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sawadeekasawadeeka Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
edited December 2018 in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
If you’ve applied and get accepted into this school, I’m sure you’re also in the same academic bracket for UCB, UCLA, UCSD, etc. and come March, you’ll have some difficult choices to make. I’d like to make a pitch to you as to why you should strongly consider submitting your SIR to Cal Poly.

A quick background: I’m a ’94 Comp Sci grad, so far had a fun career coding video games for a large game company and flying for the military (20-year career)—all thanks to my Poly education.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard all the negatives. Yes, it’s a low-budget, overcrowded, state-run school. However, you need to look beyond all that. You’re only going to be there for 4-5 years, and your goal should be based on what you want when June ‘23 comes around. Having a nice pool at the rec center ain't gonna help you land your first dream job. Allow me to list some positives.

1. Reputation
First off, if you think Cal Poly is only well-known inside California, you’re dead wrong. I’ve spent the last 15 years living overseas (Japan, Korea, Germany, UK), and I can assure you the school has a great reputation outside CA. For example, during my son’s NHS ceremony (at a DoDDS overseas school), I was pleasantly surprised to see so many bright kids wanting to go to Poly. Additionally, when I first started out as a young Lt, because I was a Poly grad, was immediately type casted as the “smart” kid through Basic Comm School, my first unit assignment, and even in my flying squadron was made as the guy in charge of the flight planning computers. Lastly, wearing a Poly sweatshirt around town, a local Daimler employee approached me and made a positive comment about how great our engineering program is.

Because Poly has such a great rep, they had to build a large career center to accommodate all the interviews. I can assure you, once you’re within 3 months of graduating, companies will be lined up at the door, just waiting to scoop you up. I think the average high starting salaries is proof of this. Back when I was graduating, I had 20+ interviews at the center with Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Cisco, Oracle, etc. There will be multiple job fairs, and some companies will set up tents on the Engineering lawn vying for students.

2. CO-OP
School has a fantastic internship program. It’s a win-win with students getting cash/work experience to put on resumes while companies get cheap labor. In fact, it was during my CO-OP when I had several mentors influencing me to join the military.

3. Small Class-Sizes
I did not have a single major class larger than 40 students, and the average was ~30. Based on my recent visit, small class-sizes seems to remain the norm. Smaller classes mean opportunities for more closer mentoring and professional relationships with professors. For example, I developed a strong passion for Graphics/Animation thanks to great mentoring by my professors. I also absolutely fell in love with compiler design thanks to great teachers. The larger classes were for GEs mostly, and those you can take P/F to take the stress off.

4. SLO
SLO is a fantastic town to live in, is safe, and has a great “Poly” community feel to it. The city is entirely catered to the students and teachers. On any given Thurs-Sat night, downtown restaurants, bars, and clubs are filled with Poly students. 90% freshman will live in the dorms where friendships will form, and even after moving into an off-campus apartment with your best buddies, the school will never, ever be a “commuter” school. This means just about everyone you meet will have mid-terms and finals on the same week as yours, and no peer-pressure to go screw-off because everyone will all struggle together.

5. Weather
Absolutely phenomenal. There is a reason why so many celebs build ranches on the central coast. I’ve lived all over the world and the central coast has the best year-round weather. I think the reason why Poly gets so many exceptional, top-notch professors (many with Ivy-league PhDs) is because they all want to live there for the nice weather.

6. Cost
Last and most importantly, tuition is cheap compared to other schools of similar caliber. I'm not sure how available grants are these days, but grants/loans pretty much covered 100% of my tuition/books/rent when i went through.

My best memories were my time at Poly and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Yes, there were some challenges (i.e. horrible food at "the stalls," crowded school, outdated equipment/facilities, etc.). But you’ll find the benefit of a Poly education far outweighs the negatives. Come March, if you find yourself to be among the elite few to receive an acceptance letter, I highly recommend you submit your SIR with Poly.


Replies to: Why Poly?

  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 5,346 Senior Member
    My son walked this week with his BS/MS in ME. One of his friends has a brother that graduated from Georgia Tech. She told me that he’s blown away by what she’s doing academically at Poly. From labs to Senior Project, she said he told her that it was much more robust than what he did at GT.

    As for UCB, UCLA, or UCSD, he didn’t even apply. He had no interest in giant lectures or TA taught labs.

    I concur with the OP...there’s lots to like at CP.
  • sawadeekasawadeeka Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    Congrats on your son! Yes, I totally agree about the level of experience compared to other schools. I remember ME majors building for their Sr Project e-cars, dune buggies, nasa sponsored shuttle sim, solar cars, arch majors building homes on poly canyon and living in it, I can go on and on...
  • sawadeekasawadeeka Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
  • RoboticsWidowRoboticsWidow Registered User Posts: 83 Junior Member
    I'm glad to see this post. Engineering decisions haven't come out yet as of this moment. So my DS is still waiting. But he has been admitted to Purdue, Virginia Tech, WPI, and UCR for the BS+MS in ME. Purdue and Virginia dor first year engineering programs. So we are in state for Cal Poly. Since the others are looking like $42,000-48,000 a year we are certainly leaning toward SLO. He is still waiting for UCB. But he gets a bit nervous about saying "No" to Purdue etc...
  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 5,346 Senior Member
    edited March 2
    @RoboticsWidow, I don't think anyone would say Purdue a a better undergraduate program than Cal Poly. For sure it is different with different strengths and weakness. At the price difference, especially in state, and figuring in opportunity cost, there's no way Purdue is worth it on a pure investment basis. MIT, on a fully costed basis isn't worth it over CP in state. I can tell you this...we are not from California. The only CA school our son applied to was Cal Poly. He didn't apply to Purdue, not because he wouldn't have gotten in. He certainly would have.
  • JESmomJESmom Registered User Posts: 30 Junior Member
    Ditto! I'm a '92 grad in business/marketing and Poly set me up well for my career in marketing research, especially the Senior Project.

    Fortunately, some of my close college friends stayed in SLO can so I visit every few years. Through that exposure, D21 would love to go there but we're out of state now so I don't that it will be feasible, even if he can get it. But, hopefully, my nephew will go there; it's his top choice
  • SLSL Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    Thanks for posting this. DS has applied to environmental engineering at Calpoly & we're anxiously waiting for results If he gets in, it'll be a tough decision - Calpoly instate vs full-ride to UFlorida via their Benacquisto scholarship. Do you have any insights into how these two engineering programs compare?
  • sawadeekasawadeeka Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    edited March 2
    @RoboticsWidow My DS was accepted to Purdue with full scholarship but he's planning on turning it down. We just recently visited Virginia (UVA) a few weekends ago and I wasn't too impressed. They have big auditorium-sized classes taught by TAs. They do assign you a faculty mentor to get around this your sophomore year but not sure how well that will work out. But my DS does like the big party atmosphere of Virginia though... smh.

    @SL We're actually opposites (We're FL residents and OOS for Poly). Our DS was also accepted for UF Bioengineering with full scholarship. I'm told UF really isn't known for their engineering other than research (I think their website kind of reflects this with so many research topics posted). They're big on pre-health fields since they have all the medical/dental/etc. programs there. Cal Poly though currently has a 49% acceptance rate into med school which is very respectable IMO.

    Even with full-ride to UF, my DS' current top choice is still Poly.
  • sawadeekasawadeeka Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    @JESmom Awesome that you can go back! I'm envious. Were you as disappointed as I was now that TA Burritos are gone?
  • JESmomJESmom Registered User Posts: 30 Junior Member
    LOL I got food poisoning once from a TA burrito so they weren't a favorite after that!
  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 5,346 Senior Member
    @SL Florida and Cal Poly are very different. Florida has a very respected engineering program. There will be more research there than at Cal Poly. The classes and student body will be much larger though. They use TAs, like all other major research institutions, at Florida, where as they are rare at Cal Poly. @Gator88NE could give more info in FL.

    Beyond that, there are other things to consider. Recruiting tends to be regional. If your student wants to return to CA, they won't have many CA firms recruiting at FL. The deal at CP in state is great, but Florida is free. It's hard to beat free. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA to keep the scholarship though. I have no idea about grading there, but the average ME GPA at CP is 2.7 and as you know, they don't let dummies into ME.

    Good luck!
  • sawadeekasawadeeka Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    @JESmom HAHA I got food poisoning once as well (might be the reason for the shutdown). But it didn't stop me from going back. :)
  • iulianciulianc Registered User Posts: 140 Junior Member
    My younger daughter is currently a freshman at Cal Poly and she agonized until last minute between Purdue and Cal Poly (and I had WPI on my list too). We're OOS (WA) and because merit aid WPI was the cheapest, followed by Purdue and then Cal Poly. She was leaning very heavily on Purdue but then decided Cal Poly in big part because she wants to stay on the west coast post graduation. Can't go wrong with any though from an education perspective, it comes down to more personal factors. Good luck!
  • Gator88NEGator88NE Registered User Posts: 6,477 Senior Member
    I'm told UF really isn't known for their engineering other than research (I think their website kind of reflects this with so many research topics posted). They're big on pre-health fields since they have all the medical/dental/etc.
    What does it mean to say a school isn't know for it's engineering other than research? :-?
    UF is a large public research university. Think of it as being the equivalent of UC-SB, UC-SD, etc, but based in Florida and not California. UF has almost twice the number of Tenured or Tenured track engineering faculty members than Cal Poly, with about the same number of undergraduates, but far more grad students. Cal Poly depends more on it's Teaching, Non-Tenure-Track (full time and part time) faculty.

    However, that's to be expected. Cal Poly has a different mission as compared to the large research universities.

    I really recommend using LinkedIn, pulling up each of these schools and then selecting Alumni. It will give you a far better idea of how well these schools are recruited. For example, Cal Poly have more alumni at Apple, Google (526 vs 457) and Cisco than UF, but UF has more Alumni at Amazon, Intel and Microsoft. UF may be better recruited nationally (almost 50% of Gator Engineers end up working out of state), but Cal Poly being in California may have a lot to do with most Cal Poly grads staying in California!
    Even with full-ride to UF, my DS' current top choice is still Poly
    Cal Poly is a great school, but you're going to pay OOS for Cal Poly vs In-state at UF? You don't see that happen very often, if for no other reason than price. At least Cal Poly OOS tuition is reasonable (as compared to the UC's or even UF OOS rate). If price wasn't an issue, I could see why someone would pick Cal Poly over UF or vice versa. It's a very different experience/culture.
    The classes and student body will be much larger though. They use TAs, like all other major research institutions, at Florida, where as they are rare at Cal Poly.
    I don't really know anything about Cal Poly class size, but at UF, the engineering classes are reasonable sizes. It's the critical tracking classes (Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, etc.) that have large lecture classes. As well as the most popular intro classes to your major (like Circuits 1, or Thermodynamics). I would think that's the case at most large public research universities.

    All lectures are given by faculty. TA's only assist in labs, run breakout sessions for classes like Calculus or assist in tutoring. UF engineering has 111 TA's, but 622 GA's (and another 164 Fellowships). It's far more common to be a graduate research assistant than a TA (about 8 RA's for each TA). Cal Poly has 35 TA's and no GA's (likely because it lacks the research funding for GA's, which isn't part of it's mission).
  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 5,346 Senior Member
    @Gator88NE, I think they are in state CA, but due to NMF get a full ride, room and board included, at FL.

    Nearly all classes at Cal Poly are small. My son's calculus and physics classes all had 25-30 students. Ditto Statics, Thermo and Fluid Dynamics, 50 max. There aren't any lecture halls in the college of engineering that hold over 100 give or take. The only big class he took was Materials. It was held in the B School and had just under 200 students (the only lecture hall on the whole campus that holds 200).

    CP does have GAs. They just may not label them as such. My son is on a funded MS. They are rare as hens teeth though. The college of engineering is BIG with almost 6000 undergrads. They do have 35, but they use them VERY disproportionately. Nearly half are in AE and another third in Civil. My son is a ME. They have 3. I can't say for absolute certain, but I believe TAs only assist instructors of record, even in labs and discussions. My son has never had an autonomous TA for any class section of any kind, engineering or otherwise.

    Stylistically, as you've pointed out, they are very different. That aside, there's lots to like about FL, real college sports and research to name just a couple. The biggest intangible for me is that free is pretty nice. That said, our son didn't take the free option either.
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