Those who should
- People who like excessive school pride and excessive self-deprecation. UC Berkeley exists at the nexus of an unstoppable force and an immovable object. A glance at the popular UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens Facebook group will pull up hundreds, if not thousands, of memes highlighting our collective misery. But, for a school with a mediocre football team, the students here quite literally bleed blue and gold, and wearing your Cal gear around the country will prompt yells of “Go Bears!” from ever-faithful alumni.
- People who like music. The Bay Area is a haven for music lovers, featuring numerous amazing venues, including several right here in Berkeley. More than that, Berkeley is the birthplace of Amoeba Music and Rasputin Music — two of the best-stocked record stores on the West Coast. Toss in a great campus symphony orchestra and a dependably rousing Cal Band, and no one’s music needs aren’t met here.
- People who like photography. UC Berkeley is host to some of the most aesthetic views of any college campus. Whether it’s the sun hitting the campanile at just the right time, the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge as you walk on Campanile Way through the gap between South Hall and the Bancroft Library, the panoramic views of downtown San Francisco from the Lawrence Hall of Science, or just the picturesque Doe Library from across the glade on a warm spring day, few colleges can match the picture snapping opportunities provided here.
- People who want to try research. Whether it’s in the STEM fields or the humanities, UC Berkeley’s size and funding means that there’s almost certainly someone here on campus researching something you’re interested in. Many undergraduates do research in a wide range of disciplines, facilitated by the large number of faculty members we have here, and those faculty members are often key players in their respective fields.
- People who like food and/or boba. The city of Berkeley is literally chock-full of reasonably priced restaurants of all different types, as well as specialty dessert and boba offerings. You could probably go a whole year trying a different restaurant every day.
Those who should not
- People who don’t like crowds. There’s no getting around it — UC Berkeley is big. It has a total enrollment of about 41,000 students, all packed into a relatively small physical campus, so the hour and half-hour marks bring massive floods of students and faculty members scurrying from building to building. Some of your classes will be really large. Your major advisor may not ever learn your name. This is not a place where you’ll know a significant chunk of your year’s class, or people in your major, for that matter.
- People who want nice, affordable housing. Unfortunately, for all its beauty, the Bay Area is undergoing one of the nation’s most acute housing crises. It costs $14,545 per academic year to stay in a triple in the on-campus units, and more expensive options range to $20,240. Meanwhile, off campus, a typical one-bedroom apartment costs $2,871 per month. And most of the buildings in Berkeley are very old, containing small and sometimes grimy offerings.
- People who don’t like traffic. Bay Area traffic sucks. BART, the primary public transport system around the Bay Area, is a godsend, but runs restricted hours, is often delayed and takes a long time to get places. If you do have a car, the mere 13-mile drive from Berkeley to San Francisco can vary from about 20 minutes to more than an hour. Getting almost anywhere by car is a dangerous game of hedging bets on rush hour, carpool lanes, bridge lockups, weather, and more.
- People who love seasons. OK, compared to San Diego, the Bay Area experiences some slight seasons — mostly things like “June Gloom.” But compared to the rest of the country, the concept of seasons really doesn’t exist here. So if you’re a big fan of autumn leaves changing colors, the first snow of winter and the swimming pool heat of summer, Berkeley isn’t the best place to be.
- People who need their daily fix of In-N-Out, Panda Express, Five Guys or other fast food. There are one or two fast food places in Berkeley — including a McDonald’s and a Chipotle — but for the juicy stuff, you’ll need a car and a free hour to get to the nearest option. Occasionally, fraternities will send someone to buy In-N-Out or Krispy Kreme to hawk for profit on Sproul Plaza, just because they know that even if the food is cold and soggy and more expensive than usual, UC Berkeley students will pay for it.