This was actually the first tour we took after we arrived. We were staying in North Hollywood, and only scheduled one tour for the first day, since UCSB is a bit of a hike from LA. The tour was scheduled for 11:00am, so we left the apartment around 8:00am, giving us enough time to make the drive (~1.5hrs) and check out the area around the school.
Outside of the pre-trip research, we didn’t really know a lot about the school or area. When we got there, we were all a little disappointed by the lack of a college-town atmosphere surrounding the campus. We did find a couple of strip malls on one side, mainly due to the Isla Vista area. Isla Vista is a small community built adjacent to one side of UCSB that is home to many students and some families as well. From what we could tell while we were there, and what we were told later, that’s pretty much the only populated area adjacent to campus. We drove around campus a little too, and really liked how easy it was to get around, even by car. We noticed that they had dedicated bike lanes all over campus, as well, which I’ll mention again later.
Much like the last review, I’m not going to focus too much on the admissions presentation. Overall they did a good job, and if I recall, it was in the 45min range in length. As with all the other schools, they were very thorough with the requirements and the full admissions process. If you’re interested, you can read more about their requirements here:
On to the campus. This was easily one of the all-around most beautiful campuses we visited. What do I mean by that? Well, they’ve got it all: A flat campus that felt just right to all 3 of us as far as size went, and the surrounding area is beautiful. On one side of the campus you’ve got the ocean, and on the other you’ve got mountains. Our guide said it hardly ever rains there, and the average year-round temp is in the upper 60s. To get an idea of the beauty of the surrounding area, take a look at this shot on their Alumni Association page:
The view from the top floor of their library is spectacular, as well. The pictures I have at the bottom of this post simply don’t do the campus justice. One thing that really caught my daughter’s eye came early during the tour. We were walking by one of the central areas of campus, and some kid went riding by on his skateboard carrying a surfboard. Wow.
That brings me back to the bike/skate lanes. As mentioned, they have a system of dedicated lanes for bikes, skateboards and scooters that runs all over campus, allowing people that make use of those methods of transportation a way to be able to get from building to building easily. Very cool setup, in my opinion. There is a small downside to this, mentioned below.
Beauty of the campus aside, we really enjoyed the tour. I don’t recall anything that she didn’t like about the campus layout or buildings. When we got to the dorms, all we could do was walk through the main floor hall. Due to other activities going on (camps, etc), they couldn’t take the group through the model dorm room they normally showed. Our guide (who was awesome), did tell us that we could go back to that hall and get the key for the room if we wanted to see it after the tour, which we did. More on that in a minute.
We finished out the tour with a stop at the book store, which most schools love to do (what better way to get you to buy their gear, right? 🙂 ). After it ended, I hit up the guide just to get a little more info on life outside of campus. I was curious as to whether or not we’d missed anything in regards to the lack of college town, and it appears we hadn’t. Off-campus downtime pretty much consists of hanging out in Isla Vista, or heading in to Santa Barbara (which is a short drive). Definitely not your typical college location, and in a way did feel a little isolated.
After the tour, we went back to the dorms so that we could see the model room. The guy at the desk was very friendly, and took us to the room. Not bad, but they don’t have the biggest rooms among the schools we looked at, and they’re tripling up in some cases. The room we saw was a double, and I can imagine that adding the equipment for a 3rd kid would make it a bit cramped, but it looked like a fairly normal dorm room setup.
On to the downsides:
Downside #1: As mentioned, it does feel a little isolated, so if you’re looking for that traditional college-town feel, you’re likely not going to find it here. My daughter was concerned about it initially, but by the end of the tour it was a non-issue.
Downside #2: While the bike paths are cool for those utilizing that type of transportation, you do have to cross them as a pedestrian to get round certain areas of campus. Since the bikes have the right of way on the path, pedestrians have to wait until it’s clear to cross. Our guide said that during school year, it can take a few minutes to cross both directions. Is this a huge downside? No, but I wanted to throw it out there anyway. Not a deal-breaker by any stretch.
Downside #3: Being so far outside of a major city like LA, we do have a few concerns about the availability of internships with companies in our daughter’s area of study. She’s looking at majoring in something in the film production space (behind the scenes) with a minor in Communications/PR. While I’m sure UCSB has connections in the industry, she needs to do more research to see if one of the other schools with solid film programs that we looked at might be a better option due to their proximity to LA.
That’s really all I could come up with for downsides, and they’re not really all that huge in my opinion. This was easily in her top-6 and she will be applying here. Honestly, touring this campus made me want to go back to college and finish up :).
Here are a few shots I took around campus during the tour: