|Greater SB area|
The red rectangle outlines Isla Vista, which is adjacent to UCSB. Isla vista, or IV as its known locally, is a tighly packed ocean-front square mile of student apartments, late-night eateries, parties, and terrible parking. Everyone bikes to and from campus, and there is a lively nightlife. Rents in IV can be very expensive and the apartments tend to be funky; it is truly a student slum. The area attracts many UCSB students due to its proximity to the university, but many city college kids live in IV as well for the complete, wild party experience. An express bus connects City college and Isla Vista, so IV is a convenient option for those who don't wish to drive all the way downtown.
|Red = main party zone aka Del Playa ave|
green = 'downtown' w/ stores and resteraunts
bluish purple line = border between IV and campus
The area surrounding Santa Barbara City college (in the blue circle) is known as the mesa. It is a much more normal, residential neighborhood than IV, but still has a high concentration of students. Essentially the Mesa is more convenient for attending city college, but IV offers CC students a more wild, social atmosphere. Again, the 15x express bus connects these areas back and forth for easy transit.
|The Mesa and downtown|
City College shown in red
Gold star = transit center
Downtown is a very cool neighborhood! Lots of shopping, (21+) nightlife, and walkable streets make it a nice place to be. If you live close to the the transit station at 1020 Chapala Street, than both city college and UCSB/IV are a short bus ride away!
Goleta is the rest of the space between Santa Barbara and UCSB. It is less fancy than Santa Barbara, and has more sprawling suburbs. Lots of affordable housing is available in Goleta, but primarily in quiet, family oriented neighborhoods. No student crazyness here! If you live close to one of several bus lines in the area, transport to campus is manageable. Many areas of Goleta are accessible only by car, and this makes getting to campus a big pain as Goleta is congested with poorly-configured streets.
The Bottom Line
IV is where the action is, and is popular w/ UC and CC students. Rents are expensive and space is cramped. Amazing social opportunities abound, because you usually live blocks from your friends! Everyone bikes to UC or buses/drives to CC.
The Mesa is more quite, and more convenient for city college kids. Not as common to see UC students living here. The "lower" mesa is cheaper and more popular w/ students, but as you climb away from the ocean and up the hills, the houses get bigger and more expensive.
Santa Barbara and Goleta offer lots of variety. If you want to live in a family style setting, getting away from the mesa and IV would be a good bet. Lots of families in SB and Goleta rent rooms to students. Goleta is more suburban, while Santa Barbara's neighborhoods tend to be more upscale and densely populated.