I attended U.C. Berkeley starting the fall of 2004. It's been three years now, and without a doubt, if I built a time machine to go back in time, I would still choose Cal over the other schools (UCLA, USC, UCSD) I was accepted to. So what's the scoop?
The academics will tantalize your mind. Most of classes require you to have a profound understanding of the subject in order for you to get an A. Although it is a small hurdle for some, if you keep it up, you will be amazed at what you can do- helping prepare you for life's future challenges.
The faculty are absorbed in their work, but they are helpful if you show up at their office hours. I have never seen a professor not do his job splendidly during office hours, and most are even okay with setting up additional individual meetings. Occasionally, they will even offer you work, or an internship. The key here is to explore and utilize opportunities immediately, without delay, and without apprehension.
Sure, there are those who sit back and do nothing, and whine at the lack of resources or social life. This isn't high school anymore. You really have to ask and probe around in order to find a niche in the Cal community, probably more so than at other schools. But those who complain- it isn't because the opportunities they look for don't exist.
Many students here are also engrossed in schoolwork or some other unusual subject. Many others are unfriendly and thus a permanent friend like one in high school can be difficult to find. Like always, the antidote is to look around. Also, luckily, the women at this school have improved dramatically since I was here in 2004.
So if you're ready to step out into the macrocosm, this is it. The one and only...