I read some of the other comments people wrote and they tended to be negative about the administration. To be honest, I don't know what they expected coming to a such a massive university. I've spent very little time dealing with the administration here as I came in as a junior transfer and pretty much figured it out on my own. There are tons of resources available, however.
Since I came in as a junior transfer I have taken only upper division courses, for the most part. Overall, I'm pleased with my decision to come to Berkeley. Academically it has been very rewarding and challenging. I've had a few truly amazing professors that challenged me in the way you would expect a university with such a prestigious reputation to.
The social life and dating life here, however, SUCKS! There are very few good looking people that come here. Prepare to lower your standards of what you consider good-looking (The phenomenon is known here as "Berkeley goggles"). Most people tend to keep to themselves on campus, and coming in as a transfer it can be somewhat isolating. There are clubs and stuff that you can join but since I'm not Asian there goes about 80% of the options. The football games and close proximity to San Francisco are the only good social perks about Berkeley. Around town there are only a few bars and they can get really overcrowded and gross. I've only gone to a couple frat parties which were fine I guess, but I would only go if you're under 21. I don't know why frat boys insist on drinking their natty light at room temp.
The city itself is...depressing. Homeless people everywhere. Lots of robberies so it is definitely not recommended to walk around alone at night. If you like ethnic food and vegan food this city will be great for you. I'm a pretty picky eater and have not been too pleased with the food here.
On the other hand...this is BERKELEY. Anywhere you go in the world people will recognize this place, and not just because of the school. There is a lot of history here and I think it is pretty cool to say that I have lived here. Also, you definitely get the experience of a small college town. It's mostly students living in Berkeley and there is school pride everywhere. Football game days are the most exciting days at Cal. Everyone tailgates outside on the many streets surrounding the school and stadium and then walk up to the game. I don't think I would have gotten an experience like that at other schools in California. Everything is very close together, meaning driving here is not recommended. I have a car here and it is expensive and a pain in the ass. No parking, and parking is expensive when you can find it. However, they do give you a free bus pass with your student ID so most people here use the very ample public transportation.
Overall, I would recommend coming here. Further than that, I would recommend going to a community college for your lower division work and then transfer for upper division. For one, it's WAY cheaper and you're taking essentially the same classes (except they'll be harder at Cal), and also because it's easier to get in as a transfer. Ha, I'm getting the same degree as you but I spent way less and didn't have to deal with the extremely stiff competition coming straight from high school!
If you live in California and you choose another school over Berkeley, you are retarded. The only possible exception would be UCLA, but I still think Berkeley has greater national recognition and will probably help when looking for a job. It is the best value: It's the highest rated public school in the country with low tuition.