Writing and Learning

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Academic Coaching

Academic coaches are available to assist students on topics including but not limited to the following:

  • setting learning goals
  • cultivating motivation
  • managing time
  • balancing course expectations
  • mapping out assignment deadlines
  • navigating group projects
  • thinking and reading critically
  • developing study strategies
  • preparing for exams
  • connecting with faculty
  • seeking assistance through additional campus support programs 

Academic Coaching for Transfer Students

The Transfer Student Academic Coaching Program, in partnership with the Transfer Center and Cal Poly Scholars, is pleased to support transfer students through one-to-one peer coaching sessions.

Academic Coaching is a growing learning support program for all Cal Poly students. If you are not a transfer student and would like to engage in academic coaching, please email academic-coaching@calpoly.edu for assistance.

Get to Know Our Transfer Coaches

Warren Foote

Warren Foote


TRANSFER academic Coach

Warren is studying Agriculture Communications and minoring in Agribusiness. He transferred from Cuesta College, based right here in San Luis Obispo! Warren hopes to use his personal experiences and knowledge involving the transition from semester to the quarter system to help students succeed! He also hopes to help students navigate during their time here by getting them connected to helpful Cal Poly resources! Warren is highly involved on campus and off-campus: he serves as the President of the Spikeball Sports Club and is an ambassador for Spikeball, Yerba Mate, and Protein H20. 

As a Central Valley native, Warren loves being outside, playing sports, and making new friends! Striking a conversation with anyone about anything and making connections is something he loves doing. He is ecstatic to be at Cal Poly and is ready to develop real connections with each fellow transfer student with whom he works. He hopes to leave everyone with new information and a smile at the end of a coaching session!

A piece of transfer-related advice from Warren: 

  • Do your best to get involved, seek out resources, and make the most of your time at Cal Poly. Talk to your professors, join clubs, and come to Transfer Center events! There are a lot of amazing opportunities across campus that are waiting for you! 

Alexis Van Pelt


TRANSFER academic Coach

Alexis obtained her Associates Degree in Criminal Justice at Cuesta College and transferred to Cal Poly during COVID-19. She is majoring in Sociology with a concentration of Criminal Justice and a Minor in Law and Society. Along with being an Academic Coach, Alexis is a USN Mentor and a member of the Cal Poly Scholars Program. 

Alexis was born and raised in the Valley and has spent all her college years in San Luis Obispo County. She is eager to help fellow transfers get settled into a new environment and adjust to the fast-paced quarter system. Alexis is dedicated to sharing all the helpful experiential knowledge she has gained so far and tips she wishes she knew when she first came to Cal Poly! She is excited to help transfer students find balance with time-management skills and personal responsibilities to help them succeed on their journey to earning a Cal Poly degree.  

Some transfer-related advice from Alexis:  

  • Take a day at the beginning of each quarter and mark down all important dates for each class so you can plan ahead for when to start the assignments! 

  • Build relationships with your professors throughout the academic year to help you prepare for senior projects during your last year at Cal Poly! 

David Caldera


TRANSFER academic Coach

David is studying Computer Engineering and transferred from Oxnard College in Ventura County. David hopes to use his experience and the knowledge he’s learned from transferring to help students boost their academic careers! He is an active member in both the Computer Engineering Society (CPES) and Society of Hispanic Professionals and Engineers (SHPE). David loves being outdoors, playing baseball, making new connections, and cooking. He’s excited and ready to connect with students and hopes to make meaningful relationships with all transfers who come in and out of Cal Poly! 

A piece of transfer-related advice from David:  

  • Have confidence in your abilities; you deserve to be at Cal Poly, and you can reach your goals! There are resources and people at here that are dedicated to helping you achieve these goals- don't hesitate to get connected!


Meet with a Transfer Coach!

Schedule an appointment with a transfer academic coach today!

Appointments are availableJorge, Erik, Aubrey sitting on a bench in-person or via Zoom. If appointment times do not fit with your schedule, email academic-coaching@calpoly.edu, and a coach will find a time to meet with you.

‘Creating a More Welcoming Campus.’ Cal Poly Transfers Help Fellow Students Adjust - Check out this great article about our awesome coaching program!

"The Transfer Academic Coach has provided beneficial tips and insight on improving on studying habits. Those specific tips and information of resources has been irreplaceable.” - incoming transfer class of fall 2021

Based on common topics covered during coaching sessions held the past two years, transfer coaches have developed the tips and information below.  

Connecting with Faculty

Email can be an effective way to connect with a professor, but there are times when the topic(s) at hand is more appropriate for an in-person or Zoom meeting.

Topics that may be appropriate for email:

  • Clarification on dates and deadliness
  • Clarification on an assignment details/requirements
  • To schedule a meeting or a time outside of office hours if the times listed on the syllabus don’t work for you
  • Responding to an email from your professor that awaits a response

Topics that may be better for an in-person or Zoom appointment:

  • Discussing your grade
  • Going over an exam or paper
  • In-depth questions about course content or their research
  • Questions pertaining to practice problems

When Connecting Via Email

  • Use your Cal Poly email address. Use your other email address for non-school related matters.
  • Use the subject line. Make It concise and related to the topic you want to discuss. Check your syllabus because some professors may require certain information in the subject line such as the course name and section (e.g., “BMED 440: Question about lecture #4”).
  • Start professionally: Avoid being too casual (e.g., “Hey Professor”).  A good way to start would be something along the lines of, “Dear Professor Doe.” This would be the safe way to address a faculty member if don’t know if they have a PhD or not.
  • Be concise: Be clear, organized, and brief in your email.
  • Capitalize, punctuate, and check your spelling: Incorrect spelling or lack of punctuation may create misunderstanding or miscommunication. Also, professionalism is important in an academic setting to convey that you are a serious student.
  • Acknowledge any and all replies: Be sure to acknowledge with a thank you in your response.
  • Don’t expect an immediate response: Twenty-four hours is the standard wait time during the business week.

When Connecting Via Office Hours

  • Clarify and ask questions about course content: You can get help with class material by asking your professor to explain it differently or walk through it again with you. You can also ask questions about the text or lecture content.
  • Review exams or papers: You can ask about what went wrong, what went well, and how to improve on the next paper or exam.
  • Study strategies and assignment/project preparedness: Some subjects have specific strategies that that work better for that particular course. You can also discuss strategies and your professor’s expectations on assignments and projects.
  • Discussing grades: Office hours can be an appropriate place to discuss or ask questions about your grade in a class.

Engaging in Research

Research is a great way to get involved with your major and can bolster your resume. Look into current research opportunities in your department and talk to your professors about it. Learn about your faculty member’s research and email them to set up a time to ask questions and how to get involved.

Building a Network

  • LinkedIn is a great way to connect with Cal Poly faculty members, students, and alumni. You never know when a connection can help you land a job or internship!
  • Networking Events: Keep an eye out for networking events where you may get a chance to talk to and network with your peers, faculty members, and alumni. Getting to know your professors better in an event outside of class may help with letters of recommendation in the future.

Managing Time

The quarter system can be a tough transition for a lot of transfers. As a transfer you are usually entering your major specific courses (which are hard enough as it is) and now having to complete these classes at an increased rate can be overwhelming at times. There is not a sure-fire way to fully prepare yourself for the rigor you might feel on the quarter system but there are ways in which you can alleviate the stress that may come with the transition.

Use a Planner

Whether this is a physical planner or digital one (Outlook, Google, etc.), utilizing a planner will help provide a tangible and physical representation of your upcoming tasks. Cal Poly automatically provides an Outlook account when you become student. Beyond just emails, outlook provides a calendar system allowing you to keep track of all important dates in one location.  

An online calendar system also allows you to: 

  • Create multiple schedules all in one location (Work, Classes, Homework, etc.) 
  • Check availability of other’s schedules (Students, Professors, etc.) 
  • Set reminders to finish a task or upcoming events 
  • Effectively create an organized system to provide a foundation for time management skills  

Check out this video highlighting the different aspects of what all Outlooks calendar provides!

Develop SMART Goals

Setting a goal can be easy. But having the drive or the dedication to complete it is an entirely different beast. That is why it is essential to start implementing SMART Goals into your planning routine! What is a smart goal? The premise of a SMART Goal is to fully flesh out a goal you have with realistic expectations as well as a time line on how to achieve it. The SMART in SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Utilizing SMART goals helps you to effectively plan out your quarter as well as other aspects of your life! An example can be found below.

Basic:   I want to read more.
SMART: I will select one book each month and read it for an hour during lunch and an hour before bed; this will result in reading a total of 12 books a year.

If interested in the science behind setting, assessing and pursuing goals, check out this podcast from Dr. Andrew Huberman who is a tenured professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford

Apply the Pomodoro Time-Management Technique 

Laying out a weekly plan may be one thing, but committing to the plan and having study sessions be effective and efficient can be a whole other hurdle to get over. That is why applying the Pomodoro technique can be a great asset for determining to find what works best for you. The Pomodoro technique has been proven to be a more effective time management technique than trying to complete tasks all at once.  

The Pomodoro Technique

  1. Decide on the task you need to complete
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task until the timer stops
  4. Take a five-minute break
  5. After four cycles of the above, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes
  6. Repeat until the task is complete.

The technique is essentially composed of a 25/5 minute cycles of on/off studying. Now sometimes taking a break 25 minutes into your work may interrupt your concentration, so ratios of the techniques can be used such as 50/10 but don’t increase the times too much as it would defeat the purpose of keeping your mind fresh. Of course thee is no copy and paste technique that is perfect for every individual so use this technique as a baseline. 

Strategize Coursework Completion

Balancing and prioritizing coursework can be stressful and overwhelming. At any given time of the quarter, you’ll find yourself balancing several assignment deadlines while preparing for major projects and exams looming two or three weeks ahead. The suggestions below might assist with determining how best to allocate time to complete assignments, study for exams, and manage  other personal responsibilities.The following suggestions might be helpful in terms of strategizing how best to manage time:

  • Identify: Identify what's most important and urgent. Utilize due dates as a criterion for this as well as the assignment/project scale. 
  • Avoid: Avoid multitasking if possible. Research has linked multitasking to worse performance. 
  • Consider: Consider effort. You may want to take care of tasks that require little time first to avoid a long to-do list. Clearing these small tasks first will provide some alleviation and sense of accomplishment. This can help you in avoiding procrastination and being effective with your effort. More information regarding procrastination.
  • Utilize: Utilize a to-do list and calendar application that incorporates the previously mentioned elements. There are many forms of calendars, whether they are physical planners or electronic calendars. More information regarding time management schedules can be found here and more information regarding the importance of an electronic calendar here.  

To set up this strategy:

  1. Begin by listing all your current courses and thinking of them as “bins”. In each bin, list each assignment that is due for each respective course and any exams.  This will give you a “bird’s eye view” of all the assignments and exams you have in front of you. 
    • Example: 

      HIST 101 

      CPE 202 

      PHYS 141 

      MATH 143 

      • Discussion Board #1 

      • Discussion Board #2 

      • Essay #1 

      • Project #1 

      • Quiz #1 


      • Problem Set #1 

      • Problem Set #1 

      • Exam #1 

  2. Next, identify and list the assignments that require the most urgency. Utilize the assignment’s due dates and scale to help you with this.  
    • Example: 
      • Discussion Board #1 (Due Jan 1)
      • Problem Set #1 [Phys 141] (Due Jan 3)
      • Problem Set #1 [Math 143] (Due Jan 4)
      • Discussion Board #2 (Due Jan 5)
      • Quiz #1 (Due Jan 6)
      • Exam #1 (Due Jan 7)
  3. Then, set up a to do list for the next week or two incorporating assignments/study time to allocate for each day of the week. Doing so will grant you a sense of direction within the long list of assignments and an overall sense of structure. You’ll want to avoid multitasking and work on finishing an assignment one at a time. Consider effort when setting up your to do list and try to focus on clearing assignments that take little effort first to get some sense of accomplishment. Your to-do list may look something like this:
    • Example 

      WEEK 1 








      - Study for Exam #1 

      - Discussion Board #1 

      - Problem Set #1 [PHYS 141] 

      - Problem Set #1 [PHYS 141] 

      - Problem Set #1 [MATH 143] 

      - Discussion Board #2 

      - Study for Quiz #1 


      • Quiz #1 takes place 

      - Study for Exam #1 

      WEEK 2 









      • Exam #1 takes place 






  4. Finally, utilize a calendar tool of some sort to incorporate your 1-2 week plan into. Some electronic calendar services you may consider are Microsoft’s Outlook application or Google’s Google Calendar application. Check out more resources for time management and scheduling.

Visit the Study Strategies Library

For additional support, the Study Strategies Library has curated online resources from a variety of websites. Visit the library for further assistance on topics such as note-taking, memorization, test anxiety, and getting focused.


Related Content

Special Events

Join us for a talk with renowned social linguistics and literacy scholar Dr. Suresh Canagarajah in conjunction with Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 18, 2023:

Crip Writing: Communication through a Disability and Decolonial Lens

For more information, visit our Special Events webpage.

Academic Preparation and Transitions

The CSU has established procedures regarding first-year enrollment in General Education written communication and mathematics courses, including the assessments used to inform academic placement and support. The Office of Writing and Learning plays an integral role in help incoming first-year students prepare for a successful college experience through the Supportive Pathways for First-Year Students program. More information is available on the Academic Preparation and Transitions webpage

Academic Support

The Writing and Learning Initiatives Office offers a comprehensive menu of academic resources designed to ensure optimal educational opportunities for diverse student populations: peer consultants offer free tutoring in any course or subject, peer-led supplemental workshops and study sessions provide support for STEM-specific courses, and the online Study Strategies Library offers a collection of resources to help you achieve your learning goals. More information is available on the Academic Support Programs webpage

Graduation Writing Requirement

All degree-seeking Cal Poly students, including a Master's degree or teaching credential, must fulfill the GWR. Undergraduate students must complete 90 units before they can attempt to fulfill the requirement and should do so before the senior year. The two pathways to GWR completion are 1) in an approved upper-division course and 2) via the GWR Portfolio. More information is available on the GWR webpage