California Polytechnic State University - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
California Polytechnic State University
Cal Poly offers students a rigorous academic environment promoting success and leadership. Cal Poly’s...

California Polytechnic State University

San Luis Obispo, California

Cal Poly offers students a rigorous academic environment promoting success and leadership. Students are actively involved with their unique educational experiences. Cal Poly’s Guiding Philosophy, “Learn by Doing,” pushes students to take responsibility over their individual academic journeys.

Student Profile

Fall 2015 Enrollment
19,971 undergraduate students
96% of undergrad students are full time
53% male 47% female
19% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2015-2016 Academic Year
889 full-time faculty
552 part-time faculty
19 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2015
99% of first year students live on campus
36% of all students live on campus

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences X
Common Intellectual Experiences X
Learning Communities X
Writing-Intensive Courses X
Collaborative Assignments and Projects X
Undergraduate Research  X 
Diversity/Global Learning X
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning X
Internships/Coops/Practicums X
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience X

Retention Fall 2015

93.1% of students began in Fall 2014 and returned in Fall 2015 (full time, first time freshmen)

6 Year Graduation Rate 2015

79.4% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 2%
Hispanic/Latino 16%
Black or African American 1%
White 58%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 12%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 7%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 5%

First Year Seminar

A first year seminar/experience is designed to increase intellectual development, more specifically the ability to reason, speak, and write effectively. Cal Poly embraces this challenge and provides its students with a structure that promotes the growth of these skills.

Writing Intensive Courses

Writing Intensive Courses are exactly how they sound. They are incredibly beneficial and important for developing strong communication skills. Students are exposed to several different prompts and assignments, and there is usually a year-end project.

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

It is important that students develop the ability to both work on their own and as a part of a group. Collaborative assignments involve both individual and group work, where a student must learn to play their own part while contributing as a member of a community. This skill is incredibly valuable, as most work environments require a well-rounded work ethic. Collaborating also exposes students to peers with different backgrounds and life experiences.

Service and Community-based Learning

Service learning takes students out of the classroom and into the community. Students are challenged to take their wealth of knowledge and use it to solve the issues that currently face their community. Service learning is especially impactful. By connecting curriculum with the greater community, students practice turning theory into problem-solving tactics.

Nine faculty were recently selected to further Cal Poly’s service learning initiative. The newly appointed faculty will be in charge of creating nine new service learning courses in collaboration with the STEM fields. The courses will include: learning in the class, community service, and in-class reflection.

Capstone Courses

A capstone can take make forms. A student might conduct research, give a performance, write a paper, or compile a portfolio. Cal Poly students may pursue their capstone in a specific department or in general education.

Graduation Writing Requirement

The Graduation Writing Requirement must be fulfilled by ALL Cal Poly students, whether they are pursuing an undergraduate degree or Master’s. The purpose of the requirement is to guarantee that students graduate as effective communicators. Undergraduates must complete 90 units before they may pursue the writing requirement. Students may opt to take the writing examination and skip the course, but they must pass to receive their diploma.

Study Abroad

Students interested in studying abroad should attend a mandatory meeting with more details on their selected program. Studying abroad is a huge decision, and it’s important to gather all the information before leaving. It’s also crucial for students to double check that abroad credits will count toward general education or a degree. The best way to check this is to submit a GE petition. A GE petition will determine which credits do and do not transfer.

Some of the standout programs offered by Cal Poly include: Architecture in Rome, Construction Management in Prague, Sustainable tourism in the Dominican Republic, Architecture in Switzerland, and Architectural Engineering in Lithuania.

Alternative Breaks

Students may choose to participate in alternative breaks, through which they provide service and care to an area in need. Alternative breaks are a great way for students to assess their own privileges against those less fortunate. This can be an eye opening experience in which many students realize the power they have to make a change.

Activities Offered

Campus Ministries X
Choral groups X
Concert band X
Dance X
Drama/theater X
International Student Organization X
Jazz band X
Literary magazine X
Marching band X
Model UN X
Music ensembles X
Musical theater X
Opera X
Pep band X
Radio station X
Student government X
Student newspaper X
Student-run film society X
Symphony orchestra X
Television station X

Common Core

Arts/fine arts X
Computer literacy  
English (including composition) X
Foreign languages  
History X
Humanities X
Mathematics X
Philosophy X
Sciences (biological or physical) X
Social science X


Other: Technology Studies 

Class size breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 69 238 593 553 257 165 94 1969

Living Learning Communities

Learning Communities are available at Cal Poly and synthesize two or more linked courses into one general theme. Students work closely with one another while tackling coursework. Oftentimes, learning communities study one topic from the perspectives of several different disciplines.

Clubs & Organizations

Students at Cal Poly join clubs and organizations and “learn by doing.” There are 325 to choose from, so students are sure to find one that suits their interests. It’s important to get involved outside of class, and student organizations are a great way to practice leadership skills and meet new friends. How does Country Line Dancing Club sound? Or maybe Food Science club is more your scene. Either way, there are plenty of options to explore.

Student Community Service

Student Community Service (SCS) mixes student interests with meaningful community service initiatives. SCS promotes leadership among its participants, who are tasked with enacting social change. There are eight different volunteer programs that have varying purposes. Students might chose to work with the environment or tackle the origins of homelessness.


Coed dorms X
Men’s dorms  
Women’s dorms  
Apartments for married students  
Apartments for single students X
Special housing for disabled students X
Special housing for international students X
Fraternity/sorority housing  
Cooperative housing  
Theme housing X
Wellness housing  


Other: Gender Inclusive 


Students are highly encouraged to complete an internship. Not only do interns gain hands-on experience, but they also learn the ins and out of the field they have chosen to pursue. Often times, industry professionals serve as mentors, which can make the experience flow smoother.


Cal Poly offers a Co-op program, affording students the opportunity to further their professional development through practical application. Students who participate in a Co-op are paired with a faculty advisor that supervises the experience.


Admissions Fall 2015

46,820 Total Applicants
14,651 Total Admissions
4,943 Total Freshmen Enrollment

31.29% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2016-17 Admission

Rolling Admission? No
Priority date: November 31

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Rigor of secondary school record
Academic GPA
Standardized test scores

Extracurricular activities
First generation
Geographical residence
Volunteer work
Work experience

Freshmen Profile Fall 2015

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 550 650
SAT Math 580 690
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 26 31
ACT Math 26 31
ACT English 25 32
ACT Writing    


Net Price Calculator


  In-State Out-of-State
Tuition $5,472 $248/per unit
Fees $3,603 $3,603
Total $9,075  
Room and Board (on campus) $12,507 $12,507
Room Only $7,306 $7,306
Board Only $5,147 $5,147
Estimated Total On Campus $21,582  


Average Financial Aid Packages 2014-2015 Final

$9,228 First year students
$9,864 All undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2014-2015 Final

56.1% on average, the percentage of need that was met
8% of financial need students that had need fully met

$3,525 Average need-based scholarship or grant award
$4,029 Average need-based loan

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