[FAQ #2] Dorms & Social Life at Berkeley

Part 2 of my series of FAQs! Here’s the link to Part 1.


Can I get my first dorm choice if I apply for it?
As a freshman getting your first dorm choice, it really depends on how many other students in your class want the same thing as you, and sometimes your class size. Overall, getting dorm rooms is still by random chance because it’s through a lottery system!

Where is the best place to live?
Well, “best” is subjective. Personally after living in the units once over the summer for orientation, I didn’t really like the location or co-ed bathrooms, so I actually live in off-campus housing (but it’s significantly more expensive). Depending on your preferences for cleanliness / social life / convenience, I can help you choose an area to live! Think about what you would prefer to see in a dorm (Noise levels, social activity, food, etc).

How can I get the dorm I want?
Housing is not first-come, first-serve because it would be unfair for any student who gets accepted late. If you don’t have priority housing, you are automatically entered into a lottery system that occurs after the housing application deadline. Therefore, there is no actual way to ‘get the dorm you want,’ so you’ll just need to hope for the best!

What are the Northside dorms like?
For on-campus housing, Stern is an all-female dorm fairly close to all the CS buildings and also somewhat connected to Foothill, which is co-ed. Since they’re connected, they share a dining commons, small gym, and some nice outdoor areas for walking around or sitting down. It’s also generally safer because it’s up by Northside, and protests/riots/homeless people are all by Southside near the units and Sproul Plaza. The atmosphere in these Northside dorms is usually very chill. If you want a lively and fun/sociable hall, it depends on your hallmates and how you all define the dorm!

There is also Bowles Hall, which is considered off-campus housing and more expensive than the units. This dorm has its own meal plan for its residents, and is not affiliated with CalDining. There is a separate application to be accepted into this residential college, and you can find more information at http://bowleshallresidentialcollege.org/. I would recommend Bowles if you can tolerate noise, love to socialize, and enjoy a more community-oriented / family-like environment! As with the other Northside dorms such as International House, there’s a lot of climbing stairs / steep hills and walking everyday, but it is also generally very secure.

What are the Southside dorms like?
For other housing, there are the Martinez Commons, Clark Kerr, the units 1, 2, 3, and more. The Martinez Commons are one of the nicest places to stay in Southside, but are normally given to very lucky sophomores and upperclassmen, and very, very lucky freshmen. Clark Kerr is also nice, but known to be extremely far from the Berkeley hub/bubble. The units are the typical place to stay for most freshmen, and are each separated into several buildings. If you want more details on the different types of housing, look on the right-hand side of this link: https://housing.berkeley.edu/ for all the available options. In general, most freshmen I know stay in the units, Stern, and Foothill.

Can you loft your bed?
For lofting your bed, it’ll depend on the dorm that you are placed in – I believe that it’s not allowed in most, if any, of the on-campus housing at Cal right now, but in my own off-campus dorm, we have bunk beds and can loft/de-loft as we desire.

YES it is a baby pineapple plant on the far left 😊

Social Life

What is the party scene at Berkeley?
LOL there are always parties hosted by fraternities happening throughout the school year that require invites for you to attend, but I believe they are open to all Cal students at the very beginning of the year.

What about the party scene in comparison to that of UCLA?
I was also debating between Cal and UCLA, but I don’t think you’d have a problem at all finding parties with the right friends at either school. Fun is actually not all in the parties or the school – I found it to be more fun to have small kickbacks with my friends! If you join the right clubs or know the right people, I guarantee you that you’ll have a great balance of both having fun and keeping up your academics.

How do I balance a social life and isolation in my dorm?
Where you live is also a factor in being able to attend parties, meet up with friends, or have fun – since Clark Kerr and Foothill/Stern are considered more ‘dead’ areas, they aren’t known to party as much as other dorms like in the units!


9 thoughts on “[FAQ #2] Dorms & Social Life at Berkeley

Add yours

  1. Hi, thanks so much for your FAQs! They’re very helpful. Just a short question: does it make a difference when I apply for housing as long as it’s by the deadline? Or does applying earlier give me a better chance of getting the dorm I want?


    1. Haha thanks!! Last year, housing was not first-come, first-serve – it would be unfair for students who were accepted later. As of now, it should still work through a lottery system that occurs after the deadline!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. If you want to choose your own roommate then yes!! You can search for and join any Facebook group like “Berkeley 2021 Roommate Search” or something along the lines of that to get to know other potential people and message them about their study habits, social habits, etc. to find the best roommate for you. (I roomed with a friend I grew up with haha) If you’d prefer a random roommate, you don’t need to do anything except the housing application itself.


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