University of California, Santa Barbara

Outside the Bay Area, CA

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


April 2014

RE: UCSB or UCI for First Gen college bound Eng major student?

Our daughter is a senior at UCSB in English. Despite the craziness of Isla Vista, we would recommend the school.

Our daughter went to an academically competitive private high school where the quality of the teaching was superb, but she did not make many friends. UCSB has been the antidote for this; our daughter is surrounded with her fellow/sister students plus people she has met in the surrounding community in her volunteer activities.

Academically, it is still the University of California and the standards are high. Our daughter has been inspired by her professors and is motivated to work hard and get good grades.

The most amazing part of the social scene, to me as a parent looking on, is that the ethnic diversity represented. In our daughter's living groups, there have been whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, Armenians, Middle Easterners, and African Americans. The young people study and party together with little or no attention paid to race or socioeconomic status.

The natural beauty of the beaches and mountains are breathtaking. It is an even more lovely natural setting than the increasingly overbuilt UC Berkeley.

If a student tends to be an addictive personality or could be thrown off track by exposure to drinking and drugs, I would say ''beware''. There is a lot of substance use in I.V. and that cannot be denied. Our daughter has done her share of this, but she seems to have established proper limits for herself.

Another downside to the UCSB area is that there are few jobs. If your student qualifies for a work study job on campus, that would be great. Except that our daughter was initially told that she could get work study, and then the university reneged on the offer. Most of the jobs involve food service or bars, and we advised her not to work in the latter. There are plenty of drunks in I.V. already.

There have also been some issues with campus assaults. You might want to look into it. But whenever we have been there, the student population density is so high that it is hard to imagine how it could be unsafe; there are crowds of students coming and going at any time of the day or night.

Our daughter and her parents agree that if she had to make the college choice again, she would certainly choose UCSB. Gaucho Mom


Hi: A bit about me: I am a graduate of UCSB. I have taught college (music production) and worked as an academic advisor to college students. My experience with college students is that the most important factor for success is that they are happy. There is no such thing as a ''better'' school, only one that is a better fit. And often it is all of the non-college aspects of the experience that determine how much a student thrives. If she feels like she would enjoy and be more comfortable at UCSB, that would be my recommendation. It is a top-notch university if you keep focused.

Having gone there, the party scene is indeed real (as it is everywhere), but she sounds like she can navigate it well by steering clear of it (that's what I did). I would recommend considering living in SB proper (not Isla Vista).

Let me know if you have any questions. Best, Peter


If it is at all possible, please visit each campus while students are there (i.e., not during Spring Break). If the campus life is important to your daughter, she has to see what it looks and feels like.

I have never been to UCI, but UCSB is a major party school, despite their attempts to claim otherwise. There IS absolutely a party and ''hook up'' culture there and while you can certainly opt out of it, the vast majority of other kids are opting in. The weather is amazing and the setting is beautiful, but it is also very isolated from the real world and other people. The campus is literally on the beach, as are many of the apartments, and Isla Vista is probably about 90% college kids (mostly white) age 18-24. UCSB is NOT in Santa Barbara, which is about 15-20 minutes away by car, and Santa Barbara itself is a fairly sleepy town.

When I took my daughter to visit colleges, we had completely different impressions of most of the schools. She loved it, I didn't, or vice versa. I went to UCSB many years ago without ever visiting it and knew the minute I set foot on campus that it was the wrong place for me. When I took my daughter to visit as a high school senior, she fell instantly in love with it and is very happy being there now. Please give your daughter the chance to see both campuses and decide for herself. Gaucho mama


Visiting UCSB

Oct 2007

My 12th grade daughter and I are planning a trip to Santa Barbara over Thanksgiving. She is considering UCSB for college next year. Does anyone have a recommendation for a place to stay? What should we see and do there to get a feel for the area? We'd also welcome any advice about UCSB as a college, especially from people who attended themselves or have a kid there now. What are the positives and negatives? thanks, mg


I graduated from UCSB in 2004 and, overall, had a very good experience. My older sibling went there as part of their small college of creative studies and had a great experience with that particular college which is intimate and very well taught. My younger sibling started at UCSB for two year but ended up transferring to a different university.

UCSB was a culture shock for me after graduating from a small school in Berkeley and there is definitely a big Orange County meets LA meets Sacramento meets Bay Area cultural clash/conversation that happens. I'm not sure how to explain it other than that. I think the best way to visit is to walk around campus, walk around the neighbhoring town of Isla Vista (IV) and observe. It is a large school and, as a research university, professors are sometimes better at writing books than teaching. That being said, for the most part I really enjoyed my classes.

The biggest plus for me were the location (I remember having a few ''I can't believe I'm here!'' moments when I realized I was spending my hour between classes laying on the beach and swimming. I made a lot of great friends there, there are a ton of opportunities for involvement and I think there are social niches to be found for most. I lived in Isla Vista for the last three years (after on campus for Freshman year) and loved the fact that I could bike to my friend's houses or to class in 5 minutes.

The potential downside is that the partying doesn't stop: the fun part is there are always parties to go to but the problem is that they are likely to be in your apartment complex when you are trying to study. The school is not incredibly diverse, there are a lot of white and asian people at UCSB and African American and Latino/Chicano groups are underrepresented. One of the hardest things for me was that I felt a lot of the kids were pretty entitled and wealthy through no effort of their own.

The housing is expensive and not that great. I did have a number of friends who moved downtown senior year and enjoyed that though then you have a commute to school (about 13 miles).

Where to stay? There are a number of beautiful hotels in downtown Santa Barbara and Montecito. These will be expensive but lovely (especially places like the Hotel Santa Barbara, Fess Parker, etc). You could stay closer to campus in Goleta--the Ramada Limited is fine. I wouldn't recommend the Motel 6/Super 8?? on upper state street a few miles from the beach only because it is marketed as being downtown and it really is not. I think there is now a pretty nice Holiday Inn Express on Lower State street near the beach.

Sorry for the long winded answer!