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Life > Academics

Which UCSB Dorm is Right for You?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

Here at UCSB, there are 8 dorms to choose from: the “Chi-5,” which consists of Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, San Nicolas, and San Miguel; Manzanita Village; San Rafael; and Santa Catalina (also known as FT). With all these options and no experience at UCSB, it may seem overwhelming and almost impossible to choose which dorm will be the best fit for you.

For any incoming freshmen (or even transfer students) who may be worried about their current room assignment choices, here is a ranking of each dorm from an experienced Gaucho.

8. San Rafael

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t necessarily the “worst” of the dorms at UCSB. However, from my experience, those who chose San Raf were mainly second years who moved in with a group they met during their first year of college. Therefore, if this is your first time at UCSB and you are looking to make new friends, you may want to steer clear of this dorm. 

If sociability isn’t a big factor for you, then this dorm may not be too bad. It’s a suite-style dorm that offers doubles and singles with non-communal bathrooms, which is great for anyone who values their privacy! A downside is that it is farther from campus than most of the other dorms but it is also the closest to the neighboring town of Isla Vista, which will be super convenient in the long run!

7. Manzanita Village

If this dorm seems familiar, you may have had (or will have) the luxury of attending one of the freshman orientation sessions, where students are housed for one night at Manzi. This dorm is similar to San Raf as they are both in the same area and are closest to the Carrillo dining commons, which I’ve found to have some pretty good food, especially at dinner. I’ve noticed transfers tend to live here but there is definitely a mix of first and second years as well. 

That being said, this dorm has a similar reputation of being quieter and less sociable, though it contains mainly of triples and doubles with limited singles. However, if you choose Manzanita you will have the option of applying to a Living Learning Community, or LLC, within the complex which may provide a more personalized experience for you. These communities include the Rainbow House which offers a safe space exclusively for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community and the Women in STEM House for anyone who identifies as a woman and majors in math, science, and engineering.

6. San Miguel

The first of the Chi-5 to appear on the list, San Miguel is great for any 1st-years who intend to stay on track with their studies! One of two 8-story buildings on-campus, this dorm houses men and women on alternating floors, which may be a little isolating and create the least amount of sociability within the Chi-5, but that’s not always a bad thing. The Scholars Floor at San Miguel offers an academically-focused environment that is perfect for anyone who values academics over socializing. However, it is definitely not an antisocial dorm either and offers an LLC for anyone who identifies as Chicanx/Latinx, which creates a welcoming environment for anyone interested. 

The vibe of the dorm may be considered a bit dull to some given the fact that it isn’t as architecturally updated as the other dorms, however, its amenities surely make up for it! With a fitness center downstairs and a piano in the common room, you will never be bored at San Miguel.

5. San Nicolas

San Nic, the second 8-story residence hall on-campus, is mainly known for housing FSSP students but during the academic year, there’s definitely more of a variety of students living there. A sociable dorm with a beautiful view of the lagoon, this spot is great for those looking to meet new people. Even if making friends will be primarily floor-based, this dorm does not separate floors by gender, allowing everyone to mingle!

Located similarly to San Miguel, the closest dining commons is Ortega, which is known for its healthier and vegetarian food options.

4. Anacapa

The first of the “shorties,” this two-story res hall is located more closely to all the buildings on campus, making this perfect for anyone on the lazier side who prefers getting up as late as possible before heading to class. LLCs are also offered, creating a community for scholars like the previous dorms but more notably a space for anyone who identifies as Asian or Pacific Islander. These identity-themed communities not only allow students to meet people with similar backgrounds and cultures through simply living in close quarters together but also by offering organized events within the dorm centered around these cultures.

This dorm tends to be well-liked and considered very social. The only downside I can think of is the fact that it is a further walk from DLG, my personal favorite dining common.

3. Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa, another two-story dorm, is very similar to Anacapa. Judging from the few times I actually explored this dorm, the hallways can be a little creepy, but it does have its very own fitness room, which I think is a huge plus! The Rec Cen, where the on-campus gym is located, is practically off-campus, so having a fitness room in your residence hall is very convenient.

The LLCs offered here are the Black/African-American Scholars floor as well as a community for the College of Creative Studies. Additionally, Santa Rosa is located right in front of DLG.

2. Santa Catalina (FT)

San Cat, or FT, is the largest on-campus dorm at UCSB, though the location is not really on campus. This residence hall is one mile away from the actual campus, which means you’d definitely have to invest in a bike if you haven’t already! Nonetheless, FT definitely has its perks. Being the only 10-story residential building, this dorm is known to be the most social. However, it must be taken into account how isolated the building is from campus and the rest of IV, meaning the socializing that goes on is mostly restricted to its own little bubble.

That being said, it has its own pool, suite-style rooms with a private bathroom, and the community created amongst the first years is like no other.

1. Santa Cruz

Finally, there is Santa Cruz. Much like Anacapa and Santa Rosa, this is one of the shorties at UCSB. While it doesn’t have it’s own pool, it is the closest to the beach which is an experience you’ll want to take advantage of during your first year. Along with the usual amenities such as kitchen, lounges, and study rooms, Santa Cruz uniquely has it’s own movie room that you can rent out for three hours at a time using your UCSB ID! This dorm also has a FYRE (First Year Residential Experience) LLC which guarantees you will also be around other first-year students if that is something important to you.

This is the best dorm for anyone looking for the perfect mix of sociability and convenience. Nothing on campus is too far of a walk and you get to mingle with not only everyone in your own dorm but those living on-campus as well. Who wouldn’t want that!

No matter which dorm you choose or end up in, each has something unique to offer. The dorm you live in is not the determining factor of how your college experience will be! So whether you’re a first year, second year, or transfer student, just remember that college is what you make of it!

Hi ! I'm Deanna, a 3rd year English major and currently an editorial intern here at Her Campus. My hobbies include watching tv, relaxing, and, of course, writing. I aim to write about what I care about and what resonates with me the most.