Cal Poly suspends early admissions application process

Jonathan Scott, 18, of Idaho moves into the Cal Poly dorms in September 2015.
Jonathan Scott, 18, of Idaho moves into the Cal Poly dorms in September 2015.

In a move to “ensure equality and fair access” for lower-income students applying to the university, Cal Poly has announced that it’s suspending its applications for early admissions — putting all students on the same application cycle for the fall 2017 quarter.

A universal application schedule will allow lower-income students to find out their financial aid status before deciding whether to attend Cal Poly, whereas early applicants wouldn’t know the amount of their aid before the deadline to make a decision.

Until now, Cal Poly’s early admissions process has allowed students to apply between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31, with notification of admission for fall quarter about Dec. 15. Those who elected to apply through early admissions chose the university as their first option and committed to attending Cal Poly.

Now, all students will apply on the regular admissions schedule, filing between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, with notification coming by April 1 and a reply deadline of May 1 for fall enrollment.

April 1 is the day when students typically learn what their federal and state financial aid packages look like.

“This change was made to ensure equality and fair access for all prospective Cal Poly students,” university spokesman Jay Thompson said. “Careful evaluation of admissions data showed that the early decision option creates a disadvantage for lower-income students because it requires applicants to make a binding commitment before knowing their full financial aid status.”

About 20 percent of students applying to Cal Poly last year sought an early admission decision. Early decision applicants receive no advantage or special consideration over their regular admission decision peers on whether they’re accepted.

“Suspending the early decision option is the right thing to do and upholds the university’s commitment to providing equality and fair access for all,” Thompson said.

Cal Poly officials did not say this week how long the suspension may last — whether it’s indefinite or will be reconsidered after the coming school year.

Students on campus had a mixed reaction to the university’s decision.

Of six students interviewed, half favored the change, saying it would create a system that is more fair and could lead to a more diverse campus.

The other half said it was unfair to students who have decided they want to attend Cal Poly and don’t want to wait until the end of a school year to find out if they’ve been accepted.

“I think they should keep early decision,” said Shelby Weaver, a first-year nutrition student. “For those who want to skip all the waiting and worrying until the end of the year, they should have that opportunity to find out. I personally applied through the regular admissions process, but I know about 10 people who got in early.”

But Sofi Torres, a psychology major who transferred from Cuesta College, said it’s reasonable to create a system that’s fair to lower-income students.

“That makes more sense,” Torres said. “It would be really stressful for a lower-income person if they applied early and didn’t have all the information they needed.”

Third-year kinesiology major Scott Walker said he went through the regular application cycle, but would be disappointed if he were a student who had long sought to attend Cal Poly.

“For those die-hards who want to commit early, they should have the chance,” Walker said.

The university received a record number of nearly 57,000 freshman and transfer applicants for fall 2016.

That represented a 2.8 percent increase in freshmen applications over last year and a 7.7 percent rise in the number of transfer students who applied more than a year ago.

Faced with a predominantly white and male student body, Cal Poly is striving to make the campus a more diverse institution that better reflects the demographics of California and the state university system as a whole. In fall 2015, Cal Poly’s total student body was 53 percent male and 57 percent white compared with the CSU total of 44 percent male and 26 percent white.

According to Cal Poly’s 2015 Fact Book, the fall 2015 first-time freshman population was 56.7 percent white, 14.6 percent Latino, 13.4 percent Asian-American, 7.2 percent multiracial and 0.8 percent African-American, with other ethnicities, or “unknown,” making up the rest. The 2015 freshmen class was equally divided between males and females, a distinct change from just three years before, when 55 percent of incoming freshmen were men and 45 percent were women.