10,000 4.0 students didn't get into Cal Poly. Here's what it took to make the cut this year

Cal Poly turned away more than 10,000 first-time freshman applicants who had high school grade-point averages of 4.0 or higher as the university sifted through a record number of applicants, newly released data shows.

Overall, less than a third of high school applicants were accepted for fall 2018 admission this year, according to data provided by the university.

Of the nearly 55,000 first-time freshmen who applied, 16,466 were accepted as the university looks to fill 4,486 available spaces, according to Jim Maraviglia, Cal Poly's associate vice provost for marketing and enrollment development.

School officials say the largest undergraduate applicant pool in Cal Poly history — consisting of more than 65,500 first-time freshman and transfer students — played a role in the high number of students who were turned away.

That doesn't mean the students were unqualified.

Maraviglia said the university was forced to turn away 10,646 first-time freshmen with high school grade-point averages of 4.0 or higher.

The average GPA of those selected was an all-time high of 4.13, he said. The average SAT score was 1407, and the average ACT score was 30.

"It was the highest quality pool ever," Maraviglia said. "The most difficult thing about it is having to turn away so many outstanding students."

Last fall, about 1,000 more students than expected accepted Cal Poly's offer of admission, leaving the school in a pinch to provide enough housing and offer more classes.

The university saw some regression in that area this spring.

"At this time, we can confirm that the university saw a reduced number of admitted first-time freshman students accepting our offer for fall 2018, compared to our projections," university spokesman Matt Lazier said. "However, the number of transfer students who accepted admission matched our projections."

Maraviglia said official enrollment data will not be available until the fall census is released in October.

Cal Poly received 10,914 upper-division transfer applications for 893 available spaces. The average GPA among transfer students selected was 3.40, according to Maraviglia.

Where they're coming from

Of the 54,672 first-time freshman applications, nearly 18 percent (9,697) came from Los Angeles County, the data shows.

Santa Clara County (9.8 percent), Orange County (8.5) and San Diego County (8.3) also were among the top feeder counties in California, each producing more than 4,500 first-time freshman applicants.

Locally, 595 San Luis Obispo County high school students applied this year, and 284 were selected — an acceptance rate of 48 percent. That selection rate was the highest among all counties in California with 15 or more applicants, the data shows.

Yet, it was the lowest percentage of SLO County high school students selected since at least 2007, according to historical data provided by the university. In 2009, more than 64 percent of SLO County high school students were selected, and that number had been higher than 50 percent every year until the class of 2018.

For accepted SLO County high school students, the average high school GPA was 4.08, the average SAT score was 1300, and the average ACT score was 28, according to the data.

Maraviglia said the California State University system does not require schools to serve their region as a priority, but it is one of the variables Cal Poly incorporates into its admissions process.

"That's just something that CSU campuses do, and we do the same thing," Maraviglia said. "We give additional consideration to domiciled local students, whether they're coming in as freshmen or transfer."

The most out-of-state applications came from Washington, where 1,364 applied and 814 were selected — an acceptance rate of 59.7 percent. Colorado (319 students selected), Oregon (211) and Texas (166) also had acceptance rates higher than 50 percent.

Gender and race

Cal Poly received more first-time freshman applications from male students (28,423) than female students (26,249), preliminary numbers show.

The university selected 25.6 percent of male applicants and 35 percent of female applicants, marking at least the 11th straight year more female students were accepted than male students. Cal Poly's overall student body in fall 2017 was 52.1 percent male and 47.9 percent female, according to the school's institutional research page.

Additionally, more than 58 percent of the incoming freshman class identified as white, according to the preliminary data. An earlier analysis of the school's ethnic breakdowns by The Tribune showed Cal Poly is 54.8 percent white and the least racially diverse public university in California.

Cal Poly University Union
Cal Poly students walk through the university union on campus in San Luis Obispo, California. Joe Johnston

Students identifying as Hispanic/Latino made up 14.9 percent of the applicants, while 13.9 percent identified as Asian American and 7.8 percent identified as multi-racial.

African American (0.4 percent), Native American (0.3) and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (0.3) students made up 1 percent of the group, the data shows.

If the preliminary data holds up, Cal Poly will enroll 19 first-time freshman African American students, its fewest since 2010. Last fall, 41 first-time freshman African American students enrolled at Cal Poly.

This year's admissions process came during a turbulent time on campus, where a string of racially-charged incidents caused public outrage and waves of protests during the university's annual Open House weekend.

In a meeting with The Tribune in April, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said there was "no question" that some potential students had seen the racist acts and decided not to accept Cal Poly's offer of admission.

What they're studying

Engineering continues to be Cal Poly's biggest draw among prospective students.

More than 19,000 first-time freshmen sought enrollment in the College of Engineering — by far the most of any college — and 1,139 indicated their intent to enroll in the fall.

The College of Science and Mathematics received 11,929 applications, and the College of Liberal Arts garnered 9,266 applications, the data shows.

The Orfalea College of Business (7,104), the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (4,846) and College of Architecture and Environmental Design (2,453) also received thousands of applications from prospective students.

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