Cal Poly vs UC - How Are You Deciding?

One other thing that I’ll mention and it’s just my perception as an observant parent, while SLO has its usual stressors around the fast-paced quarter system, overall, Cal Poly seems more “laid back” than say Berkeley, where numerous relatives has attended.

D21 knows several of her professors well, one just recently invited her to take her summer course and another asked her to be a Learning Assistant (tutor) in a lab. And competition amongst students doesn’t seem like a thing at all.


Population statistics apply to a population as a whole. To determine what your individual statistical likelihood is, you can add your personal nuance.

For example, average life expectancy for males is just under 74 year. I can safely say though that my personal statistical likelihood is higher. Why? I’m already 60. I’ve beat all childhood mortality, prior MVA, cancer, etc. Will I live beyond 74? Who knows. The odds change though for every year I survive.

The same can be said of an individual student. One that comes in as my son did, starting in Calc III, Physics II, having tested out of all Chemistry, and multiple GEs, has a MUCH higher individual likelihood of graduating on time than someone starting in pre-calc, with no physics, etc. The published rates cover all comers, first gen, low support families, soft work ethic, to driven genius and everything in between.

We make the same mistake in medicine. If there’s an 8% chance of a cardiovascular event in the next 5 years, it just means that 8 out of 100 will have an event. It says NOTHING about individual risk.

Now that’s an interesting observation. I would have thought the opposite given you put together a whole bunch of high-sheeting students used to being top of the class

It’s a VERY collaborative environment. It’s not about who is at the top, but about learning employable skills.

Sure. makes sense. if individual nuance is not known, then it is better to use the mean to compare.

After all majority of kids do not want an early morning class, do not want classes on friday afternoon. and are picky on which professors to avoid and so on …

That is why the 4-year mean graduation rate is what it is.

One factor may be that graduate students are few. No PhD candidates on campus that I’m aware of, but maybe they’re out there. So there’s few doctoral research jobs to compete for.

My D21 did get involved with some graduate volunteer research, but I assume that are not many research positions to be had.

I, like many other posters out here, find bulk graduation rates of little to no value.

They mainly correlate to student preparation and readiness to matriculate.

They are high at most highly rejective schools, because nearly everyone admitted is ready.

At many state schools though, where the class composition is more variable, they are lower. Less students are prepared.

At the end of the day, that group statistic is pretty meaningless to individual families.

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BArch is a 5 year program.

But engineering majors typically have a 4 year course map, but overloading (average of more than 15 credit units per term) may be necessary.

I don’t know that they count BArch in their 4 year statistics either.

Most of the arch and engineering students I know end up 4 years plus one or two quarters.

Engineering can run as many as 202 hours. They are what @ucbalumnus refers to as a stretched or overloaded 4 years. Still, they are considered 4 year degrees. BArch is 225 hours and listed as a 5 year program.

There are some students who benefit from having a higher percentage of fellow students around them who stay on a 4-year (or less) track.

That’s the problem with bulk statistics like that, they don’t differentiate within the school. At Cal Poly, the college of engineering is very selective. The college of agriculture is not. Would the school wide statistics apply to both colleges equally? I doubt it, but we don’t know.

Both UCLA and UCB have higher 4 year graduation rates. They also have fewer less selective majors.

At the end of the day, one might like to know if their engineering student has a better shot at graduating in 4 years from Cal Poly, UC Davis, Berkeley, UCLA, or insert any other school here. The aggregate, institutional data simply cannot answer that question.

@momto2kiddos Following up on your son and your husband’s visit. What did they think?


Putting aside elitism of certain colleges, a student’s friends, roommates, significant other, intra-mural teammates, etc, may come from any college within the University. And they all may influence a student’s success or lack thereof.

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Regarding graduation rates, if the 4 year graduation rate is 60%, and your specific student is in the top 60% of entering students by academic credentials, why would you expect your student to be at high risk of needing more than 4 years of school*, if not doing a BArch or other major requiring many more than normal credits or adding a master’s degree in a combined bachelor’s+master’s program?

*Not including non-school semesters in co-op jobs and the like.

Agree, 100%, but what do 4 year graduation rates have to do with that? It’s not like high school where students all take the same classes. Many friends don’t have a clue what the academic progress of their group is/was and remain friends years later.

I wouldn’t. That’s the point I’m trying to make. :smiley:

The time required is usually more reflective of the specific student.

Different experience than I’ve seen. Students know who is taking less than 15 units, who is repeating classes, who is on academic probation, who got AP credit and is skipping lower level classes (and on track to graduate early)…

Many years ago, we used to joke amongst ourselves specifically about who thought they could actually graduate in 4 years (Cal Engineering.)

My daughter also got into Cal Poly SLO, UCSD, UCD and waiting for UCSB all for civil engineering(structural at UCSD). After getting into SLO first, she hit the accept button right away. It was always her first choice because of its hands on approach, smaller class sizes and less competitive atmosphere. My husband is a SLO engineering alumni and his sister is a UCLA engineering alumni and they often compared their college experiences. My husband loved his, he built a lot of things, made connections with classmates and professors and gained a lot of practical experience that he was able to put to use as a beginning engineer. My SIL hated her college experience. All of her knowledge was in theory, but she ended up loving grad school at a tech school. My daughter has said since she was a little girl that she was going to go to Cal Poly. After the UC acceptances came in this week and her friends were so excited about which UCs they were going to, she started to waiver and think UCSD might be where she should go because the acceptance rate is lower and maybe people would think higher of it. It took a few days of talking to students at both schools for her to remember why she chose Cal Poly. The students she talked to at Cal Poly all love the school, the area and the activities and the students she talked to at UCSD all talked about the lack of housing, the crime and homeless people on campus and how hard it is to get classes. While I’m sure those same problems exist at Cal Poly, they were not brought up. While my daughter may still think that maybe a state school might not carry the same prestige as a UC with some people, she thinks it’s the right fit for her and she’ll get more out of it. Plus there’s always the possibility of a UC for grad school.