Brian - Cal Poly San Luis Obispo - Class of 2018

Brian - Class of 2018
Just because one school is considered "more difficult" to get into doesn't mean it's the best school for you.

I felt I should attend the most selective college that accepted me. But a less prestigious school was really the best fit.

  • Hometown: Pleasanton, CA
  • High School: Public
  • GPA: 3.67
  • ACT: 29
  • Major: English
  • Goal: Study literature and writing and explore career options
College Status
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Attending
Boston University Waitlisted
Northeastern Waitlisted
UC Berkeley Denied
UC Davis Accepted
UC Irvine Denied
UCLA Denied
UC San Diego Denied
UC Santa Cruz Accepted
U of Colorado, Boulder Accepted
University of the Pacific Accepted
University of Washington Denied

Freshman Year Update

Cal Poly is a great community to be part of. My professors are passionate about their subjects, and everyone is genuinely looking out for each other.

The best thing is the lack of monotony. Some days I have several hours of classes, and some days I have none! But if you want an 'A', you've got to put in significant effort and be disciplined about studying. Especially on the quarter system, which moves faster. I go to professors' office hours a few times a week, and I commit regular blocks of time to studying as opposed to just fitting it in whenever.

The hardest part has been living away from my family. But Skyping with them weekly has helped. Knowing they are just a phone call away makes me feel more comfortable living on my own.

Lit 101 by the beach

I wanted a large school with a good English department and lots of clubs and activities. I had my heart set on UC Santa Barbara because my dad went there and I loved the laid-back feeling of the campus, the beach, and the college town of Isla Vista. My second choice was University of Washington. It reminded me of an Ivy League school, with its library that looked straight out of Hogwarts.

Then came the most grueling week of my life! First I was accepted by UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz, so I was feeling pretty good. Then, at school, I found out I was denied by UC Santa Barbara. I drove home with a sinking feeling in my stomach. My mom said, "Don't worry. There are other schools . . ." and right then, the mail came. We both saw the thin envelope with a purple W from U-Washington. My heart sank. I opened the letter and saw the dreaded sentence: "We regret to inform you . . . " People say you get in where you were meant to go. But now I doubted that.

"Learn by doing" wins out

After a few days, I looked at all my options. I was waitlisted from Northeastern and BU and was told that even if I accepted a position on the waitlists, there would be no financial aid available. My best options were UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Because UC Davis was considered more difficult to get into, I thought that was where I should go. But then I took a close look at the English programs at each school. The programs at the UCs focused heavily on literature, but I also wanted to learn practical English skills, like technical writing and editing, that apply to a business or communications career. And Cal Poly's English program had that focus—in fact, the school prides itself on its "learn by doing" philosophy. When I made pros and cons lists for all three schools, Cal Poly's list had so many more pros.

So my parents and I went down for a visit, which pretty much sealed the deal. The campus and school spirit were awesome. I sat in on an English class where the professor knew every student by name, and everyone was engaged and participating. I got to look at some senior projects—one English major created an entire advertising and marketing program for a local startup! But what sold me the most was that everyone I met—from faculty to students to my advisor—was friendly and supportive. I felt I could really connect with the students and professors.

My ups and downs

Besides getting denied by my top two schools on the same day, it was difficult dealing with some of my classmates after I got those denials. My high school is very competitive academically. Day in, day out, people talked about where they were applying, where they got in, where they were waitlisted. I avoided talking about my results because some people were condescending and judgmental. It was really disheartening.

My best moment was walking around Cal Poly on my own, away from my parents. I looked around and saw the water tower with the Cal Poly logo; students were all around me in their sorority and fraternity sweatshirts. I felt such positive energy. I thought, "This is it. This is what it's going to be like going here, and it feels right."

What I learned

I worried too much about how people would respond to my college choice. Just because one school is considered "more difficult" to get into doesn't mean it's the best school for you.

The money factor

My parents are paying for college, which I am grateful for. I will contribute with funds from summer jobs. Cal Poly is also giving me credit for all of my AP classes, so I will be entering with sophomore standing.

My advice

Do your research, but after you've accumulated all the information, do what's right for you.