How to Get Into Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo: Admissions Data and Strategies
Cal Poly SLO, the shortened name for California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo, is the most selective of the 23 schools within the massive CSU system that serves nearly half a million students. With affordable and well-regarded bachelor’s degree programs in areas such as mechanical engineering, business administration, computer science, and architecture, it’s no wonder the number of applicants to Cal Poly has more than tripled since the turn of the millennium. Given the growing popularity of this increasingly-selective public university–last year’s acceptance rate was only 29%–you will want to be aware of the following:
- Cal Poly’s Class of 2026 acceptance rate
- SAT/ACT policy and GPAs of admitted applicants
- Admissions stats by College
- Admissions trends at California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo
- The demographics of current Cal Poly undergraduates
- Cal Poly’s yield rate
- How Cal Poly admissions officers evaluate candidates
- Tips for applying to Cal Poly
- How to assess whether applying to Cal Poly is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)
Many students applying to Cal Poly may also find the following blogs to be of interest:
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent Cal Poly admissions data.
Cal Poly: Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026
The acceptance rate at Cal Poly freshmen competing for an opportunity to enter campus in fall 2022 was 29%, lower than the previous cycle’s 33% mark. The applicant pool totaled 58,935 hopefuls.
Cal Poly Admissions – SAT/ACT policy, class rank, and GPA
As a test-blind institution, Cal Poly does not consider standardized test scores. That makes GPA the most important metric and those admitted into the Class of 2026 possessed a mid-50% GPA of 4.08-4.25.
Looking back to Class of 2025 data, 49% of attending students were in the top decile of their graduating high school class; 82% were in the top quartile. The average weighted GPA for enrolled students that year was 4.01. Back when standardized tests were still considered, the mid-50% ACT range was 28-33 and the equivalent SAT range was 1240-1420.
Cal Poly- Admissions Stats by College
College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences
- GPA range: 3.94-4.25
- Acceptance rate: 48%
College of Architecture & Environmental Design
- GPA range: 4.04-4.25
- Acceptance rate: 30%
College of Engineering
- GPA range: 4.17-4.25
- Acceptance rate: 22%
College of Liberal Arts
- GPA range: 4.00-4.25
- Acceptance rate: 31%
College of Science & Mathematics
- GPA range: 4.14-4.25
- Acceptance rate: 34%
Orfalea College of Business
- GPA range: 4.11-4.25
- Acceptance rate: 27%
Admissions Trends & Notes
- The most significant note is that all CSU schools have adopted a test-blind policy moving forward.
- There were 286 international students among the Class of 2025 from 66 different countries.
- Only 10% of freshmen are first-generation college students; the average among public universities in California is 33%.
- Cal Poly also remains the least ethnically diverse school in the CSU or UC system.
- 59% of Mustang freshmen earned above a 4.0 GPA.
Who Gets In?
Let’s look at the demographics of current undergraduates:
Most students hailed from California and paid in-state tuition. The most common counties of residence for in-state students in the Class of 2025 were as follows:
- Los Angeles: 16%
- Santa Clara: 9%
- San Diego: 8%
- Orange: 8%
- Contra Costa: 6%
The states sending the greatest percentage of non-resident students into the Class of 2025 were as follows:
- Washington: 31%
- Colorado: 15%
- Oregon: 10%
- Texas: 6%
- Illinois: 3%
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the entire student body is as follows:
- Asian: 13%
- Hispanic: 20%
- African American: 1%
- Multiracial: 8%
- White: 53%
International students came in the greatest numbers from the following countries:
The breakdown by gender of the entire student body shows a fairly even split:
- Male: 51%
- Female: 49%
“Feeder schools” into Cal Poly SLO who sent the greatest number of new undergrads to the university in 2021-22 were:
- San Luis Obispo High
- Salinas High
- Arroyo Grande High
- Gabrielino High
- Oakland Technical Senior High
- Granada Hills Senior High
- San Ramon Valley High
- Palisades Charter High
- Redwood High
- Bellarmine College Prep
Cal Poly’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was 27%. To compare this school to other California-based public universities, UC-Berkeley has a 40% yield, UCLA is 44%, and UC San Diego comes in at 17%.
How Cal Poly SLO Rates Applicants
There are only two factors that this school ranks as “very important” to their admissions decision process and they are: the rigor of your courses and GPA earned within those courses. They “consider” items such as: extracurricular activities, talent/ability, first-generation status, geographical residence, volunteer work, and paid work experience.
Cal Poly, along with all other California State University campuses have gone test-blind, meaning they will no longer consider SAT or ACT scores in the application process. Previously, test scores had been a “very important” component of the review process at Cal Poly.
In the words of the admissions office:
- “For the purposes of your application, we’ll consider your 9th-11th grade weighted GPA. That number is calculated from college-prep coursework as designated on your application. Weight is granted for courses designated as ‘honors,’ ‘college-level,’ ‘advanced placement’ or ‘international baccalaureate’ for up to eight semesters.”
- “Cal Poly takes activities such as work experience, internships, volunteer programs and extracurricular activities into consideration. We are also interested in any leadership roles you may have held in these activities.”
- “All candidates are objectively evaluated by the cognitive and non-cognitive variables under our faculty-mandated Multi-Criteria Admission (MCA) process.”
Tips for Applying to Cal Poly
If you plan on joining the nearly 59,000 Mustang freshmen hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should also know the following:
- This university does not offer interviews or consider recommendations, essays, or demonstrated interest.
- You will be required to select a major from a list of more than 60 on your application.
- Applications can be submitted any time from 10/1 through 11/30.
- There are no essays for applicants to Cal Poly SLO.
Should I Apply to Cal Poly?
If you earned a 4.0 (or better) weighted GPA in high school, you are a viable candidate to any program within Cal Poly –San Luis Obispo. Students with a 4.1 or 4.2 in a mostly honors/AP curriculum will fare best. That said, very few students are able to consider Cal Poly as a “safety” these days; all students need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “reach”, “target”, and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in collaboration with an admissions professional who is aware of the latest trends and strategies associated with your prospective colleges.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).