I am an alum BA Economics 1979 and MBA 1984 and this past year we visited many campuses to assess where my son might want to go. I first had the Groucho Marx approach to this...I wouldn't want my son to go to a school that would have me as a student. But as we visited the Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Georgetown, Stanford, NYU, UCLA and UCSD, I realized how great a university Berkeley is. Positives:
1)Top Flight faculty in every field, a top rated department in every field (except Art)
2) International reputation second perhaps only to Harvard
3) One of the more diverse, cosmopolitan campuses
4) Beautiful campus with diverse architecture, 10 minute walk max anywhere on campus
5) Berkeley has the best weather in the Bay area...cool in the morning and sunny 70-80 in the afternoon.
6) Division 1 sports...football games are a blast
7) Socially conscious campus but surprisingly strong conservative element makes for a politically active student body that actually is more balanced than you would think. Largest club on campus is Young Republicans
8) Best offcampus affordable food.
1) Big Classes especially freshman intro classes
2) Legendary bureaucracy
3) Previous infamous housing shortage has actually improved substantially. You can find affordable housing here.
4)Telegraph avenue isn't for everyone!!!
Bottomline is that it is a great university but you have to reach out. No one will hold your hand. Professors are accessible, but you have to seek them out at office hours. You have to take responsibility. The staff is bureaucratic but friendly (by and large) and you have to manage this part of your academic career (stay on top of the fees, money, meal cards, etc). But when you think about it, doesn't this sound like stuff you need to learn to do in the real world anyway?