeared as a guest expert on education in numerous media outlets (including NBC’s Weekend Today).  Eva graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in French Studies and from the Harvard Kennedy School with a Master’s in Public Policy.  She is is currently seeking her doctorate in Educational Psychology.  A native New Yorker, she and her family live in New York City.