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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.