What is UCSB Known For? Is UCSB a Good School?

The University of California at Santa Barbara campus is situated on a precipice overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

Surrounded by beaches, nature trails, and only a boat ride away from Channel Islands National Park, the school is an attractive option for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. Being so close to Los Angeles allows for an abundance of internship opportunities in the city.

UCSB is the largest employer in Santa Barbara County – almost 100 companies have been founded based on technology discovered or innovated on campus. In fact, a handful of new companies are formed each year based on research conducted at UCSB.

UCSB has witnessed the birth of modern wonders such as the internet and the atomic force microscope, the latter of which allows researchers to study how diseases develop and other irregular body processes function at the atomic scale.

UCSB is a fairly large school, enrolling just over 23,000 undergraduates and nearly 3,000 graduate students. The school accepts approximately one in three applicants, making admission a competitive process.

In the sections that follow, we’ll divulge valuable information about UCSB’s most popular majors, thrilling traditions, and reputable student organizations.

What Majors & Academics Are UCSB Known For?

UC Santa Barbara
Coolcaesar, UCSB University Center and Storke Tower, CC BY-SA 4.0

Social sciences, biology, and psychology are the most popular majors at UCSB. The school is also known for its engineering program as well as the College of Creative Studies. 

The Division of Social Sciences supports interdisciplinary exploration and collaboration among the humanities, sciences, and engineering.

Within the social sciences department, nearly 2,000 undergraduates pursue an economics degree. 

UCSB has established several excellent study-abroad programs that many economics students take advantage of, including experiences at the University of Commerce in Milan and the Global Business Program in Asia: Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Biology is another popular major at UCSB – the school’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean makes it an optimal context for studying marine biology and ecology. 

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology creates opportunities for students to engage in marine science, paleontology, conservation, and other topics. 

At any given moment, one student might be conducting research in a tropical rainforest while another is taking samples from a coral reef.

Ranked #18 among national public universities, UCSB’s College of Engineering enrolls 1,500+ undergraduates. 

Students have the opportunity to enroll in a five-year program to earn a combined BS/MS in topics like mechanical or chemical engineering.

Students taking courses in the College of Creative Studies have the flexibility to design their own majors and degree pathways. 

Each of the 400 students in the CCS works in close collaboration with a faculty adviser to explore and address a range of social and environmental problems. 

Students majoring in writing and literature, for example, will draft a creative work as part of their senior portfolios, while a student majoring in physics might create a prototype.

Is UCSB a Good School?

UCSB has an exceptional reputation based on its esteemed faculty, research impact, and interdisciplinary teaching approach. It is currently ranked #5 among national public universities, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Colleges” list.

There are ten national centers and institutes stationed on UCSB’s campus. At the Southern California Earthquake Center, scientists study the behavior and impact of earthquakes in order to better aid communities in recovery efforts. 

The Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies – funded by the Army Research Office – brings together scientists, doctors, and engineers to innovate revolutionary tools in synthetic biology, cognitive neuroscience, and bio-enabled materials.

UCSB’s host of institutes results in increased opportunities for student and faculty collaboration. At its highest point, UCSB was ranked #2 in Research Impact in the Sciences. 

Many well-known faculty researchers have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics Laureate Shuji Nakamura, who won the award for inventing blue-light emitting diodes.

Other notable alumni represent various disciplines at UCSB, including Grammy-nominated DJ Steve Aoki, co-founder/CEO of Lyft Logan Green, and Robert Ballard, the discoverer of the Titanic.

UCSB is also known for its exceptional UCSB Education Abroad Program, which sends more than 1,000 students to different countries all over the world. 

Popular destinations include Spain, Italy, and the UK, with the most represented majors being communication, economics, and global studies.

UCSB Traditions

When it comes to UCSB traditions, we have to start with throwing tortillas. Throwing a tortilla at a soccer game has been a bucket list item for all UCSB students since the 1990s when the tradition first “took flight,” and no coach, athlete, or referee is off-limits as a target! 

Another questionable tradition involves the “Undie Run,” where students run two miles through the UCSB community in their undergarments during final exam week. 

UCSB Parents & Family Weekend is an exciting time when students can immerse their family members in campus life. 

Activities include tours of the REEF Touch Tanks at the Marine Science Institute, a walking tour through Isla Vista, free admission to sports matches, and meet and greet sessions with the deans of various colleges.

The most widely-attended campus event is Extravaganza, a private on-campus concert in the spring that attracts headliners like Sublime, Busta Rhymes, and Drake. 

Deltopia is another highly popular but unsanctioned event featuring concerts, food, and activities at the RecCen.

Seniors enjoy the privilege of attending UCSB First’s annual Senior Class Breakfast – the event intends to encourage alumni participation in the ongoing future of UCSB and its community.

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at UCSB

Students at UCSB can get involved in more than 500 student groups on campus. Organizations center on leadership, philanthropy, recreational activities, and other academic interests.

Coders SB invites all students to attend workshops designed to improve their programming and coding skills. The group manages project series in which individuals work in small teams to approach a particular challenge. They regularly collaborate with partners such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

Have a desire to explore the various natural wonders of Santa Barbara? The Excursion Club is committed to getting students outdoors by organizing activities like skydiving, backpacking, spearfishing, and paintballing. There’s no need to hold out if you don’t think you have the right equipment – the Excursion Club is all about sharing and educating!

The UCSB Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is an excellent club for students in the engineering department. The largest and best-funded engineering club on campus, UCSB IEEE, aims to provide students with the resources to develop projects and conduct research.

Students wanting to give back to the community should consider joining the UCSB Community Affairs Board. They’re involved in an array of community projects at any one time, including the weekly Adopt a Block effort where students pick up trash on the street. 

The Family Literacy Project is CAB’s oldest and most expansive effort that dedicates resources to pairing UCSB students with Isla Vista children in tutoring/mentoring relationships.

What Sports Are UCSB Known For?

UCSB oversees ten men’s and ten women’s varsity sports, all of which compete at the Division I level in the NCAA. The Gauchos have won three national championship titles in men’s swimming and diving (1962), men’s water polo (1979), and men’s soccer (2006).

The men’s soccer team has one of the best records at UCSB, and their fans have gone all out to smash NCAA attendance records. The team leads in average attendance (over 6,000 attendees per match) and overall attendance in the NCAA, and its biggest crowd reached almost 16,000 attendees in 2010. The team has won the Big West Championship for five of the last seven years!

UCSB’s baseball team shows strong performance on a regular basis – they have competed in 12 NCAA championship tournaments. 

Most recently, two of their players – Ryan Gallagher and Matt Ager – were named to the 2022 Freshman All-American team, making this the third straight season in which more than one UCSB athlete has received the rookie award.

The basketball program is perhaps best known for the Thunderdome, one of the loudest basketball arenas in the country! 

The women’s basketball team has dominated the Big West for the last several decades, winning 12 conference championships since 1997 (nine of which were consecutive)!

Both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams enjoy frequent appearances in the NCAA tournament, as well. 

In fact, the men’s volleyball team has played in more NCAA championship games than any other UCSB team, while the women’s volleyball team has rarely missed appearing in the tournament for the last 30 years.


Expert faculty members, Involved students, and a modern approach to designing a college degree – students can expect all of these things in more throughout their four years at UCSB. 

UCSB is an ideal school for students looking for a nontraditional pathway to graduation. The College of Creative Studies affords students the flexibility to merge two or more disciplines and carry out their research endeavors from the ground up. 

For decades, UCSB has been a leader in the trend of adopting a more interdisciplinary approach to curriculum and instruction.

UCSB’s diversity lends itself to a host of student organizations, many of which provide low-stakes environments where students can learn and practice new skills – be they academic or athletic. 

Many clubs are committed to sustainability and philanthropy by organizing fundraisers, clean-up efforts, and informational sessions.

There are few places where students are accompanied to and from classes by the mist of the Pacific Ocean! Students will relish the quintessential California climate on an almost year-round basis at UCSB. Surrounded by many parks and forests, Santa Barbara offers many havens for taking a break from the books.

While UCSB is an appealing option for all kinds of students, those interested in pursuing a career in engineering or the social sciences should spend time researching the school’s programs and opportunities. 

With many opportunities for scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study placements, earning a degree from UCSB is attainable for the average American student.