Occidental College is Los Angeles’ local highly selective liberal arts college. Many LA area students don’t even know that Occidental is located in the hills of Eagle Rock. Oxy is known for its rigorous academic curriculum, with a diverse student body driven to succeed in their intellectual pursuits.
Oxy has a core curriculum, with all students required to take 1 year of foreign language, 3 semesters of courses involving foreign cultures, 3 semesters of math or science, 1 semester of fine arts, and 1 semester pre-industrial history. Students can fulfill more than one requirement with one class if they schedule strategically.
Students here declare their majors at the end of their sophomore year, and there is much opportunity for students to explore academic options outside of their major. There is no engineering department here, but students who see themselves going in the engineering direction can choose the 3-2 program, in which they would spend three years on the Occidental campus, and then 2 years either at Caltech (just a few miles away in Pasadena), or Columbia University. Only a few students do this each year.
Occidental has also taken advantage of its most famous alumnus, President Obama, and offers students the opportunity to take a semester off and work on a campaign. Campaigns must be national-level (U.S. Senate or President) and if a state campaign, students are not allowed to work in their home state. Oxy also has a residential internship program at the United Nations. About half of Oxy students study abroad, mostly in their junior year, and students can apply for funding to do research abroad.
Occidental students are an eclectic group, with over 100 clubs and organizations for students to join, including cultural, ethnic, political, community service, academic and Greek organizations. About 20% of the 2100 students join fraternities and sororities; the sororities are local social groups, with a less exclusive feel than traditional national sororities.
One of the things that makes Occidental unique among liberal arts colleges is its location, right in the city of Los Angeles. Students have both social and academic choices – internships as well as things to do on the weekend. Students are required to live on campus for three years, and then they can choose to move off campus their senior year.
Oxy gives each applicant a holistic review, weighing academic accomplishments, standardized testing, and extra-curricular activities. While most students are in the 600-700 range in all three sections of the SAT, Oxy weighs heavily students’ accomplishments throughout high school. For extra-curricular activities, Oxy respects both breadth and depth, representing students’ commitment, continuity and leadership. They are looking to answer these questions: What will you bring to Oxy? What is important to you? They also look for students’ personality in the five supplemental essay questions, and offer an optional on-campus interview.
Evelyn, Debbie and Suzie have all visited Occidental! You can see photos from our visits to Occidental here.