Guide to housing options in Berkeley


You’ve finally answered to the dreaded question of “what college are you going to?” and thought that the most difficult parts of your decision-making process were over, but you’ll soon learn that a few new questions will arise to haunt your days. You’ll have to start thinking about where to live and what to major in while you’re in college. While we can’t help much with choosing your major (some things you have to decide for yourself), those of us at the Clog who’ve already experienced the highs and lows of various types of Berkeley living can help you decide where you should be residing. Remember: Housing for freshmen isn’t actually guaranteed this year, so it’s good to be aware of your options and get started prioritizing them early.

The units

Desiree Diaz/File

Desiree Diaz/File

The units are three different high-rise residence hall complexes (Unit 1, Unit 2 and Unit 3) located two to four blocks away from campus on Southside. They’re super convenient, perfect for naps in between classes, going to the RSF and heading back from late-night study sessions. If you want to know everyone on your whole floor super well, the units are the place for you. They’re known for being the most social of the living areas. Some people choose not to live in the units because the rooms, while big enough for all your needs, are slightly smaller than some of the other residence halls. Also, because of their proximity to frat row and the large amount of people living in them, they can get pretty loud at inconvenient hours. But if you’re lucky enough to have a window facing the bay, the view is priceless.


The Foothill residence hall area is, contrary to what the name might suggest, at the top of a hill. But it makes up for the climb with its large suite-style rooms, beautiful views, lounges and proximity to campus. This is the closest residence hall to campus — all you have to do is cross the street (after walking down a bunch of stairs) and you’ll be on the upper north part of campus. It’s pretty popular among engineering students, because that’s where the engineering buildings are. Plus, all those stairs do wonders for your calves! If you’re hoping to live somewhat independently, Foothill is the best on-campus option for you. The suite-style living means that the halls are much quieter than in the units, and you share your bathroom and common area with a relatively small number of people.

Clark Kerr

Wayne Hsieh /File

Wayne Hsieh /File

Clark Kerr is a Spanish villa style residence hall area a little less a mile away from the Southside part of campus. It’s a spread out oasis among big city living. People choose to live in Clark Kerr because the rooms are bigger than those in the units, it has its own track and pool, and the food served at the dining hall is supposedly better because most first-year athletes live there. We’re not sure what the correlation is there, other than the idea that athletes need more protein? For some, the walk is too far, but it’s mostly flat. It’s pretty quiet but still has ample amounts of socialization.


Off-campus apartment

If the on-campus living isn’t up your alley, you’re always welcome to seek lodging elsewhere. Off-campus apartments tend to be cheaper, and you almost always have access to a kitchen and can therefore cook your own meals, and you have some more control over your distance to campus. Be warned — there are many apartments in Berkeley, but there are also many people seeking housing, so get on the housing hunt right away. We would also recommend that you talk to some current students (either via UC Berkeley Facebook pages or on campus) to find out which places to avoid, as there are definitely some sketchy housing areas in Berkeley. The UC Berkeley Housing page often has available places where you can live with other students and is a good resource. Many students decide against this route either because of the stress of finding a place or because they don’t want to miss out on the social experience of the residence halls, but don’t worry — you’ll make plenty of friends whatever you decide. Plus, you’ll be super popular if you can offer a home-cooked meal.

Group living

Michael Drummond/File

Michael Drummond/File

Group living includes housing such as the co-op system and Greek life. The co-ops are a type of low-cost housing for students in which groups of students live together in any one of 17 houses or three apartment cooperatives. The co-ops are special because students work together to run the houses by becoming managers and participating in work shifts within the house. These include cleaning, cooking and maintaining the co-op’s government system. The co-ops are pretty popular living spaces, and though it’s unusual for freshmen to get in their first semester, it’s always worth a shot. Make sure to tour some of the houses and check out its website to get a sense of what it’s all about.

Being involved in Greek life gives you the opportunity to live in either a fraternity or sorority house. If you’re interested in Greek life, you first have to go through recruitment, get a bid to one of the fraternities or sororities and usually be involved for at least a semester before you can live in the houses. You develop strong friendships with the people around you by living in these houses and you get meals cooked for you. Some fraternities even rent out rooms to anyone interested in living in them, but these are not the places to live during first semester if you prefer to be away from partying and noise.

Contact Taylor Follett at [email protected].