University of California, Santa Barbara

Outside the Bay Area, CA
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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!