Students may come to the University of California, Santa Barbara with many expectations: to be challenged academically, to enjoy the beautiful Pacific coast scenery and to party their socks off. From day one, students say, UCSB doesn't disappoint.

Lectures can be large but professors expect students — of whom there are about 26,000 — to quickly catch on to material. The campus is constantly abuzz, with clubs tabling outside the University Center, student protests and vendors lined up along the miles of bike racks. The neighboring town of Isla Vista houses many students, as well as local restaurants (the most famous being late-night burrito stop Freebirds), copy shops, grocery co-ops and every other service a college student could need.

It's not uncommon for students to stay within the "I.V. Bubble", venturing out only to party downtown or perhaps catch a movie. UCSB has a solid graduation rate of about 85%, about 4% higher than expected based on the makeup of the student body, and students go on to earn median salaries of roughly $70,300 in their first several years after school.