Location: San Luis Obispo, California
Size: 18,739 (Fall 2013)
Percentage Women: 45%
Tuition (one year): $8,919 in-state, $20,079 out-of-state, Room & Board: $11,447
Most popular majors: Engineering, Business Administration, Agriculture, Architecture, Social Sciences
Greek life: Yes
Acceptance rate: 34.5% (Fall 2013)
For more information about financial aid, scholarships, majors, study abroad, and average test scores, visit Cal Poly’s website at www.admissions.calpoly.edu.
Why Choose Cal Poly?
“The price of education for the major offered. No other school offered journalism at a state price. Also the location and legacy that I’ve heard from other alumni and students.”
“I wanted software engineering, and they have one of the few programs in the state. I liked the location, too. They had a great program for my major in a location I liked.”
“I really liked the programs, and I loved how it felt like a community-friendly place. It’s like the town is part of the college.”
“There are ponies at the P! And Cal Poly is good at engineering, and my parents went here, so it’s a legacy. Plus there were so many nearby mountains for hiking.”
"Our architecture program is number one in the nation. For a public school, that's pretty incredible."
“I just felt comfortable here. As soon as I got in, I knew I fit in the best here. But I also love the location, downtown, and the fact that my aunt went here!”
“The weather is ridiculously perfect ALL THE TIME. I didn't think it would make much of a difference but I'm just always happy because of it. I live in the North Mountain dorms and the lawn outside is perfect for laying around and meeting people. It's a beautiful place, which just lifts your spirits constantly, I didn't even realize until 2nd quarter how much all around happier I am here.”
“I love the way I get to know professors. With small classes, students get to know their professors on more personal levels, which allows for a more pointed teaching scheme aimed at the students’ needs instead of a curriculum made up by a bunch of old dudes 20 years ago. The clubs on campus are all super inviting. Like the people in the White Hat club are all super chill and welcoming and helpful whenever you have questions.”
“There is so much to say. Whenever I say I am a student at Cal Poly, people are in awe and amazed that I go to such a prestigious school. It feels good to have that acknowledgement that I go to a good school. The women (and men) are beautiful, and the scenery is great around here. You can almost always find something adventurous to do.”
“There’s a small-town feel, and the students are friendly, encouraging and loving. Some of our best traditions are Week of Welcome, the Blue-Green Rivalry game against UC Santa Barbara and hiking architecture graveyard.”
“I think the best thing about being a student at Cal Poly is actually benefiting from the ‘Learn by Doing’ motto. As an aerospace engineer, I was able to design and fly both a model rocket and a glider in my first quarter. I feel like you don't get that sort of opportunity at other schools. It also doesn't hurt that it's 70 degrees out while the rest of the country is freezing over!”
“What helped me decide to come to Cal Poly was that everyone seemed so friendly, and it was a really friendly environment. I could just tell that everyone was being themselves. And there are a lot of things to do — I’m really outdoorsy, so I loved that there were hiking trails right near campus. People are so active.”
“The only, and I mean one and only, thing I don't like about Cal Poly is the stress about getting classes. But even then, it's still a better chance than other schools like the UCs I had gotten into.”
“The change of major policy can be quite a hassle.”
“I don’t like that the school is super hilly. I wish there was an on campus bus; some of the residence halls are pretty far of a walk.”
“The food and dining options are the biggest issues I have. Other than that I don’t really like how registration for classes and housing works.”
New Collegiette on Campus
“My first year at Poly has really been amazing. Overall WOW (Week of Welcome) was an incredible experience and I wish I could do it again. My advice is to definitely get involved right from the beginning. I jumped right into a lot of clubs my first quarter and have now narrowed it down to only a couple I am really passionate about.”
“My first year at Cal Poly is going well. I’ve made a lot of friends and tried many new things. My favorite part of Cal Poly so far is how friendly all the students are! WOW was very fun. I made great friendships with the people in my group.”
“It’s awesome because there is so much freedom and you make so many new friends, and I really like it so far. I think everyone is really friendly with each other, and we’re all willing to help out each other. Just a friendly environment. WOW was really fun. I’m still best friends with some of the girls in my group. We went kayaking, had bonfires, went hiking, surfing and just a bunch of cool stuff. Also making a lot of friends right off the bat.”
“It’s definitely interesting. From my perspective, I came from a super small town, so it’s a good change of pace. It was a easy transition from a small town to a bigger community with kids my age. Everyone wants to be with each other, and everyone is super collaborative, like friendly, and willing to help. It’s kind of strange because I realize a new sense of independence and responsibility. I was really surprised by the different types of people, just the variety of people is so cool and the fact that there’s so many different interests.Week of Welcome is the smartest thing any college has ever done! I thought having WOW and having that automatic sense that ‘these are friends, these are people just like you’ was so smart and so cool.”
“Instead of calling freshmen ‘freshmen’ they call us WOWies”
“It's not hard to meet upper classmen at all! Everyone is very nice and welcoming. WOW is a MUST. You make friends with people that live around you that you stay friends with all year long. And their roommates were in WOW groups with your roommates so everyone connected and people are nice all around.”
All About Academics
"Our motto is 'Learn by Doing', and we take that pretty seriously here. Cal Poly offers lots of hands-on education."
“Engineering was the biggest; but engineering and business are equally hard to get into. I mean, I’m a business major, and I bragged about getting in.”
“There’s a large engineering program here. I meet a lot of engineers here.”
“Biomed is certainly hard. They take like ten people.”
"Cal Poly is challenging. Most GEs are a lot harder than most people expect. Professors definitely expect a lot out of you.”
“I think getting the classes you want depends on what rotation you are. Last quarter I was twelfth rotation and I definitely didn’t get the classes I wanted.”
“You can get your GEs fulfilled, but they won’t necessarily be in classes you’ll want to take.”
“People spend a ton of time studying in the library. It’s constantly filled with people—during finals week you have to get there early or you won’t find a seat.”
Learn From the Best
"I go to office hours, but I feel it really depends on the professor how helpful that is... Dr. Allen, during the last week of school, she brings tea and everyone drins tea together in class."
"Professor Coffman would make you tea, and you would just sit and chat about your poem. It was never 'you shouldn't do this' or 'this is bad' ... he really made you feel like a poet."
"My tech writing professor liked to bake cookies for her classes once a quarter."
Interests & Involvement
"There are so many clubs at our school. Whether it's based on a hobby, religion or culture, students assemble and bond in a variety of clubs."
"Frats and sororities make a large portion of our clubs. It's cool they also participate in a lot of community service work."
"The Society of Women Engineers is the largest club on campus. They do a whole lot of outreach with freshmen ... But in smaller clubs you can be more involved. I liked how Engineering World Health was more global. This year, we started doing projects, so I get more out of it than just my classes. I'm really interested in reducing the stigma around mental illness, so I actively pursued joining the Active Minds club. The easiest way to find clubs is just to talk to people that you know!"
"If you love to dance and move aroud, I'd consider Orchesis, a dance company within Cal Poly that incorporates choreography from students and choreographers from around the country. It's a great way to get to know people who have similar passions."
"I found out about a lot of clubs on campus during the WOW Week Club Showcase. Each club on campus had a booth there, so I was able to talk to representatives from a variety of clubs ranging from the Cal Poly Whovians (people who love the TV show Doctor Who) to The Writer's Collective to Greek organizations like Alpha Phi Omega."
"Cultural clubs bring allow people from all backgrounds to interact with each other and be immersed in different cultures."
"Many people do intramurals at our school and there is definitely a separate athlete culture. The athletes spend a lot of time with their team and bond like a family.”
"The annual soccer game we have against our sports rival school, UC Santa Barbara, is the biggest sports event of the year. Students and visitors pack the stadium to watch another blue-green rivalry."
"Although many students play sports, there are so many more of us that go to the gym a lot and work out. Cal Poly students show a lot of athleticism."
“There actually isn’t a specific type of clothing girls wear here, so it’s great. A lot of girls wear sweats, so if you don’t have time to dress up, it’s not a problem. I really like that no one really cares about what you wear or how you look.”
“There are women’s clubs—a big one here is the society of women engineers, which I think is really awesome. And overall on campus, I haven’t noticed a big difference in gender—it’s pretty proportional.”
“I’m switching to engineering now… and obviously it’s a little nerve wrecking to see that gender ratio of so many men compared to women in that specific major. But at the same time it’s also cool to think I’m going to be a girl going into engineering and breaking that stereotype.”
Food & Drink
“Sandwich Factory is basically my favorite place to eat on campus just because it’s close to majority of the dorms and has good food; I usually go there during the weekdays. I walk to Poly Canyon Village during the weekends just because it’s a little farther, and grab Einstein’s there.”
“It’s definitely a perk to live in an apartment when it comes to food. It gives you the ability to cook your own food and have your own food in a bigger fridge. The food here is pretty varied, but after a while it gets repetitive.”
“If you’re in the Yosemite or Sierra Madre towers, it’s a little harder to access the kitchen because you have to get a key from the advisors and then give it back, but a lot of people do it, my friend made cookies and pasta the other day. If you don’t use the kitchen and are looking for places on campus to eat—Einstein’s is my favorite place to use meals and the Avenue is my favorite place to use PLUS dollars.”
“I usually go to Metro because I love their salad bar and cereal bar. It’s easier to just go in and get food and eat right away compared to the long lines at Sandwich Factory or VGs.”
"Cal Poly has a food science program where students learn to actually make and sell real products like chocolate, ice cream, and jams. It's really cool buying and eating something made locally by your friend."
“It’s pretty easy to get food off campus too. The bus is free and it doesn’t take long to get downtown. Off campus restaurants—especially in downtown—are all generally really good too, so it’s convenient.”
"Salsa dance, hang out with friends, maybe go to the bar. Motav [Mother's Tavern] is my favorite."
"Homework, shopping, and bars! Probably the freshman feel pressured to drink, more than upperclassmen."
"Explore the town, participate in school club events that vary from concerts to star gazing to fun runs."
"Hiking at Bishop Peak at sunset or surfing at Morro Bay. Slo-op Climbing Gym is also a great place to go on the weekends since members have 24/7 access! So while some people go out and party, you can have a fun of night climbing with your friends."
"I think people are open to meeting new people. There's just so many different groups that you can identify with and explore here at Cal Poly."
"I feel like people stick with one friend group, but they expand it as the year goes on."
“I really like the community feel in the red bricks. I do feel safe in my dorm. Every night on the weekend, they have events. For example, waffle night, personality tests, dance parties, etc.”
“Living in Cerro Vista in general is my least favorite part of Cal Poly. My first quarter I struggled to meet people even though I was putting in a lot of effort to put myself out there, friendships didn’t come naturally as I think they might have in a more social dorm environment.”
“I have never felt unsafe on campus, or even in SLO and surrounding areas.”
“They’re fun, I’m on the first floor so it’s a little quieter than the second and third floor, but if you want to go and be social, you just go upstairs and it’s a lot of fun. It’s really fun and social. I feel completely safe. I’ve never felt I was in danger or anything like that.”
“Visually it looks like Motel 6, so it’s not your typical dorm experience. I’m literally blessed with the best roommates ever. We do silly things, and we’re very different experience, which is such a HUGE impact. It’s nice being able to come home, or a place relatively close to home. There’s a sense of privacy.”
“Living in the dorms, especially in the red bricks, you get to know a lot of people, especially architecture students, struggling with the same stuff. You share the pain.”
Exploring San Luis Obispo
"It's just kind of laidback. I feel like most of the people here are college students."
"Firestone. They have pretty good burgers and tri tip."
"This town is gorgeous. There are so many hiking spots for nature-lovers. And the weather is always nice. We're always going outdoors."
"I feel like [the locals] are really accepting, especially the whole W.O.W. week they're all so welcoming and I feel like they really identify strongly that Cal Poly is part of their community."
"I like that it's a small town. Downtown is just, everything is there, it's all so close!"
"Lots of people go hiking, and go beaches like Avila, Pismo, and Morro Bay over the weekend."
HC's Complete College Guide: California Polytechnic State University
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