Pepperdine University is a small, Christian, liberal arts university affiliated with the Churches of Christ in Malibu, California. It comprises an undergraduate liberal arts college, Seaver College, along with a handful of professional and graduate colleges, including a business school and law school. Its location in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean is stunning and gives students access both to the beach and to extensive hiking and outdoor opportunities.
The university’s academic programs are fairly strong, and programs in the life sciences and pre-med fields have shown great improvement over time. Students perform well in their medical school applications, with about 85% of Pepperdine pre-med students gaining admission to a medical school, compared to only 40% nationally.
Pepperdine is institutionally committed to its identity as a Christian university. Although officially affiliated with the Churches of Christ, institutional support for charismatic evangelicalism has grown in recent years; there is now a close association between Pepperdine and Vintage Malibu, a small local church. It is known for its warm and welcoming atmosphere and the strong relationships that students form with their faculty, many of whom live on campus. It also offers opportunities for aspiring ministers to engage in student ministry and to study religion on the path towards graduate level theological study. But the university also enforces a Student Code of Conduct and Sexual Activity Policy that can be viewed as discriminatory against LGBTQ+ students and creates ambiguity in the application of its Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Pepperdine is also less racially and ethnically diverse than many comparable universities, and provides few resources for students from marginalized communities other than student-run organizations. Its support for disabled students and students with learning differences is also very limited (see Support for learning differences, below).
- Students who thrive
- Students who may have challenges
- Successful applicants
- How the application process handles majors
- Academic support
- Support for disabilities & learning differences
- Housing & transportation
- Social life, recreation & campus spirit
- Graduation requirements
Students who thrive
Students who are committed to their Protestant Christian faith thrive at Pepperdine. The campus is strongly oriented towards its evangelical Christian mission in affiliation with the Churches of Christ, though Protestants from some other denominations will also do well at Pepperdine. Churches of Christ members in particular have special scholarship opportunities (see Financials, below) and application consideration, and comprise around 8% of the student body. Pepperdine identifies religious affiliation or commitment as a “Very Important” factor in its admissions process. Students from outside the Churches of Christ or Protestant Christian religious tradition may still be admitted and succeed at Pepperdine, but must be able to understand, appreciate, and participate in conversations about religion and theology in order to thrive here.
For applicants who are comfortable with Pepperdine’s strong religious ethos and culture, the next consideration is the campus size. With only 3,700 undergrads at the main campus, Pepperdine is among the smallest universities. And since it is located outside Los Angeles in Malibu, students will not have much access, at least on a regular basis, to city life or social opportunities outside of campus. Students looking for a close-knit, intimate campus environment outside the city will likely do well here.
Pepperdine’s geographic location is spectacular: the Santa Monica Mountains over the Pacific Ocean are some of the most sought-after real estate in the world. Students here have access to the beach and ocean just down the road, and endless hiking trails into the mountains behind the campus. Students who want to be able to surf, spend time on the beach, or do lots of hiking in college will appreciate the opportunities Pepperdine has to offer.
Seaver College, the educational home for nearly all Pepperdine undergrads, is a liberal arts college, so students receive a broad education across the traditional liberal arts disciplines as well as subjects in religion and ethics (see Graduation requirements for more). Students here have more opportunities to explore majors and subjects than at many large universities, where students may be sorted into subject-specific colleges during the admissions process.
Students who may have challenges
Due to its strong commitment to its evangelical, Protestant Christian values, the university does not appear to provide many resources or spiritual opportunities for students from other religious backgrounds or from no religious faith. As a result, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and other students may not feel fully a part of the campus community while attending Pepperdine. Pepperdine’s Christian tradition is rooted in the biblical and personal traditions of Calvinist Christianity, and so students from other Christian traditions, such as Roman Catholicism, may not identify with the theology practiced at Pepperdine. Around 8% of students identify with the Churches of Christ, while another 15% practice some form of evangelicalism.
Pepperdine also enforces a Student Code of Conduct and Sexual Activity Policy that defines marriage, for the purposes of campus policy, as a formal relationship “between a husband and wife” and prohibits on- or off-campus sexual activity between unmarried students. Queer and trans students are impacted by this policy because the university’s interpretation of marriage erases trans identities and excludes same-sex relationships from recognition, even though same-sex marriages are legal under California and federal law. Therefore, queer and trans students may not find Pepperdine to be a good fit for them, especially if they are looking for a college where they can explore their own identities. The university also reserves the right to subject students who violate these policies to serious disciplinary measures, including suspension or expulsion, a position reiterated in recent years by campus administrators.
Pepperdine is also disproportionately white demographically, compared to the population of Los Angeles: Latino/a, Black, and Indigenous students are underrepresented. The university’s isolated location in Malibu, a highly resourced community, reduces the opportunities for students to connect with residents of less resourced communities and others from markedly different backgrounds, which are enriching experiences that promote the principles of diversity and inclusion.
Pepperdine provides accommodations guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but requires students to perform at a high level of executive functioning in order to ensure that services are provided and accommodations fulfilled. The list of accommodations is also not extensive, and many require professor approval in order to be granted. Therefore, students with significant learning differences or disabilities may be better served elsewhere. See Support for learning differences below for more.
Pepperdine University may be unaffordable for many students because it does not provide a great amount of financial aid—though a large proportion of undergrads without financial need do receive merit aid (see Financials, below). Middle-income students, in particular, may have difficulty affording the full cost of education here.
One of the most important factors that Pepperdine uses to evaluate applicants is religious affiliation or commitment. Students affiliated with the Churches of Christ or other biblically-oriented Protestant Christian traditions have a substantial edge over applicants from other faith traditions or nonreligious applicants. Religious evaluation of applicants is a key strategy that Pepperdine uses to ensure that its campus community upholds the “Christian University” principles to which the campus holds itself. This means that, although the university does not explicitly discriminate against students from outside its religious tradition in the application process, applicants expressing personal secularism or values outside the conservative Christian religious interpretation that the university espouses may be less likely to be admitted.
Pepperdine is a test-optional university, so students can choose whether or not to submit standardized test scores when applying. (For more information about test-optional policies and whether you should or should not submit your scores, see this Capstone Article by Dr. Shelley Enger: Test-optional admissions information & strategies.) Successful applicants who submit their scores to Pepperdine typically score above 1280 on the SAT composite and above 24 on the ACT composite. Pepperdine superscores both the SAT and ACT, which means that it takes the highest individual sections from across all of a student’s exam sittings, and combines them into a “superscore” composite. That means it is to the Pepperdine applicant’s advantage to submit all SAT or ACT scores if they choose to submit at all. However, few students actually do submit scores; about 20% of applicants choose to submit SAT scores, while only 3% submit ACT scores.
Pepperdine has an optional interview as part of the application process, but it is strongly recommended that interested students sign up for and complete an interview. The Admissions Office places a lot of value on applicants who complete interviews, and it gives students the opportunity to demonstrate interest in a meaningful way, though the university states that demonstrated interest is not a factor in admissions.
Pepperdine makes an effort to admit 50% of students by Early Action and 50% by Regular Decision.
Pepperdine is relatively easy to transfer to. Seaver College requires only 30 semester credits minimum (one year of college credit) to transfer, and transfers are permitted for Fall and Spring semesters. Pepperdine does not offer interviews for transfer applicants.
How the application process handles majors
All undergraduates study at Seaver College, Pepperdine’s liberal arts college. The only exception is students enrolled in Graziado Business School’s BS Management program—but that degree is online-only.
Students are not required or expected to declare a major during the application process, but like all Common Application schools, Pepperdine asks its applicants to state likely or intended majors or to apply undeclared. With a very strong liberal arts focus to its undergraduate degree programs, students who don’t know what they want to study may find the campus to be accommodating.
A unique aspect of Pepperdine is its requirement that faculty members offer 12 hours of office hours every week, giving students plenty of time to meet with and form relationships with their professors outside class. Many colleges have much lower office hour requirements–sometimes as low as a single hour per week. Pepperdine’s mandatory 12 hours sets it apart and is an important factor in its welcoming and supportive academic atmosphere.
Undergrads can choose from among 45 majors and 47 minors across eight academic divisions. For a selection of some unique and interesting programs, see the “Notable programs and majors” section of the right sidebar (on desktop) or Quick Info section at the top of the page (on mobile).
Of particular note is Pepperdine’s Religion and Philosophy Division, offering undergraduate and graduate education in Christian ministry. Professors in this division are required to be members of the Churches of Christ. (Professors in other divisions are required to be members of religious congregations, but not necessarily the Churches of Christ.) Undergraduates have access to a major in Religion and the opportunity to take part in a Ministry Internship during their undergraduate program. Participating students can apply for a Ministry Internship Grant to help fund the program, and receive academic credit for the internship (if completing the Religion major).
Pepperdine offers a unique 3/2 BA program in Natural Science and Engineering with Washington University (St. Louis) School of Engineering and USC School of Engineering. Students in this program complete a BA in Natural Science in 3 years at Pepperdine and a BA in Engineering in the following 2 years at one of the other two participating universities. These programs tend to have limited spaces and be very competitive.
All Seaver College undergrads are required to complete a Junior Writing Portfolio in their third year. The purpose is to promote the development of students’ written communication skills. Support for writing the portfolio is offered through the Writing Center (see Academic support, below). The portfolio consists of a cover letter describing the student’s writing experiences during the first two years at Pepperdine, four papers from different courses taken at Pepperdine, and a clerical form recording the portfolio’s submission. The university encourages students to select papers from across a range of subjects taken, including a major course, a research course, and one paper from the first year.
Pepperdine offers a few programs supporting undergraduate research. The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) takes place over one or two summer sessions (out of three offered each year) and offers 4-8 research units plus a 4-unit tuition scholarship. SURP participants present their research at an annual Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Achievement Symposium in the Spring. The Cross-Disciplinary/Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Program (CDIUR) supports one group of three faculty and three students to complete a research project in each of the summer sessions. Each student is supported with a $2,200 stipend. Finally, the Academic Year Undergraduate Research Initiative (AYURI) supports three research projects per academic division per year, awards 1 research unit to participating students, and offers $1,000 to students who are eligible for financial aid.
Another strength is Pepperdine’s study abroad program, centered around its permanent campuses in several cities abroad where they are taught by Pepperdine faculty: London, Florence, Heidelberg, Lausanne, Hauteville, Buenos Aires, and Washington DC. Most Pepperdine students who go abroad choose one of these campuses to complete their studies, but the university also offers study abroad opportunities with numerous partner universities around the world.
Pepperdine students can find academic support services at the Seaver Student Success Center and the Writing Center.
The Student Success Center offers tutoring in several departments, academic coaching, and learning skills workshops. Many colleges do not offer academic coaching in any meaningful capacity, so it is important that Pepperdine students have access to these services.
The Writing Center offers writing support for a range of writing tasks, including coursework, academic and job applications, cover letters, and the Junior Writing Portfolio (discussed at greater length under Academics, above).
Support for learning differences
Pepperdine’s accommodations process is consistent with the requirements of the ADA, but does not appear to go beyond those basic stipulations. Students are expected to submit requests for accommodations consistent with their demonstrated and verified need well in advance of the start of classes, and many of the accommodations listed are dependent on professors’ approval. Students who require services, such as alternate testing locations, are required to submit requests weeks ahead of time in order to be guaranteed a place.
The accommodations offered include exam accommodations with prior notice, assignment extensions, housing accommodations, mobility transportation services, note-taking services, lecture recording, absence accommodation, and service or support animal approval.
Students who require additional services or support, such as academic coaching, learning skills workshops, or tutoring, can find these services at the Student Success Center or Writing Center, which are open to all students. Pepperdine does not offer a central location or staff dedicated to providing services and support to students with learning differences or disabilities, other than the Office of Student Accessibility, which provides no services other than accommodations.
Students at Pepperdine are given a high degree of individual responsibility for accessing the accommodation and support services offered. Students who have executive functioning challenges and other learning differences or disabilities may therefore find Pepperdine to be unsupportive relative to other universities.
Pepperdine costs more than average among private colleges and universities. The university provides need-based financial aid for legacy students, athletes, students with minority student status, and students from the local area; and non-need-based aid for artistic, athletic and academic merit, as well as religious affiliation with the Churches of Christ, demonstrated leadership in the community, and minority student status. Pepperdine also provides unlimited tuition assistance to veterans through its participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
The university provides a range of scholarship opportunities, both institutional and privately-funded, but it is unclear how much funding many of these scholarships provide. Pepperdine only lists scholarship values for religious scholarships: $5,000 / year for students affiliated with the Churches of Christ meeting academic merit qualification. About 75% of students without demonstrated financial need—a higher proportion than at most universities—will receive merit scholarships, averaging $13,200 per year. For students with demonstrated financial need, Pepperdine meets about 75% of their need.
Because Pepperdine does not meet 100% of students' demonstrated financial need, some students may have difficulty finding funding sources to make a Pepperdine education affordable. Reliance on outside funding sources, including federal and state loans and grants, may be required to make Pepperdine accessible financially.
Housing & transportation
All first and second year students, as well as first year transfer students, are required to live on-campus in dorms. Local students commuting to campus from Malibu have the option to waive the on-campus housing requirement.
Pepperdine provides only gender-segregated dorms, but offers theme housing, wellness housing, and housing options for disbled students with demonstrated need. Spiritual Life Advisors are placed in every dorm to provide religious wellness services to residents, in keeping with the university’s religious mission.
Malibu does not have meaningful public transportation options, so some students may want to bring a car to campus, especially after their first year. The university offers Pepperdine Shuttle services around campus and into town in Malibu for students.
As a result of its small student population, semi-remote location, and biblically-inspired Student Code of Conduct, social life on campus is very low-key; Pepperdine is not a party school. It has, however, a large Greek presence for its size: around 30% of undergraduate women pledge to a sorority.
Christianity is an important and central part of student life on campus. The Center for Faith & Learning and Office of Church Relations offer many spiritual or religious opportunities and organizations for Christian students, including student ministries and a spiritual life advisors program. Seaver 200 is a calendar of spiritual gatherings for first- and second-year students to explore their spiritual inner lives and connect with classmates over shared faith. In the middle of each week, the Hub for Spiritual Life leads a service called The Well at the campus ampitheatre for students and campus community members. It often includes evangelical rock performances, scripture reading and interpretation, and baptisms.
God in the Wilderness, a signature Campus Recreation program, is a biannual (twice yearly) outdoor excursion for students to “spend time in nature reflecting on God’s creation and participating in devotionals led by Pepperdine faculty and staff”. The trip includes scheduled activities as well as large blocks of free time, when students can explore nature alone or in ad hoc student groups, or work on homework or other activities. The Fall outing occurs over three days and two nights in Ojai, California; the Spring excursion goes all the way to Mammoth Lakes over Spring Break. God in the Wilderness participants receive four convocation units.
The campus also provides outdoor recreation opportunities it calls “Engage in God’s Creation”. These include the Beyond Barriers program, which includes movie nights, hikes, backpacking trips, and day trips in the Santa Monica Mountains. Students can also take self-guided hikes in the local Malibu area through these programs.
Pepperdine offers many community service opportunities through the Hub for Spiritual Life, including English language instruction, volunteering for the Red Cross, and working with homeless and housing-precarious communities in Los Angeles, among others.
Many campus-sponsored events, including the God in the Wilderness and Beyond Barriers programs, include professors. Around 35% of professors live on campus and regularly take part in campus activities with students. Many invite students over to their homes for dinner and to socialize.
Pepperdine is an NCAA Division I WCC campus, offering varsity athletics programs in a number of sports—but not football. It has won 12 championships, including 10 men’s titles and championships in 5 different men’s sports, making it the smallest university and one of only 18 institutions to achieve this feat. Pepperdine alumni have competed and coached at the Olympics, and have won 8 gold medals, 8 silver medals, and 6 bronze medals. Pepperdine is regularly high-performing in the WCC, placing either first or second for many years in a row.
Pepperdine offers a Clinical Sport Psychology Program to provide mental health resources to its student-athletes, including counseling, performance psychology, counseling (including family/relationship and substance abuse counseling), and psychiatry referrals, among others.
Other Pepperdine students have free access to the Pepperdine Fitness Center through the mandatory Wellness Fee. The Fitness Center offers weight training facilities, fitness classes, intramural sports, single-day outdoor excursions, outdoor equipment rentals, community active wellness challenges, and online yoga. The Cage Fitness Center is a semi-outdoor facility for weight and strength training accessible to all undergrads, while residents of Seaside Residence Hall also have their own Seaside Fitness Center for weight and strength training.
Pepperdine’s Student Health Center, funded by a mandatory Wellness Fee, provides basic medical services for students. Students can access psychological and psychiatric services, including crisis support, individual and group therapy, support groups, and workshops, at the Counseling Center. The Counseling Center has a large staff, comparable to those at much larger universities, which enables it to provide responsive care for students seeking help. Psychiatric services are available to students who also receive psychological care at the Counseling Center, and require an additional fee.
Students who need urgent care after hours can access “24/7 Nursing Advice” through the Student Health Center, and they can seek care on evenings and weekends at a local urgent care facility, including the UCLA Health Malibu Immediate Care facility. Students with chronic or complicated health conditions may want to investigate the availability of community-based clinicians.
In order to graduate with a Pepperdine degree, undergraduate students must complete a General Education program in liberal arts, along with their major requirements. All students must also complete the Junior Writing Portfolio, discussed in the Academics section above, and graduate with a 2.0 GPA (C average) in their coursework. Students must complete 128 semester units total, including 40 upper-division units and 24 upper-division units within their major.
The General Education program includes 19 courses totalling 64 units across several disciplines, including the American Experience, Christianity & Culture, Human Institutions & Behavior, Western Civilization & Institutions, and more. Traditional subjects, such as English, fine arts, math, science, and others, are also included. Students are encouraged to take colloquia as well, including the Great Books Colloquia and/or the Social Action & Justice Colloquia.
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Motto: Freely ye received, freely give
Mascot: Willie the Wave
NCAA Division I WCC
Christian liberal arts university
Religious affiliations: Churches of Christ
6,700 graduate students
400 full-time faculty
13:1 student-faculty ratio
19 average class size
830 acre campus size
Mediterranean climate with warm summers, mild winters, and mostly sunny days
High school GPA
Talent or ability
Character or personal qualities
Letters of recommendation
Test scores (SAT/ACT)
Interview as demonstrated interest
Race or ethnicity
Does not evaluate
Analytics-based demonstrated interest
November 1, 2023
January 15, 2024
Transfer application deadline
February 15, 2024
Fall 2024 – All applicants
October 1, 2024
Transfer application deadline
$86,000 / year
$62,300 / year
Housing & Meal Plan
$18,600 / year
Additional Costs & Fees
~ $4,500 / year
Student Health Insurance Plan
Additional $2,666 / year if not waived
Reduced cost for commuting students
Percent of financial need met (average)
$13,000 / year
Amount of merit aid awarded to students without financial need (average)
Percent of undergraduates without financial need receiving merit aid
Notable Majors & Programs
BA Natural Science + BA Engineering 3/2 Program
BS Accounting; Business Administration; International Business
Programs in Christian Ministry
BA Advertising; Communications; Screen Arts
BA Theatre & Screen Arts
BA Sport Administration
BA/BS Sports Medicine
Pre-Law Curricula for the Humanities
Pre-Law Curricula for Social Science
Graziado Business School
Equity & Inclusion
Disability Support & Equity
- Accommodation requirements are strict
- High executive functioning is required of accommodation-seeking students
- Limited support & programming for students with disabilities or LDs
- All sexual relationships, except those between a married man and woman, violate Student Code of Conduct sexual activity policy
- All queer sexual relationships, including those between married people, violate Student Code of Conduct sexual activity policy
- Student Code of Conduct leaves open possibility of discipline or suspension for violation of sexual activity policy
Excellent advising options for students who demonstrate strong likelihood of medical school admission
Top: Pepperdine University from above, by Pepperdine University
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