Bakersfield typically has year-round vacancies. However, if you want to ensure yourself a good place and have your pick of locations, a good time to look is in the early spring. This is when many people are moving out after school is finished or leaving due to the summer.
With the number of vacancies in the city, landlords are hungry for good clients. If you can put together a polished application with good references, even if you're a first time renter, you should be able to find a great apartment. You can use prior employment references or references from your teachers if you've never rented an apartment before.
Like most California cities, Bakersfield is the type of city where you want to have a car. The public transit system, the Golden Empire Transit System (or GET) will carry you to major destinations, but is severely limited compared to the transit systems in other similarly sized cities. If you don't have a car, you're going to want to live as close as possible to your school or work, as it will make life much easier for you.
If you're looking for the hot nightlife, you need to head to downtown Bakersfield to check out local secrets like The Padre and Sandrini's. The Kern County Museum is a local landmark that features regular events that encourage many return visits. The strong local Basque community also means that you can find fantastic Basque cuisine at locally owned restaurants scattered throughout the city.