How Hard Is It to Get Into Cal Poly SLO?

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California has some of the highest-rated colleges in the United States, including the famous University of California system. Cal Poly SLO is yet another highly-acclaimed college and the dream of many budding college students in California. But if you are reading this article, a thought must have crossed your mind: surely, Cal Poly is extremely competitive because of its prestige.

How hard is it to get into Cal Poly SLO? What would you need to even submit an application? And what could you do to make your application stand out in the sea of Golden State applicants?

How Competitive is Cal Poly?How Competitive is Cal Poly?

The California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo—or more simply Cal Poly SLO—is one of California’s pride and joys. The university is relatively recent, founded in 1901. However, it is still the oldest of the three polytechnic schools in the California State University system (the other two include Cal Poly Humbolt and Cal Poly Pomona). As such, the university carries a lot of prestige. The university has been rated highly by respected publications such as:

  • Forbes, who named it the best public master’s university in California,
  • The Wall Journal, who echoed Forbes’ accreditation and placed it 8th among all California colleges and universities, behind the colleges of the University of California system,
  • The U.S. News & World Report, who placed Cal Poly as the top public university in California in 2022.

Yes, Cal Poly has substantial prestige and praise from all respected institutions. But how competitive is Cal Poly? Getting into a school with such an impressive rap sheet cannot be easy. And we’re here to confirm that it is by no means easy.

We have talked about the college’s prestige, but to give a clear idea of how competitive it is to get into the university, it would be best to cite some statistics, such as admission rates, requirements, and population.

Is Cal Poly Hard to Get Into: Cal Poly SLO Admission Statistics

Is Cal Poly Hard to Get Into: Cal Poly SLO Admission Statistics

Can we know if Cal Poly SLO is hard to get into through statistics alone? Colleges regularly get their student population, admission, and graduation rates posted publicly through their channels or the labors of other reporters. These statistics can clearly show how competitive getting accepted into a college is since we have factual data to follow.

As of Fall 2021, Cal Poly SLO has a total undergraduate enrollment of 21,093. The average college in the United States has a student population of 5,000 to 15,000 students, so Cal Poly’s population is well within the average. It can’t alone be used to judge how competitive it is. Thankfully, we can use the acceptance and graduation rate to paint a greater picture.

According to Cal Poly’s website, the acceptance rate to get into California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, is 29.3% as of Fall 2022. You may already guess that 29.3% is a rather small number for an acceptance rate; only a little more than a quarter of students who apply to Cal Poly get accepted. As an exercise: Cal Poly has a population of around 21,093, which is only 29.3% of students who applied, then 71,989 students have applied to Cal Poly. That is a significantly larger number: tens of thousands of students tried and failed to get into the college of their choice! In other words, Cal Poly SLO is a very competitive college to get into.

We have uncovered how difficult it is to get into Cal Poly. However, if you are still interested, we can outline what it takes to be one of the 29.3% of students who get accepted.

Academic Requirements for Admission to Cal Poly

Academic Requirements for Admission to Cal Poly

Any university with such a low acceptance rate is a university that has a very selective process. To get even a chance at acceptance, you need to have the credentials of a high school student who achieved the top of their class or close to it. But what do you need in particular to apply to Cal Poly SLO? Their requirements are rather high on top of being numerous.

The first requirement is a set of courses you must complete in high school. Generally, most high schools have the same core requirements, and colleges expect those requirements. If your high school did not have you take these classes, then your chances of admission are in jeopardy. Additionally, some high schools can allow students to take more than the required amount, which Cal Poly recommends.

In any case, to apply to Cal Poly, a student would need credit in these courses:

  • Four years of English are required. Five years, which can be achieved by taking a college course in high school, is recommended.
  • Three years of Mathematics, including Algebra, Geometry, and Advanced Math, are required. Like with English, five years of Math is recommended.
  • Two years of Languages Other than English are required, and four years are recommended.
  • One year of Visual and Performing Arts (dance, music, theater, etc.) is required, and two years are recommended.
  • Finally, one year of an elective is required.

Next, Cal Poly requires a weighted GPA (up to 5.0) from the ninth to eleventh grade. This weight includes Honor, College-level, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate courses. Cal Poly also considers extracurricular activities, internships, volunteer work, and work experience; they are not required, but they can help get accepted. Cal Poly’s average GPA is 4, so a student needs to be the top of their class to compete with other applicants.

These requirements, recommendations, and considerations form the extent of your application. However, it is just as important to know how to make your application, to make it more appealing to Cal Poly.

Cal Poly Application Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Cal Poly Application Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Before we get into what you can do to make a successful application, here is a quick and concise guide to applying to Cal Poly SLO with as few issues as possible.

Shape up your academic journey

Never decide without a plan in mind. Cal Poly has several different majors to choose from. As a polytechnic school, Cal Poly focuses heavily on STEM-based fields, such as Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Computer Science. Even if you aren’t sure about your chances of getting into Cal Poly, you should know why you want to go to Cal Poly.

Gather your requirements

Get together the requirements mentioned above we’ve listed. GPA and classes completed are listed on your transcript. Cal Poly also requires details such as high school class schedules, household income, and social security numbers, if available.

Taking the first step toward Cal Poly

The application form to Cal Poly can be done online through their website. However, all applications must be done within a deadline of around two months. Cal Poly’s application deadline depends on the semester, but the application for the Fall semester is due between October 1 and November 30.

Pay the admission fee

When you apply to Cal Poly, a $70 fee must be paid. There is an exception through an application fee waiver, in which all students are automatically considered. The waiver is given to applicants who demonstrate financial need.

The waiting game

The application process does not take too long for each student, so you will not have to wait long for your results—applicants who apply during the Fall period (October – November) will receive their results online April 1 the next year. If you weren’t accepted, you wouldn’t have too long to raise your expectations! You can only wait and see your results when everything is said and done.

While you wait, are there any factors affecting your chances of acceptance?

Admissions Factors That Can Impact Your Chances of Acceptance

Admissions Factors That Can Impact Your Chances of Acceptance

There are a few factors that can impact your chances of acceptance. They are recommendations and considerations, but many students do not come to their application with those. As stated in earlier sections, additional years in key subjects and extracurricular activities can affect your chances of acceptance. Typically, SAT and ACT scores are also considered, but Cal Poly, as of Fall 2022, does not consider those whatsoever.

Besides those, however, the best factors that can impact your chances of acceptance are things you must take care of before applying. Luckily for you, we have just a few tips.

3 Tips for Making Your Cal Poly Application Stand Out

3 Tips for Making Your Cal Poly Application Stand Out

These three tips on how to get into Cal Poly will help you in making your application stand out. If you take them in accordance with the bountiful information we have already given you, your application to Cal Poly will look like no other. And these are straightforward tips, too; if you get started on them immediately, you will immediately start seeing results!

Excel academically

You will find it typical to be told that the easiest way to make it into Cal Poly is to have the academic achievement to back up your application. You get told that because it’s true! While you are still in high school, develop a strong study regimen and schedule to get out of high school with a maximum GPA of 4.0. It would be best if you also took those extra classes for the recommended credits to make your application look even more impressive with a 5.0 GPA.

Get to Know Cal Poly

Take the time to do some further research on Cal Poly. Contact the professors, faculty, and staff who work there to get a good secondhand account of what it is like to work under their tutelage. On a similar note, scope out some current Cal Poly students and alumni so you can gain their perspective on what it took for them to be accepted. This knowledge is not something that students typically go for since they are so anxious over whether they will be allowed at all. But this experience will help you get into Cal Poly and colleges of similar magnitude, even if it doesn’t work out now.

Get Some Extracurricular Activities

Cal Poly SLO considers extracurricular activities, including work experience and attending volunteer programs. Getting yourself into one of these is a great way to improve your chances, as it shows that you have the initiative and interest to do more than what is required of you, which is a personality trait that Cal Poly’s administrators are looking forward to in their future students!

Wrapping Things Up: How Hard Is It to Get Into Cal Poly SLO?

How hard is it to get into Cal Poly SLO? Any student worth their salt will have to compete with thousands of other students vying for the same seat. It is a low chance, but being a low chance is far from no chance at all. If you follow our application guide as well as the tips we outlined that help make a stand-out application, that acceptance rate will just be a number. You will be a Cal Poly student in no time!

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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