University Honors Program

Live, Learn, Achieve

What is Honors at Cal Poly?

Honors in high school is different from honors at Cal Poly. High school honors typically focuses on achievement and accomplishments. However, the university honors experience focuses on learning, active participation, community building, and service. Cal Poly Honors students are: excited to serve two programs (Honors and their major); intellectually curious and eager to engage in EVERY learning opportunity; excited to learn and work with students from many different majors; eager to learn more about sustainability, global perspectives, equity, and justice; committed to serving others, including peers in the Honors community; planning to satisfy most of their General Education requirements through coursework at Cal Poly; ready to challenge themselves, accept occasional discomfort, take risks, and fail every once and a while. If this sounds appealing to you, then please consider submitting an application. Please contact the Honors program for additional information. 

I'm trying to submit my application online, and I'm having problems. What do I do?

We encourage students to use either Chrome or Firefox as their browser when submitting their application. We strongly encourage students to prepare and edit essay responses in a word processing program (WORD or similar). Formatting does not come through when you submit. Then, copy and paste your final responses into the application. Contact the Honors Program office if you continue to have difficulty.

You will receive confirmation that your application was submitted and accepted. You may not receive your confirmation email immediately, so please be patient. We strongly encourage you to submit your application PRIOR to the deadline. Late applications will not be accepted.

Can transfer students apply to the Honors Program at Cal Poly?

Yes, we admit several transfer students to Honors each year! Transfer students in Honors follow a two-year curriculum. The flow chart an overlay curriculum for transfer students is linked here. Transfer students interested in applying should contact the Honors Program Office for more information.

How many students typically apply to the Honors Program for fall admission?

In recent years, we have received about 600 applications for fall admission. We typically admit about 100 to 125 students from this applicant pool.

What process is followed when reviewing applications for the Honors Program?

Student applications are logged into an electronic database upon receipt. Cal Poly faculty and staff members review and score the applications following a standard process. Each application is reviewed by at least two persons.

What factors contribute to the decision for first-year admission to the Honors Program?

A student's responses to the essay questions on the application are the most important factors in admissions. Your academic performance in high school and the rigor of your high school record are also important. High school class rank and recommendations are not considered.  Before applying, do your own research and determine if our program is a good fit for you and your goals as an undergraduate student at Cal Poly. If it doesn't seem like a good fit, then we recommend you do not apply. We are interested in serving and partnering with students who value learning, community, civic engagement, interdisciplinary collaboration, service, and breadth in their educational experiences. Our courses and activities focus on topics related to sustainability, equity, justice, and global perspectives.

If I apply to the Honors Program am I committing to come to Cal Poly?

Students who apply to the Honors Program for fall admission are not committing to Cal Poly. Application decisions are made each year by the last week in April to give students some time to evaluate their offer and meet Cal Poly's acceptance deadline of May 1.

When will applicants be notified about admission to the Honors Program?

Applicants will be notified of their Honors Program admission status by the last week in April and prior to May 1. Notifications will be sent earlier, if possible.

I was put on a waitlist for the Honors Program. What does this mean?

Being on the Honors Program waitlist means that an invitation to join the program may be extended to you in the event that space becomes available. Wait-listed students are typically notified of their program status by mid-May. 

What options do I have if I am not accepted into the Honors Program?

If you are not accepted but still plan to attend Cal Poly, you may apply as a continuing student applicant. Continuing students can apply in their first year at Cal Poly after completing 2 quarters. The on-line application for continuing students will open May 1. The deadline to apply is the last day of Spring quarter. Students must have a minimum 3.3 Cal Poly cumulative GPA when applying.

Will the Honors Program limit what AP credits transfer to Cal Poly? And, will all my AP credits make it harder to meet the program requirements?

Most Honors students have AP credits that carry over to Cal Poly. The Honors Program does not limit or restrict the number of AP credits that may transfer. However, we do not allow students to transfer AP credit for Honors course requirements.

Honors at Cal Poly is all about the journey and the learning that takes place as a member of our community. There are many opportunities to satisfy Honors course credits (through general education courses, seminars, special HNRS courses and contracts, etc.). We are focused primarily on providing an enhanced general education experience. Therefore, most Honors courses are cross-listed with general education courses currently taught at Cal Poly. These courses may be double-counted toward degree requirements. Students with a significant amount of AP/IB credits may need to add additional courses to their degree plan in order to satisfy these requirements.

Am I required to live in the Honors living learning community during my first year at Cal Poly?

Living in the Honors residence hall is not required for you to satisfy the Honors Program requirements. However, all Honors students are encouraged to consider this unique opportunity. During recent years, approximately 70 percent of our new first-year students lived in the Honors residence hall community in yakʔitʸutʸu. Please review information about costs and room layout on the housing web site. Students applying to the Honors Program will receive specific instructions on applying for Honors housing.

How many students are currently enrolled in the Honors Program?

Approximately 450 students are currently enrolled in the program. Last year, 115 students accepted fall admission to the program. The Honors Program has grown over the past decade and seeks a steady-state enrollment of about 500 students.

What is the current breakdown of the Honors Program enrollment by college?

Students from all six of the Cal Poly colleges are enrolled in the Honors Program. The current breakdown is as follows: CAED (7%), CAFES (14%), CENG (23%), CLA (23%), CSM (21%), OCOB (12%).

What are the benefits of the Honors Program?

Many students say that their favorite aspects of the Honors Program are access to more intimate classroom settings, opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, and membership in a supportive community. Specific benefits are outlined here. We encourage you to explore and ask questions.

What courses am I required to take as an Honors Student?

The Honors curriculum is linked here. Please note that for the Academic Year 2024-25, we will replace the HNRS 161/162/163 series with HNRS 100 and other courses to be announced. Many of the elective Honors courses fulfill General Education (GE) requirements and are substituted for required GE courses within your degree program. In some cases, Honors courses may fulfill or support major requirements within your degree or minor requirements, if you pursue such an opportunity. Honors students are expected to complete their Honors courses in a timely manner. It is important to note that the Honors Program is a university-wide interdisciplinary program that focuses primarily on a student's general education experience. Cal Poly does not sponsor honors programs in each individual major.

Are there GPA requirements for Honors students?

Yes, there are grade (or academic performance) requirements for Honors students. Student academic performance is evaluated and tracked on a quarterly basis. By the end of their first year, Honors students need to achieve a Cal Poly cumulative GPA of at least 3.3. The following year, students need to meet a 3.4 GPA requirement. For subsequent years, the GPA requirement is 3.5.

Cal Poly seems hard enough. Will the Honors courses make it even more challenging?

Honors courses allow for more in-depth exploration of course topics through in-class discussions and high impact learning practices (e.g., service learning, research, project-based learning, etc.). Honors courses are challenging, but they are not structured to require larger amounts of homework and/or projects when compared with equivalent non-honors courses. Honors courses provide more opportunity for engagement with the instructor as well as highly motivated and like-minded peers.

Does participation in the Honors Program add extra units to my degree plan?

Yes, but not a lot. Honors students who plan their schedules carefully and keep in regular contact with the Honors Program office will satisfy their Honors course requirements without needing to take a significant number of extra units. The Honors Program curriculum is designed to minimize extra degree requirements and should not delay a student's time to graduation. The curriculum includes some additional low-unit course requirements (e.g., HNRS 100, 261, 361, 461) that may or may not be degree-applicable, depending on your major. However, the curricular and co-curricular additions are modest and are designed to enhance program benefits while minimizing impacts to a student's degree schedule. If you arrive at Cal Poly with a significant number of AP general education transfer credits and want to graduate from Honors, then you may need to add several additional courses to your degree plan. Please see the previous question that addressed this topic.

What is the Honors Orientation Course (HNRS 100)? What is the Honors first-year experience (HNRS 161/162/163)?

This year, we will replace the Honors first-year experience (HNRS 161/162/163) with HNRS 100 and additional courses/experiences in Winter and Spring, which will be explained later in the Fall. The purpose of the Honors Orientation Course (HNRS 100) is to introduce students to the Honors Program, provide opportunity to meet other Honors students, and participate in small group discussions led by Honors students serving as learning assistants.

Will Honors courses create more stress and anxiety for me during my first year of college?

When you join the Honors Program, you join a community of students, faculty, and staff members who are available to support you as you work toward achieving your academic goals. This support network can help you to be successful as you transition to life at Cal Poly. You are required to take Honors courses during your first year of college. However, Honors courses are designed to make your educational experience richer, not necessarily more difficult or more stressful.

Will I be able to study abroad if I am an Honors student?

Many students in the Honors Program take advantage of the study abroad programs that Cal Poly has to offer. The Honors Program encourages students to study abroad and offers opportunities to earn Honors credit for the experience. Honors students have the option of designating study abroad or international experience as their required Honors "track".

What research opportunities are available to Honors students? 

Students may earn Honors credit while working on research projects at Cal Poly. Each quarter, faculty members from across campus advise individuals and groups of students working on a variety of sponsored research projects. If students wish, they may submit their research abstracts to participate in the annual CSU Honors Research Conference. Honors students have the option of designating research experience as their required Honors "track".

How can I get more information about the Honors Program?

Please feel free to call us (805-756-7029) or e-mail us ( with questions or requests for additional information. Contact information and current office hours can be found here.


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