No essay, no problem — How the CSU application may affect the university’s diversity

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No essay, no problem — How the CSU application may affect the university’s diversity

Cal Poly’s application for the Fall 2019 term opened Oct. 1 on the university’s online application portal, Cal State Apply. Cal State Apply allows applicants to apply to multiple California State University (CSU) campuses with the same application. Unlike many colleges and universities, Cal Poly’s application does not require an essay.

Prospective students can fill out the general application through Cal State Apply and are then redirected to additional admission criteria based on the schools they are applying to.

The 2017 State of College Admission report from The National Association for College Admission Counseling found that a majority of colleges and universities see the essay as moderately important in determining academically qualified students.

Admission essays showcase writing skills, but also help the admission boards to humanize applicants, according to the report. The essay allows students an opportunity to express their goals in life or the obstacles they have faced — something not found through test scores or grade point averages.

“I honestly don’t know how they would know who I am as a person because it’s mainly just putting in your transcript and grades,” business administration freshman Savannah Juel said. “Obviously, you can see that each student here is academically talented, but I don’t think the application process shows much interest in diversity and what people actually do outside of school.”

According to the enrollment data from the CSU and University of California (UC) systems in 2018, Cal Poly had the least racially diverse student population of all California public universities. In Fall 2017, 54.8 percent of Cal Poly’s student population identified as white — the highest of all schools in the 23-campus CSU system and 10-university UC system. The university was also ranked among the worst universities for Black students by the USC Race and Equity Center.

Race and ethnicity do not play apart in the admission process, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. The use of race or ethnicity in admission processes is against state law according to California Proposition 209.

The admissions boards may not be able to use race/ethnicity as a factor when evaluating students, but diversity also accounts for age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and much more.

An essay can show the life experiences and personality of an applicant. This can help admissions take into account factors other than grades.

CSU spokesperson Elizabeth Chapin said Cal State Apply does not include an essay, but requires general information such as test scores, transcripts, citizen status, etc. to keep it a uniform application for all 23 campuses. Later on in the application process, more information may be required, but that is up to the campus and program being applied to.

According to Cal Poly Director of Admissions Terrance Harris, one main way Cal Poly’s selection of students differs from the processes of other CSU campuses is its comprehensive review as part of the Cal Poly impaction strategy. Many other CSU campuses use an eligibility index — a combination of an individual’s high school grade point average (GPA) and score on either the ACT or SAT to create a single number.

Cal Poly’s admission for undergraduate programs is highly impacted and competitive. When applying to Cal Poly, students are required to declare a major. Potential students are evaluated through variables under the faculty-mandated Multi-Criteria Admission (MCA) process.

Juel said she had to specify how many hours a week she participated in extracurricular activities, like volunteering, leading a club or playing a sport, but was never asked to describe her role in the activities or clubs on Cal Poly’s application.

“Diversity at Cal Poly is impacted by so many factors. One of the best ways to positively impact diversity at Cal Poly is to ensure that the students who are here attending Cal Poly have as positive an experience as possible,” Harris said. “The better the experience of our current students, the better opportunity we have to retain and recruit diverse students.”

Cal Poly only accepts applications for the fall term through the Cal State Apply online application. The application fee is $55.00. Interested students must apply within the window between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30. All applicants will be notified with an admission decision via email by April 1 and students have until May 1 to accept or decline an admission offer.

What is admission based on?

Some CSU campuses are impacted, or have programs that are impacted meaning the number of applications received from qualified applicants is greater than the number of available spaces. Dual enrollment college courses must be reported on the CSU application as college courses , regardless of where they are taught and whether the student will earn high school credit.

Historically, admission to 22 of the 23 CSUs was determined by an eligibility index based on two criteria