daily californian logo


Apply to The Daily Californian by September 8th!

Student housing options at Berkeley

article image


We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.



JULY 23, 2014

Most UC Berkeley students start their first year living in the dorms. This is a universal experience for almost all UC Berkeley freshmen, but the next few years are pretty much up in the air. So, where do you go next after the freshman life? Are you even ready to let go of those precious meal points and late-night games of Cards Against Humanity with floormates? We’ve compiled a list of housing options at Berkeley for you to consider.

 1.  Dorms, $1,200/mo.


You don’t have to say goodbye to the dorms just yet! If you’re a soon-to-be second year, living in the dorms is still an option for you, though you may have to wait until second semester. The bathroom caddy and foldable hamper you bought at Target will surely last you another good year. While this option is more pricey than living off campus, you have the luxury of eating in the dining halls and living relatively close to your classes. You will save money on Internet and major furnishing items with perks such as Rescomp and the guarantee of a desk and bed to call your own.

Ayla Peters, second year, appreciated the social aspect of the dorms. “It was a nice transition into college, and I made a lot of close friendships that I don’t think I would’ve been able to find otherwise,” Peters said.

On the other hand, she also noted that the dorms can be distracting. “Sometimes there would be people doing things in the halls late at night when you’re trying to sleep,” Peters said. But since Peters never had to worry about bills or cooking any of her meals, she felt the dorms were a great adjustment for her first year in general.

2. The Berk, $900-1,300/mo.

college room

The next closest option to the dorms is living at the Berk, an off-campus housing option for FPF, first-year and second-year students. While it houses undergraduates like the dorms do, the Berk is a smaller and more independent setting, even though it does still have residential assistants. Jason Mao, second year, enjoyed living at the Berk for his first year of college. “The rooms are nicer than the ones in the dorms. And they can definitely be cheaper,” Mao said. One of his favorite things about living there was its distance from campus. The Berk is not apart of university housing on campus, but its location is closer to the UC Berkeley campus than any of the dorms are.

When it comes to food, inhabitants at the Berk can either buy a meal plan or cook their own meals with their, drumroll please, own kitchen! One downside Mao found with living at the Berk, however, was a lack of social interactions. “I would say that it’s not as social as an on-campus dorm, but we have our own events like pizza night, movies nights and etc.,” Mao said.

If you’re interested in living at the Berk, you can be assured that the application process is not too grueling. “The application process is pretty straightforward; you can just apply online, and the staff is usually pretty helpful in guiding you through it,” Mao said.

3. Apartments, approximately $500-850/mo.

Apartments are another typical college student experience. This option requires more work than applying to live in the dorms. If you start earlier in the year, you have better chances of getting an affordable living situation that you like. As the year comes to an end, apartment hunting becomes the Hunger Games, and trust us — the competition is fierce. But if you persevere and make Craigslist your homepage, we’re sure you’ll end up finding something. Malary Romero, second year, said that while she didn’t think the paperwork was too bad, she found “it’s hard to find a place with low monthly charges, and the deposit can seem like a lot.” Keep in mind, however, that the more people you have, the lower your individual rent will be.

But getting an apartment is merely the first step. Living in an apartment forces you to be more independent because you’ll be cooking your own food. Romero cited more privacy and autonomy as a few of the many reasons she enjoys living in apartment. “You don’t have to worry about the messy dorm restrooms, you get your own kitchen, and there’s no check-ins,” Romero said.

She noted that this greater sense of independence also comes with more responsibility, such as buying your own furniture and having to contact your landlord if something isn’t working properly. Living in an apartment also requires more maintenance on your behalf. “You also need dishes, a vacuum and etc. if you cook and in order to keep the apartment clean,” Romero said.


4. Houses, $500-900/mo.

This is an especially fun option for big groups of roommates! Though the application process is the same as it would be for an apartment, living in a house will give you more space and freedom. Jonathan Reader, third year, has loved living in a house and spending time with close friends. “Living with many friends is much more fun, in my opinion, than living with just one or two others,” he said.

While this option is similar to an apartment, the spacious living quarters can create new opportunities that you don’t have with an apartment. “More in the socializing vein, having big common rooms allows for ridiculous times. There have been nerf gun fights, dance fests and ridiculous parties. It’s always a shmorgasborg of excitement.”

“On the downside, it can be hard to really concentrate when you need to study, and the kitchen is generally a mess because there is next to no order in a house full of college students.”

Now that Reader has gotten the hang of things after living there for a few semesters, he won’t let these negative aspects of living in a house deter him from staying where he is. “If I really need to study, I can always leave, and the constant party theme in the background lets me take a break when I want to. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.

4. Co-ops, $745-880/mo.


Living in the co-ops is a popular and rewarding experience for many Berkeley students. The application process is not that tedious, but most people get stuck on long waitlists. Students rank the houses in order of preference. The co-ops are a relatively cost-friendly option, but they require a greater input of effort on your behalf. While very rewarding and enjoyable, you should know that members of co-ops are often faced with tasks such as cooking and cleaning. On the bright side, you’ll make a ton of connections, and you can relax on days you don’t have your cooking shift!

Caroline Chao, second year, described her experience in the co-ops. “It’s not hard,” Chao said. “You fill out a form and choose your house preferences. You earn points for each semester you stay there or board there. The more points you get, the higher priority you getting your top house and room choices.”

Chao has enjoyed the variety of people and experiences she found in the co-ops. “It’s great living with so many people! There are people from all around the world staying at the co-ops. People from all years and majors,” Chao said. “There’s good food and good company.”

One problem she recognizes is the fact that some people neglect their work shifts, which creates messes when dishes aren’t cleaned up for a while. But Chao also says this doesn’t happen often and it doesn’t undermine her general experience. “Overall, there’s a nice sense of community within the house, once you get to know everyone,” said Chao.

5. Fraternity or Sorority houses, $700-900/mo.


One of the most popular housing options at Berkeley is living in Greek housing. Of course, this is only possible if you are part of the Greek community. Living in sorority or fraternity houses can be on the pricey side, but if you’ve seen these Disney castle mansions, you might think the price tag is worth it. Brandon Virgen, third year, said he enjoys his fraternity as a “nice social setting with multiple people in the house to hang out with in a big living room.”

Virgen said the application process for him was short and sweet, especially since he knew everyone already. “I just gave my room preferences and budget details and was given a room to meet my budget,” Virgen said.

Virgen also said his living situation can be described as “pretty dirty and smelly” at times and that he occasionally has to deal with “some substance abuse and noise factors with parties and loud music.”

While he has only been living in his fraternity for about a month, Virgen doesn’t mind these inconveniences and said, “My experience is pretty good so far. No complaints thus far.”

Image Sources: Michael Drummond, Image 2, Danielle Lee, Taryn Erhardt, Image 5, Michael Drummond

Contact Lucy Tate at [email protected].

JULY 23, 2014

Related Articles

featured article
Berkeley recently appointed its first chief resilience officer who will start work Monday to make the city more prepared for disasters and climate change.
Berkeley recently appointed its first chief resilience officer who will start work Monday to make the city more prepared for disasters and climate change.
featured article
featured article
The UC Board of Regents approved a 3 percent salary increase for top employees in the UC system at its meeting Thursday.
The UC Board of Regents approved a 3 percent salary increase for top employees in the UC system at its meeting Thursday.
featured article
featured article
featured article