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Whittier College
The most common Whittier descriptors are: diverse, friendly, authentic, nurturing, active, humane, innovative, and...

Whittier College

Whittier, California

What Really Matters


The essential heart of Whittier College was formed at its founding by Quakers in 1887. Those roots are distinct among California colleges, even though Whittier hasn’t been religiously affiliated since the 1930s. What hasn’t changed, however, is a mission based on the core belief that no one is inherently superior to anyone else; that everyone has unique gifts that should be respected, developed, and shared. One illustration of this is that Whittier has always welcomed students irrespective of gender, race, religion, or social status. Few Whittier students fit stereotypes; even fewer want to.


Such values inform and animate nearly all aspects of campus life at Whittier. They make a fitting matrix for liberal arts thinking and action alike. Courses are intimate, interactive, and interdisciplinary, and the campus culture is residential, friendly, and exceptionally diverse. Teachers can be classmates—and vice versa. The facilities are impressive—especially in STEM—and study abroad is generous. Opportunities abound for research and professional internships, as do sports and other activities. And what better location is there to maximize all of that than in Southern California?


It’s no wonder why Whittier graduates go on to an impressive array of achievements, both for themselves and for others.

Student Profile

Fall 2015 Enrollment
1,645 undergraduate students
98% of undergrad students are full time
44% male — 56% female
16% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2015-2016 Academic Year
116 full-time faculty
72 part-time faculty
12 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2015
70% of first year students live on campus
50% of all students live on campus

School Location

Whittier is in a prime Southern California location. No more than an hour’s drive from the campus include Hollywood, spots for snowboarding, Disneyland, the Getty Museum, 23 beaches, the Nixon Presidential Library, L.A. Live, Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium, Staples Center, the Santa Monica Promenade, hiking trails, and a scattered selection of In-N-Out Burgers.

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices 

First-Year Seminars and Experiences x
Common Intellectual Experiences x
Learning Communities x
Writing-Intensive Courses x
Collaborative Assignments and Projects x
Undergraduate Research x
Diversity/Global Learning x
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning x
Internships/Coops/Practicums x
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience x

Retention Fall 2015

81% of students began in Fall 2014 and returned in Fall 2015 (full time, first time freshmen)

6 year graduation rate 2015

66% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 3%
Hispanic/Latino 44%
Black or African American 5%
White 31%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 10%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 4%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 1%


NCAA Division III, Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 22 varsity sports.

11 men’s: baseball, basketball, cross-country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track & field, water polo
11 women’s: basketball, cross-country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field, volleyball, water polo

“Fear The Poet!” (Namesake John Greenleaf Whittier was a poet… and probably liked the colors purple and gold.)

Other Information

Whittier College is a four-year, residential liberal arts and sciences college founded in 1887.

Academic Programs

Anthropology, Art- History Track, Art- Studio Track, Biochemistry, Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Child Development, Chinese, Comparative Cultures, Economics, English, English- Creative Writing Emphasis, Environmental Science, Film Studies, French, Global and Cultural Studies, History, Japanese, Kinesiology & Nutrition Science, Mathematics, Mathematics/Business Administration, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science; Pre-Professional Studies: Athletic Training, Dentistry, Education, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Social Work, Veterinary Science; Psychology, Religious Studies, Social Work, Sociology, Spanish, Theatre and Communication Arts, Whittier Scholars Program, Gender and Women’s Studies.

More Distinctions

  • Profiled in The Templeton Guide: Colleges that Encourage Character Development for inspiring students to lead ethical and civic-minded lives.

  • The chemistry program is certified by the American Chemical Society.

  • The kinesiology program belongs to both the American Kinesiology Association as well as the North American Society for Sports Management.

  • Featured in Kaplan’s Unofficial, Unbiased Guide to the 328 Most Interesting Colleges, which called Whittier College “a hidden treasure.”

  • The Department of Social Work earned select accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  • Included in The Fiske Guide to Colleges, which features the "best and most interesting" colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain.

  • OnStage included Whittier among one of the “Top 10 Most Underrated College Theatre Programs” in the western region.

  • Selected for inclusion in The Princeton Review’s "Guide to 286 Green Colleges.”

  • Named one of The Princeton Review’s "Best 378 Colleges.”

  • The most diverse liberal arts campus in California, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Personally Designed Majors

For 40 years, the Whittier Scholars Program (WSP) has offered a unique option for students to construct personalized programs of study as well as original majors.

In addition to the wide array of seminars and classes offered across the academic spectrum, the WSP incorporates off-campus learning opportunities and culminates in a substantial senior capstone project. Including attentive advisement and support, the program equips students with attentive advisement and support, empowering undergraduate students to customize their education plans so that they may prepare for their goals more directly than they would with a standard catalog major.

Examples of customized, interdisciplinary majors include a combination of Business with Film Studies, which prepares students to be movie producers or agents. One could, for example, blend Pre-Medicine with Global & Cultural Studies in preparation to serve Doctors Without Borders. Students aspiring to create children’s books could mix English, Art, and Child Development, or they could work toward authoring science fiction with a combination of Creative Writing and Physics courses.

This option is not exclusive to honors students; it’s available to anyone who has the self-discipline and originality to make their pitch and the wherewithal to fulfill it.

Study Abroad

Within four years, a student could manage to study in nine other countries. Whittier offers plenty of study abroad options in addition to the typical junior year or semester abroad concept that is common to other schools. Whittier’s partner programs are located in Australia, Scotland, England, and Hong Kong, but that doesn’t mean that one’s options are limited. In fact, Whittier’s staff works to arrange studies at essentially any school in the world that fits a student’s ambitions.

Briefer travel opportunities are regularly offered twice each academic calendar year. These occur throughout the “mini-terms,” which are offered 3-4 weeks before and after the spring semester. Each mini-term presents the chance to take one of several Whittier courses that happen to take place abroad. Examples include Environmental Science in the Amazon; International Business in Hong Kong; Theatre in London; Latin Jazz in Havana; Philosophy in Greece; and Art in Paris.

Whittier regards an education with a wide-world perspective so much that it provides financial support in order to turn study abroad into a reality. In order to make it more possible for every student to have a shot at going abroad, Whittier offers the “Global Poet Scholarship,” which virtually guarantees an extra $2,000 to any Whittier student who chooses to study abroad.

Activities Offered

Campus Ministries X
Choral groups X
Concert band  
Dance X
Drama/theater X
International Student Organization X
Jazz band X
Literary magazine X
Marching band  
Model UN X
Music ensembles X
Musical theater  X 
Pep band X
Radio station X
Student government X
Student newspaper X
Student-run film society X
Symphony orchestra  
Television station X
Yearbook X

Faculty and Students

Whittier faculty members are exceptionally qualified in their fields, and their commitment to student success is their highest priority. The classes they teach have an average enrollment in the teens, which is an ideal size for the kind of hands-on and discussion-based learning that best fosters individual growth.

Professors are pivotal to the Whittier experience beyond the classroom as well. Their office hours are generous, as is their everyday presence throughout the campus community. Some professors even live on campus as “Faculty Masters” who have many chances to host their own striking learning experiences. For example, Faculty Masters could host an informal meetingplace with a visiting Nobel Laureate, plan an outing to a Young Hollywood lecture series, do henna tattooing, or even host a game night. These personally involved faculty members are perfect for helping students connect with future mentors during events like the “Backpack to Briefcase” programs, which invite successful Whittier alumni to meet with students who aspire to similar careers.

Freshman Writing

Whittier understands that students have greater chances for success (both in college and after) if they are able to write well, whether they become novelists, veterinarians, math teachers, or stockbrokers. The challenge, therefore, is to make a writing course that is interesting and relevant regardless of a student’s major or intended profession.

Navigating this challenge, Whittier approaches writing with an attractive twist. Incoming students get to pick a specific topic that will serve as the primary context in which to sharpen their writing skills. These courses could be taught by professors of biology, business, political science, psychology, English, or anything else. These courses are each paired with another course that is thematically linked to the topic of the writing course. Such a unique structure introduces students to Whittier’s overall interdisciplinary approach to the liberal arts—one that demonstrates the excitement that comes from seeing the connections between seemingly different fields.

Recent examples of such course pairings include “Nonviolent Activism and Conflict,” “Climate Change and National Identity,” “Religion and Humor,” “Financial Crisis and Math,” “Shakespeare, Heroism, and Business Forces,” “Gender Perceptions and the Middle East,” “Fairy Tales and Biology,” and “Faith and Baseball.”

Out-of-the-Box Learning

Even beyond the Freshman Writing Seminar, Whittier’s innovative curriculum is undeniably rooted in the liberal arts tradition and fit for real-world application. Its interdisciplinary approach fosters amazing collaboration among professors from disparate disciplines.

Political science and mathematics can merge in a team-taught course on code-breaking. Courses in physics and creative writing find common ground when studying science fiction. And, of course, more and more fields are themselves interdisciplinary, such as Global Studies and Environmental Studies. Each can straddle several disciplines, ranging from biochemistry and economics to sociology and politics.

Such a mind-broadening education ultimately endows graduates with the skills to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world. Whittier’s aim is not to produce narrow specialists, but instead to develop problem-solvers who have expertise, vision, and the ability to adapt and communicate with those who might come from other perspectives. It’s through a combination of traits that leaders are defined in any organization, company, or community.

Research and Fieldwork

Whittier students work in close collaboration with world-class thinkers and doers. Their professors have the powerful credentials that are found at mega-universities, but they are uniquely dedicated teachers who actually enjoy working with undergraduates. They regularly act as advisors and assist students who may be breaking new ground on their own research. Each year, more and more Whittier students are able to present their ideas and achievements at academic and professional conferences nationwide.

Common Core

Arts/fine arts X
Computer literacy  
English (including composition) X
Foreign languages X
History X
Humanities X
Mathematics X
Philosophy X
Sciences (biological or physical) X
Social science X

Class Size Breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 76 148 154 21 4 4 1 408

Ways to Engage

Rarely has a Whittier College student been called under-involved. Whittier students don’t just read about places and ideas; they engage at every level. The clubs and service organizations on campus span a wide spectrum of interests and pursuits, including their own brand of fraternities and sororities called “societies,” NCAA Division III athletics, intramural sports, student government, performing arts, widespread internships, and more.

Uptown Whittier

Adjacent to the College, historic Uptown Whittier offers a lively district that’s brimming with coffee houses, shops, parks, restaurants, movie theaters, and many other inviting places, all within easy walking distance. For those who want to escape civilization, the hills directly behind the campus are among the few remaining undeveloped strips of land in Southern California, including 50 miles of hiking trails. Another nearby nature corridor is ideal for biking to the beach.


Coed dorms X
Men’s dorms  
Women’s dorms  
Apartments for married students  
Apartments for single students  X 
Special housing for disabled students X
Special housing for international students  
Fraternity/sorority housing  
Cooperative housing  
Theme housing X
Wellness housing  
Other housing options  

Internships and Professional Development

For career exploration, preparation, and connection, Whittier’s Center for Career and Professional Development provides outstanding counseling and coaching to both students and alumni. It makes a focused commitment to centralize internships for students (even though many internships are otherwise formed through the everyday relationships between alumni, professors, staff, and students in and around individual academic departments).

However they arise, internships are abundant for Whittier students. California has long been in the vanguard of social change and innovation, and the College has played a vital role in its progress. It helps that Whittier is located at the intersection of Los Angeles and Orange counties, only minutes away from what makes Southern California the most dynamic and livable region in the world for arts, commerce, technology, and ideas.

Whittier students have interned with New Line Cinema, the Getty Museum, Martin Sound Studio, Disneyland Resort College Program, Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy, Merrill Lynch, Yamaha Instruments, Goldman Sachs, Growthink Research, the American Red Cross, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and much more.

A Record That Speaks for Itself

The value of a Whittier education is clear in the achievements of its students and alumni. Many have been state and regional finalists for the elite Rhodes Scholarship; four have actually won it. The College has also produced impressive numbers of NCAA Scholar Athletes as well as Marshall, Fulbright, and Mellon scholarship winners. Whittier’s medical school acceptance rate is double the national average, sending alumni to such prestigious institutions as Boston University, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, and Yale. Similarly, students have progressed to such law schools as Georgetown, Berkeley, Michigan, and Vanderbilt.

Whittier alumni have also been admitted to a wide range of other outstanding graduate programs. A small recent sampling includes Carnegie-Mellon, the University of Southern California, Columbia, Duke, New York University, Northwestern, Boston College, Oxford, Princeton, Rutgers University, and Stanford.

Notable Alumni

Some notable Whittier alumni include Richard Nixon ’34 (U.S. President), Fred Anderson ’62 (Chief Financial Officer, Apple Computers), Yasmin Khorram ’10 (CNN Producer), Darrell Walker ’76 (Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Black Entertainment Television), Miguel Santana ’91 (City Administrative Officer for the City of Los Angeles), RJ Clason ’84 (Vice-President for Corporate Communications, Dell Computer Corporation), Jascha Kaykas-Wolff ’98 (Chief Marketing Director, Mozilla), Cheryl Boone Isaacs ’71 (President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), Carey Halio ’95 (CFO, Goldman Sachs Bank USA), and fitness entrepreneur Cassey Ho ’09 (CEO of Blogilates).


Admissions Fall 2015

5,192 Total Applicants
3,251 Total Admissions
445 Total Freshman Enrollment

62.62% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2016-17 Admission

Rolling admission? Yes

Priority date: Feb 1

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Rigor of secondary school record
Academic GPA
Application Essay
Character/personal qualities

Standardized test scores
Extracurricular activities
Volunteer work

Class rank
First generation
Alumni/ae relation
Geographical residence
State residency
Racial/ethnic status
Work experience
Level of applicant’s interest

Freshman Profile Fall 2015

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 463 580
SAT Math 470 590
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 20 26
ACT Math    
ACT English    
ACT Writing    

How to Apply

Whittier exclusively accepts the Common Application. Students must also submit a $50 application fee (fee waivers accepted), essay, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and SAT I or ACT with writing scores. Whittier has a test-optional policy for students with a high school GPA above a 3.0, but all admission decisions are made after carefully assessing the overall candidacy. Thus, no GPA or test result is an automatic determinant.

The best way to know whether Whittier College is the right fit is to visit it in person. Whittier’s Office of Admission happily arranges tailored itineraries for prospective students, whether they be an hour in length or an overnight stay. These can most easily be booked online through the Whittier College website.


Net Price Calculator



Tuition $44,184
Fees $590
Total $44,774
Room and Board (on campus) $12,902
Estimated Total On Campus $57,676


Average Financial Aid Packages 2015-2016 Estimated

$35,803 First year students
$31,278 All undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2015-2016 Estimated

77% on average, the percentage of need that was met
16% of financial need students that had need fully met

$31,278 Average need-based scholarship or grant award
$5,519 Average need-based loan

Scholarship Information

John Greenleaf Whittier Scholarships and Poet Awards are given to a sizable number of admitted students. Decisions are based on academic achievement and/or leadership in extracurricular activities. Thus, financial need is not a requirement for these awards, which range from $5,000 to full tuition. They are automatically renewable each year as long as the recipient remains a full-time student in good standing.

Talent Scholarships are also merit-based and renewable, with value ranging from $1,000 to $12,000 per year. They are awarded for talent in art, music, and theatre (acting or stage management/design/technology). Audition and/or portfolio review dates and procedures are determined by each department and may vary slightly from year to year. Contact the Office of Admission for such clarifications. Recipients do not have to major or minor in a discipline to be eligible but must participate to some extent in the awarding program.