There are several dance clubs on campus that give free lessons and dances, which is awesome. There are lots of hiking/outdoors-y clubs. Lots of martial arts clubs. I don't know what the most popular clubs or teams are, but we have pretty much whatever you could want, from basketball to Balboa. A group I'm involved with is SPS--Society of Physics students, which hosts meetings once a week for an hour, includes food and drink and usually a really interesting speaker. Great for physics students, all though ironically a lot of my classmates don't show. Some are shy, some just aren't interested, some are busy. Students do NOT leave their dorm rooms open. Stuff get's stolen a lot, though it also gets recovered a lot. Athletic events don't seem to be the most popular, though they certainly happen. Lots of guest speakers, on everything from masculinity in hip-hop to gender roles in Peru to the newest information on supernova. We have a great selection in that regard. The dating scene...I don't really know. I met my current boyfriend here, through an activity, and people do seem to pair off, so I'd say it's reasonable. If I'm awake at 2am on a Tuesday, I'm probably studying. There are a couple of cool traditions every year. One is 4/20, called "four twenty" which is on April 20th when a whole bunch of people get together on the Porter meadow to smoke pot. I didn't even hear about it until I came here, probably because the administration is really embarrassed by it. It's the only event I know of where it's really obvious that people smoke pot on campus. Otherwise people keep that sort of thing mostly to themselves. There is drinking and such, but I've never heard of a lot of hard drugs being done on campus. It's a very "let's drink healthy organic drinks and eat vegetarian and smoke pot and save the world." By the way, you can find pretty much any vegan or vegetarian food, either around the campus or on it, since Santa Cruz is so hippie. Another tradition would be the Vagina Monologues, put on by students at Porter college every year for Women's Day. They do a very excellent job. People who party on campus are mostly freshman and sophomores. The major partying goes on off-campus for juniors and seniors. The partying is not evenly distributed. At Crown there's hardly ever any, at Porter and Kresge there's a lot. It depends on where you live. I don't think fraternities/sororities are super important, but they're around. Rush week just happened, so all the Greeks came out to try and recruit people. I'm not really interested, and people didn't seem to be breaking down the doors to sign up, but they definitely exist. Last weekend I went out downtown for pizza with friends, saw a movie, and studied, and slept. On a Saturday night you can go downtown, see a movie, eat good food (my one complaint is there really isn't any great Indian food around...at least not like in San Francisco), go shopping, visit the Boardwalk, or hop on a bus and go to Capitola and hit the mall, or just stay in with some friends and play some board games. If you like dance, there are some local social dance venues, too. Off campus I do all of the above, go to the beach, hike in the trails, go dancing at local venues, etc.
There are so many students and organizations that I don't know which are the most popular. There is probably a most popular one within each major. There are newspapers to write for, film clubs, student governments, club sports, Key Club, Interact Club, fraternities and sororities, and so many more.I am involved with my student government (Cowell Senate) and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. I have also gone to a film club and some volunteering clubs. I like being in Cowell Senate because I get to know what's going on in my college and university and get to help control where our money is being spent. We also are very involved with helping other students and planning activities. People in the dorms are all different. In my dorm last year, students mostly kept to themselves, but I did make friends with a few people in my dorm. I know other people though who made friends with everyone on their floor because everyone was outgoing or willing to meet new people, and everyone ended up getting along great and staying friends. There are guest speakers every other week, I think, and plays every few months. There is always something going on in one of the colleges on weekends or at night. There are sports games on weekends on the field that everyone can watch. I met my closest friends in classes, in my dorm, from being in Cowell Senate, or from seeing them around in the dining hall and around campus often. I stay awake a lot because of homework. I like to hang out with people during the day and then I'll end up starting my homework late. There are always parties on weekends off-campus in downtown Santa Cruz at people's houses. Sometimes they're hard to find, but you just have to know the right people. There generally safe, but cops come often and make people leave because of noise complaints. People have movie nights and it is really easy to stay on campus and have fun on weekends with your friends. Fraternities and sororities are not really important and barely anyone is in them compared to the population on the school, but there are multiple for different interests and majors if people want to join one.
There are tons of groups on campus, I'm not actually sure which are the most popular. I am in a group called WATER-Working Advocates to End Racism. We are a small group of about 8 members who meet weekly to discuss racism and white privilege, as well as plan events like open mic nights or art shows. Students here leave their doors open a lot in the dorms. Athletics is very unpopular here, and there aren't many people who are involved in them. If they are involved, not many people attend their games. I know in my three years of going here, I have never been to a sporting event or even been asked to attend one. Guest speakers are all over the place here, and it seems like there are speakers for something interesting at least several times a week. Theater is pretty popular, but not necessarily a stellar program. As for the dating scene, I would say it's about average. I met my boyfriend here. I met most of my friends by becoming a Resident Advisor and meeting other student leaders. However, most people meet their friends by who they lived near in the dorms. IF I am awake at 2am on a Tuesday, I am most definitely studying. As for traditions, there are a few dances at the beginning of the year, Take Back the Night march, AIDS walk, protests, Practical Activism conference. People party a lot as first years but it dies down after that. I would say the average first year parties at least once a week while the average upperclassman parties at least one or two times a month. Fraternities and Sororities exist at UCSC, but they are not university-sponsored and only like 1% of the student population is is one. Last weekend I went to an offcampus birthday party for a friend of mine and did a lot of homework. A Saturday night that does not include drinking can be going out to dinner with some friends, attending theater performances, catching a show downtown, going to the movies, or doing homework.
There are so many activities and groups on campus! Some of the most popular include a variety of sports, theater, and outdoor excursion clubs like skiing and snowboarding. There are also many jobs and volunteer opportunities to get involved with. Some people are weary of UCSC because there is no football team. But many people still play football for fun, and there are other games to attend including basketball and soccer games. The most common way students have made friends is in their residential college. I met a lot of my best friends in my dorm building my freshman year! It's also very easy to make friends in classes, because everyone is positive, encouraging, and eager to study in groups. Another concern about UCSC is that there isn't enough Greek life. This isn't true, because Greek life does exist, it just isn't as prevalent as it is at most universities. Still, it is definitely there for you if you're interested. As I mentioned before, there is a lot to do on the weekends that doesn't involve drinking or drugs. For example, colleges screen movies, host interesting guest speakers, and there are a variety of performances by choirs, musicians, actors, poets, and more. Plus if you want to go off campus, downtown is always fun and easy to get to.
Every year, we have the Naked Run, in which many people gather at Porter college to run all over campus, together, DURING THE FIRST RAIN OF THE SCHOOL YEAR, naked (though some students still wear underwear and/or bras). You can actually read about it on Wikipedia. Frats and Sororities do exist here, but they are not as big or important as they might be at other universities. We don't have a Football team (yay!) but that means that all of our other sports get a lot of attention, like water polo, tennis, etc. Many students do leave their dorm doors opened because only residents have access to their buildings and a sense of familiarity and trust quickly builds (though I'm not sure of all colleges). And like I've said, we have really great and inspiring events, speakers, art exhibits, theater shows, student concerts and performances, and we also have a bunch of free, by-donation, or $2-$3 dances, almost every friday there's at least one dance on campus. After the first or second year though, students are no longer guaranteed with housing and so they live off campus. From what I hear, it's pretty alright if you like more liberty. But commuting can be a hastle.
The sports teams on campus are not very popular; the athletics program isn't too big, but the teams we do have are pretty good. There are a lot of clubs on campus, so it;s hard to pinpoint which one is the most popular one. The people at school are really friendly, and some of them do keep their doors open, but it depends which residential college you choose to live in. If you're awake on a Tuesday night, you're most likely studying, seeing as it's a weekday, but if you're awake on a Saturday night, then you'll definitely see a lot of people at parties or just hanging out with friends. Weekends tend to be lively on campus and off campus. Each year, there is one tradition that mostly everyone participates in. The first day that it rains, students will participate in a "naked run", meaning that they run naked in the rain from one side of campus to the other. After the run, students usually go into the pool and have one massive pool party. Sororities and fraternities are not big on campus at all, and friends are usually made in classes, or in the dorms.
Some students leave their dorm doors open, not really in the apartments though. Athletic events aren't really popular but the gym and the p.e. classes are. Lots of different theater stuff goes on. The dating scene is creepy, there are a lot of creepy guys in Santa Cruz. I met my closest friends in my classes. I'm not awake 2am on a Tuesday... First rain is fun, opers festival, halloween stuff, and the different residential colleges have a lot of events. People party on the weekend and sometimes the weekdays too. There aren't that many fraternities/sororities and they aren't that important but there are some for those that are interested. It's finals week so last weekend I studied, and then went to Saturn Cafe and the beach. On Saturday night there are midnight movies at the Del Mar. Bowling. Cruise the Boardwalk. Hang out with your friends. Play boardgames. Go for a night hike. Eat. Off campus you can hike, go to the beach, the boardwalk, shop, visit people, take mini-road trips to San Francisco or Monterey.
I was involved with intramural sports (volleyball) and lots of outdoor adventure activities, backpacking trips, river rafting, etc. I met a lot of great people (including people i have dated) in these activities. I highly recommend getting involved in at least one, it's a great way to meet people-as opposed to parties, where it is possible to meet someone worthwhile, but alcohol changes things unfortunately. Frats/sororities don't really exist, they have no authority. house parties can be fun, but the cops are very strict and bust them as soon as they are called by a neighbor. There is no student zoning, meaning there is no neighborhood in santa cruz that is just students. This means HUGE, MTV-style parties don't really happen. You tend to see the same party type people if you go to huge parties, best to mix it up with off campus, on campus, and bars for a social scene that's healthy and stimulating.
Greek life is not a very big deal here. We have two national sororities, and a handful more fraternities. It doesn't hurt to join, of course, and I know of a lot of people who have met their best friends through Greek life, but it is absolutely not a requirement here, and there presence is not felt too much on campus. Downtown is fairly close, just a quick bus ride away, and there's a decent amount of stuff to do - hookah bars, nice restaurants, movie theaters, etc. The boardwalk is always fun for an afternoon, and the beaches surrounding Santa Cruz are beautiful. If you're looking for packed sports games and buff jocks, you will have a hard time finding them in Santa Cruz. Sports are not a huge draw here at all, and while there's a ton of intramurals, funding for the sports is virtually nonexistent, and most students are much more involved in other activities.
If you do not want to hang out in the dorms and drink your entire freshman year, you have to put forth the effort to get involved in some sort of activity or sport, of which there are many. The Greek system here is essentially nonexistent, so do not look for that as your social outlet. But there are many ways to meet people and get involved with whatever you are interested in at the same time. There are tons of activities going on all the time- concerts, lectures, movies, plays... so you will only be bored if you are not creative or lazy, which unfortunately happens to some people. Off campus one will either go to house parties, which more often than not get rolled by the police by midnight, or hang out in town. The Catalyst nightclub is a good venue to see live music at- lots of reggae artists, East Bay rappers, and something for everybody else.