*details are correct as of April 2024

  • medium sized public research university
  • established 1891
  • Motto: Let There Be Light
  • Considered a Public Ivy
  • 6 Nobel Prize laureates on the current faculty
  • the 3rd oldest undergraduate campus in the UC system – after Berkeley and UCLA
  • 23,000+ undergraduate students / 3,000 graduate
  • 12% international students from 107 countries
  • acceptance rate around 28% (2023) – College of Engineering was 13% /
  • College of Creative Studies 10% / Letters and Science 32%


  • 1,000 acre oceanfront campus – one of the few universities in the US with its own beach. The campus is bordered on two sides by the Pacific Ocean and has miles of coastline and its own lagoon
  • many walking and bike paths throughout campus
  • 1950’s Southern California architecture with a So Cal vibe to match
  • Santa Ynez Mountains are five miles to the north
  • 1.5 hours to LA, 3.25 hours to San Diego, 5.25 hours San Francisco, 2 hours from LAX airport
  • Santa Barbara (often called the ‘American Riviera’) boasts excellent outdoor recreation with access to shopping, restaurants, movies, music, festivals, outdoor farmer’s markets, and more – 10 minutes from campus / 90,000+ residents


  • three undergraduate colleges: Letters and Science / Engineering / Creative Studies
  • runs on the quarter system – three terms and a summer semester
  • strong in STEM fields – particularly marine biology, chemical engineering, physics and chemistry
  • College for Creative Studies offers an unstructured curriculum to about 400 self-starters looking for advanced and independent study in arts, maths, or the sciences / the smallest college / 9 undergraduate majors / students are expected to ‘create’ new knowledge by graduation / assigned a faculty advisor / 80% of STEM students go directly into PhD programmes
  • College of Engineering – 5 undergraduate majors / 1,500 undergrad students / students are admitted directly into the major / capstone project / 60% theoretical and 40% applied learning
  • College of Letters & Science – around 80 major and 40 minors / students can apply undeclared / option to double major / major is not a factor at admission / 5 year combined bachelor and master option / third of time can be electives / can switch majors in first two years
  • Interdisciplinary global studies major combines language study with global history, culture, economics, and politics
  • Most popular majors include political science, economics, psychological and brain sciences, biology – computer science receives the highest number of applications
  • accounting and economics program is strong and courses are geared towards taking and passing the CPA exam – grads are recruited by California’s big accounting firms
  • General education requirements – writing, non-Western cultures, quantitative relationships, and ethnicity
  • the academic climate is described as strenuous but collaborative
  • 50% of classes have less than 20 students
  • 60% get involved in undergraduate research
  • 17% of students study abroad – the Education Abroad Program sends students to any of 120 host universities worldwide


  • 110,800+ applicants in 2023 / 15,766 offers made
  • Applications are evaluated by the three colleges
  • College of Creative Studies requires a supplementary application – looking for evidence of talent, drive and a narrow focus on a specific academic area
  • College of Engineering – Maths and at least pre-calculus is expected
  • SAT/ACT not considered
  • Apply using the UC Application – 7 sections
  • Holistic admissions – academics, extra curricular, work/internships, talents/hobbies, can enter up to 20 activities, quality over quantity – don’t need to enter 20
  • UC Personal Insight Questions – must choose 4 out of 8, 250-350 words each, writing style is not graded
  • A level – 3 subjects C or above / IB at least 6 subjects – overall average of 5 with no score less than a 4
  • Music performance and dance requires an audition
  • International specialists will evaluate international applications
  • Non native English speakers need to show evidence of English Language ability – eg. IELTS 6.5 / Duolingo 115 / TOEFL 80 – must be taken by the December test date prior to enrolment


  • International Cost of Attendance $73,863 (2023-24) – in university residence halls. Based on a 9 month academic year
  • Very limited university scholarships, especially for international students


  • Good on-campus housing – right in front of the beach
  • 38% of students live on campus
  • 9 Residence Halls – priority given to first year students when applications are received on time – usually beginning of May
  • Roughly 80% of students live within a mile of campus


  • UCSB provides a comfortable mix of work and play – students are traditionally public-spirited and laid-back
  • Environmental issues are a big focus
  • Lots of undergraduate support programmes in place
  • 9% of men and 14% of women join fraternities and sororities
  • Dry campus – no alcohol
  • The mountains, LA and Los Padres National Forest are a short drive away
  • Halloween is a big event – students dress up for the entire weekend
  • Division 1 athletics – the Gauchos. Most successful in soccer, water polo, baseball, volleyball, swimming and basketball
  • Ultimate frisbee is very popular – and nationally competitive
  • Office of International Students & Scholars offers advising and immigration support for overseas students

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