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  • Swati Chopra

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

This is a series of posts on campuses I've visited. At times I've had the chance to meet up with admission officers and have included specific majors and data here. Please keep the date of my visit in mind as admission requirements and freshmen profiles change annually and updating these posts will not always be possible. To see other schools' profiles, please visit my website.

February 2024 - General Tour

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was established in 1901 as the California Polytechnic School. It was established to provide education in applied sciences and agriculture. Initially, the curriculum focused on agriculture, engineering, and vocational education. The campus gradually expanded and new programs were added to meet the growing demand for technical education. Over the years, the institution underwent several name changes, reflecting its evolving mission and scope. It became the California Polytechnic State College in 1933 and later California State Polytechnic College in 1947.

Throughout the mid-20th century, Cal Poly continued to grow. The campus expanded its offerings beyond agriculture and engineering to include a wide range of disciplines such as architecture, business, and the liberal arts.

In 1972, Cal Poly was granted university status and became California Polytechnic State University. This change reflected its comprehensive curriculum and status as a leading institution of higher education in California.

In recent decades, Cal Poly has earned a reputation for its hands-on, Learn by Doing approach to education. The university emphasizes practical experience alongside academic learning, preparing students for successful careers in their chosen fields.

Today, Cal Poly SLO is known for its beautiful campus, rigorous academic programs, and vibrant community. It continues to uphold its tradition of excellence while embracing new challenges and opportunities in higher education.

Location and surrounding area: San Luis Obispo is surrounded by rolling hills, vineyards, and agricultural land. The nearby coastal areas boast stunning beaches and cliffs, offering opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and beach-going. The proximity to the Pacific Ocean moderates temperatures and contributes to the region's pleasant weather.

San Luis Obispo itself is a charming and vibrant city with a lively downtown area. It features diverse dining options, local shops, art galleries, and cultural events. The city is also home to the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. The surrounding region is part of California's renowned wine country, particularly famous for its production of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Many vineyards and wineries offer tastings and tours, making it a popular destination for wine enthusiasts. Beyond the beaches, there are numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation in the surrounding area, including hiking in nearby state parks like Montana de Oro State Park and Morro Bay State Park, as well as exploring the trails of the Los Padres National Forest.

Ranking: Cal Poly has consistently ranked among the top public universities in the United States including ranking high for 30 consecutive years as a Best in the West Public University. The university's commitment to innovation, sustainability, and diversity has also garnered national recognition.

Academics: Cal Poly has a 10 week quarter system. The undergraduate experience at Cal Poly is different than most other universities since they have the same opportunities graduate students do elsewhere, including participating in research, publishing papers, working with industry and more.

Cal Poly's Honors College offers access to more intimate classroom settings, opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, and membership in a supportive community. Approximately 450 students are currently enrolled in this program. Last year, 115 students accepted fall admission to the program. The Honors Program has grown over the past decade and seeks a steady-state enrollment of about 500 students. Student academic performance is evaluated and tracked on a quarterly basis. By the end of their first year, Honors students need to achieve a Cal Poly cumulative GPA of at least 3.3. The following year, students need to meet a 3.4 GPA requirement. For subsequent years, the GPA requirement is 3.5. Continuing students can apply in their first year at Cal Poly after completing two quarters. Cal Poly also offers a number of blended degrees, also known as 4+1 programs. These programs offer a bachelor's and master's degree in a shorter time which saves time and money and helps students get in and out faster.

Career Focus: A variety of career fairs are offered every quarter and offer students the opportunity to network and meet face to face with employers in order to learn about potential jobs and internships. Career Services offers resources that can assist students in finding jobs and internships, including a listing of available positions. They also offer services such as career counseling, interview and resume help, a business clothing closet, and more.

Student Body: More than 22,000 students call Cal Poly home, out of which approximately 1,000 are graduate students. Cal Poly is fairly diverse with the following breakdown:

~50% white, ~23% Hispanic, ~14% Asian American and the rest being non-resident, multi-racial, and Native American. Last year 21% of the freshmen class came from out of state.

Admission Information: Cal Poly is one of the most competitive universities in California and the California State University system. Engineering is the most popular major at Cal Poly SLO, however, the school is best known for its agricultural programs—which are among the best in the nation. Cal Poly requires first year applicants to declare a major when applying and they evaluate and admit students by this major. Unfortunately, admission is competitive in all majors.

Last year's admitted students had an average of a weighted high school GPA of 4.08 to 4.25. Also last year, Cal Poly received approximately 54,000 applications and offered admission to close to 18,000 students. Ultimately, 4,884 students accepted and enrolled at Cal Poly SLO.


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