Cal Poly SLO

Discover Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing methodology while living on the campus and enjoying the gorgeous mountains and coasts of San Luis Obispo.

Campus Overview

Cal Poly SSB

Established in 1901, Cal Poly SLO is California's first polytechnic school that launched with its renowned Learn by Doing education. For the last 30 years, it has been named the best public, master's-level university in the West by US News & World Report's annual Best Colleges guidebook.

Cal Poly has one of the largest, most picturesque college campuses in the US and is set between beautiful rolling hills and the Pacific Ocean with perfect weather year-round (they average 315 days of sunshine). San Luis Obispo is consistently ranked in the top 10 happiest towns in the US. It's home to a charming downtown center, award-winning restaurants and a vibrant cultural scene, and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy SLO's expansive dunes, turquoise waters and adventurous hiking trails.

cal poly slo campus shot

Residential Tuition:

Grade Eligibility:
Entering 9th-12th


June 30, 2024 July 12, 2024 Enrollments Closed

July 14, 2024 July 26, 2024


Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo
Cal Poly SLO - San Luis Obispo, CA


Academic Courses

At Summer Springboard @ Cal Poly we believe learning should be inspiring and interactive. We have worked hard to design courses, field trips and guest lectures that reflect the resources of the San Luis Obispo area. Whenever possible, classes are held outdoors, on-site or in a lab-type setting to allow students as many ’hands on’ opportunities as possible. Field trips and guest speakers take the learning experience beyond the classroom and leverage all that San Luis Obispo has to offer.

In addition to our academic morning courses, students spend the afternoon either in electives (i.e. College Admissions, Digital Marketing, Athletics, Life Skills and Community Service) or doing our True You program which explores elements of one's real self including strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.

Students will also hear about the range of Cal Poly Student Services through presentations from Mustang Success, Admissions, Career Services, and Campus Health & Wellbeing.

The Art of Photography at Cal Poly

The Art of Photography is a two-week deep dive into the many facets of the photography field. Students will work with historical processes like cyanotypes and large format cameras as well as modern digital cameras, printers, and professional studio lighting. Through technical activities, students will learn new, expressive ways to create images. At the end of the session, students will have a portfolio of new images, but more importantly, new ideas for continuing their own photographic journey.

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Branding & Graphic Design at Cal Poly

In this course, students interested in designing a brand will get a chance to use programs like Adobe Creative to translate their big branding ideas into a physical product that will entice consumers to engage with their new brand.

Aspiring brand designers will learn how to compose a style guide for their new brand.

Once the brand has been conceived and designed, students will get to work printing, converting, and finishing their design to make into something tangible that their target consumers will get to interact with in the marketplace.

Throughout this course, students will learn how to recognize elements associated with a brand’s graphical and physical parts, think Nike’s swoosh, Supreme’s red rectangular logo, and McDonald’s golden arches.

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Contemporary Cinema & Film Critique

Have you ever considered the impact films have on shaping ideas about identity within society or how culture influences characters in film? In this course we will approach film studies and critique from the relateable lens of teen cinema. From Rebel Without a Cause (1955) to Mean Girls (2004), teen films have consistently been a popular and profitable genre. Teen films both idealize and demonize adolescents, while mirroring and shaping societal expectations and fears about teen identities and roles. We will take a critical cultural studies approach to the analysis of representations of teens in film and consider the U.S. cultural values these images illuminate. This course provides an introductory survey of teen films as a distinct art form that has the ability to reflect, critique, reshape, and impact society and culture. We will critically examine and analyze the teen film genre and its relationship to various aspects of society and culture (i.e., race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, and and its relationship to various aspects of society and culture (i.e., race, class, gender, ability, sexuality).

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Digital Advertising & Social Media Storytelling

psychology of social media

Are you interested in the impact and design of digital public relations and advertising storytelling? From video commercials, content marketing, social media advertising, influencer marketing, to billboards and sponsorships — advertising and public relations messages are everywhere! This course is designed to provide students with an understanding about the marketplace of attention and create effective narratives of their own creation. Students will be exposed to higher level thinking as media consumers and have the opportunity to test their theories by designing and producing a strategic communications campaign, a video commercial, and social media content for a fictional client.

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Graphic Design: Idea to Creation

Interested in graphic design and understanding what it takes to move a great idea to reality? In this class students will develop skills and utilize Principles of Design through a hands-on project where they will apply a sequence of graphic communication industry processes and procedures in producing designs and products for a fictitious business or organization that they define. Students will design and create a logo using Adobe Illustrator and write a Creative Brief that outlines client background, objectives, competitors, and key message. They will construct a Style Guide that describes branding- colors, typography, and imagery.

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Hip Hop, Poetics, & Politics

A critical exploration into the roots, development, and enduring impact of Hip-Hop for people across the globe. Hip-Hop, as both politicized art form and sociocultural movement, can expose common-sense ideas and practices central to racism, sexism, homophobia, settler-colonialism, and systemic poverty. Upon surveying a critical history of how and why Hip-Hop emerged fifty years ago, we will explore how Hip-Hop lends marginalized communities a voice to express a politics of radical, youth empowerment.

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Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Students will embark on a journey of innovation and entrepreneurship, prioritizing hands-on experience and real-world application over theoretical learning. They will form teams of 3-4 and compete to develop innovative dairy sector products. They will engage in the innovation process and receive feedback from the industry sponsor, the California Milk Advisory Board. At the conclusion of the course, winners will be announced, and all students will receive certificates in recognition of their efforts. This immersive experience not only fosters teamwork, but also underscores effective communication in a professional context. This course offers a unique opportunity to combine innovation and entrepreneurial skills for a tangible impact on business development.

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Marketing Bootcamp

This course is THE course for any student who is interested in starting their own online business. In this course students will learn how to create a campaign to market products in any industry of their choosing. In this marketing bootcamp, students will cover all of the core concepts of marketing. They will begin with the creative process (ideation), discuss all of the various distribution channels to market their product, create their consumer persona, determine what the Total Available Market (TAM) size is for their business, and perform the necessary targeting analytics. Their work will culminate in producing some highly personalized marketing materials using Adobe InDesign and variable data/personalization campaigns.

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Political Science & US Elections

US house of representatives building

As the 2024 presidential election kicks into high gear this summer, students will get a hands-on education into how elections are actually conducted in the U.S. from the campaign perspective and an
administrative and constitutional lens. This course will be a great opportunity for students to make connections for possible jobs and internships in the political world as well as in local government. It will allow them to survey the field to explore their own interests while also allowing them to become better engaged and informed participants in democracy.


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Printing & Graphic Design


Have you ever wondered how to transfer one of your favorite animation characters into stickers, magnets, or tote bags? Do you wonder what makes the dashboard glow in the car? Students with an interest in graphic design and printing may wonder how colors are printed on t-shirts or how a large-scale Star Wars vinyl wrap was applied to a building or bus?

This course will link a student’s daily experience with tangible printing and graphic embellishments. By the end of this class, students will be comfortable designing for digital printing technologies, and will produce a laser cut LED lamp, notepads with varnish sleek foil stamp, a t-shirt, a canvas poster, a bag or hat, and buttons or stickers using their own designs. In this course, students will experience a wholistic experience of the design and reproduction workflow from ideation, prototyping, iteration, and production.

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Storyboarding for Film & Animation

Storyboarding has long been used to visually plan and compose the final camera shots for film, animation, commercials, and video games. In this exciting course, students will learn the fundamentals of storyboarding, as well as the art of camera framing, camera angles, and camera movement. While reading and interpreting scripts, students will begin to quickly visualize a sequential series of illustrations to describe a narrative. Students will practice drawing basic figures, environments, and props to use for their storyboard. In the final days of the class, students will craft a 24+ panel storyboard, and present this in the form of a slideshow and animatic movie.

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UX Design at Cal Poly

People are viewing their digital media content across a multitude of platforms these days. Today’s UX designers are trained to understand how to design webpages and digital media to easily adapt to the wide variety of devices and platforms that exist in the marketplace. With a focus on a more inclusive mobile user experience, students will learn current technologies and production tools used for the mobile user interface design and prototyping that will expand accessibility for a diverse end-user audience. Students will also learn to apply design principles and ethical considerations to the decision-making process to design the best user experience for mobile digital products. They will spend a majority of their time in the Cal Poly labs using Figma while creating mock mobile web pages that easily function across multiple device platforms.

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Visual Culture & Communication

As the researcher and scholar Mark Rawlinson puts it: “Visual culture – art, advertising, architecture, cinema, television, cartography, video, the internet, and images of science – has shaped American national identity more than that of any other country.” This course will explore the power of visual communication in today’s society while teaching students to wield that power in creative and effective ways. After reviewing the basic principles of visual communication and graphic design, students will apply them to an assortment of visuals that they create – from logos, to web graphics to artificial-intelligence generated artwork. Visual communication is a life skill!

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Web Development & Design

Web Design course page

With so many different platforms on which audiences are able to view websites, it’s important for aspiring web designers to consider how to create responsive and accessible websites. In this course, students will use a variety of web development production tools and processes, following the best practices in the industry, to build websites that can be used for as many people as possible, using as many devices as possible without modification.

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Activities & Trips

Located right off Highway 101 on the beautiful Central Coast of California, students will get a chance to experience why the laid-back locals of San Luis Obispo (known by most as "SLO" and pronounced "slow") consider it to be one of the happiest cities in the US. With over 80 miles of dramatic California coastline, awe-inspiring green landscapes, stunning rolling hills and vistas, students will get to experience why learning by doing at Cal Poly attracts tens of thousands of students every year.

  • kayaking in morro bay
  • hiking in SLO

San Luis Obispo, CA

There are are nearly 23,000 students who attend Cal Poly SLO in a town of 269,000 people. The campus is home to 6 different colleges that are focused on Cal Poly's Learn by Doing ethos. The campus has 9,178 acres of land and is the 2nd largest campus in California and one of the largest in the nation. San Luis Obispo is on California's famous Highway 1, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The city lies in a town nestled between rolling hills and the California coast. SLO enjoys a perfect Mediterranean climate year-round that runs on average around 70 degrees F, with mild and pleasant summers. The town is sheltered by volcanic peaks and surrounded by protected open spaces, vineyards, agriculture, and ranch land. Students will enjoy access to mountain trails for hiking, the nearby Morro Bay and Avila beaches, local farmers' markets, and more.

Morro Bay

Known as the Gibraltar of the Pacific, Morro Bay is a neighboring coastal city that is known for a giant rock formation called the Morro Rock ("Morro" is Spanish for "hill"). The rock sits within Morro Bay State Park and is home to lagoons, trails and a bird-rich saltwater marsh. It is home to excellent beaches and a number of tourist attractions along the shoreline and the streets closest to the Embarcadero, including restaurants, shops and parks.

Ravine Water Park

Ravine Water Park in beautiful Paso Robles, CA featuring the Calypso Bay wave pool, winding lazy river, and a bunch of super fun water slides like the 7-story high Thunder Run and the Quadzilla, a 5-story supersponic liquid track to help students beat the summer heat!

Hearst Castle

Step back in time to the property and mansion that inspired the Great Gatsby. Learn about the lavish and eccentric lifestyle of William Randolph Hearst while exploring the expansive grounds and glamorous structures designed by trailblazing master architect Julia Morgan. Keep an eye out for exotic animals from the once world's largest private zoo, and beware of the bear pit. As you wander across the property and history in awe and amazement, you will be privy to tales of grandeur and tragedy from the outstanding tour guides.

Track-Specific Excursions

Each academic course may also take subject matter specific excursions to help round out the student experience. Excursions may include: touring local and alumni-run businesses, exploring the Cal Poly student-managed commercial printing and digital enterprise, University Graphic Systems (UGS), visiting the Robert F. Kennedy Library, and more.

Student Life

Your home with Summer Springboard @ Cal Poly will be actual university dormitories located on the edge of this vibrant and beautiful campus.

  • cal poly - the mustang way
  • cal poly students sitting on green


Just like a college student at Cal Poly, students share a dorm room with roommates and use a common bathroom. Floors are gender-segregated and rooms contain an extra-long twin size bed, desks, drawers, mirror and a closet.

Your residential staff (Mentor) will live on your hall floor to create a community, provide support, plan activities and help you get the most out of your stay at Cal Poly. Other members of the Summer Springboard staff also live on campus and are available to support students and tackle emergencies, 24 hours a day.


All dormitories have 24-hour security and uses electronic keys to enter each building and dorm room. University security is on 24-hour patrol and available to any student that may need assistance during the Cal Poly summer program for high school students.


Your dormitory is part of a complex of buildings around a courtyard. Each building has laundry facilities, lounges and high speed wireless internet throughout.

The university is committed to providing a healthy, smoke-free environment for students, faculty and staff. Accordingly, no smoking is permitted in student rooms or inside buildings, including lounges and balconies.


Cal Poly Campus Dining is focused on serving a variety of delicious options to fuel our campus community. You’ll find everything from authentic Mexican to Mongolian rice bowls to good ol’ American flavors. Or visit the Balance Cafe for gluten and allergen free options. Whatever you are in the mood for, you’ll get the extra satisfaction knowing that Campus Dining is committed to local fresh sourcing and other sustainable practices.

This program is run in partnership with Cal Poly Extended Education. Instructors are Cal Poly faculty and provide access to the same facilities that Cal Poly students enjoy.

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Summer Springboard Pre-College Summer Program