written by
Angela Gao

Living at UC Berkeley: A short guide to on-campus housing

Advisor Tips 5 min read

If you are an incoming freshmen at UC Berkeley, you are generally ensured a spot for on-campus housing. While it might be cheaper to live off-campus, I highly recommend choosing to live on-campus during your first year. It’s a great way to meet and bond with other freshmen who might become your future roommates, and it also facilitates your transition from living at home to being part of a large student community. Below is a guide to the most common on-campus housing options at Berkeley.

Unit 1:

While this complex is only one block from campus, keep in mind that it’s located towards the east side, near the Berkeley Law building and Haas School of Business. Rooms offered include single, double, or triple, and some of the floors are co-ed (which includes the bathrooms). It’s also very close to the dining hall Crossroads.

Unit 2:

This complex is located three blocks away from campus and situated very close to Unit 1. Like Unit 1, it offers single, double, and triple rooms, and some of the floors are co-ed as well. Crossroads is only half a block away. This is also the closest dorm to People’s Park, a small public park that carries significant cultural and historical importance for Berkeley.

Unit 3:

This complex is one block from campus as well, but unlike Unit 1, it’s closer to the center of campus which can save some time when you’re trying to get to classes in the big lecture halls like Wheeler or VLSB. The set up is very similar to Unit 1 and Unit 2, but it centers around the dining hall Cafe 3 as well as the Bear Market.

Blackwell Hall:

One of the newest (and therefore nicest) residence halls at Berkeley. This complex is one block from campus and features single and double rooms, with some floors being co-ed. Closest dining hall is probably Cafe 3, which is a block away.

Foothill:

This complex is right on the northeast side of campus, which makes it easy to get to classes at buildings like Pimentel and Stanley, but if you want to get to downtown Berkeley… prepare for a walk. Luckily, buses are always circling campus, and transit is free to Berkeley students. Foothill has its own dining hall and features single, double, triple, and quadruple rooms, and is surrounded by greenery due to its location. Because its rooms are primarily arranged in suites, the living environment is quieter compared to other buildings.

Stern:

This building houses female students only and is right next to Foothill. Room options include single, double, and triple, and Stern tends to be quieter than a lot of other residence halls.

Clark Kerr:

This is probably the farthest residence hall, located about six blocks away from Berkeley. It contains single, double, triple, and quadruple rooms, with both single-gender and co-ed suites. It might be far, but it has its own dining hall and its own track and pool.

While these residential buildings might house the majority of Berkeley students, there are alternative and themed housing options available. “Theme Programs” are jointly sponsored by an academic department and Residential Programs to provide a community for students with similar interests. To qualify you have to take a weekly seminar and complete some volunteering requirements.

The International House, which requires an application, is another community-focused housing option. You don’t have to be an international student to apply to the “I-House,” but as its population is mainly non-American students, it can be a great cultural experience.

All of the residence halls come equipped with laundry facilities and an Academics Services Center where you can find a variety of resources, from printers to tutors. If you would like to explore UC Berkeley’s on-campus housing further, you can check out Berkeley’s Housing page: https://housing.berkeley.edu/undergraduate-students. Below are some of my personal opinions on Berkeley housing:

- Most convenient: Unit 1-3 as well as Blackwell Hall. These complexes are situated very close to campus and near Telegraph street, which is a pretty central hub of activity for many Berkeley residents. Because of their locations, however, these dorms can be loud at night. Units 1 and 2 are located very close to fraternity row and Unit 3 is close to Telegraph street, which with its multiple restaurants and bars provides a lively night life to Berkeley residents.

- Prettiest: Clark Kerr or Foothill (at least from the outside). Both are extremely scenic due to where they are situated, and Clark Kerr also has a unique Spanish villa style architecture. Blackwell Hall, being in service from only 2018, probably has the cleanest and newest facilities.

- Closest to the best dining hall: Foothill tends to have the reputation for having the best food (unless you count International House). However, Unit 3 deserves a mention as it features the Bear Market, an awesome place to spend your meal points on snacks, frozen food, and deserts.

Of course, different people all have different experiences. As a freshman at Berkeley, I lived in a triple at Unit 3. Although there were initial difficulties in my transition into dorm life, it was ultimately a good experience for me. However, one of my more reserved roommates found it difficult to adjust to the rambunctious nature of our floor-mates and chose to move out during the second semester.

So what are some things to consider as you make your decision? Well, first of all, the price. A triple will definitely be cheaper than, say, a double or a single. If you receive financial aid, make sure you understand how much of your financial aid is applicable to your living situation– this can vary between aid packages.

Another thing to consider will be whether you are willing to live on co-ed floors. Please don’t be like me: I did not realize ahead of time that “co-ed floors” meant that we would be also sharing a bathroom with all genders! While I quickly adjusted, that setting may not be as comfortable for you. (Something else to keep in mind about co-ed living: single-gendered floors tend to be more quiet.)

Of course, you’ll also want to consider your personality and living preferences. Not everyone has the same living habits as you, and you might find it more comfortable to live with fewer roommates. On the other hand, you might be an extrovert who loves being around others.

Then again, it can sometimes be hard to predict how you will grow and change once you’re no longer living at home. It’s likely that you won’t get your top choice, so keep an open mind! You might find it easier to live with three strangers than you expected, or you might be surprised to discover that you enjoy the privacy of living alone. Regardless, there are a lot of resources at your disposal, including your resident assistants or the financial aid office, and don’t be afraid to seek them out!

on campus living housing student life