I started out at a small, private, cometitive liberal arts college. I loved it - very academic, "easy" if you've managed to get in as it all follows a fomula: study. take test. write essay. make Dean's list. The only thing I could imagine studying for four years was art - so I transferred here for a proper BFA. (I majored in Photography)
I LOVED it. The school is small, the faculty attentive, the darkroom plush and well maintained. Even as a transfer I had room to take a few classes outside of my major. The kids who do well in art school are the same kids who'd do well anywhere - it's just as challenging as any other program, just in a different way. The "formula" for doing well doesn't work - you have to be self-directed, communicative, AND produce good work. There's no "just" doing the assignments. I had professors who'd worked under Ansel Adams, Noam Chomsky, and who belong to Magnum... I had one professor I really disliked, and they only lasted one semester as many students complained (and the dpt. listened!). I didn't get along with my dpt. advisor, which is a shame as there wasn't really an alternative I could go to w/o chaning my major.
There are *some* trust fund 18 yr olds, but they don't seem to last. Most of the people in my class were studious, hardworking, and a number were older or second degree students. There wasn't much "partying" because everyone was working or studying! I can't speak for other departments, but photography, graphic design, architecture etc... have reputations for being a bit more straight-laced. That said, you are in SF! and the whole city is there as a resource - great place, though a bit pricey. There are few traditional extracurriculars, but lots of kids are involved in non-profit or grass-roots/community art projects; I also studied abroad over the summer, which was excellent (year-long exchanges are available too).
I had trouble with financial aid off and on - I got enough funding, but the occasional administrative error (not always CCA's fault either - some govt./bank errors and typos) led to some stickiness. Be assertive, and stay on top of things!
I have never had trouble finding employment - and though it's not been "in my field", that's also been my choice. I currently work in finance (of all things!) and am using that to fund my work. I know several people who graduated at the time I did who ARE employed as artists, designers, etc...
The campus is urban, but I liked it - the Oakland campus is a hodge-podge of odd looking buildings (beautiful library!) surrounded by park-like redwoods and a cute neighborhood; the SF campus is in a beautifully rennovated, light-filled warehouse. Both campuses could use more parking. I skipped the dorms and lived in share-houses, usually with UC Berkeley students, which worked quite well and allowed a safer neighborhood than downtown Oakland!Keep in mind... it's one thing to get handed a graded paper or test that you can quietly fold and put in your bag. While there are a fair amount of tests/papers, you will have critiques for studio classes: you will stand up in front of the whole class while they tell you what you deserve + why and everyone will know if you did your work/homework/research or not!!!