Tips For Academic Success

Cal Poly wants every student to succeed and has developed numerous programs and resources to help those who need assistance. In turn, students are ultimately responsible for their success and must put the time and effort into their studies. Below are some tips and strategies students can use to prepare for the rigors and demands of university life.

1. Develop Planning Skills for the Quarter System

The fast pace of the quarter system, coupled with Cal Poly’s high academic standards, makes it necessary for students to attend class regularly, begin studying early, and manage their time well.

2. Study 25-35 Hours Per Week

Students who attend class regularly and study 25 to 35 hours per week - two to three hours for every hour in class – increase their chances for academic success. The total time commitment, including class and study time, is 40-50 hours per week, similar to a full-time job.

3. Study to Learn: Avoid Superficiality

The key to success is to develop a deep and lasting understanding of course material rather than superficial familiarity. To keep up with coursework, students should work problems when they are assigned, write drafts of papers over a period of time, and fully prepare for exams.

4. Meet With College and Faculty Advisors Regularly

It’s up to students to locate and meet with advisors and keep a binder with their curriculum sheets, appointments, questions, e-mail messages and notes from meetings. Students who attend SOAR are provided with a binder for this purpose.

5. Write Well-Developed Papers

Students should allow plenty of time to write and revise papers and reports until they are well developed and ready to turn in. Faculty are looking for concise writing that shows maturity in expression and includes relevant content, proper grammar, strong vocabulary, solid sentence structure, variety in how sentences begin, and good paragraphing.

6. Prepare for Exams

Keeping up with the material is the first step. Breaking material into manageable pieces, writing down the main concepts, and asking questions along the way are helpful study habits. There is a vast difference in hearing and seeing something and writing about it or explaining it with depth and understanding. Goals of the learning experience are mastery, understanding, the ability to think creatively and critically, and an appreciation of the subject matter.

7. Respond to Communication

Students should be encouraged to respond to correspondence from campus faculty and staff in a timely fashion. Students who develop good communication skills and follow through on matters pertaining to their success will be well prepared for their professional lives.

8. Manage Time Wisely

Students should be encouraged to set realistic goals and invest in a planner to schedule classes, blocks of study time, projects, college activities, work and free time.

9. Look Forward to New Ideas and Experiences

Students who are open to new ideas and to people whose beliefs, values and perspectives differ from their own, often learn more about themselves and develop tolerance and appreciation for others.

10. Create a Comfortable Study Environment

Students should set aside blocks of study time when they are rested, alert, receptive and committed to the task and choose study areas where distractions are minimal. Students should get to know classmates in the event they miss a class. Some students benefit from study groups.

Academic Resources

What academic advising resources are available?

Cal Poly’s Advising website includes a list of campus advisng, an academic calendar, a student advising handbook, links to the Cal Poly Catalog, and information about General Education courses.

What is the role of the college advisor?

All colleges except the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES), have central advising offices staffed with advisors. In the CAFES, advising is provided by faculty in the departments. College advising center staff and faculty:

  • Help students understand curriculum and graduation requirements
  • Guide students through course selections
  • Help students plan balanced and realistic schedules
  • Provide long-range academic planning assistance
  • Assist students with changes in major
  • Help students improve their academic performance
  • Discuss confidential situations

What is the change-of-major process?

Change-of-major policies can be found on the Academic Programs website.

What is the Graduation Writing Requirement (GWR)?

The GWR demonstrates competency in writing skills as students approach the end of college. To graduate, a student must satisfy the requirement in one of two ways. Students who have completed 90 units may fulfill the GWR by enrolling in a specified upper-division literature or writing course, or by passing the Writing Proficiency Examination (WPE). For more information, visit the Universtiy Writing and Rhetoric Center website.

Is assistance with writing skills available?

At the University Writing Lab, tutors help students organize, develop and express their thoughts in written form and assist with essay tests, lab reports, research papers, grammar, citing sources and writing résumés.

What is the English Placement Test (EPT)?

The English Placement Test (EPT) is a CSU-mandated exam for all entering students. Students are placed in English classes based on their scores. There are exemptions to the EPT. For more information, go to the Writing Skills website.

Where can students get academic support or tutoring for grade improvement?

Student Academic Services (SAS) offers several academic support programs. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of faculty office hours.

Supplemental Workshops in Science (SWS) and Supplemental Workshops in Mathematics (SWM) help students better understand their math and science courses through focused question-and-answer sessions, problem solving, and collaborative learning. Students register via CPReg and receive academic credit.

The Study Session program provides support for designated technical/science and General Education courses. Students can submit a request via the Cal Poly portal.

The Academic Skills Center coordinates Study Skills Seminars throughout the quarter, providing instruction in time management, note taking, and test-taking strategies. A list of free tutors is also available.

How do students ensure they have met all course requirements for graduation?

Students should submit a request for a graduation evaluation at the Evaluations Office four quarters prior to their expected graduation date. The evaluation shows degree progress and remaining degree requirements.

What programs exist for study abroad?

International Education and Programs (IEP) administers most study abroad, internship, and work-abroad opportunities. With over 140 programs in 36 countries, students can select the program that is most compatible with their academic, language and cultural interests.

Faculty-led quarter abroad programs are offered in Australia, England, Peru, Spain and Thailand. Other destinations are offered through the Cal Poly at Sea Program. Through the National Student Exchange, students pay in-state fees to exchange with over 200 campuses within the United States, Canada and U.S. territories.

For students interested in year-long overseas programs, the CSU International Programs (IP) is available for language and major track study in 19 countries. Students may also pursue exchanges within their colleges or departments. And there are affiliated programs with AustraLearn, Cultural Experiences Abroad, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, Foundation for International Education, and University Studies Abroad Consortium.

How can students make graduation arrangements?

During Grad Days, students can order personalized graduation announcements, thank you notes, certificates of appreciation, class rings and diploma frames. They can also schedule graduation portraits and purchase a Grad Pack Alumni Membership at a special rate. The Grad Center opens in April and October at El Corral Bookstore. Students can pay the commencement fee, pick-up their guest tickets, and purchase their cap and gown.

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