General Requirements – Bachelor's Degree

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General Graduation Requirements

There are eight general requirements which all students must meet in order to earn the bachelor's degree from Cal Poly and participate in commencement.  The more students understand their progress toward meeting these requirements and relate them to the many programs available, the better the chance of creating an exciting educational experience and avoiding errors which may delay graduation.

Students must be formally admitted to the major in which they wish to graduate, and must matriculate, in order to earn a degree.

The specific requirements for each degree program are shown under the academic department offering the major and include a curriculum display with courses listed by Major, Support, Concentration (if applicable), General Education, and Free Electives. Each major has a degree flow chart, which shows the recommended sequence of courses leading to the degree; see the "Degree Flowcharts" link at the top of this page.

Students are responsible for meeting all requirements, and should embrace the responsibility. Advice is available from faculty advisors, college advising centers, the Office of the Registrar, and students’ online Degree Progress Reports. Students should plan their degree programs carefully and review them frequently with their advisors. Students are strongly encouraged to access their Degree Progress Report frequently, including after they register each quarter, to verify that courses in which they enrolled are fulfilling requirements as expected. They are also encouraged to address any unanticipated deficiencies in the information shown on their Degree Progress Report, while realizing that recently received substitutions, transfer credit, etc., may not yet be reflected in the Degree Progress Report. As they approach graduation, careful attention to the Degree Progress Report will help ensure that they complete degree requirements in a timely fashion.

Minimum Requirements for Graduation

  1. Minimum Number of Units
    Baccalaureate degree programs ........... Minimum 180 units
    Individual baccalaureate degree programs may require more than 180 units. (Title 5, Sections 40500, 40501, 40505, 40507) A minimum of 60 units overall must be upper division (defined as any course completed by the student at the 300- or 400-level; this could include transfer work completed at the upper-division level at a four-year institution).
    Degree Minimum # of major units at 300-400 level
    Bachelor of Arts (BA) 18
    Bachelor of Science (BS) 27
    Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) 27
    Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) 41
    Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) 41
  2. Grade Point Average (GPA)
    Students must earn at least a 2.000 GPA in all three of the following: 1) all Higher Education units earned (all college-level work), 2) Cal Poly cumulative units earned, and 3) the major (the courses used to meet Major Courses, see the curriculum sheet; support courses do not count toward major GPA). For a definition of GPA and grade points and units graded, please refer to the Grading section of this catalog.
  3. U. S. Cultural Pluralism (USCP) Requirement
    Students must complete the USCP requirement. See the separate section on USCP.
  4. General Education (GE) Requirements
    Students must complete the GE requirements as indicated in the degree program and shown in the GE section of this catalog. A CSU-mandated minimum of 72 units of GE overall must be completed.
  5. Graduation Writing Requirement (GWR)
    Students must demonstrate competency in writing skills (as described below).
  6. Senior Project
    A senior project is  required for all Cal Poly students (as described below).
  7. Academic Residence Requirements
    The minimum requirements for units taken in residence at Cal Poly are:
    • 50 quarter units
    • 36 of the 50 units in residence must be upper division
    • 18 of the 36 upper division units in residence must be in the major
    • 12 units of General Education
    • 28 units in residence of the last 40 units counted toward the degree

      Extension credit or credit by examination may not be used to fulfill the residence requirements. However, a maximum of 36 quarter units of extension credit may be counted toward the bachelor's degree.
  8. Disciplinary Condition

    When an allegation has been made that a student has violated Executive Order 1096, 1097, or any of the Standards for Student Conduct (Title 5, section 41301 of the California Code of Regulations), and the student is under inquiry and/or investigation or a sanction has been applied for a violation, degree conferral may be impacted.  If a student is expelled from the University, regardless of academic progress, including when a student has completed all academic requirements at the time of the expulsion, the student will not receive a degree. Expulsion means permanent separation from the University and no degree will be conferred.

  9. Graduation Application Process

    When undergraduate students reach 72% or more of degree completion (78% for Architecture and Landscape Architecture majors) as indicated on their Academic Progress gauge on Poly Profile, the Office of the Registrar will assign an expected graduation term for them that is the greater of either: one year away or four years from their first admit term (five years for students in Architecture and Landscape Architecture). Transfer students will be given no less than two years from their admit term (three years for transfer students in Architecture and Landscape Architecture). This process occurs each quarter except summer.

    Students will receive an email from evaluations@calpoly.edu, informing them that their graduation term has been set for them, and that they are expected to graduate by that term.

    The expected graduation term can be viewed in the Student Center and Poly Profile.

    Students are not able to register beyond their expected graduation term.

    However, there may be legitimate reasons why some students need to extend their graduation term beyond the one that is automatically set for them.

    Students with such academically or personally justifiable reasons to extend their graduation term can fill out the Request to Extend Expected Graduation Term--Undergraduate form and see their advisor for possible approval of the request to extend. The form can be found at: https://registrar.calpoly.edu/registrar_forms.

    The Notification of Earlier Expected Graduation Term--Undergraduate form should be used by students who wish to move their graduation term earlier than the one assigned for them by the university. Advisor approval is not needed to move to an earlier graduation term.

    Once notified that their graduation term has been set, students should access their Degree Progress Report each time they register, to ensure that they are fulfilling the requirements for their degree.

    Students are encouraged to submit any and all paperwork (substitutions, transcripts for requirements completed elsewhere, etc.) in a timely fashion in order to expedite conferral of degrees.

    If a student breaks enrollment prior to completion of degree requirements, she or he may be required to re-enroll and may be held to catalog requirements in effect at that time.

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Final Degree Conferral

When undergraduate students reach 72% or more of degree completion, as indicated on their Academic Progress Gauge on Poly Profile, the Office of the Registrar will assign an expected graduation term for them that is a full four years after their initial admit term, or one year away, whichever is greater. Transfer students will be given an expected graduation term that is three years after their initial admit term. Students will receive an email from the Evaluations Unit of the Office of the Registrar informing them that their expected grad term has been set. The expected graduation term can be viewed in the Student Center and Poly Profile.

Graduate (Master's) students must submit a Graduate Application for Graduation Form to the Graduate Education Office at least two quarters prior to the anticipated term of degree completion.

The actual date of graduation (degree conferral) is the end of the quarter in which all requirements have been met. This date may differ from the student’s last quarter of enrollment (for example, a student who completes the Graduation Writing Requirement [GWR] or submits Senior Project for final grading after the last term of enrollment).

Graduating students receive one complimentary diploma. Additional diplomas may be ordered through The University Store. The diploma is not ordered until all degree requirements have been completed. The diploma is mailed to the student’s mailing address by the Evaluations Unit in the Office of the Registrar approximately three to four weeks after the degree has been conferred. It is the student’s responsibility to update her/his mailing address on the Cal Poly Portal prior to the end of the final quarter of enrollment, to ensure the receipt of their diploma.

Concentrations and minors are not noted on the diploma; they are noted on the transcript. Latin honors are noted on both the diploma and the transcript; the Distinction notation for Master's students is noted on both the diploma and the transcript.

Once a degree has been awarded, subsequent revision or alteration of any transcript entry is permitted only for correction of proven error as certified by the appropriate academic dean and the Registrar. No changes are made to the academic record 60 days following the degree conferral date.

Commencement

The Commencement Office provides graduates and guests with a memorable and meaningful graduation experience that symbolizes the culmination of their academic achievements. Commencement ceremonies are coordinated in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and the university’s Commencement Operations and Policy Committees, which are held twice annually in June and December.

To be eligible to participate in commencement ceremonies, students must satisfy at least one of the following:

  • Completed all degree requirements and have not participated in a previous commencement ceremony;
  • Be currently enrolled in classes that will complete all of that student's degree requirements; or,
  • Be registered for classes for the following term that will allow the student to complete all of their degree requirements.

Students completing all degree requirements in the Winter, Spring or Summer terms are automatically eligible to participate in the Spring (June) Commencement. Students completing all degree requirements in the Fall term are eligible for Fall (December) Commencement. Graduate (Masters) students must submit a Request for Graduation Evaluation Form to the Graduate Education Office at least two quarters prior to the anticipated term of degree completion.

Students who wish to participate in a commencement ceremony other than the one for which they are scheduled and in which they are eligible to participate must complete a Commencement Request Form.

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Graduation Writing Requirement (GWR)

The Graduation Writing Requirement (GWR) is a CSU Board of Trustees mandate designed to ensure that students can write proficiently before they enter the professional workforce. All Cal Poly students who are seeking a degree, including Master's degrees and teaching credentials, must fulfill the GWR before a diploma can be awarded.

  • Graduate and postbaccalaureate students must attempt to fulfill the GWR during their first quarter in residence at Cal Poly if they do not qualify for a GWR substitution.
  • Undergraduate students with 90 or more completed units should attempt to fulfill the requirement before their senior year. Upper-division transfer students who completed the requirement at another CSU campus prior to enrollment at Cal Poly may transfer completion of the requirement.

Students should review the requirements of their major program of study to determine which of the following options is the appropriate pathway for GWR completion:

  1. Pass a GWR-certified course with a grade of C or better (C- or below does not qualify). The course may be taken on a credit/no credit basis, but the student must earn a minimum grade of C in order to satisfy the GWR component of the class. Available sections of GWR-certified courses are searchable in the class schedule.
  2. Pass the GWR Portfolio.

Further information on pathways to meeting this degree requirement may be obtained from the Office of Writing and Learning Initiatives, Kennedy Library (35) Room 202A (805-756-2067), or on the GWR webpage, https://writingandlearning.calpoly.edu/gwr.

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Senior Project

All Cal Poly undergraduate students shall complete a senior project as part of their baccalaureate degree program requirements.

Definition: A capstone experience is a high-impact educational practice in which students (a) integrate and evaluate the knowledge and skills gained in both the General Education (GE) and major curricula and (b) demonstrate career or postgraduate readiness.

As a bridge from college to career/postgraduate success, the senior project at Cal Poly is a capstone experience with achievable outcomes that culminates in a self-directed final production or product carried out under faculty direction. Senior projects analyze, evaluate, and synthesize a student's general and discipline-specific educational experiences; relate to a student's field of study, future employment, and/or postgraduate scholastic goals; and include an element of critical, self-reflectiveness to facilitate student development and promote the metacognitive awareness that leads to lifelong learning.

Expected Outcomes: While major programs of study are responsible for designing specific senior project learning outcomes, all senior projects at Cal Poly provide an opportunity for holistic, competency-based assessment that demonstrates a strong foundation in general and discipline-specific knowledge as well as an advanced proficiency in the core competencies of critical thinking, written and oral communication, information literacy, and quantitative reasoning.

Furthermore, senior projects broadly address program learning objectives, which align with one or more University Learning Objectives.

Forms & Examples: Senior projects may be research-, project-, and/or portfolio-based; individually supervised or course-based; independently completed or team-based; discipline-specific and/or interdisciplinary. They may take forms including, but not limited to, the following:

  • an experiment;
  • a self-guided study;
  • a student-generated research project;
  • participation in a faculty-generated research project;
  • engagement in an industry-driven project;
  • a report based on a prior or concurrent co-op/internship or service learning experience;
  • a design or construction project;
  • a portfolio of work documenting the results of creative practices, and/or
  • a public presentation or performance.

Requirements: Each academic department determines specific senior project requirements, yet all senior projects and senior project policies adhere to the following requirements.

Senior projects shall

  • commence when, or after, a student has earned senior standing, though completion of preparatory courses and/or research may precede senior standing;
  • serve as a bridge from the college experience to professional/postgraduate readiness;
  • include clearly defined student learning outcomes that are aligned with program learning objectives;
  • have faculty oversight with scheduled meetings for which specific timelines/outcomes are defined;
  • include a formal proposal and/or statement of intent to be submitted to the faculty advisor;
  • involve inquiry, analysis, evaluation, and creation; 
  • demonstrate core competencies in critical thinking, written and/or oral communication, information literacy, and quantitative and/or qualitative reasoning;
  • require a process/production and culminate in a final product as defined at the program level;
  • include an explicit element of self-reflection;
  • adhere to discipline-specific norms of academic integrity and ethical practices;
  • be individually and formally assessed;
  • include a minimum count of 3 units, or 90 hours of work, with no maximum;
  • take no more than three quarters to complete;
  • be assigned grades consistent with Cal Poly's policy.

Note: Senior projects shall neither consist solely of a co-op/internship experience nor solely of a test/exam of any kind, and senior projects shall not be unsupervised.

Archiving: Each academic department determines a process for archiving senior projects, whether at the department or college level and/or in collaboration with Kennedy Library. Policies and procedures governing submissions to Kennedy Library's institutional repository are based on University policies pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), intellectual property rights, and CSU accessibility requirements. Senior projects submitted to Digital Commons, the institutional repository hosted by Kennedy Library, become part of university's scholarly record.

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