Founded in 1955, Harvey Mudd College has developed a reputation for its leading science and engineering programs. Although it's classified as a liberal arts institution, the college offers Bachelors of Science degrees in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics and physics, and it also allows students to devise their own individual programs of study.

Despite the overarching STEM focus, Mudders do take a healthy dose of humanities and social science courses as part of the core curriculum, and they can enroll in any classes offered by the other undergraduate Claremont Colleges: Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps. Harvey Mudd professors tend to be highly rated. In contrast to many other science-oriented schools, the faculty focuses on teaching rather than research, and it shows. Although the school has only about 900 students, its retention rate is near 100%, and it's known for producing grads who go on to earn high salaries.

In fact, Harvey Mudd students post median early- career salaries of well over $100,000. The coursework may be intense, but Harvey Mudd athletes join with McKenna and Scripps colleges to field Division III football, basketball and soccer teams, among others.

Students with artistic flair can join the school's choral ensembles, its improv group, known as DUCK, or take part in battle tie-dye (a real thing).