College of the Week: Whittier College

Each week, Mrs. Nilsen will provide insight into unique college options for learners and families. The source is the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2019, an annual comprehensive catalog of diverse universities here in California and nationwide, Colleges That Change Lives, and 50 Colleges that Create Futures.

This Week: Whittier College


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Enrollment: 1,620

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Strong Programs: Business Administration, Kinesiology and Nutrition Science, Psychology, English, Biology, Child Development, Theater.

DETAILS: Whittier’s Quaker heritage brings a touch of the East to suburban L.A.  Less selective than Occidental and the Claremont Colleges, Whittier lures ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students with a bevy of academic scholarships.  Located just 18 miles away from downtown Los Angeles, the college is perched on a hill overlooking the town of Whittier3, with the San Gabriel Mountains rising up from the horizon.  

Whittier offers its undergraduates two major curricular programs: the liberal education program and the Whittier Scholars Program. The emphasis of the liberal education program is on an interdisciplinary focus, globalism, and critical and quantitative thinking.

Whittier’s signature program is the Whittier Scholars Program, a path taken by 20 percent of the undergraduates, who choose to bypass the traditional liberal education program. They are relieved of most general requirements and start from square one with an “educational design” process.  With the help of an advisor, Whittier Scholars carve their majors out of standard offerings by taking a bit of this and a bit of that.

“The academic climate at Whittier is competitive and rigorous, but definitely manageable”, one senior says. Fifty-five percent of classes have fewer than 20 students, and freshmen are taught by full professors. For those looking to add a global scope to their college experience, as many do, study abroad options include programs in Denmark, India, Mexico, and Asia.  Short-term foreign study tours are also available during the January interim. The students at Whittier have created a supportive, intimate environment where people work together and celebrate their diversity.

“It’s a small, friendly place where everybody knows everybody,” a junior says.  And with the opportunity to design their won majors, students here are active in their own education.