With college decision deadlines only two weeks away, thousands of potential Cal Poly freshmen are weighing the pro's and con's. | Mustang News File Photo

Brendan Abrams

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The decision to commit to a college might be one of the most important decisions a young adult makes. With that deadline only two weeks away, thousands of potential Cal Poly freshmen are likely thinking of little else.

This weekend, many of them will show up on Cal Poly’s doorstep, inundating the university parking lots with their family cars and listening to Cal Poly sales pitches.

What specific factors will make their decisions to attend Cal Poly, as opposed to another highly ranked academic institution?

Andrene Kaiwi-Lenting, Cal Poly’s director of New Student Programs, said more than anything, the Learn By Doing motto is what is most attractive to prospective students.

“For our biggest (academic) programs, we’re primarily competing for students who are also looking at UC Berkeley or Davis,” she said. “(Here) they know that they will be getting the chance to practice what they’ve been learning, which is something that I think is completely unique from almost every other university.”

Kaiwi-Lenting also said Open House is the school’s major opportunity to really show off that academic philosophy.

Coming to Open House can make up the minds of some students, she said.

“(During Open House), I’ve run into students who have said, ‘I just went to a UU computer, logged into my portal and said yes to Cal Poly because you’ve sold me on why I should come here.’”

Chris Barta, an aerospace engineering freshman, was not convinced by Open House alone, but immediately mentioned Learn By Doing when asked about how he made his decision to attend Cal Poly.

“The best way that I learn is through hands-on experience, so that was how I made my choice,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, academics do not account for the entirety of most students’ decision-making processes. The social and extracurricular characteristics of the school are also important.

Noah Weitz, a software engineering sophomore, was initially drawn by Cal Poly’s academic reputation and proximity to home, but it was one extracurricular in particular that sealed the deal.

“Cal Poly has a great marching band, and that was something I really wanted to stay involved with,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to go to the sporting events, and it has been a great social opportunity for me. A lot of the band members are engineers, too, which is cool.”

Weitz, despite being stressed about an approaching deadline for his programming homework, enjoys his time at a school with both rigorous academics and opportunities to actively promote school spirit.

Of course, much of that opportunity is rooted in the Learn By Doing philosophy. Overwhelmingly, that philosophy is the first thing people refer to when asked about their attendance of Cal Poly.

“Many of the alumni that I see throughout my time here share with me how much they still put into practice what they learned at Cal Poly or while being involved on campus,” Kaiwi-Lenting said. “They really attribute their success in their profession to the experience they got here.”

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