Why Living in SLO is the Best

Making my decision to come to Cal Poly definitely was probably the biggest life choice I’ve made to date. I had never really spent time in San Luis Obispo nor anywhere along the central coast and initially I was unsure about the slower paced lifestyle here. The place I grew up and the one I call home is Laguna Beach, California located in south Orange County. A year ago, I thought SLO was just too far away and too different from home; I could not picture myself being a 4 hour drive away from the place I loved most.

However, once I actually visited SLO my perceptions changed. Laguna Beach and SLO were not so different after all, both with beautiful scenery and artisan character. Plus, everyone I met at Cal Poly was so genuinely excited to be there, I could tell not only by what they said about it but in their expressions of pride when they spoke of the place that their university called home. This is what truly sold me— I wanted every piece of the excitement these students embodied.

When living off-campus you’ll begin to live like a true member of the San Luis Obispo community, even if it is only for three of four years of your time here. Along with deciding where to live off-campus, and with whom, there are some things you should know about why living in SLO is the best. I mean after all, it was even named “The Happiest City in America” by Oprah.
The following are just some reasons to prove Oprah’s statement about San Luis Obispo:

  • The weather— It’s usually a very mild temperature ranging from anywhere between 60 to 80 degrees. While it can be cloudy in the morning, the fog usually burns off by afternoon for clear, sunny skies. Plus, you can wear shorts in the winter, no problem. “I’m from Seattle where it is obviously cooler and rainy for most of the year. The weather in San Luis Obispo is just right and

    Avila Beach. Photo from Tourism Info.

    was one of the reasons I chose to come to school here” says first year, Rae Siese

  • The beach— The beach is something I absolutely cannot live without; it has been the place I’ve called home my entire life. Luckily, Avila Beach is 15 minutes away from Cal Poly and Pismo is about 20 minutes away. Both are great spots to enjoy the sun, take a walk, or surf.
  • The hiking— Basically everywhere you look in SLO there are hills; after it rains they are a beautiful bright green. Three notable hiking trails are Madonna, Bishop’s Peak, and Avila Ridge Trail. All are not too challenging, but definitely a good workout and something every SLO resident must accomplish.

At the top of Bishop’s Peak. Photo by Juliana McCuaig.

  • The food— While campus food is simply awful (that’s a post for another day), food around SLO is just the opposite. Downtown you’ll find a mixture of
    independently owned restaurants that aren’t anywhere else, coupled with everyone’s favorites from
    home, like Chipotle. Firestone, Woodstock’s, Novo, Luna Red, Eureka, and Big Sky are all places you must try.
  • The farmer’s market— Every Thursday night, Higuera Street in Downtown SLO hosts a farmer’s market. This truly brings the community together over produce, live music performances, and the local restaurants.


    SLO Farmer’s Market. Photo from Tourism Info.

  • The college-town feel— This cannot be found at universities located among the hustle and bustle of a big city. In fact, Cal Poly students make up roughly half of the total population of San Luis Obispo: 46,377 people. Students have a great influence on the community. “I love the college town atmosphere,” says Maddy Carlentine. “I’m originally from Santa Barbara so it almost has the same kind of feel, but SLO has an even smaller and closer knit atmosphere.”
  • The bar scene downtown— Once you turn 21, the bars downtown are the ideal place to purchase your first legal drinks with all of your friends.
  • The people— SLO wouldn’t be the happiest city in America without happy people but the easygoing lifestyle generally permits happiness among the attitudes of SLO residents. Almost everywhere you go, be it on a hike, downtown, around campus, or on a walk in your neighborhood, people will almost always smile at you with a friendly greeting.

Two friends and I in Bubblegum Alley downtown. September 2014.

Avila Beach- Tourism Info

Farmer’s Market- SLO County Farmers’ 

Bishop’s Peak- hikespeak.com


How to Apply for an Apartment: The Process

You may have gone through the process of finding a roommate or multiple roommates already. Regardless of the challenge this may have been, or if it simply worked out in your favor, now its time for you to begin applying to apartments. There are some essential factors that go into this process and you must be on top of everything in order to secure a place that you and your roommates really want to live.

It is very important that you begin this process near that start of Cal Poly’s winter quarter. Once winter break is over, at least begin to do your research because it can be very competitive to get good housing. Note that some apartments require applications even earlier than this. “I’m living in Lee Arms and we began the application process around November to live there for the following year,” says track athlete, Dani Taylor. “It seemed really early but we were organized and knew we wanted to live there so it ended up working out,” she continued. It is crucial that you begin the process as early as possible and follow these steps for housing success.


Percentage from CSUMentor

Step 1: Narrow down your options
Choose the ideal apartment complex for you and your roommates. While you may not want to live anywhere else, you need to have a backup plan. I would recommend have at least two more plausible options because if you only apply to one place and it doesn’t work out, there is a possibility you will not get off-campus housing. Weigh the location, price, and amenities with your roommates. Do your research to find what suits you best. In total, you should have three definite places in which you will apply for. “Initially I was going to live with some friends in an apartment,” says first year Chanel Stricklen. “Then after some careful consideration, I decided living in my sorority house, Alpha Phi was the best option for me but it was definitely still a challenge to make that decision.”

Step 2: Contact the Landlord
Many apartment complexes in SLO can be found through a simple google search or even on the resources page of my site. Once you’ve located your apartments online there will usually be contact information for the landlord or property manager. You must contact them, typically via email to show genuine interest of you and your group. More importantly though, you must contact the landlord to obtain the official application and all other paperwork necessary to be considered as potential tenants. Even if the application is posted on the apartment website, my advice is to contact the landlord anyway, in order to explain your true level of interest.
Here is a template email that could be sent to a landlord:  Hello (Landlord’s name),We are currently
Step 3: Fill out the application and turn it in on time
When the landlord sends you an official application or directs you to the apartment website where an application can be found, you must now fill it out and make sure each of your roommates fills theirs out completely. Almost all apartments require each tenant to fill out their own application with various information including social security numbers. Be sure you have all this information prepared to write down. Also, you are required to have a guarantor, usually your parent, who is going to financially back you. This person will have to provide identification and bank information. Lastly, be sure to return any applications on time, or as soon as possible because most apartment landlords operate on a first come, first serve basis.
Step 4: Have patience but be persistent
It is important to remember that property managers/landlords likely manage several properties and are dealing with emails seeking interest and applications all the time. They will get back to you when they get a chance and you must respect their time. However, you must 1be persistent. If a landlord still has not acknowledged your email or application after 2 to 4 weeks, send a simple follow up email confirming they have received your information and reiterating your interest. This will show them that you really want it and that you are willing to work to get it. “Waiting was probably the hardest part of this process for me,” says freshman Allie Browning, “I was so anxious to see where we were accepted to and I didn’t even want to think about having to live on-campus in PCV if it really came down to that.”



Step 5: Make your final decision and sign your lease
If the landlord accepts you to your first choice, that is awesome. The only thing left for you to do is meet with them and sign your lease with all of your roommates. You are now a soon-to-be-apartment-tenant. However, if you are accepted to multiple places or you don’t get your first choice, you are going to have to sit down with your roommates and discuss what decision you all are going to make. Although this might seem stressful, it should all work out, seeing as you should have applied to back-up apartment options. Once you make your choice and sign your lease you’ll also have an apartment to live in.

Sample Tenant Resume/Rental Application and Apartment Inventory Checklist- Cal Poly 

Questions Tenants Need to Ask- Cal Poly 

Tenant Rights- California Department of Consumer Affairs 

How to Choose Your Roommate(s)

Thinking about housing arrangements for the following year comes much quicker than you might think. While you may have just gotten settled in the dorms or in your new apartment, it may be time to start considering your living arrangements for next year. Though it might sound hasty, when Cal Poly’s winter quarter rolls around, you should have an idea of who you’re living with and what your options are for places to live. Choosing a roommate or roommates might seem like the easiest part of figuring out housing, but in some cases it can be the most challenging.

Here are some tips that are important to keep in mind for choosing the ideal roommate(s):

Choose someone with similar habits as your own


A quote, “I have very little patience for stupidity,” from The Office demonstrating what you should make clear to your roommates.

What if your roommate wakes up at 6:30 every morning for work or class, while you’re trying to sleep in because you don’t have class until 10 am? Will this drive you crazy? It is important to have conversations like these with your roommate(s). While it might feel awkward asking your friends questions like: When do you usually go to bed and wake up? Are you organized? Will you be willing to keep our house/apartment clean at all times? Will you be inviting people over often? these are all necessary considerations for roommates to be on the same page about. You don’t want tobe annoyed by those you live with, nor do you want to be the one to irritate them. Make sure you’re all in agreement about when to be quiet at night, when to and when not to invite other people over, and when it’s time to clean up the mess you might have made around your home, as well as any other deal-breaker habits you might not be able to live with.

Make sure the price is right for both/all of you


A quote from Bridesmaids that most every college student can relate to.

Just when you think you’ve found the perfect roommate and apartment/house to live in, it’s time to talk money. If you and your roommate(s) are not on the same page about your housing budget, this can cause some serious problems. Everyone you’re living with must be able to afford the cost of rent as well as utilities and most likely the cost of furnishings whether it be furniture like couches and beds, or simple household appliances like a toaster and a blender. These are all important factors to consider with your roommate(s) and if you can’t agree, it just might be a deal breaker. Talking money with other people can often be a touchy or awkward subject, but it is important to be open and honest with your roommates about how much you’re willing to spend, or else things won’t work out. “I actually called a meeting with my potential roommates to discuss our budget,” says first year communications student, Haley Buckles. “We all sat down together and talked about our options and how much us, along with our parents, we’re willing to spend. We were all open with each other and set realistic price goals which in the end, helped us secure the apartment we really wanted,” she added.

Make sure you’re both/all willing to put in the work it takes


The opposite of a good roommate.

Choose a roommate or roommates that are hardworking and ambitious. Everyone needs to make sure their rent is paid on time, know how to contact the landlord if there is a problem, and communicate to the other roommates when there is a problem. This should not be the responsibility of one person alone, it must be a collective effort. Also, make sure that your roommates are willing to do work in other aspects such as shopping for furniture, cleaning the apartment/house when necessary, and participating in general household chores. “Before moving in together, my roommates and I created a Google Doc for everything we needed to purchase that way we could all contribute equally. It was a great way to keep everyone organized and in-check,” says student Amy Lemrye. If you’re the only person to take care of certain tasks, you’ll not only be overwhelmed and exhausted, but also possibly resentful of your roommates. Avoid this kind of negative experience by realizing— up front—how hard-working your future roomies really are.

To Party or Not to Party?


Michael Scott from The Office causing a scene.

Let’s just be honest in concluding that party culture is a huge component of college culture in general. If you live for the weekends and can’t wait to throw raging parties at your off-campus house, great. Just make sure your roommates are all on the same page. On the other hand, if someone you’re considering living with is constantly going out and clearly likes partying, but you’re really not into that kind of scene, this is something for you to consider. You and your roommates should be in agreement about going out on the weekends and so forth. Maybe the types of people who party a lot are the ones you can hang out with on the weekends but not necessarily live with. This is all up to your own discretion and personal preference, so just be honest with yourself and those you’re considering as roommates. Make sure you set boundaries that you’re all comfortable with.

Make sure you really know the people you’re living with


The cast of Friends have all been roommates even with differing personalities.

Often people make quick judgements about who they’d like to live with because they seem like the “cool” person at the time. While you might be good friends with someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should live with them. Remember your roommates are the ones you’ll probably be spending the majority of time with, since you’ll always be together when you’re at home. Their character and values should be similar to yours, if not just compatible to the point where you can get along. “I wanted to live with one of my close friends that I had met earlier this year,” says first year Journalism student, Tori Leets. “Her parents already owned an off-campus house so it seemed ideal. Then, as I got to know her more, I realized she created a lot of drama and that dynamic was a deal breaker for me when I really thought about living with her,” Leets continued. Just ensure you know your roommate(s) before you sign a lease that binds you together for an entire school year.

The Roommate Rules- Lauren Conrad 

11 Weird Things All Roommates Do- Her Campus 

10 Ways to Bond With Your Roommate- Her Campus 

Cal Poly’s New Housing Plan: Mandatory for Sophomores?

Recently, there has been talk about Cal Poly’s new housing plan that might make it mandatory for all freshman and sophomores to live on campus. The project, which will expand PCV and build new facilities on the Grand Avenue parking lot, is scheduled to be finished by the 2018-2019 school year.

According to Cal Poly President Jeffery D. Armstrong in an article released by Cal Poly, “Our students’ success is our primary goal, and this planned residence hall is another step in helping ensure we meet that goal. Providing more university housing for our students is a high priority. Research has repeatedly shown that students who live on campus are more engaged, perform better academically and are more likely to stay enrolled and graduate on time.’’

While President Armstrong is correct in stating that student success is Cal Poly’s primary goal, some students might feel as though some of their freedom is being taken away if they are required to live on campus for two years.16%-2

It makes sense that all first years at Cal Poly are required to live on campus. Most freshman are just newly adults and this is their first time away from their parents and childhood home for an extended period of time. Every first year must pay for on-campus housing as well as a mandatory meal plan. This allows for the transition from home to college—where students now have to do everything themselves— to be much easier.

However, freedom on-campus is limited, which is why many students opt to live off-campus after their first year. Most students are in agreement that campus food is not ideal, therefore they might look forward to having their own kitchen to make meals for themselves. Some students don’t want to deal with the supervision of RA’s who might reprimand students for misbehavior. Also, students might just want some alone time to study or relax, which the dorms cannot really provide. If living off-campus was not an option after the first year, students might feel too restricted at Cal Poly.

“Honestly, I’m not sure if I would have been as excited to come to Cal Poly, had on-campus housing been a mandatory two year requirement for me,” says first year child development major, Lauren Walter. “I just feel like it’s restrictive and wouldn’t allow me to really experience living on my own, as a sophomore. It would be disappointing because that’s something I’ve been looking forward to.”

There is definitely a need for more on campus housing for freshman only. In a statement released on the Cal Poly website, “Cal Poly currently has slightly more than 6,900 beds on campus. A recent market-demand study strongly suggested that there is student demand for about 10,300 beds in university housing.” Clearly, there is a need for a project that involves building more facilities, but perhaps it would be better if this project was to try to fill this 3,400 bed gap for freshman on-campus rather than try to accommodate all freshman, plus the sophomores in this plan.

It is possible that the discussion to house all underclassmen on campus is an attempt to curb party culture. Several incidents have occurred in the last school year alone that have perhaps culminated in the idea that housing more students on campus is a possible solution. The disaffiliation of Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike), as well as Delta Sigma Phi (DSP) from campus, and the St. Fratty’s Day roof collapse can all suggest that the party culture might be seen as getting out of hand. With roughly half of all students living on-campus, there would be fewer parties because fewer students would be able to host them.

Regardless of the reasoning behind this discussion of building more on-campus housing, it is a major consideration of the administration and mandatory sophomore housing is still on the table. Although whatever they decide will not affect current Cal Poly students, it is something to think about for future students and the future of this campus, even though it remains difficult to determine what will be best.

Mustang News: Student opinion varies on mandatory freshman, sophomore housing

Popular Apartments for Cal Poly Students

This map depicts ten popular apartment complexes in the neighborhood adjacent to Cal Poly. I have selected what I believe are the top 5 to talk about below. These five are pointed out on the map as stars.

Top 5 Off-Campus Apartments for Cal Poly Students:

1. Campus Pointe (Pike) Apartments

These apartments are in fact, where I and my roommates are living next year. We could not be more excited about them, and I’ll tell you the reasons why. First of all, these apartments are probably a 2 minute walk to campus, as they are located directly behind the Health Center. Also, these units are basically brand new, and have only been lived in for about 2 or 3 years. Therefore, they are generally more updated with nice carpet, granite countertops, and newer furnishings and appliances. “Pike Apartments are probably the newest and most nicely done student apartments in SLO. The location is absolutely ideal and even though they are expensive, to me, the pros outweigh the cons,” Juli McCuaig commented on her future place of residence. There are two shared bedrooms upstairs each with their own bathroom, and one office-turned-bedroom downstairs with a bathroom. While these are all positives, they do not come without a cost. My roommates and I will be paying $4000 a month, plus utilities, so it will be over $800 per person for the 5 of us to live in. All the units are unfurnished which means we will have to purchase our own furniture as well as a washing machine and dryer. These are rather competitive to secure—my best advice would be persistence with the landlord to show your genuine interest.
Campus Pointe Landlord

2. Lee Arms Apartments

Lee Arms is a very popular apartment complex among greek students. This upcoming year, many girls in my sorority will be residing here. Generally, the landlords are more lenient toward girls living in these apartments, because, well, need I state the obvious? Lee Arms is a bit father from campus, but according to Jackie Frias, a second year Business major: “I can get to class right on time if I leave 10 minutes before the hour. So if I have class at 8 am, I’ll leave my apartment at 7:50 and I get there in perfect timing.” Lee Arms is an older apartment complex; however it does come furnished which can save students a lot of money. Most units are one level with two bedrooms and one bathroom. Although there are a few units with the two bedrooms upstairs, along with a bathroom. A second guest bath is downstairs on the main floor. The rent is around $720 a month for four people in one unit. If you want to secure a unit, you must act quickly and apply around November, for the following fall.
Lee Arms Landlord

3. Carhill Condos

This complex is located on Foothill right before the intersection at California. Again, many greeks live here and often there are small parties in some of the units. If you go out on the weekends and enjoy the social scene, this could be the place for you. These units again have two shared bedrooms with one bathroom and the living space all on one level. These are also older condos but they are unfurnished so you will be able to purchase furniture of your choice. The Carhill Condos are all privately owned so in order to be able to live here, you must get in touch with a current resident. They should provide you with the contact information of their landlord. It also helps if the current resident gives you and your roommates a good recommendation so that the landlord knows you are a responsible group, worthy of living on their property. Prices for these units vary depending on who owns them; however they are less expensive than both Campus Pointe and Lee Arms.

4. Cal Park Apartments

This apartment complex is located on California, right next to Lee Arms and just about a quarter mile from Cal Poly. These apartments have two bedrooms and two bathrooms which is again perfect for four people to live in. These apartments are unfurnished so you will have to again purchase your own furniture. However, they do come with appliances and the cost of utilities is included in the monthly rent. For four people to live here, these units are $2300 a month. Cal Park is like the best of both worlds because you are still amongst a collegiate atmosphere, but there is less of the “party” scene here. Plus, they are very affordable and still in an ideal location.
Cal Park website

5. Mustang Village

Mustang Village is an off-campus apartment complex dedicated exclusively to students. If you want to live off-campus but are not willing to pay a high price, nor are interested in the often chaotic party scene, Mustang might just be the right fit. There are three different floor plans for residents to choose, so this allows some freedom for renters to choose what works best for them. Mustang Village also has great amenities that come when you live here. There is a community pool, gym, basketball court, TV lounge, and study room. Monthly rates range from about $799-$869. Visit the Mustang Village Website for more information on applying or contact the office for any further questions.
Mustang Village website

Off-Campus Housing: Where do YOU live?

See where Cal Poly students live in SLO during their years outside of the dorms. Some student interviewees currently live off-campus while others talk about their plans for the coming year. These students live (or will live) in apartments, in their fraternity or sorority houses, and in houses of their own. Students discuss where they live, their likes and dislikes about their homes, as well as the different processes they went through to secure a place of residence for the year– it’s not as simple as one might think. Regardless of where you reside in SLO, you are bound to have a unique experience, filled with learning how to live completely on your own, dealing with landlords, and experiencing new roommates.