California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI) is young — it was established in 2002 — but serious about higher education. It has a six-year graduation rate just under 70%, which is significantly higher than expected based on the makeup of its student body.

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With about 5,000 undergrads, CSUCI offers over 50 academic programs, including interdisciplinary programs like Chicana/o studies and mechatronics engineering. The campus is gorgeous, located 25 miles from Malibu and among lemon groves. Every day at 11:55 a.m. the alma mater plays from the bell tower carillon, echoing across the nearly 1,200-acre campus.

Students can participate in more than 100 clubs and organizations, including a tabletop games club, a sailing club and a K-pop club. CSUCI does not have standard intercollegiate athletics options, but students can join club sports teams, like the lacrosse and soccer clubs.

Despite the university’s (relative) youth, commencement ceremonies are packed with tradition. They feature the sounding of a conch shell, a multilingual greeting and passage through an arch, which symbolizes fresh graduates entering a new stage of their lives.