Cal Poly’s policy that all students must declare a major upon applying has been a long-standing unique aspect of the school. There are mixed opinions, however, as to whether this policy is more hindering than helpful.
Some think the policy gives Cal Poly students an edge in the job market, associate director of admissions and recruitment Walter Harris said.
“For the person that has an idea of what they want to do, it’s absolutely outstanding. The reason Cal Poly has a declared major is because of the curriculum, so the uniqueness part comes in as a first time freshman,” he said. “Because our curriculum is then geared right off the bat, unlike other schools doing two years of general education, then going into your major, it’s absolutely fantastic. We are one of the top institutions in the state for being recruited into the world of work.”
While Cal Poly may not be the best place for someone who does not have a strong inclination towards any one major, it is an excellent place for a student who is aware of their desired field of work to immediately immerse them into a specialized education. Cal Poly is the only school in California with this policy, and most likely the country, Harris said.
“For the person that doesn’t know what they want to do, it’s a disadvantage because our curriculum is not geared for you to come and explore and find yourself and then take off,” he said. “When you look at the number of people that are attempting to come here and the fact that we have the highest retention rate in the CSU, maybe we don’t need to make a change.”
Some students try to “backdoor” into other colleges as a gateway to the department they actually want to be in. This, according to him, is not a wise or fair move.
“Advice to all students or prospective students is, that is the worst thing to do. You don’t come to Cal Poly in another major, hoping to get into the major you truly want. That’s not what the system is designed for. That’s not what Cal Poly is designed for,” he said.
Harris said that
He said that by giving students the opportunity to experience their major from their freshman year, it is helpful in that it lets them know if they are in the wrong field early on, rather than discovering their mistake their junior year.
Harris attended Cal Poly as an engineering student initially, and during his freshman year realized it was not for him.
“By being directly in my major, that first quarter, it showed me that engineering really wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I was able to make a change,” he said. “To find that out early rather than late, to me that’s a positive. Some may think it’s a negative, but it’s built a very powerful reputation behind it.”
College of Liberal Arts adviser Wendy Spradlin said that it is common knowledge at Cal Poly that some colleges are importers, while some are exporters, with the College of Liberal Arts being a popular importing college attracting many students. She said that psychology has a huge demand for students who want to get into that program.
It can be complicated for students who want to change their majors.
“It’s always anxiety producing,” she said. “All of the majors in the College of Liberal Arts have our minimum expectations