Founded in 1965, Irvine is one of the youngest campuses in the state's public university system, but it's already among the world's most respected research institutions — three former faculty members have received Nobel Prizes.

Students can choose from over 85 undergraduate majors and 70 minors, and they tend to thrive within their programs: About 86% of freshmen go on to graduate within six years, which is slightly higher than predicted based on institutions with comparable student bodies. Students’ early-career earnings shake out to about $76,600 a decade after enrolling.

UC Irvine has a sweet location in the sunny suburbs of Orange County, just miles from famous California beaches and Disneyland, and about a one hour drive from downtown Los Angeles. Theme parks not your style? Surfing, snowboarding, skiing, sailing, cycling, desert camping, sunbathing and hiking are all on the table.

UCI doesn't field a football team, but its baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball programs are strong. In one of the more quaint college cheers, the "Antourage," as fans are called, cheer "Zot! Zot! Zot!" to mimic the sound of an anteater sucking up ants.