Mario - Cal Poly Pomona - Class of 2014

student photo

Some might be surprised I chose Cal Poly Pomona over Berkeley, but I based my decision on the career I want after college.

I have wanted to become an architect since I was little, but I didn't know it then, of course. I was always constructing ships, houses, and secret layers out of Legos or building blocks. It is a field that just fascinates me.

Hometown: Corona CA

High School: Public

GPA: 3.98 / 4.26 (weighted)

SAT: 1560

ACT: 23

Major: Civil engineering (formerly architecture)

Goal: A career in the architecture field

College

Status

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Attending
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis ObispoDenied
University of California, BerkeleyAccepted
University of New MexicoAccepted
Freshman Year Update

Architecture is a lot of work! Students call it "archi-torture" because of the amount of project work we are given. But the finished projects are satisfying to see, and I think, "Wow! I created that!" The general education homework also takes a lot of time and can be difficult. It is true that college students should spend two hours studying or doing homework for every hour of class! As for the rest of my college life, getting a job on campus has helped me pay for school, meet new people, and take my mind off my studies. Living on campus and joining clubs has also helped me make new friends.

Sophomore Year Update

This past year I made some difficult decisions about my career. My dad had urged me to change my major to civil engineering because of better job possibilities. My advisor had suggested I could work in the film industry on CGI and architectural props. Then I sat next to a civil engineer on a plane ride home. He told me about his career and we discussed my strengths. After more research, I committed myself to changing my major to civil engineering. It hit me hard that I wouldn't become an architect or work in the film industry, but I felt better when I realized I could still reach either of those goals by taking a different route.

Junior Year Update

My classes are going great. Engineering is more technical than architecture. I like the math and physics courses, and the class structure is more suitable to my learning style. Work had been a positive balance with school, until I took on two part-time jobs, which was too much. At times, I wish I went to college farther away from home. But I like having downtown L.A. at my doorstep, and the professors here really care about teaching students. I still think there is no better school for my degree and price point.

Senior Year Update

This year has been great. I learned how to do geospatial surveying and structural analysis, and I am thinking of specializing in transportation and highway design. It's tough balancing almost full-time work, full-time school, clubs, and a fiancé. But somehow it always works out. I just put my best foot forward and get the job done. The hardest part was struggling to get the classes I need. Due to funding cutbacks, there are fewer class sections being offered.

Because changing my major to civil engineering set back my college plan, graduation is still about two years away. I am happy with my college choice, but I wish I would have kept an open mind about changing majors and looked at colleges based on all the degrees I was interested in. If I had foreseen my major change to civil engineering, I might have chosen to go to Berkeley instead.

Building a college list by design

For me, the biggest part of selecting a college was what I wanted to do after college. When I went into high school I thought I wanted to be an engineer, so I signed up for a drafting course. It came easily to me, like I had been doing it for a long time. Then I took an architecture course and found my true calling. It is still technical but more creative and artistic. I figured in this career I would be challenged but I would also enjoy every day. Isn't that everyone's dream?

Honestly, at first I wasn't looking for much besides a great architecture program. I found the magazine Architect and its rankings of undergraduate architecture programs. From this list, I chose Cornell as my first choice because it was highly ranked and New York is a state that intrigues me. Cal Poly SLO and Cal Poly Pomona were my second and third choices because they are highly ranked and I hoped to stay in California if I did not get into Cornell. I chose Berkeley because my friend had told me they have a good architecture school. I chose University of New Mexico because I was sure I would get in, and I liked New Mexico when I lived there years ago.

An eleventh hour decision, a disappointment, and an interesting choice

I was shocked when top-ranked Cal Poly SLO rejected me. This broke my spirit, but at the same time it was reassuring to know I made the right decision not to apply to Cornell. (At the eleventh hour, I changed my mind due to the potential cost.) If I didn't get into Cal Poly SLO, I surely would not have gotten into Cornell.

Some might be surprised I chose Cal Poly Pomona over Berkeley. So why did I? My architecture teacher highly recommended its architecture program as very reputable. As I continued my research on Berkeley, I decided that Pomona actually has a better program for me.

My ups and downs

My admissions experience was filled with struggle, especially concerns about the cost of applying to numerous colleges. I filled out the entire Cornell application, wrote their essays, and arranged to send them letters of recommendation. But when I was ready to submit the application, I just couldn't ask my mother for the $70 application fee. The real dilemma was that I was afraid I would be accepted. I felt the tuition and living expense would be out of my league.

What I learned

As college applicants, we must be smart and think reasonably about what we can afford and our chances of acceptance. CollegeData really helped by giving me a vast supply of information on the colleges I selected, including my chances of acceptance.

I wish I would have taken advantage of applying for an early admission. An early decision gives you that extra chance to apply somewhere else if your top-choice college does not accept you.

The money factor

I am paying for college partially with a grant and hopefully some of the scholarships I applied for. My mother is helping me out by paying some of the cost, but I must come up with the other half by getting a job and some student loans. My stepfather's income counts on my aid applications but he is not contributing. But no matter how much it costs, I will find a way to make it through college.

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