SDSU vs Cal Poly - How Are You Deciding

I presume many of us are in the same boat. Kid got into both so now the tough decision starts!

For Cal Poly after our tour I get the differentiators: i) Learn by doing and ii) Small class sizes. I also get the detractors: i) Changing majors is doable but very restrictive, you should assume you are stuck with your admitted major.

So, some questions for the group:

a) How is SDSU better/worse than Cal Poly SLO?
b) How are you making the decision between either.

I am a parent whom had one son at SDSU, one son that was admitted to Cal Poly SLO and a niece whom attended SLO.

  1. Which school does your student prefer? Have you visited both schools?

My older son whom was admitted loved Cal Poly SLO but chose another school. My younger son was originally drawn to SLO for their CS program but overall small town vibe was not what he wanted for his 4 years of undergrad. My niece applied not knowing much about SLO, not too happy the first year due to be a small town/isolated but grew to love it and currently lives there after graduating.

  1. Cal Poly SLO and SDSU are complete opposites when it comes to campus vibe/culture. What does your D like to do in her spare time? SDSU is in a large city with plenty activities while SLO is small town and more outdoorsy.

I suggest you look at your own discussion thread about SDSU: Why the love for SDSU?

  1. What major for both schools? Compare the curriculum side by side to determine if one is a better fit and overlap of the Medical school pre-req courses if Medical school is the goal. My niece is at CSULB as a Kinesiology major and plans to apply to PA school. The major has several classes required for PA school as an overlap but she still needs to take some additional classes.

My younger son knew right away upon stepping upon’s SDSU campus this was where he wanted to go. My niece was sure upon enrolling but had a rough year with roommates and not having access to all the activities she was use to in Southern California but it worked out in the end.

@MrCheapo you have posted several of these type of discussion threads. In the end, you should respect what your daughter wants and let her make that decision. Everyone has favorites and biases and that should not influence you or your daughter. She is the one whom will be spending the next 4 years at the school, not you.


I would like to add that Cal Poly SLO is on the quarter system and will change to semesters by your daughter’s Senior year. I do not know how the transition will be implemented but I do know there is a huge difference between the quarter system vs semester system for the pace of the class.

Quarters are 10 weeks long, with Midterms starting as early as 3 weeks into the quarter. Students need to hit the ground running and not get behind. Students on the quarter system will have more classes so a positive if you have an undesirable course or professor, the class is over with much quicker.

Semesters are 15 weeks long so a slower pace which was ideal for my younger son but can lead to procrastination since the timeline is a bit more generous.

Bingo! :partying_face::partying_face::partying_face:

She chose the major she did for a reason, and now, that’s what she has. Nutrition is a fairly easy admit, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t at the high end of that pool and thus competitive for others. There’s risk though.

Take a ME, AE, CS, Psychology, etc, and they can easily move to almost any major except CS/SE, because the strength of their cohorts are universally high.

Again, it’s how Cal Poly prevents students from getting into majors they otherwise wouldn’t have.

She might call admissions and ask how her application stacked up against her cohort. If she has med school aspirations, she might be at the top of the pile. They may not answer, but it can’t hurt.

Ultimately, she chose Nutrition. If she’s not comfortable with that, she probably shouldn’t choose Cal Poly.

Of course she’s going to make the final decision of course and she often asks “What do you think of xxxx” and I post a corresponding question.

However, collecting data points and people’s perspectives is critical. Visiting schools helps give a superficial perspective but is nothing compared to people who have actually been in the school. We’ve learnt so much reading online comments. For example, we visited UCSC and the tour guides were all about how great the location is. Then you read online students complaining that they have a real hard time getting housing …


For many things in life, one of my philosophies is to always look at the things they are NOT highlighting. :joy:

I agree with Gumbymom. The vibes on these 2 campuses couldn’t be more different. This is the key, imo.

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And I agree with her as well. My point is that you can’t even get the true vibe from a 2 hour tour let alone other issues that will greatly influence their lives over the next 4 years.

Has your daughter found any social media groups to join? I’m not very knowledgeable about the options (ZeeMee?), but I think a lot of students get a sense this way, just from the way students are talking, what they talk about, etc.

I am also of the mindset that this generation has leaned way too hard into the “find the perfect school” mindset. College is about a lot more than getting a degree. These years are a tremendous growth period and students should be challenged to adapt to the unexpected, and to the things that are our of their control.


Also, there are many stories here on CC about students who immediately loved or hated the campus vibe when they visited. That could happen for your daughter.

In my mind, the hated reaction is the more important data point. Ruling out is usually easier than ruling in.

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Pick your poison. Many students are NOT on FB. I was specifically suggesting that your daughter do the social media research.

But there are fantastic FB groups for parents at these 2 schools.

What did your daughter say after visiting both campuses?

When my D and I visited UCSD, USD, & SDSU. She immediately knew where she wanted to be. She knew enough, about the courses offered at each school. So she knew what she thought was best for her major and she liked the idea of semesters over quarters. And then after seeing the size and feel of each campus, SDSU was the right fit. Oh and Aztec D-1 sports seemed to become a big influence.

We are from VA, so she knew she didn’t want a more isolated campus like Cal Poly.

I truly believe you thrive where you feel excited… where did she seem happy & excited?


I get this vibe argument in general. But for kids who are pre-law/med/etc who are going to grade school there is alot more to it. In particular will one be able to maintain a good GPA at teh school? what is the pre-med/law counseling like.

Many of the pre-med course requirements are going to be competitive regardless of the school. Many different majors need to take the same classes for their major and only so many student’s can get A’s in all these classes. I have never heard of grade deflation at Cal Poly SLO or SDSU or UCSC. Excelling at any of these schools are more up to the student and to utilize the resources available at each school such as tutoring, study groups and Professor’s office hours.


Cal Poly, in some departments, can be tough. Math and Chemistry for example give plenty of Ds and Fs. Look up grade distribution on Reddit. A post from a few years ago shows departmental breakdown for the quarter.