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California Institute of Technology | Caltech’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts
Additional info short response.
Have you had any extenuating circumstances (such as limited course selection, inconsistent grades, or disruptions), that have affected your coursework, but that are not described elsewhere in your application? If so, tell us about them here.
STEM Awards Short Response
Some Caltech applicants engage in STEM competitions locally, nationally, or internationally (e.g., AIME, Science Olympiad, International Science Olympiads). If you have received any STEM honors or awards, list them here (with scores, if applicable).
Creativity Short Response
The creativity, inventiveness, and innovation of Caltech‘s students, faculty, and researchers have won Nobel Prizes and put rovers on Mars. But Techers also imagine smaller scale innovations every day, from new ways to design solar cells to how to 3D print dorm decor. How have you been a creator, inventor, or innovator in your own life?
Caltech Mission Short Response
Caltech‘s mission – to cultivate learning, discovery, and innovation for the benefit of humanity – relies on its community members embracing our Mission-Based Values, which include:
1. Openness and enthusiasm for having preconceptions challenged 2. Respect and appreciation for the idea that, while we are all members of the same community, the opportunities we‘ve had to develop, showcase, and apply our talents have not been equal 3. Passion for the ideal that science can and should meaningfully improve the lives of others
Share what one or more of these values evokes for you.
If there are aspects of your life or social or personal identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please tell us about them below.
Interest/Hobby Short Response 1
When not surveying the stars, peering through microscopes, or running through marathons of coding, Caltech students pursue an eclectic array of interests that range from speed-cubing to participating in varsity athletics to reading romance novels. What is a favorite interest or hobby, and why does it bring you joy?
Interest/Hobby Short Response 2
Did you have a hard time narrowing it down to just one interest or hobby? We understand – Caltech students like to stay busy, too – tell us about another hobby or interest!
Why This Major Short Response
Please indicate your proposed area of interest at Caltech. If you have one, please indicate your second area of interest at Caltech. Why did you choose that area of interest?
Select-A-Prompt Short Response
At Caltech, we investigate some of the most challenging, fundamental problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Identify and describe two STEM-related experiences from your high school years, either in or out of the classroom, and tell us how and why they activated your curiosity. What about them made you want to learn more and explore further?
STEM experience/activity #1
STEM experience/activity #2
Common App Personal Essay
The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don‘t feel obligated to do so.
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you‘ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
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Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write amazing caltech essays.
The California Institute of Technology—or Caltech, as it's more commonly known—is a highly exclusive college. If you want to join the Beavers, you'll need not just top grades and standardized test scores, but strong writing supplements to support them as well.
Caltech accepts around 6% of students who apply, making it an extremely competitive school . The more you know about the Caltech essay prompts before you start, the better prepared you are to answer them.
Read on to learn about 2021's essay prompts, as well as some tips and tricks for maximizing their potential to impress!
Feature Image: Canon.vs.nikon /Wikimedia Commons
BREAKING: Caltech Application Changes Due to COVID-19
As a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, many colleges have made the decision to at least temporarily stop requiring SAT and ACT scores. In June 2020, California Institute of Technology announced that they will stop considering SAT and ACT scores of applicants for the next two admission cycles (those applying in fall 2020, 2021, and 2022). This means that, not only are SAT and ACT scores not required, but, even if you submit them, they won't be reviewed and they won't be considered as part of your application. (This is what we refer to as a "test blind" policy.) Additionally, international students can now meet Caltech's English proficiency requirement by submitting either TOEFL or Duolingo scores.
Because of SAT and ACT cancellations , as well as the difficulty some students are having preparing or paying for the tests, Caltech made the decision to temporarily stop requiring standardized test scores to make admissions as fair and equitable as possible. Because test scores aren't being considered, there will be an increased emphasis on classes students took and the grades they received in them.
What Do I Need to Know About the Caltech Essays?
Caltech accepts four different applications: Coalition, Common App, Powered by Scoir, and Questbridge. In addition to the required Coalition, Common Application, and powered by Scoir essays, Caltech also requires three short essays. ( Questbridge applicants only need to write these if they become Match Finalists and have ranked Caltech.)
You’ll write one required academic question and three required short answer questions, but you’ll also have the option to answer three supplemental short answer questions and one supplemental academic question, if you want.
Altogether, you'll be writing up to 1100 words for the required essays, and 300 words for the optional short answer questions. These essays are fairly short, so you'll want to spend a good amount of time honing your argument to its most efficient. Start early so you have plenty of time to plan, refine, revise, and proof before you submit!
Do a little preparation and you can look this happy when writing your Caltech essays, too!
What Are the Caltech Essay Prompts?
The Caltech essay prompts are fairly standard, though each one is tailored to the college's specifications. You'll see the usual "Overcoming Obstacles” and “Defining Your Fit” essay questions, but always keep in mind that you're applying to Caltech specifically, and your essays should reflect that.
Required Academic Question
Because of the rigorous core course curriculum, Caltech students don't declare a major until the end of their first year. However, some students arrive knowing which academic fields and areas already most excite them, or which novel fields and areas they most want to explore. If you had to choose an area of interest or two today, what would you choose? Why did you choose that area of interest? (Max: 200 words)
The first essay asks you share your academic passion (or passions), and how you discovered them. Many colleges understand that students change their majors throughout the course of their careers, and Caltech doesn’t want you to have to choose a major until you’re a sophomore. But they still want you to have a good idea of what you want to focus on and why it matters to you.
The key here is to be specific about your area of interest. Note that they don’t mention a major, but instead an overall field. In other words, now isn’t the time to say that you want to major in biology because you’ve always done well in school. Instead, focus on something more specific, like a problem you want to solve or an experience that changed the way you see your career. Maybe your physical science egg-drop challenge inspired a desire to create safer structures, or maybe a field trip to a NASA location made you realize you had to be in that control room one day.
Whatever the case, be as specific as you can with what you want to study, and remember that multiple majors could get you there. For example, visiting NASA could have inspired you to study mathematics, physics, or engineering. There are multiple paths to reach the same goal; do your homework, look at the different programs Caltech offers, and choose one or two that align with your dream.
Caltech is, in their own words, “an unapologetic STEM institution.” Whatever you do, make sure that your chosen area fits within these parameters.
Required Short Answer Question #1
At Caltech, we investigate some of the most challenging, fundamental problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Identify and describe two STEM-related experiences from your high school years, either in or out of the classroom, and tell us how and why they activated your curiosity. What about them made you want to learn more and explore further? (Min: 100/Max: 200 words for each experience)
This prompt is asking you to discuss something you're passionate about. Your interests and activities outside of school and work can reveal a lot about the kind of person you are. As such, this prompt is a great opportunity to show how you exhibit the characteristics of the perfect Caltech candidate in your life experiences that don’t show up in your test scores and GPA.
Hopefully, thinking of a topic for this essay will be easy for you. You should write about a situation, story, or topic that gets you so engrossed and excited that it’s tough to tear yourself away from learning about it! Whether that’s reading up on the psychology of conspiracy theories or bird watching with your little brother, the most important thing is that you choose something that you’re deeply interested in. When you do that, admissions counselors will be able to feel your passion too!
Even though you probably could write pages and pages about the topic you choose, it’s important to keep things clear and concise here. Remember: you only have 200 words per topic to work with! To keep your essay focused, tell the story of how these experiences piqued your curiosity into the subject (or subjects) you’ve chosen to write about. You can describe your learning process, even if it’s quirky or unconventional. This is your chance to show Caltech how you choose to expand your mind when left to your own devices.
And that’s the most important thing to emphasize in your essay. Caltech is looking for students who don’t stop learning when the semester ends. The people who make a difference in the world are passionate, lifelong learners. This essay is your chance to show off your niche interests and prove to Caltech that you’re a lifelong learner too.
This guy would fit right in at Caltech.
Required Short Answer Question #2
The creativity, inventiveness, and innovation of Caltech's students, faculty, and researchers have won Nobel Prizes and put rovers on Mars , but Techers also imagine smaller scale innovations every day, from new ways to design solar cells to 3D printing dorm decor. How have you been an innovator in your own life? (Min: 200 / Max: 250)
This question is a great way for you to show off your skills! Maybe your insight helped your school’s robotics team take home first place, or maybe you found a way to streamline some part of your family’s day-to-day routine. You have a lot of options here, but make sure to keep your topic focused on STEM-related subjects. This is an excellent topic for a problem-and-solution essay: after all, your innovation will have improved a situation, right? You only have 250 words, so you’ll need to make them count! Caltech wants to see how your mind works : why were you driven to your chosen innovation? Were there any obstacles? What was the end result, and how was it received?
Remember: you'll need to give the admissions counselors enough information that they can understand your innovation and its impact. Be sure to answer both parts of this question so that you're fully addressing the prompt.
It probably wasn't one of these kids who wrote these successful Caltech essays.
Required Short Answer Question #3
The process of discovery is best advanced when people from diverse backgrounds come together to solve the greatest challenges in their fields. How do your past experiences and present-day perspectives inform who you have become and how you navigate the world? (Min: 200 / Max: 250)
This is your chance to show Caltech what makes you tick, and how you’ve become who you are. Think back on the formative experiences in your life: your home, your family, your cultural background. How have they shaped you into who you are now and what you want? Show Caltech how you see the world, and why.
As always, you should remember to gear this toward STEM as much as you can: Caltech isn’t kidding when they tell you to “lean all the way in on the STEMiest of STEMmy topics.” The trick here is to show how your own lived experiences have informed your interest and perspective on the STEM subject that you’re most drawn to. Maybe you come from a family of artists, and their sense of aesthetics informs the way you design and present your projects. Maybe you have a different cultural background than most of your peers, which influences your thought processes.
Be sure to tell a story here so that you can connect with admissions counselors. For example, was there a formative experience in your childhood or youth that made you realize you stand out from your peers in some way? Was a family member or cultural tradition particularly influential?
CalTech Short Answer Questions
Along with longer essays, you'll also have to tackle a few short answer responses, too. We'll break them down below!
Supplemental Short Answer Question #1
If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below. (Max: 150 words)
This is a pretty broad prompt! Unlike Required Question 3, which asks about your background, or Supplemental Question 2, which asks about your hobbies, this is about your identity, which includes both of those things and more! You have a lot of options here: think of past experiences that made you realize more about who you are and what you stand for. Maybe you stood up to a bully. Maybe you went stargazing with family or friends, and found yourself overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe. Just like with the other prompts, remember to be as specific as possible, and give examples.
Supplemental Short Answer Question #2
When not surveying the stars, peering through microscopes, or running through marathons of coding, Caltech students pursue an eclectic array of interests that range from speed-cubing to participating in varsity athletics to reading romance novels. What is a favorite interest or hobby and why does it bring you joy? (Max: 100 words)
This is a great prompt to answer, because it gives you the chance to show the admissions counselors more about who you are not just as a budding scholar but as a person. Here’s a chance to open up about, say, your passion for rock climbing or your increasingly-large collection of succulents. You only have 100 words, but try to go into as much detail as possible about how your hobby makes you feel. This is the place to be descriptive, and to show rather than tell.
Supplemental Short Answer Question #3
Did you have a hard time narrowing it down to just one interest or hobby? We understand – Caltech students like to stay busy, too – tell us about another hobby or interest! (Max: 50 words)
You've probably got more than one hobby you love. This is your chance to share that with admissions counselors at CalTech. You don't have much space, but help your readers understand why you're passionate about the hobby you choose.
Caltech Essays That Worked
All this information is great, but it can still be tricky to understand exactly what Caltech wants to know until you've seen it demonstrated. Check out this accepted essay—and some tips from someone who took a serious risk—to learn more about what Caltech hopes to see in your essay!
Even though the example essays below respond to old essay prompts, there’s still a lot you can learn from them about how to write successful Caltech essays.
Martin Alternburg's Essay
I cross over the bridge into Minnesota. Out of my three sports, cross country is definitely my worst — but I continue to be hooked on it. Unlike swimming and track, my motivation to run is heavily intrinsic. I live for the long runs I take on by myself. While they rarely happen during our season, we were assigned a long run to complete over our first weekend of cross country. In reality, I was supposed to go six miles, but felt eight gave me more time to explore the home I had just returned to. My mind begins to wander as I once again find my rhythm. My train of thought while running is similar to the way one thinks in the minutes before sleep — except one has more control over how these thoughts progress and what tangents they move off of. While special relativity would be the "proper" thing to think about, especially at MITES, I revive the violin repertoire I had turned away from for so long and begin playing it in my head. I'm now at the edge of town in between the cornfields. The streaming floodlights on the open road give me a sense of lonely curiosity, reminiscent of the opening lines of Wieniawski's first violin concerto. I come up with adaptations of the melody in my head, experimenting with an atonality similar to Stravinsky's.
Martin Altenburg's essay is well-structured, using the narrative of a morning run to demonstrate all the things that run through his head, and, more importantly, all the unique traits that make him who he is.
From just these two paragraphs, we know he's a runner, that he's driven, that he strives for more than he thinks he's capable of, and that he knows music and composition. Because the essay is in a narrative format, we're able to follow this line of thinking and have it all wrapped up neatly at the end. We're drawn in by energetic and purposeful writing that also delivers us all the information we need.
Throughout the essay, Altenburg discusses his interests and his growth. His strategic use of locations in his hometown allows readers to understand where he comes from both literally and figuratively, especially the part about his beliefs and how the community he's grown up in have impacted them. All this is valuable information to an admissions office, who wants to see how you see yourself and why.
One thing to note about this essay is that it doesn't include any reference to Caltech. In fact, Altenburg used the same essay to apply to—and get into—eight different Ivy Leagues as well as some other schools. The essay was likely written as part of the Common or Coalition Application rather than as part of Altenburg's Caltech supplement, hence the lack of specificity. Your essays for the Caltech supplement should contain more specificity than this, as these essays are unique to Caltech and want to know exactly what draws you to that school above others.
Michelle Fan's Essay Reflection
"How do you believe Caltech will best fuel your intellectual curiosity and help you meet your goals?" If I had a few weeks, I might have done enough research to namedrop a few professors, rave about the strength of their computer science programs, and come up with a compelling story about all my professional goals. But I didn't have those few weeks, so I told them the unembellished, wholehearted truth: I said I have no idea what I want to do in life. All I knew was that I liked making calculator games and explosions and wanted to participate in the bread-throwing, water-dumping congregations otherwise known as Caltech house dinners. As it turns out, being yourself actually works. Shocker, I know. Colleges really do want to like you for you.
Michelle Fan doesn't post her Caltech essay directly, but she does talk about her process and what she discovered between her highly planned essays and the ones she wrote the day they were due.
Fan points out that her last-minute essays, the ones that she wrote from her heart rather than from her head, are the ones that got accepted. Though I definitely don't advocate for waiting until the same day that your essay is due to start writing it, it's a good message to keep in mind—when you're faced with an imminent deadline and you just need to get something out, your writing is probably more genuine than if you've been editing and revising it for ages.
But the big takeaway here should not be to wait until the last second to write your essay (please, don't do that!). The real lesson is that you should write in a way that is true to yourself, not a way that you think will impress admissions offices. You should be authentic and genuine, letting your personality and interests tell Caltech why you're a good fit.
If your essay looks like this, that's a good thing!
4 Key Tips for Writing a Caltech Essay
Like all college essays, there are some general things to keep in mind when working on your Caltech writing supplement. The earlier you get started, the better—take a little time to make sure that your essay is as polished as possible!
Brainstorming before you start writing will help you pick a topic that's both meaningful and impressive. Jotting down a list of ideas for each topic, no matter how silly they might feel at first impression, gives you options. Spend a little time away from your options so that you can pick the one that you feel most strongly about with less bias!
#2: Get People to Read Your Essays for You
Feedback is an important tool as a writer. Getting someone else to look at your work—preferably someone who will be honest about its shortcomings—will help you find logical holes, weird phrasing, and other errors that may creep into your work. When you feel like your essays are as polished as you can make them is a good time to hand them off to someone else. Remember, you don't have to make every change they suggest exactly as they suggest it, but if your reader is confused about something, see what you can do to make it clearer!
#3: Edit and Revise
Take that feedback you got from your reader and turn it into gold. Again, don't feel like their suggestions are always the right move, but do consider what's causing their confusion or dislike for parts of your essays. Fix them in your own voice, and re-read your essay, especially out loud, to catch any additional errors. The more time you can spend revising, the better!
#4: Be Authentic
Always remember that you're not just trying to impress Caltech with a bunch of statistics—you're trying to impress them as you. That means always staying true to yourself and striving for authenticity. Give Caltech an essay that showcases what it means to be you, not an essay that gives them what you think that they want to hear.
Need an even more in-depth guide to how to write a college essay ? Those tips will help you write a stellar essay from start to finish!
A strong essay is just one part of a successful Caltech application. Also look into Caltech's SAT scores and GPA requirements so you can draft an effective academic plan!
Before you send in your Caltech application, it's a smart idea to figure out how much money it's going to cost you to attend. How do Caltech's financial aid offerings measure up to tuition costs?
Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.
Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.
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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.
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Writing the Caltech Supplemental Essays 2021-2022
August 24, 2021
If you’re planning to apply to the California Institute of Technology, one of the key ways to distinguish yourself from fellow STEM-oriented applicants is to take full advantage of the Caltech supplemental essays 2021-2022 . Use the prompts provided by this competitive Pasadena institution to show how you hope to grow as a young scientist and to describe the ways you would contribute to the Caltech campus.
The supplemental questions are designed to learn more about your interests and goals within STEM disciplines, as well as determine how you would fit in with the collaborative and creative Caltech campus. To guide you through the four Caltech supplemental essays 2021-2022 , I’ve outlined the prompts, the dos and don’ts of your responses, and more tips to ensure a successful essay-writing process.
Prompts for the Caltech Supplemental Essays 2021-2022
Describe three experiences and/or activities that have helped develop your passion for a possible career in a STEM field. (10-120 words each)
The first question in the Caltech supplemental essays 2021-2022 may just require a short response, but that doesn’t mean your answer is any less important. Think about ways to frame your three most significant activities related to science, technology, engineering, and math. Don’t be tempted by the minimum word count of “10” and just name the activities. You need to stand out from thousands of applicants who bring a lot of experience in STEM areas. In your answer, add a sentence showing how each one helped you realize that this is the field for you. If you have space, note how you have made an impact in the activity, whether you’ve involved a greater community, and how you hope to continue your STEM education in relevance to the activity.
While you have been asked to describe three different activities, they should have some sort of connection to each other, as you don’t have enough space to go over multiple fields you enjoy. Colleges appreciate when your interests are specialized. Moreover, a connection between the three allows you to convey a more elaborate picture of yourself, letting admissions officers know exactly how you would contribute to Caltech. Think about what the combination of your chosen entries conveys about you. This could range from highlighting your teamwork skills to reflecting on your specific niche interest in STEM. Making sure your answers aren’t all over the place is a good way to stay organized when tackling multiple supplemental essays.
Much like the life of a professional scientist or engineer, the life of a "Techer" relies heavily on collaboration. Knowing this, what do you hope to explore, innovate, or create with your Caltech peers? (250-400 words)
Even though this question doesn’t specifically ask “Why Caltech,” admissions officers want to know that you have made a well-informed decision in applying. Your essays should be tailored to Caltech - they shouldn’t be applicable to other STEM-focused colleges such as MIT or Harvey Mudd as well. The school wants to see that you’re an ambitious individual, and they want to learn how you work in a team and where your interests within STEM lie. 400 words should be enough to get your points across, but at the same time, you have to use your allotted space wisely.
Think about your favorite topics within STEM and your biggest goals. How have you worked to achieve them so far? Mention experiences that reflect your collaboration skills. However, the majority of your essay should focus on how you hope to bring your skills to the Caltech campus, and how you hope to engage the Caltech community in your endeavors. Mention any specific courses, research opportunities, and programs that appeal to you, emphasizing how working alongside your peers in these initiatives can encourage growth and help you get closer to achieving your goals. Don’t miss out on the chance to let admissions officers see that you have done the research and know about the different opportunities available at the university.
Caltech students are often known for their sense of humor and creative pranks. What do you like to do for fun? (250-400 words)
The third prompt among the Caltech supplemental essays 2021-2022 diverts from the academic approach. Admissions officers want to know how you would fit into the community. Since the question specifically mentions sense of humor and creative pranks, Caltech would appreciate any examples which showcase a playful of you. Now if you’re not the number one jokester in your high school, that’s okay. You could still find ways to depict your humorous and creative side.
Pick one or two activities that you enjoy the most - and bring up any anecdotes that portray you as a fun and creative individual. Remember to stay away from activities that you think the admissions officers want to hear. If you don’t spend your free time drawing portraits or making films don’t write about that. Nor should you say that you enjoy eating and sleeping unless you have a very unique take on these everyday activities. Think about what you like to do when you have a long weekend, or what you do when you have the most fun with your friends. Find innovative ways to bring light to a side of you that isn’t mentioned in the rest of your application.
Download all supplemental essay prompts here!
The process of discovery best advances when people from various backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives come together. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity of Caltech's community? (Your response should range between 250-400 words)
The word “diversity” goes beyond your background. Yes, you can be diverse in your race and ethnicity, but you can also distinguish yourself through unique activities and experiences. Since most Caltech applicants are skilled in math and science, your answer to this question can help distinguish you from peers with similar academic interests. After all, Caltech doesn’t want every single student to bring the same attributes. To brainstorm experiences that separate you from the rest of the highly talented applicant pool, you need to jot down some standout experiences you’ve had. This could range from aspects of your identity such as your ethnicity or sexual orientation to an unusual extracurricular activity or hobby, such as calligraphy or competitive eating.
Don’t use up all of the allotted space describing the part of yourself that you’ve chosen to highlight. Discuss anecdotes that clarify to the admissions officers why this quality makes you exceptional. Finally, remember the prompt: Caltech wants to know how this trait can help you contribute to the campus. You should be specific in exactly how and where you are going to contribute, instead of broadly alluding to being a valuable Caltech community member. Will this part of you help you make standout additions to classroom discussions or extracurricular activities? Your essay should focus on connecting the way your perspective has been shaped to how you can make an impact on your fellow Techers.
Additional Tips to Answer the Caltech Supplemental Essays 2021-2022
- Make Sure You’ve Done School Research - You may have noticed that the Caltech supplemental essays 2021-2022 don’t ask an explicit “Why Caltech” question. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t thoroughly explore the Caltech website before sitting down to write your responses. You need to know what makes the school unique and which resources call out to you the most. This knowledge will come in handy when writing your essays, as you’ll know how to tailor them to demonstrate knowledge of programs and opportunities at this prestigious institution.
- Prioritize Adding New Information About Yourself - The Caltech supplemental essays 2021-2022 are geared for the reader to get to know you better. If you repeat topics you’ve already covered in your activities list or Common App personal statement, you’ll go against the whole purpose of these essays! Make sure answers to each prompt show a new side of you that admissions officers previously did not know. This helps add depth to your application, and convince the reader more and more that you could be a good fit for Caltech.
- Be as Specific in Your Interests as Possible - Here’s the thing: everyone applying to Caltech is interested in science and math. Adding generic statements about your love for STEM as a whole is far from enough. STEM covers a huge array of topics, and each category is broad in itself. In writing your Caltech supplemental essays 2021-2022 , you need to find ways to iterate which specific part of STEM you’re passionate about. Don’t just say engineering or biology. Go deeper. Is it molecular biology? Is it marine engineering? Make sure you give admissions officers the chance to understand the depth of your curiosity and knowledge.
Caltech admissions officers want to know that you’re not just applying for the sake of attending any strong STEM school. Use the Caltech supplemental essays 2021-2022 to convince admissions officers that not only have you made a well-informed decision, but you would make valuable contributions if accepted to this selective institution.
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2023-2024 Caltech Supplemental Essay Prompts
The California Institute of Technology has released its supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. The school, one of the last among America’s elite universities to release their essays for applicants to the Class of 2028 , asks applicants to respond to several required and optional essays as well as short answers. These essays are, of course, in addition to The Common Application ’s Personal Statement. So, what are this year’s Caltech essays and how should they be approached? Let’s dive in!
2023-2024 California Institute of Technology Essay Topics and Questions
Required academic question.
Because of the rigorous courses in the core curriculum , Caltech students don’t declare a major until the end of their first year. However, some students arrive knowing which academic fields and areas already most excite them, or which novel fields and areas they most want to explore. (Max: 200 words)
If you had to choose an area of interest or two today, what would you choose? Why did you choose that area of interest?
This essay prompt is a straight-up-the-middle Why Major essay. Caltech’s admissions committee wants to understand the origin story of an applicant’s interest in the discipline they wish to study at Caltech. Yet, students should be sure to set that origin story during their high school years. Too often, students share stories about how they developed their academic interests as children. Admissions officers want to hear how students think now — not then.
Required Short Answer Questions
1. At Caltech, we investigate some of the most challenging, fundamental problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Identify and describe two STEM-related experiences from your high school years , either in or out of the classroom, and tell us how and why they activated your curiosity. What about them made you want to learn more and explore further? (Min: 100/Max: 200 words for each experience)
Through anecdotes, this essay allows applicants to show rather than tell why they love the STEM fields. Students could write about a lab experiment from a physics course. They could write about independent research they did in engineering. The opportunities are endless — so long as the stories showcase a student’s passion for learning.
And note how Caltech’s admissions committee emphasizes that the examples should stem from high school. Remember when we said how examples should always stem from high school rather than childhood? Here, you’ll see the advice straight from the horse’s mouth.
As to the word count, students have 400 words for this essay. As Ivy Coach has long espoused on the pages of this college admissions blog , students should always use all of the real estate they’re given to make their case. Students should thus write up to the maximum word count of 400 words!
2. The creativity, inventiveness, and innovation of Caltech’s students, faculty, and researchers have won Nobel Prizes and put rovers on Mars . But Techers also imagine smaller scale innovations every day, from new ways to design solar cells to how to 3D print dorm decor. How have you been a creator, inventor, or innovator in your own life? (Min: 200 / Max: 250)
This essay is another excellent opportunity for students to share one small story about how they’ve developed something in the STEM field. And the example does not need to stem from award-winning research. It doesn’t need to be anything formal.
A great example would be seeing a problem on a bike ride to school and figuring out how to fix it. Maybe a student’s bike went over a pothole, so they designed a way to light up a grid on the road to identify when potholes were forthcoming. Caltech’s admissions committee wants to see how applicants think and how they’re creators and inventors even in life’s small moments.
3. Caltech’s mission – to cultivate learning, discovery, and innovation for the benefit of humanity – relies on its community members embracing fundamental Caltech values :
- Openness and enthusiasm for having preconceptions challenged
- Respect and appreciation for the idea that, while we are all members of the same community, the opportunities we’ve had to develop, showcase, and apply our talents have not been equal
- Passion for the ideal that science can and should meaningfully improve the lives of others
Share what one or more of these values evokes for you. (Min: 200 / Max: 400)
In this essay, through one small example, applicants should showcase how they want to explore STEM to make our world better. Too often, students express grandiose plans — like ending climate change through the power of STEM. Instead, applicants would be better off focusing on a small issue and then highlighting how they hope to address it in their lifetime.
Optional Short Answer Questions
1. If there are aspects of your life or social or personal identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please tell us about them below. (Max: 150 words)
While the United States Supreme Court outlawed Affirmative Action , Chief Justice John Roberts penned a loophole in the majority opinion. As he wrote, “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”
This essay allows students to capitalize on this loophole by sharing their stories. And students do not need to be underrepresented minorities to have a story to tell here. Applicants could focus on their faith, community, sexual orientation, or gender identity — the possibilities are endless.
2. When not surveying the stars, peering through microscopes, or running through marathons of coding, Caltech students pursue an eclectic array of interests that range from speed-cubing to participating in varsity athletics to reading romance novels. What is a favorite interest or hobby, and why does it bring you joy? (Max: 100 words)
While having a passion for the STEM fields is a prerequisite for Caltech, the admissions committee wants to know that you have interests beyond these disciplines. So here’s an excellent opportunity for applicants to showcase their love for poetry, history, foreign language, anthropology, or any other field. As long as applicants showcase their intellectual curiosity through their storytelling — ideally in an area outside of STEM — they’re on the right track.
3. Did you have a hard time narrowing it down to just one interest or hobby? We understand – Caltech students like to stay busy, too – tell us about another hobby or interest! (Max: 50 words)
We encourage students to write about a hobby that highlights their intellectual curiosity. So many options would work here. It doesn’t need to be a hobby in which a student changes the world. Yet, it should showcase their intellectual curiosity. If they love tie-dying t-shirts, they should focus on the mathematics of creating extraordinary patterns.
Optional Academic Short Answer Questions
1. Have you had any extenuating circumstances (such as limited course selection or disruptions), that have affected your coursework, but that are not described elsewhere in your application? If so, tell us about them here.
While we at Ivy Coach are always in favor of responding to all optional essays — because no optional essay should be considered optional in elite college admissions — this prompt doesn’t apply to all students
In fact, unless a student needs to explain a disruption in their learning during their high school years that is apparent on their transcript, we encourage the student not to answer this prompt. Too many students choose to answer prompts like these, and they do indeed come across as complainers. It does their candidacy a great disservice.
2. Some Caltech applicants engage in STEM competitions locally, nationally, or internationally (eg., AIME, Science Olympiad, International Science Olympiads). If you have received any STEM honors or awards, list them here (with scores, if applicable).
Hopefully, applicants have so many STEM awards that they couldn’t fit them all in the honors section of their Common Application. Here is the place to list them. And it should be a list — not an essay. It’s always critical to adhere to the directions.
Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Caltech Essays
If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to Caltech by submitting essays that will wow Caltech admissions officers, fill out Ivy Coach ’s free consultation form , and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services for seniors.
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California Institute of Technology (Caltech) 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations
The Requirements: 3 essays of 200 words; 1 essay of 400 words; 3 short optional essays
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Community , Activity , Oddball , Why , Short Answer
In addition to the personal essay in the Common Application or the Coalition Application, applicants to Caltech must complete required supplemental short-answer essays. These are questions that the Admissions Committee has devised to get to know you better as a student, scientist, and person, and ascertain who you’ll be on our campus.
We don’t want essay writing to be intimidating, but we know it often is. We have put together some advice to help you get started writing your Caltech supplemental essays, so you can worry less and enjoy the application process.
Because of the rigorous courses in the core curriculum, caltech students don’t declare a major until the end of their first year. however, some students arrive knowing which academic fields and areas already most excite them, or which novel fields and areas they most want to explore., if you had to choose an area of interest or two today, what would you choose , please indicate your proposed area of interest at caltech. [choose an option from a dropdown list].
There’s only one trick to selecting a major or generating a straightforward list of your academic interests: be honest. If you already know what you want to major in or have it narrowed down to two choices, you’re set! Don’t waste time trying to strategize because choosing anything other than your true interests would be a misrepresentation of who you are and a disservice to yourself and the admissions office. This assignment will, no doubt, be most challenging for the undecideds, but ask yourself: how can you use this opportunity to reveal something about what excites you intellectually or academically?
Why did you choose that area of interest? (200 words)
You’ve only got 200 words, but if you chose wisely in the previous question, answering this one should be easy as pie. Whether you listed one or two interests, your goal here is to tell a cohesive story about your intellectual curiosity. Ideally, you should try to recount an anecdote that illustrates your engagement with your chosen field or demonstrates your ability to link together seemingly disparate fields. Perhaps you’re interested in both philosophy and astrophysics because each offers a way for you to contemplate our place in the universe. This is a great opportunity for you to explain how your intellectual interests relate to who you are as a person. Don’t waste it!
At Caltech, we investigate some of the most challenging, fundamental problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Identify and describe two STEM-related experiences from your high school years, either in or out of the classroom, and tell us how and why they activated your curiosity. What about them made you want to learn more and explore further? (200 words each)
Stem experience/activity #1* , stem experience/activity #2*.
For these two short answer responses, we recommend using concrete sensory details to pull your reader into the story. Strong responses will not only describe the project at hand, but also make the readers feel like they’re in the room where it happened (“the room where it happened” – Hamilton ). What about the project captured your attention and curiosity? How did you develop your skills or interest in STEM as a result of your participation? How did this experience lay the foundation for your future STEM-related pursuits? If you’re applying to Caltech, we’re willing to bet you have a few experiences to choose from, so we recommend writing about the two that were most intellectually engaging for you.
The creativity, inventiveness, and innovation of Caltech’s students, faculty, and researchers have won Nobel Prizes and put rovers on Mars. But Techers also imagine smaller scale innovations every day, from new ways to design solar cells to how to 3D print dorm decor. How have you been a creator, inventor, or innovator in your own life? This question can be answered as a written response (200-250 words).*
Admissions is seeking to invite movers and shakers to campus who are excited and motivated to turn their dreams into reality. Whether you’ve been experimenting with robotics or spending your summers researching ways to integrate renewable energy into daily life, this is the place to share your story. Show admissions that you are not only planning to be an innovator, but have already taken steps to incorporate this approach in your day-to-day activities. The more specific details you can incorporate into your essay, the more sincere and personal it will feel (and be!).
Caltech’s mission – to cultivate learning, discovery, and innovation for the benefit of humanity – relies on its community members embracing our Mission-Based Values, which include:
1) openness and enthusiasm for having preconceptions challenged, 2) respect and appreciation for the idea that, while we are all members of the same community, the opportunities we’ve had to develop, showcase, and apply our talents have not been equal, 3) passion for the ideal that science can and should meaningfully improve the lives of others, share what one or more of these values evokes for you.* (400 words).
For this prompt, Caltech wants to know how its mission resonates with you, so read over their values, then think about how they overlap with your own. This could be a great opportunity to recycle an essay you’ve written about engaging in conversation with someone who holds opposing beliefs (Value 1), embracing diversity and inclusion (Value 2), or your love for all things science (Value 3). If you don’t have any material to recycle here, don’t fret, odds are you have something to say about at least one of these three values. Maybe you’ve been developing and testing your hypotheses since you were a little kid and you are just as excited when they prove true as when they are proved wrong! Perhaps inclusivity and equity are important to you because you know what it’s like not to have the same opportunities as your peers and you’ve worked hard to achieve your goals regardless. Whatever your story is, be sure to avoid generalizations and, instead, provide concrete examples. For example, anyone can write that they are ambitious and resilient, but not everyone is going to be able to exhibit those traits with real-life examples. Specifics are what stick in admissions’ minds!
We know, we know … you see optional and start to wonder if we mean it. But in this section, we truly do! See these as completely optional opportunities to show us more of your personality.
Optional. we promise., if there are aspects of your life or social or personal identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please tell us about them below. (150 words).
Caltech knows that you are a multifaceted person, that your identity cannot be boiled down to nuggets of information on an application. That’s why admissions is giving you this (albeit small) space to expand on an aspect of your identity. Scroll through your application (personal statement, activity list, major selection) and take a moment to think about what you haven’t been able to include yet. Perhaps you want to write about your identity as a first-born daughter of immigrants or the daily yoga practice that grounds you and enables you to better connect with people and places around you. Regardless of what you choose to write about, you don’t have a lot of words to play with, so we recommend brevity!
Did you have a hard time narrowing it down to just one interest or hobby? We understand – Caltech students like to stay busy, too – tell us about another hobby or interest! (50 words)
This is a great place to write about a hobby or interest that is, maybe, newer to you, one you’ve spent less time on. Have you been learning how to play guitar? Did you start taking kayaking lessons this summer? You only have 50 words for this response, so try not to choose a topic that will require too much explaining. Instead, dive right into what makes you lose track of time!
Have you had any extenuating circumstances (such as limited course selection, inconsistent grades, or disruptions), that have affected your coursework, but that are not described elsewhere in your application? If so, tell us about them here. (150 words)
This is Caltech’s version of the Additional Info essay, which means that, unless you have something crucial to explain to admissions, and there is absolutely NOWHERE else on the application for you to write about it, you should skip this essay. Think about it: if you were an admissions officer, would you really want to read one more essay per applicant? That being said, this essay is perfect for students who have encountered extenuating circumstances and need an opportunity to explain them. In fact, we recommend saving those details for an Additional Info essay, so that you can use the rest of your application to highlight other parts of your amazing personality. So, if something has happened that affected your academic performance, this is a great opportunity to give the 4-1-1 (that means “information” because, in the Stone Age of the late 1900s, we used our rotary phones instead of the internet).
Some Caltech applicants engage in STEM competitions locally, nationally, or internationally (e.g., AIME, Science Olympiad, International Science Olympiads). If you have received any STEM honors or awards, list them here (with scores, if applicable).
This prompt is as dry as they come. If you’ve earned any STEM honors or awards, this is the place to list them. If you don’t have anything to add here, feel free to skip this prompt altogether!
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The Ultimate Guide to Applying to the California Institute of Technology
Known for its incredibly strong science and engineering programs, the California Institute of Technology is recognized worldwide as one of the top universities in the nation. Caltech boasts prestigious academic programs, renowned faculty, and a strong emphasis on research. Every year, these qualities, among others, draw thousands of applicants to the school.
Located in Pasadena, California, Caltech provides students with strong academic offerings and incredible research opportunities. Caltech prides itself on its emphasis on undergraduate teaching, and has one of the lowest student-to-faculty ratios in the country. Approximately 300 faculty members teach 1,000 undergraduate and 1,250 graduate students. The Caltech faculty members are leaders in their fields, and among them are 34 Nobel Prize winners.
Are you interested in applying to Caltech? In this post, we’ll walk you through the Caltech application and provide you with the tips, tricks, and insights you need to make your application to Caltech stand out.
Average Stats of Accepted Caltech Students
Caltech is a highly selective school when it comes to admissions. In the 2019-2020 admissions cycle, Caltech received over 8,300 applications. It accepted approximately 6% of those applications, and 236 students ultimately enrolled. 22% of enrolled students came from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds and 10% were international students.
When it comes to the SAT, the middle 50% range for Caltech is 1530-1570. The middle 50% for ACT scores is 35-36. In the past, the school required students to take subject tests in math and science, but will not have this policy going forward. In fact, the application will be completely test-blind – for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 application cycles, the school’s admissions committee will neither require nor consider SAT and ACT test scores.
Caltech doesn’t release GPA averages, but 99% of the members of the Caltech Class of 2019 graduated in the top tenth of their class, and all graduated in the top quarter of their class. If you don’t know your GPA, you can find it using our free GPA calculator .
Because the school is so selective, having these stats won’t guarantee you a spot. But, they should at least get your application read. On the contrary, not having these stats may automatically disqualify you, unless you’re an under-represented minority, legacy, or recruited athlete. This is because many selective schools use the Academic Index as a screening tool.
Caltech Application Process
Caltech offers two programs under which you can apply: Early Action and Regular Decision . Caltech’s Early Action program is not binding, meaning that if you are admitted under Early Action, you are permitted to apply to other and consider other schools.
Caltech accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application. Applicants must also submit a $75 application fee or a fee waiver .
In terms of coursework, Caltech has high expectations for its incoming class. The school requires students to take the most rigorous English coursework offered by the school. Domestic applicants must take at least one course in U.S. history/government. For math, the school expects to see coursework at least through calculus, and strongly recommends students take it at the IB HL or AP level.
For science, the admissions committee expects applicants to complete at least one year of physics and one year of chemistry, preferably taken at the highest levels offered by the school. Although biology is not explicitly required, it is recommended that you indicate your preparedness for the subject through other courses. If your school offers a calculus-based science class, Caltech would like to see that you took advantage of this opportunity.
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Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.
Beyond this, Caltech requires the following:
- 2 teacher evaluations
- Supplemental essays
- The secondary school report
- Academic transcripts
Let’s delve a bit more into letters of recommendation and supplemental essays.
Applicants must submit one evaluation from a math or science teacher and one evaluation from a humanities or social sciences teacher. These should focus on your academic performance. You also may submit up to two additional recommendations from other individuals, such as an extracurricular mentor or work supervisor, who can add another, non-academic dimension to your application.
Prompt 1: Describe three experiences and/or activities that have helped develop your passion for a possible career in a STEM field. Use the separate spaces provided below, one for each STEM experience and/or activity. (10-120 words each)
This essay functions as a set of three mini-essays, and should be ordered based on overall significance/priority. Because the word count is limited, your descriptions should be direct and carefully thought out to maximize space. You don’t need to mention how you developed your passion since you won’t have room, and there’s no need to transition between activities because Caltech made three different text boxes to keep your responses separated. Remember to clarify acronyms and use accessible terms.
Prompt 2: Much like the life of a professional scientist or engineer, the life of a “Techer” relies heavily on collaboration. Knowing this, what do you hope to explore, innovate, or create with your Caltech peers? (250-400)
This prompt focuses on collaboration and also contains a bit of a “Why Caltech?” element. Feel free to briefly touch on past collaborative experiences, but focus on your takeaways, what you learned, and which collaborative skills you’ll bring to the Caltech campus. You can also mention your interests within STEM by mentioning specific opportunities you’ve had, or you can also mention whether you’d like to start a new club – just remember to be specific and focus on collaboration within your descriptions.
Prompt 3: Caltech students are often known for their sense of humor and creative pranks. What do you like to do for fun? (250-400)
In this prompt, applicants can explore their quirky side by writing about unique hobbies or elements of their personality. Try not to discuss cliched activities like watching Netflix unless you can spin them in a unique way, such as mentioning how you love doing impressions of your favorite stand-up comedian special. When thinking of unusual activities to include, we advise applicants to be careful with contentious topics like politics. If you engage in (tasteful) pranks, this is a great thing to touch on as prank wars are common within Caltech’s campus culture.
Prompt 4: The process of discovery best advances when people from various backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives come together. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity of Caltech’s community? (250-400)
Here, Caltech asks you to address your own background and demonstrate that your contributions in high school will continue once you attend college. Discuss how you will enhance Caltech’s diversity of thought through how you generate ideas, analyze problems, or approach academic challenges.
With these four prompts, there’s a lot more to cover when it comes to writing the best essays possible for Caltech. Head over to our blog and check out our post on How to Write the Caltech Application Essays 2020-2021 . In this post, we walk you through how to answer each prompt, so if you’re applying to Caltech, be sure to check it out!
Already have drafts of your essays? You can get free essay feedback from other students using our Peer Essay Review tool .
When Will You Hear Back?
The deadline to apply to Caltech under Early Action is November 1st, and applicants will receive their decision in mid-December. Early applicants may be accepted, rejected, or deferred to the waiting list. The deadline to apply under Regular Decision is January 3rd and applicants will receive their decision in mid-March.
Caltech Financial Aid
Financial aid generosity.
Caltech’s tuition costs $54,570 per year, and the total estimated cost of attendance is $77,718. The school is need-blind , meaning your ability to pay tuition will not impact your chances of acceptance.
Caltech also meets 100% of demonstrated financial need , and eligible applicants will receive a combination of grants, loans, and work-study to cover their costs. In terms of scholarships, the school has a host of outside scholarships available for prospective and current students to apply to.
Caltech hasn’t released the most updated number, but in 2019, the estimated cost based on family income went as follows:
For even more information about the price of attending Caltech, check out our blog article What Does it Really Cost to Attend California Institute of Technology? . Here, we provide a comprehensive look into the costs of going to this university.
How to Apply for Financial Aid
Caltech has financial aid forms available on its website. Students applying Early Decision need to submit a FAFSA by November 30th, and a CSS profile and IDOC documents by January 6th. Regular Decision applicants need to submit their FAFSA by March 2nd, and a CSS profile and IDOC documents by March 16th.
What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
If you’d like to know your personal odds of acceptance based on your current profile, check out our free chancing engine ! It can help paint a more accurate picture of your chances based on academics, extracurriculars, and demographics and will let you know how to improve your profile.
To learn more about Caltech, such as diversity stats, majors, and how long your app should take, check out our Caltech school profile page .
That’s all for our ultimate guide to Caltech – if you’re applying this admissions cycle, we wish you the best of luck!
Related CollegeVine Blog Posts
How to Get Into California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Guide
How to get into California Institute of Technology (Caltech) – General Information
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private university in Pasadena, California. Caltech was founded in 1891 and is well known for its exceptional science and engineering programs. The Caltech total enrollment for undergraduates is 901 students.
What we’ll cover in this How to Get Into Caltech guide:
- Caltech average GPA
- Optimal Caltech SAT scores
- Caltech total enrollment
- Details on Caltech Early Action
- Caltech application deadline
- Tips for Caltech essays
- Preparing for a Caltech interview, and more!.
When thinking about how to get into Caltech, focus on every part of your application. This includes studying for standardized tests to meet the average Caltech SAT scores, earning grades that match the Caltech average GPA, and pursuing extracurriculars that highlight your passions.
Figuring out how to get into Caltech takes strategy. We can help. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Caltech graduates. Want to maximize your Caltech admissions odds? Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.
How do I get into California Institute of Technology?
As you think about how to get into Caltech, there are many aspects of the application process to consider. In this guide, we will examine how things like the Caltech average GPA, the Caltech SAT scores, and the Caltech total enrollment impact the admissions process. We’ll also explain how to use the Caltech essays to show Caltech why you belong on their campus.
In order to maximize your admissions odds, start preparing early. To submit a truly competitive application, start building your “how to get into Caltech” strategy well before the Caltech Early Action or regular Caltech application deadline.
How hard is it to get into California Institute of Technology?
According to U.S. News, Caltech is considered a highly competitive school with an acceptance rate of 7% . Just over 8,000 students applied for the Caltech Class of 2024. Of those applicants, the Caltech total enrollment was only 244 students.
The Caltech average GPA ranges from 3.9 – 4.19. The average Caltech SAT scores range from 1530-1580. In the U.S. News 2022 edition of Best Colleges, the California Institute of Technology is ranked #9 in National Universities.
If you want to know how to get into Caltech, you must understand that admission to this university is extremely competitive. Caltech would be a “reach” for any student. Becoming a Caltech Beaver will take much more than just meeting the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores.
To increase your chances of admission, make sure to prepare your materials well before the Caltech Early Action or regular Caltech application deadline. Study for standardized tests, strive for a high GPA, and write genuine, thoughtful responses to the Caltech essays. Also, if you know that Caltech is your top choice, consider applying by the Caltech Early Action deadline.
What is the average GPA for California Institute of Technology?
Although there is no minimum GPA that will guarantee you admission to Caltech, most students should strive to maintain a GPA that aligns with the Caltech average GPA. The Caltech average GPA ranges from 3.9 – 4.19, meaning that most students had around a 4.0 GPA.
Caltech will evaluate the GPA you earned by the end of your junior year. This means you should strive for high grades throughout high school, and that starts with choosing the right courses for you. Be sure to take advantage of all the resources available to you. This will give you a better chance of meeting the Caltech average GPA.
Wondering how to get into Caltech with grades lower than the Caltech average GPA? Check out our blog article . You’ll find helpful tips on how to make your application stand out, even if you don’t meet the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores.
What does the Caltech application look like?
There are many parts to a Caltech application, but each one is essential to your “how to get into Caltech” strategy. Applicants are encouraged to submit all Caltech essays, optional test scores, and supplemental materials well before the Caltech Early Action or regular Caltech application deadline.
The Caltech Early Action application deadline is November 1 st , and the Caltech application deadline for Regular Decision is January 3 rd . Caltech Early Action is non-binding, so if you apply under the Caltech Early Action deadline, you can still explore other options.
Applicants must submit:
- The Common Application or Coalition Application
- The Caltech essays , including three 250-word max responses
- An official transcript
- A school report
- Two teacher evaluations
An important part of your “how to get into Caltech” strategy is to compile all these materials well before the Caltech Early Action deadline or Regular Decision Caltech application deadline. The earlier you start strategizing, the stronger your application will be.
Need some help acing the Common App? Read our guide here .
Caltech introduced a test-optional policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we still suggest you submit high scores to maximize your admissions odds.
Prospective applicants must submit three Caltech essays. These short-answer Caltech essays are designed to provide the admissions committee with a better understanding of who you are as a student, scientist, and person. We will also expand on the Caltech essays later in this guide.
What extracurriculars do I need for California Institute of Technology?
Want to know how to get into Caltech? Start by identifying your passions, interests, and talents.
Extracurriculars contribute heavily to your candidate profile . Your candidate profile is a 1-2 sentence description of who you are, what you do, and why colleges should admit you. Having a strong candidate profile can set you apart from other applicants and is a crucial part of your “how to get into Caltech” plan.
Caltech does not look for one specific extracurricular activity. Instead, Caltech wants to see that you are dedicated to your interests. So, it is more about the quality of your extracurriculars, rather than the quantity.
Caltech also takes special note of any involvement in math or science extracurriculars. As a world-renowned science and engineering institute, Caltech wants students who naturally use math and science in different parts of their lives. Perhaps you co-founded a social club that solves physics problems for fun. Or, maybe one of your hobbies includes reading books about math theories and differential equations. Either way, try to highlight your intellectual curiosity about math and science in your Caltech application.
What is the acceptance rate at Caltech?
The Caltech acceptance rate is another key component to consider in your “how to get into Caltech” approach. Caltech has an acceptance rate of 7%, making it a highly selective school and ensuring that the Caltech total enrollment remains small.
Caltech received just over 8,000 applications for the Class of 2024. Of those applicants, the Caltech total enrollment for the freshman class was 244 students. The Caltech total enrollment for each incoming class of students normally ranges between 235-240 students. That puts the Caltech total enrollment for the entire campus at fewer than 1,000 undergraduates.
But what do acceptance rates mean, really? Acceptance rates come from the ratio of total applicants to accepted students. The Caltech acceptance rate varies each year and can be influenced by a variety of factors, like the Caltech total enrollment or standardized test scores.
Although Caltech switched to a test-optional policy, we encourage you to take standardized tests if you can do so. The average Caltech SAT scores ranged from 1530-1580, and the average ACT score ranged from 35-36.
In order to match the average Caltech SAT scores, start studying well before the Caltech Early Action or regular Caltech application deadline. Plan to take your first standardized test during your junior year. This gives you time to retake the tests if necessary so you can meet the average Caltech SAT scores.
Want to learn more about how acceptance rates affect the admissions process? Read our blog article here.
Does California Institute of Technology require interviews?
As you strategize about how to get into Caltech, you might wonder if a Caltech interview is an option. Unfortunately, applicants are not offered a Caltech interview.
In lieu of a Caltech interview, you should focus on securing strong teacher recommendations. This can show Caltech who you are in the classroom and help them envision you on their campus. Caltech requires two teacher recommendations—one from a math or science teacher, and one from a humanities or social sciences teacher. These teacher evaluations serve the same purpose as a Caltech interview—they help the admissions team learn more about you.
Beyond these two required teacher evaluations, you can also submit up to two additional evaluations from mentors or supervisors. These evaluations can also highlight your unique identity and interests, like what you would discuss in a Caltech interview.
These additional evaluations should be from people who know you in a different context. For example, you could ask your former supervisor from a summer internship to write about your leadership skills and work ethic. Or, you could ask your youth pastor to describe your service efforts with your church. These evaluations can help you stand out from the crowd, much like a Caltech interview would.
So, what should be included in these evaluations? Here are a few ideas:
- Personal achievements (both inside the classroom and out)
- Extracurricular involvements
- Leadership experiences
- Interests and talents
- Special skills
Much like a Caltech interview would help the admissions committee learn more about you, these evaluations help Caltech see what you care about, what kind of student you are, and how you will contribute to their community.
Want to learn more about how to secure strong recommendation letters in lieu of a Caltech interview? Read our blog article .
How do I answer a Caltech essay?
In addition to the main essay prompt found in the 2021-2022 Common App or Coalition App , the Caltech application requires three supplemental Caltech essays. All three supplemental Caltech essays have a maximum of 250-words.
Be sure to craft genuine, thoughtful responses to the Caltech essays. Additionally, if your GPA or test scores are just below the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores, the Caltech essays could be your chance to shine. We suggest you start writing the Caltech essays well before the Caltech application deadline.
The first prompt:
This prompt asks about a time when you encountered failure. This essay is designed to assess your potential to overcome any obstacles you might face in the future. Anchor your response with details about how you showed resilience and persistence.
Here are some guiding questions from the Caltech website to help your brainstorming session:
- How do you define failure?
- What was the problem you were trying to solve?
- What did you learn from the experience?
The second prompt:
The second of the three Caltech essays asks you to identify a subject that has inspired you to learn more about it. This prompt lets you show your intellectual curiosity and desire to learn new things. Here are the guiding questions for the second of the three supplemental Caltech essays:
- What was the situation, story, or topic?
- In which ways did it spike your curiosity?
- How did the pursuit of a deeper, more focused understanding of this prove valuable or satisfying to you?
The third prompt:
The last of the Caltech essays wants you to describe a time when you collaborated with your peers on a project or how you would do so once you join the Caltech community. This prompt seeks to understand your ability to work with others toward a common goal. Here are the guiding questions for the last of the Caltech essays:
- What have your peers told you about the ways you contribute to working in groups?
- How do you approach problem solving in groups?
- What would your peers tell us about how you collaborate and work together with them?
Be sure to include specific details throughout your Caltech essays. The more detailed you are in your Caltech essays, the more likely it is that the admissions team will connect with you.
The Caltech essays are designed to assess who you are, apart from your academic transcript and test scores. So, use the Caltech essays to highlight what makes you unique. Finally, be sure to add how you will enrich life on campus in your Caltech essays.
For more tips on how to write Caltech essays, read our Caltech essay guide .
How does Caltech review applications?
When thinking about how to get into Caltech, many students only concern themselves with the Caltech average GPA, Caltech SAT scores, or Caltech total enrollment. Although these are important factors in the application process, there are other things to consider in your “how to get into Caltech” approach.
Once the Caltech Early Action and regular Caltech application deadline have passed, Caltech begins the holistic review process. Each application is reviewed individually in order to determine a student’s strengths, experiences, perspectives, intellectual curiosity, and interests in science, engineering, and technology.
Understandably, many prospective students have questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact their college application. However, as the Caltech website suggests, Caltech wants students to take care of themselves and their communities first. As COVID-19 continues to impact the world, put yourself first—not your Caltech application.
Caltech is committed to reviewing students within the context of the opportunities and resources available to them. So, if your application falls short of the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores because of circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic, Caltech will understand.
Contributing to community
It will take much more than just meeting the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores to perfect your “how to get into Caltech” strategy. As they review applications, admissions officers will also consider how each applicant might contribute to the Caltech community.
Since the Caltech total enrollment is so low, Caltech cares deeply about who they admit. Caltech describes itself as a community that is “deeply immersed in inclusion, care, and collaboration.” So, use the Caltech essays to describe how you will exemplify these values as part of the Caltech community, in lieu of a Caltech interview.
Spend time strengthening your academic achievements and extracurricular talents as you prepare your application. Additionally, be sure to craft your candidate profile well in advance of the Caltech application deadline, as this will help with your “how to get into Caltech” approach.
Want more information about how to get into Caltech? Visit the Caltech website to read more about the holistic review process.
Will Caltech look at my social media?
As you think about how to get into Caltech, you might wonder if your social media presence could affect the admissions process. Rest assured, it is not likely that Caltech admissions officers will have the time or energy to review your social media accounts.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can or should post offensive, disrespectful, or derogatory content on your social media. While these kinds of posts might not directly affect your application, there are plenty of other situations in which your social media accounts can impact your life. Many potential employers will review your social media presence when you apply for a job or internship with their company.
Above all, we recommend using social media responsibly. Although it is not likely that Caltech will check your Instagram or Twitter accounts, there’s always a chance.
Is Caltech a good school for me?
As you research how to get into Caltech, it is important to reflect on whether Caltech is the right place for you. Yes, Caltech is ranked #9 in National Universities, and students who attend Caltech can pursue their STEM interests in a small academic community with a 3:1 student-faculty ratio. However, this doesn’t mean that Caltech is for everyone.
As evidenced by the high Caltech average GPA, Caltech SAT scores, and low Caltech total enrollment, academics at Caltech are top-notch. Students begin their Caltech education with a core curriculum that ensures a strong foundation in mathematics and natural sciences.
At Caltech, majors are referred to as an “option.” Students select an option towards the end of their freshman year. They then specialize in that option during their sophomore year and, finally, focus on their chosen field in their junior and senior years.
As far as campus life, Caltech students can choose between 11 different residences that offer collaborative living and learning environments with unique traditions and pranks . One of the more well-known Caltech traditions involves sit-down dinners served by student waiters.
As you are thinking about how to get into Caltech, ask yourself the following:
- Am I interested in a small, STEM-oriented university?
- Does Caltech offer the major or “option” that I want to study?
- How can Caltech help me achieve my future goals?
As you reflect on these questions, consider how your answers can help you craft stronger Caltech essays, as there is no Caltech interview option available.
If you decide that Caltech is for you, you can either apply through Caltech Early Action or Regular Decision. Caltech Early Action admissions are non-binding. This means you can still explore other schools even if you get into Caltech. Either way, be sure to submit your materials well before the Caltech application deadline.
To learn more about whether Caltech is right for you, visit the Undergraduate Student Blog .
Additional tips to get into California Institute of Technology
- Build your candidate profile
As you construct your “how to get into Caltech” approach, keep in mind that Caltech looks for innovative thinkers and leaders. Pursue your interests and seek out experiences that will strengthen your candidate profile well before the Caltech application deadline.
2. Write compelling Caltech essays
The Caltech essays are your chance to show the admissions team who you are beyond your transcript and test scores. Be thoughtful and authentic as you build your responses. Finally, be sure to highlight your unique achievements and future goals —Caltech wants to know what kind of student you are and how you will add to the Caltech community.
3. Don’t procrastinate
Don’t wait to apply—prepare your materials well in advance of the Caltech application deadline. You want to build the strongest application possible, so give yourself plenty of time to do so. Be proactive about completing your Caltech essays, especially since there is no Caltech interview available.
Don’t let the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores stop you from applying. Although there is no guarantee you will be admitted to Caltech, following the tips and advice in our “how to get into Caltech” guide will help you craft the strongest application you can. Good luck!
This guide was written by Claire Babbs , UT Austin ’12. If you want to know how to get into Caltech, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Caltech graduates. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.
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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Caltech Supplemental Essays
Deciding to go to the California Institute of Technology is the dawn of a new academic adventure! Caltech is a highly selective private research university with a 4% acceptance rate . With such a competitive application pool, your very best writing is required. In this guide, we’ll go over each prompt and help you break the Caltech essays down so you’ll know exactly what is being asked. Let’s get started!
The Caltech essays
Caltech’s supplemental essay prompts are a way for you to show the admission’s readers exactly who you are and why you should be part of the next undergraduate class. Even responding to the optional prompts (Essays #5 through #9 are optional) shows Caltech that you want to be there and are willing to go the extra mile to prove that. Remember, applicants should emphasize STEM in their essays as much as possible since that’s one of the primary focuses of Caltech.
Keep reading below to learn more about Caltech supplemental essay prompts!
“If you had to choose an area of interest or two today, what would you choose? Why did you choose that area of interest? (Max: 200 words)”
Applicants should see this prompt as an opportunity to discuss their passions in STEM or any other Caltech program. However, it’s important to discuss more than just what your desired major is; be sure to talk about how Caltech plays a part in whatever interests are shared. What’s so unique about this major/interest that you can’t stop thinking about it? Is it daring? Are you the only one in your family to do it? Use this essay to show your drive and initiative.
Questions to consider:
- Why do you want to study your major at Caltech?
- What is something unique about the majors that Caltech offers?
- What do you imagine when you think of studying your major at Caltech?
“At Caltech, we investigate some of the most challenging, fundamental problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Identify and describe two STEM-related experiences from your high school years, either in or out of the classroom, and tell us how and why they activated your curiosity. What about them made you want to learn more and explore further? (Min: 100 / Max: 200 words for each experience)”
Caltech is clear in this prompt that the focus is on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). While your experiences might seem similar to other applicants, try to set yourself apart by incorporating a personal aspect to your essay. Explain to the reader where your love of STEM started or grew during your time in high school and how that might contribute to your desire to attend Caltech.
Applicants should also explain what they want to learn more about or explore further and why. Doing so further demonstrates your interest in Caltech if you’re able to make a connection between what you’re curious about and what you love about this specific university.
- Who motivated you to get involved in STEM? Was it a mentor or a family member?
- What about this experience made you want to pursue STEM at Caltech?
- What are you most curious or excited about in STEM?
“The creativity, inventiveness, and innovation of Caltech’s students, faculty, and researchers have won Nobel Prizes and put rovers on Mars, but Techers also imagine smaller scale innovations every day, from new ways to design solar cells to 3D printing dorm decor. How have you been an innovator in your own life? (Min: 200 / Max: 250)”
The definition of innovation is the introduction of something that’s never existed before. Remember, innovation doesn’t have to be some large, spectacular creation. Your innovation can be something new you’ve added to your life or doing something that you’ve never heard of. Even being the first person in your family to go to college could be a form of innovation–you just have to get creative!
- Are you the first person to do something in your family?
- Have you created something that you think is fresh or different?
- Do you consider yourself a trailblazer? Why?
“The process of discovery is best advanced when people from diverse backgrounds come together to solve the greatest challenges in their fields. How do your past experiences and present-day perspectives inform who you have become and how you navigate the world? (Min: 200 / Max: 250)”
Use this prompt to consider how your background and/or cultural experiences have shaped your life. Have you had a chance to experience other cultures and learn from them? Has your background empowered you to further pursue STEM? These are questions you should think about as you write your Caltech supplemental essay.
The world has advanced from a collection of ideas from various different sources, so it would be good to share how a collaborative effort from people different from yourself has allowed you to grow and learn new things. Try to show your open-minded side as well as your intelligent one.
- What opinions have you formed about the world as a result of your experiences?
- How does your background influence who you are today and who you hope to become?
- What is the difference between how you navigate the world and how other applicants might?
“ Optional: If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below. (Max: 150 words)”
This prompt should take the Caltech admissions office on an exploration of the unknown, aka you. You could approach this essay in a unique way and push conventional boundaries. Alternatively, you could take a straightforward approach that positions you as an ideal candidate. Either way, the goal is to differentiate yourself from all other applicants, especially since this is one of the first optional essays that Caltech offers.
- Why do you want to share this with the admissions office?
- How will this aspect of your identity make your application stand out?
- What should be the key takeaway from this optional essay?
Also see: How to write an essay about yourself
“ Optional: When not surveying the stars, peering through microscopes, or running through marathons of coding, Caltech students pursue an eclectic array of interests that range from speed-cubing to participating in varsity athletics to reading romance novels. What is a favorite interest or hobby and why does it bring you joy? (Max: 100 words)”
As an optional prompt, it may be tempting to skip over this essay. However, completing it can make your application more interesting while showing that you’re willing to go the extra mile to attend Caltech. Telling the admissions office about a unique interest or hobby reveals a lot about your personality and whether you fit in at the university. You could be especially interested in plants and bugs, which might show that your love of science goes deeper than just in the classroom. The same can be true for any other activity that you find joy in.
The word count for this prompt is relatively short, but don’t over-generalize your interests. Just saying a particular aspect of STEM isn’t going to cut it, so try to dig a little deeper to highlight something different and new to your application.
- What is an activity that you haven’t mentioned anywhere else in your application?
- What does this interest or hobby say about you and your personality?
- Why do you enjoy this experience?
“ Optional: Did you have a hard time narrowing it down to just one interest or hobby? We understand – Caltech students like to stay busy, too – tell us about another hobby or interest! (Max: 50 words)”
This prompt is for applicants that have multiple unique hobbies or interests. If you completed the initial prompt mentioned above, then don’t feel pressured to write about another hobby if you can’t think of one right away. However, you’ll have to simplify this interest a lot more than the first, so be sure to pick the most important one for the longer prompt.
- Why do you want to write about this additional hobby?
- Does this interest build on your first one and the rest of your application?
“ Optional: Have you had any extenuating circumstances regarding your coursework (such as limited course selection or disruptions) not described elsewhere in your application? If so, tell us about them here.”
Everyone doesn’t have the same journey when it comes to pursuing education. Sometimes, we hit bumps in the road, and Caltech offers this prompt for you to explain your story. Applicants don’t have to share every detail of their circumstances, but disclose enough that Caltech can understand what the conditions at the time were and how they affected you. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and transparent since doing so shows that you’re taking your application seriously. It can also prove your tenacity and determination if you include how you overcame this difficulty in your life and how you’ll continue to progress.
- Is there anything that you feel you need to explain about your grades or courses?
- Was there anything notable and impactful that affected your school performance?
- How have you grown or what did you learn from this experience?
“ Optional: Some Caltech applicants engage in STEM competitions locally, nationally, and internationally (such as AIME, Science Olympiad, International Science Olympiads.) If you have received any STEM honors or awards, list them here (and scores, if applicable).”
Use this prompt as your opportunity to share your STEM accomplishments with Caltech. Don’t be afraid to include all the awards that you’re proud of! Let your accomplishments speak for themselves, and try not to exaggerate.
There also isn’t a word limit, which can tempt you to go on and on for page after page. So, show Caltech that you still have tricks up your sleeve by giving them a small piece of what’s next. This means knowing when to bring an end to your essay, even if you haven’t listed every award.
- What are some of the awards I’ve won throughout high school?
- Why do I want Caltech to know about this specific award?
- How does this award relate to attending Caltech?
Final thoughts for applicants
As you wrap up your Caltech essays, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. One of the most important things is noticing word count for each prompt. A majority of the prompts are 100-200 words with only a few exceptions. This means it’s ideal to get to the main point of your essay as soon as possible.
Potential Caltech students should also take time to read through each essay submission to check for errors or any weird issues with the flow and readability of your essays. It can be helpful to ask your teachers, peers, or family members to read over your submission and get feedback to improve on your writing and storytelling skills. The world wasn’t built in a day, so don’t overwhelm yourself! There are resources here to help.
Since you’re considering pursuing higher education, it’s important to have all the resources you can get at your fingertips. Check out some of these Scholarships360 links to learn more!
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How to Get Into Caltech: Acceptance Rate & Admissions Strategies
June 21, 2023
A popular filming location for shows/movies about brilliant young scientists ( Big Bang Theory , Numb3rs , Real Genius , and countless others), the California Institute of Technology is a magnet for the most accomplished STEM minds in the country. You might think of Caltech as “MIT-West”—in many ways that would be an accurate moniker—but the school is far smaller, catering to just under 1,000 undergraduates compared to MIT’s 4,600+. Undoubtedly, the 16,000+ applicants each year would qualify as “geniuses” by sheer IQ and traditional academic achievement, yet the Caltech acceptance rate is only 2-3%.
Every successful Caltech applicant possesses a sparkling transcript, perfect or near-perfect standardized test scores, and prodigious talents that extend outside of the classroom. Unfortunately, these attributes are necessary but often not sufficient as Caltech rejects valedictorians every single day of the admissions cycle. The intent of this article is to give those considering applying to Caltech:
- Caltech acceptance rate 2023
- SAT, GPA, and class rank of accepted Caltech applicants
- Admissions trends from the Class of 2027
- Caltech’s system for rating applicants
- Math & science preparedness
- A look at the demographics of Caltech undergraduates
- Caltech’s yield rate
- Tips for applying to Caltech
- How to assess whether applying to Caltech is worth the $75 application fee
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Caltech Acceptance Rate 2023
There were 16,626 applications to Caltech for a place in the 2022-23 freshman class; just 448 were accepted. This Caltech acceptance rate of 2.7% was lower than MIT’s in the same cycle.
Official Class of 2027 numbers have yet to be released but we do know that only 412 students were accepted. This could mean that the acceptance rate for the 2023-24 incoming freshman class was once again below 3%.
Caltech Admissions – SAT, GPA, and Class Rank
Caltech has yet to officially report any academic stats for its Class of 2027 in part because they are presently test-blind, meaning they do not consider SAT or ACT scores. Among members of the Class of 2026, a stunning 96% of this group placed in the top 10% of their high school class. While they do not release information on average GPA, it is fair to say that most Caltech students have an unweighted 4.0 (or very close to it) earned within a full roster of AP/IB courses.
Admissions Trends & Notes 2023
- 44% of the accepted Class of 2026 is female.
- 64% of the admitted Class of 2027 attended public schools.
- International students accepted hailed from 31 countries including Zimbabwe, Poland, and Jamaica.
- One-third of students submitted a portfolio or maker work.
- 20% are Scholar-athletes.
- 45% presented materials related to past research.
How Caltech Rates Applicants
Back in 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Caltech announced two major changes to their admissions process:
- Elimination of SAT Subject Test scores requirement.
- A two-year moratorium on the requirement of and consideration of the SAT/ACT. This moratorium has since been extended to those applying to join the 2022-23 freshman class.
Caltech has always utilized a holistic process, but this was made even more so by the impact of the pandemic and the accompanying changes made by the committee. The Dean of Admissions stated that: “If you continue to consider applying to Caltech, I promise that we will take great care of the story you share through an application. We have always reviewed students within the context of the opportunities available to them, and we will hold true to that practice. Additionally, we will be flexible and understanding of extenuating circumstances that may surround your college application process.”
Caltech Acceptance Rate (Continued)
Four factors are cited by Caltech as being “very important” to the admissions process: the rigor of your high school course load, application essays, recommendations, and character/personal qualities. Class rank, GPA, and extracurricular involvement are deemed “important” to the committee. For advice about how to stand out on the extracurricular front, check out our previous blog entitled How Many Extracurricular Activities Do I Need for College?
Math and Science Preparedness
On the academic front, the Caltech admissions committee wants to see evidence of success in courses covering rigorously proof-based, abstract math. They want to see a mastery of calculus that will ready students to study the following subjects:
- Set Theory & Logic
- Differential & Integral Calculus
- Linear Algebra
- Ordinary Differential Equations
Science expectations are similarly high. In the committee’s own words:
“A student’s science preparedness typically goes beyond foundational science classes taken in their earlier secondary/high school years. While not a concrete requirement, the Admissions Committee will prefer to see science classes – especially physics and chemistry – taken at the most advanced level offered by the school.”
Who Actually Gets Into Caltech?
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown for all undergraduates in 2022-23 was as follows (note—these do not add up to 100% as some individuals belong to more than one category):
- Hispanic: 22%
- African American: 3%
- Two or More Races: 9%
The gender breakdown was as follows:
Students hail from the following locations:
- In-state: 35%
- Out-of-State: 62%
- International: 8%
The greatest percentage of international students come from:
- South Korea
Caltech’s Yield Rate
Caltech’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted to Caltech is a touch over 50%. This number is much lower than the likes of Stanford, Harvard, or MIT but higher than Rice or Carnegie Mellon.
Tips for Applying to Caltech
If you plan on joining the 16,000+ Caltech hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- We repeat–Caltech will continue to operate in a test-blind capacity for the Class of 2027 admission cycle.
- Caltech gives students the option of using the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Unlike rival MIT, they do not use their own separate application form.
- Caltech does not consider “ demonstrated interest ” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
- There are no undergraduate interviews at Caltech. Your essays and teacher recommendations are the best way to forge a personal connection with an admissions officer.
- Caltech requires all international applicants to submit TOEFL scores and an International Financial Aid Statement of Intent.
- Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essay and short answers required by Caltech. In the 2022-23 cycle, they were as follows:
Caltech Essay Prompts
PROMPT #1: Tell us about a time or experience in which you encountered failure. (100–150 words.)
PROMPT #2: Tell us about a life situation, media story, or topic beyond or outside of a classroom or formal assignment that has captivated you, inspired your curiosity, and led you to delve more deeply into learning about a subject on your own. (100–150 words.)
PROMPT #3: Tell us about how you have collaborated with and worked together within a small group of your peers on some task or endeavor in the past, or about how you imagine you will work with your Caltech peers in the future. (100–150 words.)
CT Essay Advice: In general, approach each Caltech prompts as a chance to share something genuine and exciting about yourself. Getting to answer so many questions that invite personal, deep, and honest responses is a wonderful way to ingratiate yourself with the admissions officer reading your application. Communicate your passion for learning and your passion for Caltech and be as specific as you can be! Additionally, the prank prompt allows you to show off your humorous side and engage in some lighthearted fun. If done right, your enthusiasm and potential will jump off the page, potentially separating you from thousands of other qualified teens.
Caltech Acceptance Rate – Final Thoughts
If you are academically qualified, there is no harm in filling out a Caltech application, but—as with all uber-elite colleges in 2023-24—even the best and brightest applicants need to have a rock-solid backup plan. All college-bound teens need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list , containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in conjunction with an admissions professional (including your own high school counselor).
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Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).
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How to Make Your Admission Essay Memorable
- Post author By Ahmed Mohamed
- Post date November 2, 2023
Most learning institutions analyze high school grades, ACT and SAT scores, and extracurricular activities when assessing student’s admission credentials. However, recent admission committees are adopting the ‘test-blind’ to add more weight to the application process.
What does this mean for applicants? It means you must dig deeper into your writing skills to bring out an authentic and well-thought-out essay.
The admission committee sorts through thousands of applications. Hence, standing out from the rest and leaving an impression takes effort. There’s much more to reveal to the admission committee than your test scores.
This post underlines the importance of crafting a stellar admission essay that evokes emotions for your audience.
What Is Important?
Part of your college application process involves delivering an essay that describes your persona. It is an opportunity for any applicant to showcase a different side to themselves far from their GPAs and test scores.
It gives the admission committee a glimpse into the applicant’s aspirations, objectives, and goals. An applicant must showcase their fortitude towards undertaking the applied course for study.
The content depends on the question posed by the admission committee. Most prompts involve divulging information about one’s past experiences. What drives you? What do you hope to achieve? Why choose this specific school?
These are some important questions an applicant must answer to the admission committee. Also, the admission committee likes it when applicants actively participate in the community. Remember to mention your work at the children’s home or community shelter for bonus points.
Professional Strategies to Employ
The high level of competition for application spots at the institution makes the writing process nervy. Here are professional tips from experts to carve a name for yourself with the admission committee:
Generic responses often bore the admission committee. They need something new and exciting that reflects their true self. Inauthenticity could be using overly flowery language with fluff that irritates your audience.
Choose an interesting subject about your life and naturally bring out experiences and how they shaped your current self. Ensure to highlight pan points that showcase your strengths and be vulnerable to note your weaknesses.
2. Attention-Grabbing Statements
The admission committee is probably accustomed to reading similar essays from other applicants. Take time to grab their attention within the first few sentences. Start with a bold statement or a quote that invokes curiosity.
Start with a clear and precise thesis statement that guides the rest of the essay. For storytelling purposes, start with an intro that naturally flows with the main agenda behind the writing.
Stay calm while trying to grab the attention. Could you keep it simple but unique? A good and solid introductory part will entice the reader to finish the rest of the document.
3. Be Unique
Imagine a thousand applicants thinking similarly about how to approach this essay. It means a thousand applications with similarities. It means your chances of acceptance get lower than expected.
Rather, try a unique approach to answering prompts. Adopt a new perspective on how to view the assignment on hand. Most applicants will choose to glorify their past life experiences and how they molded them. What about speaking about your losses and how they changed you?
The element of surprise is a rare talent most writers don’t possess. You can buy research papers online to find unique ways top writers like J.K Rowling, Leo Tolstoy, and Neil Gaiman brought out the element of surprise when reading a piece.
4. Avoid Common Themes and Topics
Over the years, most applicants have eaten into similar topics to get into the good books of the admission committee. Some exhausted topics and themes overly used include sports, immigration, obstacles/success, and volunteer stories.
It’s about more than avoiding these themes while writing completely. Moreover, it’s about avoiding the same trajectory used in these themes to drive home the message.
For example, facing life challenges such as poverty at a young age and growing up intending to change the scenario seems a sad topic. However, it’s a rerun strategy most applicants employ many times.
5. Keep the Reader in Mind
Often, we get so engrossed with our writing that we need to remember our intended audience. Picture an admission board seated on a panel sorting through thousands of applications with tight deadlines. Picture the pressure they face turning down prospective applicants based on their writing.
It gives you an in-depth look at the intense vetting process the board goes through. Hence, make it easy for the board by ticking all the expected boxes within the application. Answer the prompt correctly, and edit for any grammatical or spelling errors.
Literary Devices to Add to Your Document
One new technique to freshen up your document is the addition of literary devices. Literary devices attract your readers and catch their attention. Here are some popular literary devices to include in your essay:
Symbolism is the usage of abstract concepts or objects to represent ideas. Adopt symbolism in your essay to represent the essay’s main theme. These symbols help in conveying your main message to your readers.
Flashbacks are essential in transporting your reader from the present mode to past events. It helps the admission committee better understand yourself and your current personality. It helps them gauge your personal goals, motives, and objectives.
Incorporating dialogue into your essay creates a sense of suspense while transporting your main message within the essay. Adopt the technique strategically and avoid coming off redundant. Make it precise and ensure it fits the context within the application process.
Quotes are essential to catch your readers’ attention, especially during the introductory sentences. Use famous quotes from important people in your life. It can be idols, family, or friends. Make it powerful, original, and blend with the context of the document. However, avoid going overboard with overquoting.
The fear of failure often limits our creativity. Therefore, don’t think about the possible outcomes after sending your application. Countercheck each parameter and ensure you put your best foot forward. Other opportunities are available, which should encourage you to try again.
Tips for Applying
Honors essay prompt tips.
- Honors Essays should add additional information to your UW application – don’t repeat what you’ve already written in your general UW essays. Remember that Honors admissions reviews your entire UW application as part of the holistic review process.
- Read the prompts carefully and try your best to respond to the whole question.
- Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear! When students do this, they often end up repeating what we’ve said on our website. We want to learn about you and your individual interests – don’t be afraid to be different!
- Use the space wisely! Take the time to learn about our program, then answer the prompt with our curriculum in mind.
- Our essay prompt should not be a list your accomplishments or past achievements
- Reflection is a core value and component of our curriculum and we are looking for evidence of self reflection in your essays. Reflection can happen in many different ways, but a helpful place to start is to ask more questions that help you dig deeper into the initial prompt. Below we list some additional questions that you may want to consider.
Interdisciplinary Honors 2024 Essay
We want to understand your desire to learn new things and to push your education outside of the areas of learning that you are most familiar with.
Tell us why this type of learning interests you and which subjects you’re excited to explore in college.
We hope to see students demonstrate that they have done their research and that they understand the program that they are applying for. We want to see evidence of how their values and goals align with those of the UW Honors Program and why they are enthusiastic about joining this community. Here are some questions that may help you reflect more deeply on why you want to be a part of the Interdisciplinary Honors community:
- In your own words, what do you like about learning and pushing yourself outside your learning comfort zone?
- How does interdisciplinary learning enhance your understanding of the world?
- How do you hope to engage with what UW Honors offers to further your education and personal growth?
- How do you individually connect with the goals and values of the UW Honors Program and why are they important to you?
- Why does interdisciplinary learning matter to you personally? Why does it matter for our broader world?
- What have you done in the past that supports what you tell us in your essay? Don’t focus entirely on past experiences, but providing evidence to back up claims you make strengthens your essay.
- Why are you applying for Interdisciplinary Honors (as opposed to only pursuing Departmental Honors through your major)? If you plan to pursue both Honors pathways, explain what you hope to uniquely gain from pursuing a degree with Interdisciplinary Honors.
- Why is community important to you, and who do you hope to meet in the Interdisciplinary Honors community?
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