A recent search query was shot thru Google …the user was clearly concerned about her child’s decision to change majors at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Tapper7.com was once again located organically.
As part of a larger project, I’ve written at devastating length and excruciating detail about my life at Cal Poly and Cal Poly itself. I’ve written quite a bit about CHANGING MAJORS at Poly, WHY it is so difficult and why the policy of forcing applicants to declare a major defies logic and is counter-productive.
Point: The initial reason to make changing majors difficult was to prevent an aggie (an Agriculture Student from using his enrolled status to side-step the excruciatingly meticulous process by which Engineering and Architecture students are selected). For instance; dep. on your location, an SAT score of 1000 and a 3.0 GPA with zero extra-curricular activities, zero volunteer work, zero AP classes and no membership in extracurricular clubs, sports, activities or events WOULD QUALIFY for an applicant for The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo College of Agriculture. Perhaps not an acceptance, but certainly a qualify.
This same application to the College of Engineering has a Keyword-binary search algorithm that would keep admissions from even being able to see it, but for arguments sake:
I was accepted to The Cal Poly College of Engineering in 1998. From the viewpoint of a college applicant, Poly was my “reach school,” that is, I applied to five universities, three of which were a “lock” (UCSB, ASU and U of A) one was a “probably” (UC Davis) and now you know what Cal Poly was.
College “counselors” both public and private; informed me of the following regarding Cal Poly:
1. Despite your above average SAT score, your high school career that included multitudes of “advanced” and “college prep” classes, your college-credits already accumulated in the fields of mathematics and music, your mountain of volunteer work and your GPA that fell w/in two-tenths of a 4.0 (aka straight-A’s) You probably won’t get in.
2. You will need to select a major ON THE APPLICATION. If accepted, you will be required to stick with it; Cal Poly makes changing majors extremely difficult. UC schools that permit “Undeclared” are far more desirable to students (such as this writer) who keeps which t-shirt he is going to wear “Undeclared” until moments before leaving the house.
3. Cal Poly’s motto of “Learn by Doing,” is also as “Learn by doing a LOT-CONSTANTLY.”
4. Your ability to survive (that is to not flunk out) of Cal Poly is akin to a coin-toss.
These advisers all “advised” me to drop Poly from my list and add an extra “lock” (SDSU) and/or a “probably” (UCSC).
The 18-year-old Chris Welke was very much like the 35-year-old Chris Welke who writes to you today: he doesn’t care what YOU think and he will go to any length to get what he wants.
In 1998, the same thing was true of Cal Poly as is true today, “U.S. News and World Report” ranks The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo College of Engineering as the #1 Public Engineering College in the West. Choosing a major was but a small hurdle: Good at math? Check. Like video games? Check.
Computer Science. Simple….AMIRITE?
Fifty bucks + one HS transcript + recommendations + etc. et al…were sent to UCSB, Davis, ASU, U of A and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I was accepted to all five. The choice to enroll at Poly was (to me) a given. Prestigious, selective, exclusive, far from home but not TOO FAR (~300 miles) and my “tour” of the campus did little but solidify the assumptions and desires of the young and naïve Chris Welke. Nice weather, nice students, nice outfits on nice-looking women….even a friendly freshman who answered all my questions, hung out with me…even showed me where the freshmen dormies go to get loaded – where…. we got loaded of course! As far as my 5 choices were concerned, Poly now had a Mandate. Davis, Santa Barbara had become 3rd party candidates, ASU was my Ralph Nader-desireable but distant and impractical, unlikely, and UofA now had a snowballs chance in…Arizona.
At the time, a cross-product of my GPA, SATs, extra-curriculars, AP scores, volunteerism and college-prep classes/grades would show that among California’s high school students, I was at or above the 98th percentile. This meant (to over-simplify) that I was a better student than 97 percent of California’s “HS Class of 1998.”
Going from “almost assuredly the most talented, educated, hard-working, intelligent student in class” to “DEFINATELY the most average, ho-hum, nothing special, barely worth mentioning student in class,” was a bit of a shock. Check that…it WAS A SHOCK.
1998 carried a few “firsts” for the young Chris Welke:
I failed a class
I felt stupid
I felt “less than”
I felt average (at Cal Poly, I was. In the College of Engineering, I was BELOW AVERAGE)
I sensed Dread. Looming Danger and Doom.
I was placed on “Academic Probation”
Smart and hard-working friends flunked out in the spring (A GPA < 2.0 for fall Probation. If the following quarter didn’t raise the GPA to >2.0 expulsion) For a freshman, 12 units of fail (let’s say a 4-unit lab, a 4 unit lecture and a 3 unit seminar
….let’s say I failed all 3.
4 unit lab = F, 4 unit lec. = F and 3 unit sem = F.
Now I have a 0.0 GPA heading into Winter quarter, in order to NOT flunk out, I (ideally) re-enroll in these three classes and Ace ALL THREE. B’s would yield a 3.0 for Winter and a 1.5 overall GPA that’s a bus ticket home. This is an extreme example and not likely to happen; in fact if it did; the Dean of Engineering, seeing such massive improvement, would do two things;
1. Launch a plagiarism investigation and if satisfied that those Bs were legit…
2. Play “Let’s Make a Deal,” offering the student one more quarter to prove himself, likely 12 units of GE and/or major classes yielding grades that would bump the overall GPA to >= 2.0.
Make no mistake; despite the generosity of my family and the Federal Pell Grants that kicked in during my final two years; money was ALWAYS an issue. The work I did for the Computer Science Dept. was volunteer, as was my time at the Daily, KCPR and KVEC (though they all seemed and felt like FT jobs). In that six yr interval, I worked at the Starbucks on Higuera and Foothill, I delivered pizza for the Dominoes franchise on Foothill serving SLO and the franchise in Arroyo Grande serving the Five Cities, I worked on-campus for an English-Lit professor as her aide. And my last “real job” was a contract delivery-boy for some of the finest restaurants in town. If you received catering (or just a burger) from Firestone’s, Thai Palace, The Madonna Inn and a host of other outstanding restaurants in SLO…it was me who brought it to your door.
So now you know a little bit about me.
In case you missed it, you should infer the following; only the 98th percentile QUALIFY for acceptance to Poly….of those a third are accepted. Entrée into the College of Engineering is a pipedream for most. From this fact – it should be obvious that my HS career was characterized by AP classes, a high SAT score, MANY extracurricular activities in which I excelled (for me: brass performance, all idioms), a great deal of volunteer work, a spotless academic record and a demonstrated aptitude for math, science, technology, hard work and fast-learning. That made me a desirable candidate both for the compsci dept., the CE and CPSLO as a whole.
I CHANGED MAJORS. This is intentionally made next-to-impossible by the administration for a variety of reasons, but mainly to further emphasize the superiority and uniqueness of the “fact” that Poly’s freshmen KNOW what they want to do with their lives and have made an official commitment. (that an 18-yr-old doesn’t know what he wants on his ham sandwich is an issue for another edition and beyond the scope of THIS article….).
I was not in the “cheat my way into a more prestigious college/major mode” when I did this. I was in the “if I don’t change majors, I will continue on writing millions of lines of code which I not only am sick to death of…my negative feelings and anxiety attributed to my current major WILL lead to one and only one place: expulsion.
YES I chose an “easier” major…it was a tossup between Journalism (The College of Liberal Arts) or Psychology (The College Science and Mathematics). Both colleges had professors and administrators eager to accept me, but we all must follow the rules; ANY Change of Major is considered a red-flag for the student’s CP career AND the major/college he intends to transfer to. The moment the decision is made –In my case: f— computer science and f— the CPCE – I want to enroll in The College of Liberal Arts as a Journalism major – sorry I don’t have the precise data on-hand, but it likely varies depending on the student, his status w/in his current college/major and the availability and desire of him and his abilities by the faculty and admins of the college/major he wishes to transfer TO).
My status as a compsci major was below average. My desire and reasons for changing majors were sound, honest and based on facts. The faculty, including the Dean of CLA and associate professors of Journalism were eager and willing to have me and transferring from CPCE to CPCLA is a concerted STEP DOWN – clearly I was not trying to “bankroll” my enrolled-status into a major or college I otherwise may not have been accepted into in the 1st place.
Still, changing majors under fairly favorable conditions such as mine were not considered “a good idea,” NOT supported by my family/friends and Cal Poly’s transfer process made it the whole endeavor needlessly complicated, absurdly difficult and nearly led to my expulsion.
Why? Cuz changing majors = bad. This explains nothing; just accept the rule.
How? By setting a ticking time bomb once the process begins.
1. To get into the CPCLA as a Journalism major; I must demonstrate an aptitude for Journalism by taking the core curricula 101-level coursework; and NAILING IT. As in A’s. The actions taken must demonstrate clearly: “Chris wants to be a Journalism major BADLY and CLA believes him; allow him one academic year to prove his aptitude and altruism.”
2. Every class that I’m taking to prove myself to CLA is DAMAGING my CE status. Continuing to take software engineering courses would be counter-productive – they’d sap all my time, detract from my ability to prove myself to the CLA and if I were to succeed, the CSC courses would be waste; they’d count as technical electives. Considering I’d been a CSC major for over 3 years…I had PLENTY of technical electives. Each quarter filled with News Writing, Copy Editing, Creative Writing and Media Law/Media Ethics were quarters where I was an enrolled student of the CE. They allowed one quarter containing [NO MAJOR-SPECIFIC COURSEWORK], the following quarter, CE placed me on Academic Probation for [NOT PROGRESSING w/in MAJOR] meaning one more quarter sans a 4unit lab/lecture with the prefix CSC meant expulsion from CE and since I was not yet enrolled in the CLA it would be expulsion from Cal Poly in toto. That same quarter, the Dean of The CLA informed me that the Journalism faculty was quite pleased with my performance and that if I excelled next quarter as I had the previous two; he guaranteed that The CLA would accept me with declared major requirement of Journalism firmly affixed.
The Dean did not lie. The following quarter I was enrolled in the Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts Majoring in Journalism. It’s timing was cut SO CLOSE that if viewed under a microscope, you may be able to find that I was expelled from The College of Engineering at EOB on a Friday…and that The Dean of The College of Liberal Arts had already filed and notarized all the necessary paperwork that SAME day, so that when The State California opened on Monday morning, I was enrolled in the CLA. What I’m sayin’ to you is this:
****It MIGHT be public record that I was expelled from Cal Poly. Likely the record shows that I was expelled from CE and simultaneously enrolled in the CLA.
****There is technically no such thing as “changing majors” at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo: Applications and Expulsions are the accurate way to describe it.
****I vehemently oppose requiring an 18 year old to declare a major.
****Like many processes, systems and hoops to jump through at Poly, I do not wish “Changing Majors” on my worst enemy.
As a Poly student; I am completely, totally and absolutely AVERAGE. If you had a super-computer capable of generating a statistically accurate cross-section of male Californians with a B.S. from Cal Poly and hit the “generate” button….every attribute listed would be a perfect match. Like most interfaces, were you to click on [VIEW] select [RANDOM] the only change would be “Name” and slight variations in the numbers (My SAT score would be a bit lower, my aptitude in math would be a bit higher, the six years it took me to receive a B.S. – just a fifth above the avg 5.8)
Do I tell you this to brag about how “smart” or “educated” I am? (Partly yes) Mainly it’s to let you know who is writing this article: a man who fought to get into the best college possible, chose Cal Poly amidst a plethora of respectable universities, maintained a 2.0 throughout six years at Poly while working PT, FT or both, often with one of those jobs paying $0/hr all while being a working, learning, productive, useful, tax-paying, tax-generating and revenue-generating citizen of San Luis Obispo. —and there is absolutely NOTHING special or unique about that – when you compare me to the hundreds of thousands of alumni who did the EXACT SAME THING.
Much more coming soon.  some fresh content is on hold as another publication has 1st dibs on it. I DO hope they accept it….it is quite eloquent, concise and poetic compared to the drivel, xenophobia, OCD, cringe-humor, mud-slinging, anger-venting and other forms of madness-verging-on-artwork-and-within-the-realm-of-humor found on THIS self-published Web site.
I hope you had a nice holiday.
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