Since its opening in 1903 as a vocational school with an emphasis on “learning by doing,” Cal Poly has evolved into a skills-focused university with 65 majors, including one in wine and viticulture and several within its well-known engineering school.

The campus covers more than 9,100 acres and uses canyons, ranches, beaches and even a farm to teach students hands-on lessons in agriculture, biology and forestry. Student research projects are encouraged, and the university recently opened an office to ensure research opportunities are accessible to all students. In fact, improving accessibility and diversity has been a campus-wide focus in recent years, as the university is less diverse than other California public colleges.

More than 90% of Cal Poly graduates are working full time or in grad schools within a year, the school reports. Students go on to earn median salaries of just over $85,000 in their early careers, a premium over similar schools, according to Money's analysis.

Cal Poly's home is sunny San Luis Obispo, located on the California coast about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Known as “Slo,” the college argues it’s the most collegiate of the state’s college towns, with farm-to-table restaurants, nightlife and cultural events. Outside the city, students can explore hiking trails or relax on the nearby beaches.