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The Agony of UC Transfer Housing

UC Berkeley dorm

UC Berkeley dorm

As housing decisions are underway for all newly admitted UC students, both freshmen and transfers, I want to take the time to put a few things in perspective. Housing for transfers is always dicey, mainly because you’re coming in junior year, everyone else has made friends and you worry about the transition. While the UCs do make an attempt to house transfers together, some do a better job than others.

Following the time-honored mantra that on-campus is the best option in order to make friends, some transfers go through the inevitable gnashing of teeth when they receive a housing assignment they didn’t request — perhaps too expensive, or housed with freshmen or, God forbid, in Residence Halls.

I have heard tales of woes from enough transfers to know it is not beyond the realm of possibility that you will get a housing arrangement diametrically-opposed to your request. In fact, it happens more often than not. Every UC reserves the right to place you wherever it wants. While some students find a great fit, others find it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.

Over at Berkeley …
The Wada apartments are ostensibly for transfers, but not all transfers get in. And freshmen are placed there, as well. The Wada apartments with kitchen are about $9,000 last I looked. It does not include a meal plan, so if we were to add in the middle tier meal plan, it’s about $2,000 more. (But with a kitchen you could choose lower.) So let’s say, with food, $11,000 a year. Compare that to the mini-suites in Unit 1 that have no kitchen and a required mid-tier meal plan. The cost is slightly under $17,000.

A student I know got a mini-suite even though he requested Wada and similar priced on-campus living. The positive was he had a big room with just one roommate. The other bedroom in the double mini-suite had three students. His roommate was a sophomore who always said hello but stayed with his girlfriend or did homework in silence. The three in the other attached bedroom were two freshmen and a sophomore, who kept their door closed and only talked when passing in the shared bathroom.  The several-story building housed mainly freshmen and sophomores, with just a handful of transfers. While he didn’t hate it especially, he did not make many friends and wished he’d gone with his gut and looked for an apartment.

Over at Wada, he said there were several transfers age 24-25 put in with freshmen. And another 24 year old was put in a triple Residence Hall with freshmen. The Facebook transfer page was rife with transfers trying to switch out of their housing situations.

Meanwhile, at UCLA …
While I think it’s a bit easier for transfers at UCLA, it’s still not always ideal and these same disconnects happen.

And so it goes.

I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy. Many, if not most, transfers are happy with their assignments, or happy enough. The point I want to make is this:  The fear of not meeting other students causes transfers to sometimes pick situations less than ideal to them, even when their instincts are crying out to bail. 

Just be aware if you have concerns, you will still feel part of the “club” living off-campus.

The benefits of off-campus housing

  • The financial savings is often substantial. {See The True Cost of Attending a UC.)
  • There is off-campus housing situated all around the campus no matter where you are going. If you put the effort in early enough to do a thorough search, you can usually find something close by.
  • The key is to choose an apartment or house that is within walking distance to campus and that has at minimum four roommates, including you.

The takeaway here is to not feel cowed if you aren’t happy with what you get. Sometimes your instinct is the way to go. Weigh the options, and if what you are offered just simply isn’t what you wanted, don’t feel pushed in a corner. If you choose off-campus, I can guarantee by joining clubs and getting involved, you will not have a social deficit. And you may likely come out ahead.

Lindy King

CA College Transfer offers college admissions services to students hoping to transfer to a UC. Lindy King is the author of the best-selling UC transfer book, "How to Transfer to a UC from a California Community College," now in its 2nd edition. Available on Amazon and iTunes.

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