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Caltech Requirements for Admission
Choose your test.
What are Caltech's admission requirements? While there are a lot of pieces that go into a college application, you should focus on only a few critical things:
- GPA requirements
- Testing requirements, including SAT and ACT requirements
- Application requirements
In this guide we'll cover what you need to get into Caltech and build a strong application.
School location: Pasadena, CA
This school is also known as: California Institute of Technology
Admissions Rate: 6.4%
If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.
The acceptance rate at Caltech is 6.4% . For every 100 applicants, only 6 are admitted.
This means the school is extremely selective . Meeting their GPA requirements and SAT/ACT requirements is very important to getting past their first round of filters and proving your academic preparation. If you don't meet their expectations, your chance of getting in is nearly zero.
After crossing this hurdle, you'll need to impress Caltech application readers through their other application requirements, including extracurriculars, essays, and letters of recommendation. We'll cover more below.
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Caltech GPA Requirements
Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.
The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school's average GPA for its current students.
Average GPA: 4.19
The average GPA at Caltech is 4.19 .
(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. This school did not officially report its average GPA, but we've estimated it here using data from over 1,000 schools.)
With a GPA of 4.19, Caltech requires you to be at the top of your class . You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants. Furthermore, you should be taking hard classes - AP or IB courses - to show that college-level academics is a breeze.
If you're currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 4.19, you'll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate . This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.
SAT and ACT Requirements
Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.
Caltech SAT Requirements
Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school's average score.
Average SAT: 1545
The average SAT score composite at Caltech is a 1545 on the 1600 SAT scale.
This score makes Caltech Extremely Competitive for SAT test scores.
Caltech SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)
The 25th percentile SAT score is 1530, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 1570. In other words, a 1530 on the SAT places you below average, while a 1570 will move you up to above average .
Here's the breakdown of SAT scores by section:
SAT Score Choice Policy
The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.
Caltech has the Score Choice policy of "Contact School."
This means that the school wants you to contact them to learn more about their Score Choice policies. Keep reading - we may have extra notes about this from our own expert research.
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and SAT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
Caltech ACT Requirements
Just like for the SAT, Caltech likely doesn't have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.
Average ACT: 36
The average ACT score at Caltech is 36. This score makes Caltech Extremely Competitive for ACT scores.
The 25th percentile ACT score is 35, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 36.
Even though Caltech likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 35 or below, you'll have a very hard time getting in, unless you have something else very impressive in your application. There are so many applicants scoring 36 and above that a 35 will look academically weak.
ACT Score Sending Policy
If you're taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.
Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.
This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school's ACT requirement of 36 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you're happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.
ACT Superscore Policy
By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.
However, in our research, we found that Caltech does in fact offer an ACT superscore policy . To quote their Admissions Office:
We require all applicants take the SAT or ACT, both of which we will superscore.
Superscoring is powerful to your testing strategy, and you need to make sure you plan your testing accordingly. Of all the scores that Caltech receives, your application readers will consider your highest section scores across all ACT test dates you submit .
Click below to learn more about how superscoring critically affects your test strategy.
For example, say you submit the following 4 test scores:
Even though the highest ACT composite you scored on any one test date was 20, Caltech will take your highest section score from all your test dates, then combine them to form your Superscore. You can raise your composite score from 20 to 32 in this example.
This is important for your testing strategy. Because you can choose which tests to send in, and Caltech forms your Superscore, you can take the ACT as many times as you want, then submit only the tests that give you the highest Superscore. Your application readers will only see that one score.
Therefore, if your ACT score is currently below a 36, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the ACT and retaking it . You have a very good chance of raising your score, which will significantly boost your chances of getting in.
Even better, because of the Superscore, you can focus all your energy on a single section at a time. If your Reading score is lower than your other sections, prep only for the Reading section, then take the ACT. Then focus on Math for the next test, and so on. This will give you the highest Superscore possible.
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and ACT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements
Both the SAT and ACT have an optional essay section.
Caltech requires you to take the SAT Essay/ACT Writing section . They'll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.
SAT Subject Test Requirements
Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.
Caltech has indicated that SAT subject tests are required for admission . Read further to see how many and which ones they require.
Typically, your SAT/ACT and GPA are far more heavily weighed than your SAT Subject Tests. If you have the choice between improving your SAT/ACT score or your SAT Subject Test scores, definitely choose to improve your SAT/ACT score .
Our Expert's Notes
We did more detailed research into this school and found the following information.
In addition to the SAT or ACT Plus Writing, you must take an SAT Subject Test in math, and one in the sciences.
Final Admissions Verdict
Because this school is extremely selective, getting a high SAT/ACT score and GPA is vital to having a chance at getting in . If you don't pass their SAT/ACT and GPA requirements, they'll likely reject you without much consideration.
To have the best shot of getting in, you should aim for the 75th percentile, with a 1570 SAT or a 36 ACT . You should also have a 4.19 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score.
For a school as selective as Caltech, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We'll cover those details next.
But if you apply with a score below a 1570 SAT or a 36 ACT, you unfortunately start out with the odds against you and have a tiny chance of getting in. There are just too many students with high SAT/ACT scores and strong applications, and you need to compete against them.
Here's our custom admissions calculator. Plug in your numbers to see what your chances of getting in are. Pick your test: SAT ACT
- 80-100%: Safety school: Strong chance of getting in
- 50-80%: More likely than not getting in
- 20-50%: Lower but still good chance of getting in
- 5-20%: Reach school: Unlikely to get in, but still have a shot
- 0-5%: Hard reach school: Very difficult to get in
How would your chances improve with a better score?
Take your current SAT score and add 160 points (or take your ACT score and add 4 points) to the calculator above. See how much your chances improve?
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Every school requires an application with the bare essentials - high school transcript and GPA, application form, and other core information. Many schools, as explained above, also require SAT and ACT scores, as well as letters of recommendation, application essays, and interviews. We'll cover the exact requirements of Caltech here.
Application Requirements Overview
- Common Application Accepted
- Universal Application Not accepted
- Electronic Application Available
- Essay or Personal Statement Required for all freshmen
- Letters of Recommendation 2
- Interview Not required
- Application Fee $75
- Fee Waiver Available? Available
- Other Notes
- SAT or ACT Required
- SAT Essay or ACT Writing Required
- SAT Subject Tests Required
- Scores Due in Office December 31
- Subject Required Years
- Foreign Language
- Social Studies 1
Deadlines and Early Admissions
- Offered? Deadline Notification
- Yes January 3 April 1
- Yes November 1 December 15
Admissions Office Information
- Address: 383 Pasadena, CA 91106
- Phone: (626) 395-6341
- Fax: (626) 683-3026
- Email: [email protected]
We did more detailed research into this school's admissions process and found the following information:
Your letters of recommendation have to specifically come from one math/science teacher and one humanities/social sciences teacher.
Other Schools For You
If you're interested in Caltech, you'll probably be interested in these schools as well. We've divided them into 3 categories depending on how hard they are to get into, relative to Caltech.
Reach Schools: Harder to Get Into
These schools are have higher average SAT scores than Caltech. If you improve your SAT score, you'll be competitive for these schools.
Same Level: Equally Hard to Get Into
If you're competitive for Caltech, these schools will offer you a similar chance of admission.
Safety Schools: Easier to Get Into
If you're currently competitive for Caltech, you should have no problem getting into these schools. If Caltech is currently out of your reach, you might already be competitive for these schools.
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Admission to the First-Year Class
Students are admitted to the first-year class on the basis of strong academic performance in a rigorous course of college preparatory study, especially in the areas of math and science; teacher and counselor evaluations; personal characteristics; a strong demonstrated interest in math, science, or engineering; and information provided on the application. Information on the application process can be found on the admissions office website at admissions.caltech.edu. Students are encouraged to apply online through the Common App or the QuestBridge program. For further information on admission, please e-mail [email protected]. To be considered for admission, applications to the first-year class must be submitted online by November 1 for Restrictive Early Action or January 3 for Regular Decision.
Information on the application process can be found on the admissions office website at admissions.caltech.edu. Students are encouraged to apply online through the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or the QuestBridge program. For further information on admission, please call (626) 395-6341 or e-mail [email protected]. To be considered for admission, applications to the first-year class must be submitted online by November 1 for Restrictive Early Action or January 3 for Regular Decision.
Since 2008, Caltech has been a proud QuestBridge partner school. QuestBridge partners with approximately 50 institutions to connect the nation’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds with leading institutions of higher education where they are given a full ride with no loan. Applications are due to QuestBridge annually at the end of September. Students are able to rank Caltech as one of fifteen institutions they’d like to attend and, if chosen as a QuestBridge Match Finalist, Caltech reviews student applications in November and matches with QuestBridge Match students on December 1 each year. For more information about QuestBridge, visit www.questbridge.org .
Restrictive Early Action
Restrictive Early Action is a non-binding option that limits the number of schools an applicant may apply to during the early period, but in return offers a student the opportunity to receive an offer of admission from their first-choice school. The Restrictive Early Action process requires that the completed application be submitted online by November 1 through the Common App. Under this application plan, students will be notified in mid-December of their admission decision. Students admitted under Restrictive Early Action have until May 1 to make their commitment to attend.
Students who choose to apply REA to Caltech may not apply Early Action nor Early Decision to any other institution, with the following exceptions:
- An institution outside of the United States;
- Any public institution that has a non-binding admissions policy with a fall application deadline (such as the University of California system);
- An institution's non-binding rolling admissions process;
- Any military academy;
- Any scholarships or special academic programs with an early deadline at another institution, public or private, if the early application submission is a necessary aspect for consideration, and the outcome is non-binding;
- If you are deferred admission after applying REA to Caltech, you may apply to another institution's Early Decision II program. If you are admitted to that institution's Early Decision II program, you are required to withdraw your application of admission to Caltech.
Students are expected to prepare for Caltech by successfully completing the following curriculum:
- Four years of math, including one year of calculus*
- One year of physics*
- One year of chemistry*
- One year of biology (recommended)
- Four years of English
- Two years of history and/or social sciences courses (3+ years recommended)
If a student is unable to take a calculus, chemistry, or physics course in high school because it was not available to them or they experienced unresolvable course conflicts, Caltech will accept examination scores or certification showing proof of knowledge in the subject in lieu of an academic course requirement, provided both the student and their counselor document the underlying, unresolvable issue(s).
The following examinations and certificates can substitute for the course requirements for calculus, chemistry, or physics:
- A score of 5 on AP exams in AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, AP Physics 1, AP Physics 2, or AP Physics C
- A score of 6 or 7 on the IB Mathematics HL; Chemistry SL or HL; or Physics SL or HL examinations. Note, IB Mathematics SL does not meet our requirements.
- A certification from Schoolhouse.world in one of the following courses: AP/College Calculus AB or BC; AP/College Chemistry; High School Physics or AP/College Physics 1
For the class of 2028, these are the only avenues for substituting course requirements in calculus, chemistry, and/or physics at Caltech. There will be no exceptions.
Applicants should note the following changes made to Caltech’s standardized exams policies:
Five-Year testing moratorium on both the requirement and consideration of SAT and/or ACT test scores. This change will be in effect for all first-year students applying to Caltech for fall 2021 through fall 2025.
SAT Subject Tests: As of January 2020, Caltech eliminated the requirement for applicants to submit two SAT Subject Tests. These sections will not be considered in the application review process.
English Proficiency Scores are required of all international students unless 1) the student's native language is English or 2) English is the primary language of instruction in the student's secondary school.
Acceptable English proficiency exams include:
- TOEFL Internet Based Test (IBT)
- Duolingo English Test (DET)
The essays, which are required as a part of the application, are intended to provide students the opportunity to communicate their interests, experiences, and background. Since Caltech is interested in learning about each applicant, the essays are viewed as an important part of the admission decision process. Caltech's supplemental essays are updated annually and listed on the admissions website each August 1.
Two teacher evaluations and a Secondary School Report are required. One evaluation must be from a math or science teacher, and one evaluation from a humanities or social science teacher (see the instructions in the application). A Secondary School Report must be filled out by the applicant’s secondary school counselor or other school official.
Students are welcome to provide supplemental materials that they believe will help the admissions committee learn more about them. These materials may include but are not limited to:
- Research paper, abstract, or publication (citation if published, letter of evaluation, and research description required)
- Maker portfolio
- Description of an internship
After the application deadline, students will receive a link to the Caltech application portal (Beaver Breakroom), which will include instructions on submitting supplemental materials .
Caltech is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling and therefore agrees to comply with the national candidate’s reply date of May 1. Places in the entering class will not be held after May 1. Restrictive Early Action applicants will be informed of their admissions decision in mid-December and Regular Decision applicants will be informed by mid-March. Regardless of round, admitted students have until May 1 to respond to their admissions offer.
Caltech will consider requests from admitted students for a one-year gap year (and occasionally two-year gap years in the case of students on religious missions or doing required military service). Students who request a gap year must accept their offer of admission and then submit a written request stating the purpose of postponement to the Director of Undergraduate Admissions. Instructions are provided to admitted students annually in the Caltech applicant portal, called the Beaver Breakroom.
Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and College Credit
Caltech encourages all prospective undergraduate applicants to prepare by challenging themselves with the most rigorous course of study available, including the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. However, college credit for AP or IB classes is not automatic. Course credit and/or placement in an accelerated program is sometimes granted as deemed appropriate by the department faculty. The awarding of Caltech course credit takes place at the time of registration each fall.
Biology majors who have passed Bi 8 and Bi 9 (with 9 units on grades) are considered to have met the core requirement of Bi 1.
The student’s qualifications for placing out of Ch 1 ab will only be determined by the performance on a placement examination to be administered in the summer prior to registration. Qualified students, with the instructor’s consent, are allowed to substitute either Ch 8 or Ch/ChE 9 for the ”core” chemistry laboratory requirement (Ch 3 a or Ch 3 x).
All incoming students (first-year and transfers) will take a placement assessment to determine whether they are adequately prepared for the substantial writing component that is part of all first-year humanities courses. Most new students participate in a web-based version of this assessment, which is usually conducted in early June. A makeup assessment is held just before fall classes begin. Based on results of this writing assessment, students may be required to take Wr 1 or Wr 2 in the fall quarter. (Wr 1 and Wr 2 count for general Institute credit only.) After completing these courses, students may, at the discretion of humanities faculty, be required to go on to subsequent coursework in academic writing, such as Wr 3, Wr 4, or Wr 50, before or concurrently with first-year humanities coursework. During the first week of classes, students will be required to produce an in-class writing sample to confirm the initial placement.
During the summer before the first year, entering first-year students are asked to take a diagnostic exam in basic calculus that will determine which students will be placed in a special section of Ma 1 a for those with less complete preparation, and later take Ma 1 d; and if they are interested in advanced placement, they may also take an examination to determine whether they will begin the mathematics core sequence at an advanced level.
Normally, an entering first-year student takes Ma 1 abc, Calculus of One and Several Variables and Linear Algebra. This course covers the calculus of functions of one and several variables; infinite series; vector algebra; basic and advanced linear algebra; derivatives of vector functions, multiple integrals, line and path integrals; and theorems of Green and Stokes. The course is divided into a lecture part and a recitation part that focuses mainly on problem-solving.
Students in need of additional problem-solving practice may be advised to take Ma 8 (in addition to Ma 1 a) in the first quarter.
The required first-year physics course, Ph 1 abc, is considerably more rigorous than most advanced placement work, and entering first-year students are encouraged to take Ph 1. A test is administered during the summer to aid in the organization of Ph 1; students who have performed particularly well can discuss the possibilities for advanced placement with the physics representative during orientation. A second test may then be required.
Undergraduate housing includes the eight houses (Avery, Blacker, Dabney, Fleming, Lloyd, Page, Ricketts, Venerable), and the Bechtel Residence and Marks House and Braun House. First- and second-year students are required to live on campus. Requests for exceptions to this requirement should be submitted to the Office of Student Experience, and must be approved by the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Vice President for Student Affairs.
New Student Orientation
All first-year, transfer, 3/2 and exchange students are expected to attend the New Student Orientation as part of the regular registration procedure. Orientation takes place the week prior to the beginning of classes. Faculty members, staff and upperclass student leaders participate help to introduce new students to the Caltech community. The orientation period provides an opportunity for new students to become acquainted with the campus, the Honor System, and other aspects of life at Caltech. In addition, they will meet classmates, upperclass students, and faculty during this time
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How to Write the Caltech Supplemental Essays 2020-2021
We’ve updated this post! Read the 2021-2022 Caltech essay guide .
Ranked #12 (tie) in National Universities by the US News and World Report, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is one of the best STEM schools in the country. Just 11 miles northeast of LA, the Pasadena-based college is known for everything from excellent weather and student-served dining traditions to theory-focused coursework and a large diversity of research. With just a 6.2% acceptance rate, the university remains extremely selective in their admissions.
The actual application for Caltech has four main supplemental essay questions primarily aimed at understanding the applicant’s STEM experience and fervor. As you begin thinking about writing the Caltech supplemental essays, it’s important to think of them as a portfolio working together, where the content should balance well without seeming repetitive. Overall, they are looking for someone who will stand out in their tech community, but that doesn’t preclude you from showing other important facets of your background and interests in the application as well. Want to know your chances at Caltech? Calculate your chances for free right now.
Want to learn what Caltech will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Caltech needs to know.
How to Write the Caltech Essays
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)
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)
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)
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)
All Applicants—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 per activity).
This essay functions as a set of three mini essays , which allows Caltech to take their own spin on the popular activity-based prompt without the usual 150 word cap on a singular activity. As you approach this set of prompts, think about which three experiences you would like to expand on as an opportunity to include a few more details that would not fit in the character-tight Common App activities list.
Similarly to your activities list, you should order them based on overall significance/priority and make sure that you are not including any repeat information. For example, if you are part of a robotics team as both a member of the drive team and also a CAD designer, you should still consolidate separate roles as just one STEM activity – robotics.
Since the word count for each activity is still limited to just 120 words each , your descriptions should be direct and carefully thought out to maximize space. Although the prompt is asking for you to explain activities that have helped you develop your passion, that doesn’t mean you need to touch base on how exactly they developed your passion in each since you won’t have enough room. Caltech has also eliminated any need to transition between activities by adding three different text box spaces to keep them segregated.
Once you have drafted these mini essays, double check to make sure someone reading them from an outsider perspective will have a clear understanding of the activity . Clarify your acronyms and use terms that will be accessible especially if you are referencing something local or unusual in your activity descriptions.
All Applicants—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 words).
Admissions officers can already tell from your activities list, grades, and test scores that you’re willing to put your intellect to work to achieve your goals. Still, success in most fields requires playing well with others alongside a solid drive. Remember, universities want to build a well-rounded class of students who possess the communication skills needed to contribute their unique talents to a collective cause.
Collaboration is one of Caltech’s professed values, and this essay is your chance to show that it’s one of yours too.
Additionally, this prompt contains a bit of a “Why Caltech” element, as they are seeking to understand which resources and opportunities you will take advantage of in engaging with your Caltech community. As with any “ Why This College? ” prompt, the key here is specificity, specificity, and more specificity . There are plenty of fantastic STEM-focused schools out there —MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Harvey Mudd, to name a few, so what makes Caltech special to you, and how will you contribute to their special community?
With your 400-word limit in mind, feel free to briefly touch upon your past collaborative experiences, but focus on your takeaways regarding which elements of these experiences you most enjoyed, what you learned from them, and which collaborative skills you’ll bring to the Caltech campus. Here’s where you get into your interests within STEM, making sure to mention the specific opportunities—including research, academic offerings, programs, and facilities—which will allow you to reach your goals while working with others.
Since Caltech values contribution as well as collaboration, don’t shy away from potentially starting something new! Perhaps you would like to start a new club, company, or nonprofit; just make sure it will bring something truly original and previously unexplored on the Caltech campus.
For example, you could discuss your dream of creating a company that uses neural networks to conduct customer research through use of the resources at Caltech’s CAST, or Center of Autonomous Systems and Technologies. While you have deep knowledge and experience in neural networking, you’ll turn to your classmates for their skills in web design, data analysis, and more, which you recognize as equally essential skills.
Explain what you’ll bring to the table and show healthy humility in exploring what you hope to learn and gain from the classmates you collaborate with. After all, one of the best things about college is the people you meet there.
All Applicants—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 words).
This prompt can be one of the most entertaining to write and read because of the opportunity to present the admissions office with an amalgamation of weird topics. Applicants can explore their quirky side with this prompt by writing about unique hobbies or interesting personality oddities.
The main point of the question is to invite students to take a more relaxed approach to writing about themselves. It brings the application to life by asking you to write only about your own personality and humor , which feels more open than other essays that ask you to answer a specific question on something like a challenge you’ve faced or a person you admire. While answering both of those prompts still offers insight into who the author is, they are fundamentally centralized around another topic or person, which is why Caltech cuts straight to the chase with this prompt to get you know you better.
The admissions office is looking for an authentic and fun 400 word portrayal of your character that could distinctly identify you from a crowd of essays. If you got to meet your admissions officer in person, and only had 60 seconds to pitch yourself without using anything from your activities or awards, what would you say first? Think of this essay’s tone as similar to the “letter to your roommate” type essays where you want to showcase quirky qualities and experiences related to your hobbies.
When thinking of unusual activities to include, we advise applicants to be careful with content related to contentious topics or politics (i.e. if one of your hobbies is to photograph/meme political campaign signs around your hometown or to actively moderate a controversial subreddit, don’t indicate which party/ideology/position you tend to support even through jokes or minor references).
While including pastimes that are extremely common like watching Netflix or pranking your friends might not stand out, adding specificity will. For example, you could talk in more detail about these activities by explaining how you love to memorize passages from Netflix comedy specials to pull out random Ali Wong impressions whenever possible or how you have a child-like obsession for food pranks and once ate an entire mayo-container full of vanilla pudding in front of your robotics team on the bus, etc. These “mini anecdotes” can elevate even the most generic topics throughout your essay.
Overall, if your essays starts to feel too “list-y,” remember to break up the examples with more detail and insights into your own personality as well!
All Applicants—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 words).
In this final prompt, Caltech asks applicants to directly address their own background and demonstrate that their contributions in high school will continue once they attend college as well.
For example, a student could talk about how they grew up obsessed with oral storytelling and how that has helped their roles as a speaker during group projects and presentations as well. Expansion on the imagery behind stories they once told and additional detail on the engineering/research/robotics projects where they have used these skills since then could provide the main essay points leading into their hypothetical future contributions at Caltech.
One critical note is that this prompt can quickly morph into a response that is very similar to prompt #2 where applicants are answering what they “ hope to explore, innovate, or create with [their] Caltech peers?” Since these both reference how the student will contribute to Caltech in the future, it’s helpful to make sure the content does not overlap at all. Focus on the key differences in what they are asking, where one is targeted more specifically on collaborating with innovation, and another asks about diversity and background contributing to a community.
This prompt also leaves the door open for particularly interesting responses. CollegeVine’s 2016 Caltech Essay guide encouraged students to approach this type of question by talking about how you will enhance Caltech’s diversity of thought through how you generate ideas, how you analyze problems, or how you approach academic challenges.
Ideally, these topics would paired with some sort of supporting anecdote , and then tied to your ability to solve typical engineering or academic problems. An example also given in the previous guide shows how you could answer this prompt by discussing how your observational nature allowed you to find several potential water leaks in your basement that no one else did, allowing your family to prevent the leaks. Then, you could link your powers of observation to a potential role as a trouble-shooter on academic projects.
Some questions about this type of prompt that we see from students are:
Q: Should we write about how our background influences what we want to major in for this prompt?
A: While you do not need to write about your intended major for this prompt, it could serve as a good way to wrap up your application package if you think your interest hasn’t been clearly indicated already.
Q: Is it better if I center it around one key element of my background/perspective?
A: Since this prompt doesn’t specify choosing one, you do have the option to touch on a few different elements or ideas if you can clearly draw a connection or overarching theme between them. Be careful not to lose depth or end up listing instead of utilizing anecdotes.
Q: How can I use this essay to talk about my research/internship/extracurricular if I haven’t been able to include information about it elsewhere?
A: Many students have been involved in internships, summer programs, etc. that they would like to highlight somewhere in their application. If you don’t provide more detail in the above essays, you may want to incorporate it into this prompt without losing focus on how it relates to your background. It can be difficult controlling how much information you give to explain the program or activity since you really need the word count for connecting it to your perspective and the future elements. We also tend see a lot of generalizations for brevity like, “it was difficult”, or “it was extremely inspiring”, without painting the picture of why with imagery or tangible examples to add evidence.
As you work on these essays, try to choose topics that you genuinely care about. This will help you in devoting much more time to them, resulting in higher quality essays . Since Caltech admissions are extremely selective, there’s a good deal of pressure on both the content and execution of all your application’s essays.
Remember that it is the admissions office’s job to read through thousands of these essays each year and discern whether you would be a good fit, so avoid topics that are even vaguely cliché. As you read through your finals essays, be brutally honest with yourself about whether you would enjoy the essay you’ve written from an outsider’s perspective. Pay close attention to your opening sentences and comb through each section carefully for grammar errors. Overall, do your best to put in the effort on essays that you feel are unique, meaningful, and well-organized.
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Caltech Supplemental Essays 2022-2023
Caltech Supplemental Essays 2022-23
Quick facts- caltech essays.
- Caltech acceptance rate: 7%— U.S. News ranks Caltech as a most selective school.
- 1 (650 word) Personal Statement
- 1 (~200 word) Academic essay
- 1 (~200 word) Short answer essay
- 2 (~250 word) Short answer essays
- Caltech application: The Caltech application can be submitted via the Common App , Apply Coalition , Powered by Scoir , or through Questbridge . Make sure to check all of the Caltech application requirements.
- Caltech supplemental essay tip: Your responses to the Caltech essay prompts are your chance to show your love of STEM . Use the opportunity to show how you would thrive in a STEM-focused environment.
What are Caltech’s supplemental essays?
The Caltech supplemental essays are listed on the Common App website . You can also find the Caltech supplemental essays listed on Caltech’s website , alongside brief explanations of each prompt.
Required Caltech supplemental essays and short answer questions:
1. 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? (200 words )
2. 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? (100-200 words for each experience)
3. 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 décor. How have you been an innovator in your own life? (200-250 words)
4. 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? (200-250 words)
Optional Caltech supplemental essays:
1. If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below. (150 words)
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? (100 words)
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! (50 words)
4. 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.
5. 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).
You’ll notice that the first thing stated on the Caltech supplemental essays page is that Caltech is “unapologetically STEM.” So, Caltech admissions wants to read all about your STEM-specific experiences . When considering how to write Caltech essays, look first to the “what we look for” page on the Caltech site. This is a cohesive list of what admissions looks for in applicants.
Notably, the Caltech supplemental essays do not ask students to write a “Why Caltech essay.” However, just because there is no “Why Caltech essay” doesn’t mean that you can’t show the admissions team why you belong at a science and engineering powerhouse like Caltech . So, think of these essays as your chance to show how you’ll contribute to the Caltech community.
Whenever possible and relevant, reference specific Caltech programs, classes, professors, and organizations that you would take advantage of. The Caltech admissions process extends beyond the admissions office alone. In fact, the Caltech supplemental essays are read directly by faculty. With a 3:1 student to faculty ratio at Caltech, it may not be a surprise that students closely interact with their professors.
Later in this guide, we will break down each of the Caltech essay prompts in more detail. This should give you an idea of Caltech supplemental essay examples, both required and optional.
How many essays does Caltech require?
Caltech requires students to complete four Caltech essay prompts .
These Caltech essay prompts ask students to reflect on their experiences, interests, and character. You should also use the Caltech essay prompts to discuss your STEM experiences. Prime Caltech supplemental essay examples will encompass who you are within the context of STEM programs .
Additionally, there are five optional Caltech essay prompts that students can respond to. Caltech stresses that these Caltech essays are optional. We’ll get into specifics later about these optional Caltech essays. This may help you determine if and when to respond to each of the optional Caltech supplemental essays.
How to Write Caltech Essays
So, how do you answer the Caltech supplemental essays?
Since each of the four required Caltech essays has a 200-250 word maximum, you will want to focus on both content and execution in your writing process. As we’ll discuss, each of the Caltech supplemental essays asks students to reflect on a particular experience or interest.
To maximize your Caltech essays, you’ll want to offer a brief summary of each experience of an event. Then, use the bulk of your essay to reveal how this experience or event influenced your broader character. Specifically, when focusing on how to write Caltech essays, reflect on your STEM experiences. You may want to write about STEM research in your Caltech supplemental essays. The admissions committee should come away from your Caltech supplemental essays with a clear conception of who you are and the kind of community member you would be on the Caltech campus.
Caltech Essay Prompts #1
If you had to choose an area of interest or two today, what would you choose why did you choose that area of interest (200 words).
The first of the four required Caltech essay prompts asks applicants to write “why major essays.” Caltech makes it clear that students aren’t expected to know their major. In fact, students actually can’t declare a major until after their first year. So, undecided students shouldn’t stress too much about their choice of major in these “why major essays.” Students are in no way obligated to study the major in which they reference in their why major essays.
To answer the first of the Caltech supplemental essays, students should reflect on why they want to attend a STEM-forward university such as Caltech. Think about more than just the Caltech ranking and Caltech acceptance rate. What made you first fall in love with STEM? What specific programs are offered at Caltech and nowhere else? Are you planning to go pre med and hoping to study science at one of the best institutions for STEM? Do some research on the Caltech website in order to reference specific details on programs, internships, research, or faculty.
Think about the “why”
After having decided an area of interest to write about in this Caltech supplemental essay, focus on the “why” part. Successful “why major essays” will explain why you need to study that major in that particular school. They’ll draw from both personal and academic experiences. Students should also discuss how studying this major would influence their future career goals.
Let’s say you decide to focus on chemistry. You could discuss how your AP Chemistry course challenged your previous understanding of science. Or maybe a specific experiment stands out in your mind as the point when you knew chemistry was for you. Or perhaps it was the teacher that made an impact on your life. Whatever the reason, reference an academic or personal experience that told you this was the major for you. If you can get more specific than just “chemistry,” such as organic or inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, theoretical chemistry, etc., that’s even better.
Reflection Questions for Caltech Essays:
- Do you choose an area of interest that genuinely excites you?
- Does your essay talk about Caltech specific programs and offerings?
- Do you tie your study interest to your future and career goals ?
Caltech Essay Prompts #2
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 (100-200 words per experience).
Similar to the “why major essays,” successful Caltech supplemental essays for this prompt will show applicants’ love of STEM. However, the difference between these two Caltech essay prompts is that the first should focus on a specific area of interest offered at Caltech. The second, however, asks students what sparked their interest in STEM in general during high school.
We probably don’t have to mention that figuring out how to get into Caltech should start with a passion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering , Math ) programs. That being said, students will likely have a number of experiences to reference in their Caltech essays. Start by brainstorming some of the most impactful STEM moments of your high school career.
Are you in the robotics club and spend your free time tweaking your newest room cleaning robot? Or have you just led your team to the finals of your state’s math competition? Did you participate in a STEM summer program ? Or, maybe it’s nothing too outwardly dramatic. It could be something as simple as an experiment in biology class that ignited your curiosity.
Make a list and choose two experiences that evoke emotion surrounding choosing STEM. Caltech admissions wants to see serious STEM applicants in these Caltech supplemental essays. Show through your two chosen experiences that you are passionate and committed to a STEM education.
When writing, you’ll also need to show why you want to further study STEM. How have these experiences shaped your future goals and intellectual curiosity? California Institute of Technology seeks students who will pursue their interests, contribute to a thriving intellectual community, and still love learning even when classes get difficult.
- Does your draft sincerely convey your inspiration and excitement?
- Do you choose two specific STEM related experiences?
- Do you show how these experiences have affected your future studies?
Caltech Essay Prompts #3
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 décor. how have you been an innovator in your own life (200-250 words).
When planning how to write Caltech essays, you may think that you only need to focus on STEM-related topics and experiences. Of course, Caltech admissions shamelessly states that they want to hear about as much STEM topics as possible in students’ Caltech supplemental essays. However, they also look for critical thinkers with the ability to problem solve. This prompt asks applicants to think about times when they had to create their own innovative solutions to problems.
If you can think of STEM related instances, great. However, if not, don’t stress. Successful Caltech essays responding to this prompt will just show how you creatively found solutions to an issue you were facing.
Let’s say your doorbell was broken for months. No one in your household seemed too concerned about it, but one day you miss an important package that you’d been looking forward to receiving. You decide to take matters into your own hands and fashion your own doorbell with some tips from the employee at your local hardware store. Problem solved.
Any version of that hypothetical story will work in this Caltech supplemental essay. There’s a problem that needs to be solved, and you do so. If you’re stuck, try to focus on your strengths. Are you hard-working, creative, motivated, or curious? Highlight these strengths in the examples you come up with for this essay.
You have to fall within 200-250 words, so you can use multiple anecdotes here. However, keep it focused—limit yourself to one or two topics. Make a list and choose the instances that show your most innovative, creative, and unique solutions to personal problems while highlighting your strengths.
Reflection Questions for Caltech Essay:
- Does your essay show that you are innovative and creative?
- Do you discuss specific examples and solutions that you came up with?
- Does your essay give Caltech admissions a better picture of who you are and what you would bring to the campus?
Caltech Essay Prompts #4
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 (200-250 words).
Think about the most important parts of who you are. What makes you you? How have you become that way? Focus on your background and how it has shaped you. Are you about to be a first generation college student? Do you come from a small, close knit town? Has a certain culture or language greatly influenced your upbringing? What communities do you belong to?
Background can refer to endless things; choose something that resonates deeply with you. It should be something that has greatly impacted you and how you maneuver through the world. Try to avoid cliche topics when writing this essay. Remember that your background can mean anything.
Maybe your mom is a chef at a five-star restaurant and you grew up in the kitchen. Paint a picture of life in a chaotic, fast-paced environment and what it taught you. Successful Caltech essays will be creative while answering the Caltech supplemental prompts. Start with a hook and then expand on how it has impacted you.
- Do you draw on personal experiences from your background?
- Is it evident what an impact those experiences have had on who you are today?
- Do you show how your background affects your worldview or experiences?
Caltech Supplemental Essays: Optional Short Answer Questions
On their website, Caltech prefaces these optional essays by saying that they are “optional opportunities to show us more of your personality.” Before even getting into the optional Caltech essay prompts, admissions reiterates that they are in fact optional by stating: “Optional. We Promise.”
Basically, you can choose whether to answer these Caltech essay prompts or not. However, there are certain optional Caltech essay prompts that you should opt to answer if you want your Caltech application to be as competitive as possible.
Optional Caltech Essays #1
If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below. (150 words).
If you struggled to fit all of your meaningful, personality-forming experiences and background information into the last Caltech supplemental essay, then this is your opportunity to add more.
Continuing with our last example in the previous Caltech supplemental essay, let’s say that you wrote about growing up in a fancy restaurant’s kitchen because of your mom’s profession. Maybe in the last essay, you wrote about how you learned to think on your feet in a high-pressure environment, which has made you the decisive person that you are today. You may want to add onto this by talking about the different cultures that you experienced in the kitchen. Did you become close with the sous chef who was from Italy? Did it inspire a gap year or summer trip to Italy that changed your life?
Or maybe you want to talk about a completely different community that has shaped you. Maybe you’ve grown up training ballet in every moment of your spare time, which has built discipline and pushed you to achieve. If you can talk about how a certain community has formed you, and your story will add value to your Caltech application, then answer this prompt.
However, if you were struggling with the last of the Caltech essay prompts that touched on background and feel as though you have nothing to add, then feel free to skip this essay.
Optional Caltech Essays #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 (100 words).
While the first of the optional Caltech supplemental essays is actually optional, we recommend considering the second of the Caltech essays as required. The goal of this Caltech supplemental essay is to see who you are outside of STEM-related hobbies and interests. While admissions wants to see that you love all things STEM, they also want to learn about your other interests. They understand the importance of having some sort of outlet from academics or work.
Use this Caltech supplemental essay to talk about a hobby that you haven’t mentioned elsewhere. Basically, don’t just repeat your extracurricular activities. That certainly won’t do anything to help you beat the Caltech acceptance rate and impress admissions. Talk about something that will demonstrate a new skill or interest. Don’t forget to mention why this activity is worth writing about. What impact has it had on your life?
To start writing this essay, make a list of all of your activities. Hone in on the ones that are most important to you. Make sure they haven’t been mentioned elsewhere in your Caltech application. Then, choose the topic that interests you the most.
Consider the following questions:
- Which activity elicits the most emotion?
- What hobby could you not live without?
- Which interest has made an impact on who you are today?
Successful Caltech essays will not only mention the activity but also explain why it brings joy. Feel free to get creative when responding to this prompt. Make sure that admissions can feel your passion for this topic.
Optional Caltech Essays #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 (50 words).
This is another of the optional Caltech supplemental essays that is definitely optional. No tricks here. If you are a true hobbyist and have various activities that define you, then feel free to take on this Caltech supplemental essay.
Was your list of interests from the last essay spilling onto multiple pages? Great. Students writing their Caltech supplemental essays shouldn’t skimp on passion. However, these Caltech supplemental essays will have to be more succinct, as you only have 50 words.
Stay creative, just as you were with your last essay. Show why this activity brings you such joy and how it has been such a formative part of your being. Just be sure to do so concisely.
Caltech Supplemental Essays: Optional Academic Short Answer Questions
The optional academic Caltech supplemental essays are completely optional. Students should only submit Caltech essays for this section if they truly feel the need to.
There is no word count listed on these Caltech essay prompts, so these Caltech supplemental essays should be concise. This isn’t the time to write a novel. Answer these Caltech supplemental essay prompts succinctly and comprehensively.
Caltech Essay Prompts #1
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..
Successful essays to the previous optional Caltech supplemental essays are creative, captivating, and passionate . These final Caltech supplemental essays don’t need to tick the same boxes. These Caltech essays serve to fill any mysterious gaps in the rest of your Caltech application.
This Caltech supplemental essay specifically asks you to explain any extenuating circumstances that may be noticeable in the coursework noted in your application . If you’ve had access to all the STEM, AP, and IB courses, then there’s no need to respond to this prompt. However, if you attended a school with limited resources and offerings, then you should mention that here.
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).
While these Caltech supplemental essays are included with the other Caltech essays, they’re not really essays. They actually want you to list your honors or awards related to STEM here.
Only respond to this Caltech supplemental essay if you have received STEM related honors or awards. Don’t set the scene of the science competition where you won first place. There are other Caltech supplemental essays where you can do that. Simply list your specific STEM accomplishments.
How much does Caltech care about essays?
Through the Caltech essays, the admissions committee gains a glimpse into who you are as a student, peer, scientist, and individual. Keep in mind that they don’t know what you don’t tell them. Look at your application as a whole—including your Common App essay —and think critically about whether you have included as many facets of yourself as you can. Your Caltech application requirements should do more than just check boxes; they should tell your story , showing why you belong at Caltech.
The Caltech ranking is #9 on U.S. News’ Best National Universities list. With the Caltech ranking so high, it makes sense that the Caltech acceptance rate is 4% . Every applicant will have an above average GPA and impressive extracurriculars. So, the Caltech supplemental essays are a chance to stand out . Successful Caltech supplemental essays will add to students’ application narratives. Planning how to get into Caltech involves thoughtfully and carefully answering the Caltech supplemental essays.
Beyond the numbers
The Caltech essay prompts seek to understand who you are rather than just what’s on your resume. This demonstrates the value of the Caltech essays. Since Caltech is test-blind until 2025, you should maximize each essay as an opportunity to help the admissions team get to know you. Test blind schools, unlike test-optional schools, don’t want any ACT/SAT test scores submitted. Basically, Caltech won’t even look at standardized test scores. However, they will pay close attention to the Caltech supplemental essays.
Check out this webinar to make sure you stand out as a STEM applicant.
Five Tips for Writing Caltech Essays
Writing comprehensive and meaningful Caltech essays doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We’ve compiled our top 5 tips for how to write Caltech essays that impress admissions.
Five Tips for Writing Caltech Essays:
#1- meet the deadlines.
This may seem obvious, but there’s no way that you will figure out how to get into Caltech if you don’t submit your Caltech application requirements by the deadlines . The Regular Decision deadline is January 3rd . The Restrictive Early Action deadline is November 1st . Learn more about applying Early Action in our article .
#2- Don’t rush the writing process
Yes, you know you have to write and submit your Caltech essays by the deadline. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be scrambling to brainstorm, draft, edit, and revise your Caltech supplemental essays the night before they’re due.
#3- Carefully choose your topics
This is why it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to write your Caltech supplemental essays. You only have one chance to impress the admissions committee. You should have various topics to choose from after brainstorming. Write essays on the topics that you are most passionate about.
#4- Get creative
The greatest scientists are extremely creative innovators. Use your essays to creatively write on the topics you’re given. As long as you comprehensively and thoughtfully answer the prompt, a creative writing style will only bolster your Caltech essays.
#5- Ask for help
You certainly don’t have to take on your Caltech essays completely alone. Have someone else look at your completed Caltech essays. While they should check mechanics, also ask them for feedback on what they’ve learned about you through your Caltech essays. When implementing their feedback, maintain your own voice and style.
Caltech Supplemental Essays — Final Thoughts
The Caltech supplemental essays are a key part of your application. The Caltech acceptance rate is low. Maximizing your admissions odds will take acing every part of the application process, including the Caltech supplemental essays.
Remember to be clear, concise , and specific while telling authentic stories in your essays. Reference STEM-related subjects as much as possible. However, do so in a natural manner. Use the essays as a chance to supplement the quantitative parts of your application such as your grades and GPA with qualitative attributes of who you are as a student, person, and peer.
This Caltech essay guide on was written by Sarah Kaminski. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeA d visor.com can support you in the college application process.
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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.
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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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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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How to write the caltech essays: the marvelous guide to success.
Located in Pasadena, California, the California Institute of Technology has an acceptance rate of 8% and is a world-renowned science and engineering institute with one of the nation’s lowest student-to-faculty ratios.
Despite its small size , Caltech’s contributions in science and research have led to international recognition, including 38 Nobel Prizes.
- The school also manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and owns and operates large-scale research facilities and a global network of astronomical observatories.
The self-stated mission of this private university is to “investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”
If this mission statement appeals to you, you might be a great fit for Caltech.
- But earning that acceptance letter isn’t easy: Caltech accepts only about 8% of applicants, building a freshman class of just 230 new students.
Luckily, we’re here to help with one of the most challenging parts of the application: the Caltech essays.
We’ll provide all the info and tips you need to write essays that will help you stand out from the competition.
Let’s get started!
What Are the Caltech Essay Requirements?
Caltech accepts both the Coalition Application and the Common Application , with no preference between the two platforms.
No matter which of these options you choose, you’ll also need to complete the Caltech Questions.
The university explains that these questions help them evaluate “your passion for science, technology, engineering, and math.” They’re looking to find out “what excites you, what you value, and which of Caltech’s resources appeal most to you.”
This supplement consists of four short answer questions:
The short answer questions are:
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. (120 words for each activity?) 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? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.) Caltech students are often known for their sense of humor and creative pranks. What do you like to do for fun? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.) 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.)
What Kind of Student Does Caltech Want?
When applying to an extremely selective school like Caltech, it’s important to consider what type of student admissions officers are trying to find.
The goal here isn’t to lie and tell admissions officers what they want to hear; it’s to showcase the aspects of your personality and background that fit best with Caltech’s criteria.
On the university’s website, Caltech writes of freshman applicants, “All we ask is that you share the typical Caltech student’s unbridled sense of curiosity and extraordinary aptitude for and interest in science, engineering, and technology.”
They further explain that they attempt to answer several crucial questions as they review your application:
- Are you academically prepared?
- Have you demonstrated a consistent interest in science, technology, engineering, or math? (Are you ready to push the boundaries of scientific discovery?)
- How will you impact Caltech’s campus community?
Overall, the university is looking for students who not only excel in the STEM fields but are also passionate and excited about exploring these disciplines.
They want creative, curious students who can help make innovative contributions to society.
Caltech also values students who are collaborative and trustworthy enough to work with other Techers in classrooms and labs.
General Tips for the Caltech Essays
On the school website, Caltech explains that—perhaps surprisingly—the way they evaluate applications is “more of an art than a science.”
The admissions team reads every application and every essay to get a sense of who you are and determine whether you would be a good fit for Caltech, pointing out, “You are more than a GPA and a set of test scores!” The university’s advice is to take your time preparing the short answers and essays.
And taking the information in the previous section into consideration, we’ve come up with an additional list of general tips for responding to the Caltech Questions:
- Be authentic. Your genuine voice should shine through in these essays. Many students will be focused on trying to impress admissions officers rather than on providing honest answers, so one way to stand out is to simply be yourself!
- Be specific. Another way to write memorable essays is to provide specific, meaningful details . Don’t give the same general, generic answers that admissions officers will read over and over. The more specific you are, the more you’ll stand out.
- Be enthusiastic. One of Caltech’s key requirements is passion for science, technology, mathematics, and/or engineering. Show this excitement in your essays, and don’t be afraid to “geek out” a little. You should also demonstrate enthusiasm for learning and discovery.
- Be reflective. You might think it’s obvious how you’ll contribute at Caltech, but spell it out for admissions officers. Relate your responses to the contributions you’ll make in Caltech’s labs, classrooms, and community. Give specific examples of what you’ll do and how you’ll add value to the university.
Now that you know our general advice, let’s take a look at each of the questions you’ll be asked.
Get personalized advice!
Three experiences and activities.
Essay #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.
First, note the key word “develop.”
- You should be writing about hands-on experiences with STEM, rather than passive activities like watching a video or observing an interesting lecture.
- Think of a time you applied your interest or passion in STEM.
- Consider projects, activities, research, and service. You have a broad range here, as long as you’re writing about your proactive approach to STEM.
Also keep in mind that you’re limited to only 120 words for each entry, meaning you don’t have much space to explore three experiences or activities in-depth. Your best bet is to write three short paragraphs, one for each of the events you’ve selected.
- It may be helpful to choose some activities that have been mentioned elsewhere in your application or essays. You won’t need to go too in-depth, which will save you some room.
This is a pretty straightforward question, so don’t pressure yourself to think outside the box or get too creative.
You could begin by brainstorming a list of hands-on experiences and activities you’ve had relating to STEM. Then choose your three favorites to write about.
A friendly heads-up: Don’t outsmart yourself for this question. You have three separate boxes for 120 words each, so get to the point, be concise, and choose practical, hands-on experiences. Don’t risk giving background detail or providing an activity that is passive or difficult to write about. Keep it simple.
The Life of a Techer: Collaboration
Essay #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? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.)
Essentially, this is the “Why Caltech?” question. You can read our guide on how to write “ Why This College ” essays.
The best way to accomplish this goal is to do your research.
- Look into specific programs, extracurricular activities focused on STEM, classes, professors, and so on.
- If you feel the need to address any research opportunities, be sure to do so in extremely specific terms.
- What project are you extremely excited about? Which professor would you be working with?
- Why this project and professor in particular?
- Last, ask yourself how you can pursue these opportunities with fellow Techers.
Here’s how you should go about attacking this essay:
- Start by outlining your academic and career goals, as well as your specific area of interest in STEM.
- Then explain exactly how Caltech could help you further your interest and reach your goals.
- Discuss team dynamics and how you can leverage other students’ talents and experiences to accomplish your mission.
- Make sure you’re discussing opportunities and experiences unique to Caltech, rather than qualities that many other schools share as well.
It’s vital to be extremely enthusiastic in this essay.
Are you excited about Caltech? Excited enough to be one of just 230 students who receive this opportunity? Show it.
For example, here’s a successful outline of a Why Caltech essay:
- Your community was hit by a drought last year. It made you think about how communities in developing countries or those without infrastructure can survive such harsh climates.
- Your engineering team in high school designed a national irrigation system that adjusts the supply of water over a 300-mile mile radius. This irrigation system utilizes algorithms and radars to make its decisions.
- At Caltech, you want to work with research partners to discover how you can not only bring this irrigation system to life but also implement machine learning and AI to increase its deployment accuracy. Describe how you’ll work together.
Remember, never write about location or legacy. Southern California is a beautiful place, yes, but there are other schools in SoCal besides Caltech. Demonstrate that you took the time to research Caltech and how you fit within its community.
What Do You Do for Fun?
Essay #3: Caltech students are often known for their sense of humor and creative pranks. What do you like to do for fun? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.)
Think about your hobbies, possibly putting together another brainstorm list.
- What do you do in your spare time?
- List as many activities and interests as you can.
- Then, review the list for the most “unusual” way in which you have fun.
This doesn’t have to be something tremendously unique, just something unusual that not every teenager engages in.
- Avoid obviously common hobbies like reading, listening to music, playing video games, watching TV or movies, or playing sports (unless you play cricket, curling, or something else uncommon).
- Perhaps you collect Russian nesting dolls or build elaborate forts with your friends.
- Maybe you go on fun scavenger hunts around town or devote every Saturday to browsing yard sales for the best deals.
This isn’t a serious question and doesn’t require a serious or academic answer.
For this prompt, you do have enough room to vividly describe the unusual activity you enjoy.
Tell a story and include sensory details. If possible, you may want to see if there’s a way you can continue pursuing this unique activity at Caltech.
If not, maybe you would want to start a club of your own! Colleges love proactive students.
Irrespective of the hobby you choose, be sure to select one that has had a tangible effect on your life. Choose a hobby or pursuit that has changed you. Then, explain how it’s changed you.
- Do you train Brazilian jiujitsiu? Has it changed the way you approach competition and solve problems?
- Did you create an app for your school? What did you learn about solving a community’s problem using iOS or Android?
While it doesn’t need to be STEM-related, it should be substantive.
Contributingg to Diversity at Caltech
Essay #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? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.
This question makes it clear that diversity comes in many forms. Diversity of experience, background, and thought are specifically mentioned, but you can think of any way that you might bring an interesting or unique perspective to Caltech.
- For instance, you might choose to write about your approach to solving and analyzing problems or generating ideas.
- How does your approach differ from others?
- What problems have you been able to solve, as a result, that others haven’t?
- And how could this help you contribute at Caltech?
You might also have a unique cultural or economic background, or experiences that you think will allow you to offer a fresh perspective at Caltech. There are many different ways to answer this question.
However you decide to approach the question, try to offer a supporting anecdote (a story that demonstrates the diversity you’ve mentioned) and explain how you’ll put this diverse perspective to use at Caltech.
Brainstorming the Caltech Essays
Here’s a helpful exercise that has helped a number of our students who have gone on to study at Caltech.
List three to seven books (titles and authors) that have been meaningful to you, each with a one-sentence summary of how that book has influenced you.
These don’t have to be math, science, or even academic texts.
- If you learned a valuable lesson from a fictional character or bonded with new friends over your love for a YA novel, feel free to include it here.
- You may want to include one book title that is in some way related to STEM. After all, your passion for science, math, and technology should be the focal point of your application.
- Lastly, we recommend avoiding any potentially controversial topics. You never know who will be reading your essays, and you don’t want to offend the person who holds your fate in their hands!
This exercise will help you broaden your thoughts and keep you from writing a cookie-cutter essay. Yes, it’s important to demonstrate your academic gravitas, but it’s also critical that you leverage other important aspects of your personality.
The books you’ve chosen for this list can demonstrate how you value knowledge and the interests you’re most likely to pursue once you’re in college.
Even if your interests are likely to change, this list will jog your memory and help you raise interesting points about yourself.
We mentioned above that Caltech values students who are trustworthy. The school is a close-knit, collaborative community, so honesty and integrity are vital. Here’s your opportunity to demonstrate that you possess these qualities.
- Come up with an ethical or moral dilemma to discuss.
- It doesn’t necessarily have to be a major problem, just a time you’ve had to make a challenging decision.
- Can you think of a time, possibly within your high school community, when you were faced with a tough choice, ultimately deciding to do the right thing?
Then, explain your problem-solving process, or how you arrived at a solution.
- Briefly introduce the problem and how you felt about the situation.
- Then, explain the factors you considered and the specific steps you took to arrive at a solution.
You don’t have many words to tell the story here, but try to include a few vivid details that can bring your experience to life. Show action. What did you do to solve the problem or come to a solution?
This is an unorthodox brainstorming exercise, but it will help you think three-dimensionally about your life and ability to create solutions. Creating solutions is, by definition, hands-on work, so this exercise is a good way to think critically about action steps you’ve taken to change your life or someone else’s.
Conclusion: Writing the Caltech Essays
Aspiring scientists and engineers from around the world dream of becoming a Techer. When applying to such a highly selective school, your essays are among your best chances to set yourself apart from the competition.
- Use the tips we’ve provided here for your four short answer questions. Be passionate, authentic, honest, and specific. Show your aptitude and enthusiasm for STEM, as well as your profound interest in Caltech.
- Don’t forget to proofread !
You might earn the opportunity to join the brilliant and innovative minds at Caltech next fall!
And if you’re interested in gaining an edge in college admissions essay writing, check out our college essay boot camp.
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How to get into caltech.
Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University
As a world-renowned science and engineering institution, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a popular addition to college lists from around the country. Read on to learn more about standing out in the admissions process and how to get into Caltech!
Caltech's prestige makes it a popular school choice for students hoping to make their mark in science or engineering. If you're interested in attending Caltech's 124-acre campus in Pasadena, you'll need to perfect your college application for the best chance of acceptance.
We'll walk you through everything you need to know about how to get into Caltech , including a step-by-step guide, how hard it is to get accepted, and the benefits of attending.
Whether Caltech is your dream school or one of your top choices, read on to learn everything you need to know and boost your chance of acceptance.
Caltech Acceptance Rate
The Caltech acceptance rate is about 2.7% . This rate reflects Caltech’s prestige and means students have to bring their absolute A-games to their applications!
Data shows that Caltech received thousands of applications in the most recent admissions cycle, but only 412 students were offered admission . Of this percentage, only 263 matriculated .
Pinpointing Caltech’s acceptance rate is difficult: Caltech states, “We don't even like to widely publicize our admit rate because the number of applicants has grown disproportionately to the size of the incoming class, which directly affects the shrinking admit rate.”
To offer you some insight into the admissions stats, the class of 2026 saw 16,629 applications, of which only 432 students were admitted, meaning the school had a record-breaking low acceptance rate of 2.6%. Of these 432, only 224 students matriculated, meaning Caltech had an enrollment rate of only 1.35%.
However, previous cycles prove the typical acceptance rate to be around 4-7%, and the enrollment rate to be closer to 3%.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Caltech?
So, how hard is it to get into Caltech? The first consideration is the school’s prestige. According to U.S. News World and Report, Caltech is ranked as the No. 9 Best National University . Given its ranking based on outcomes , faculty resources, expert opinion, and more, it’s no wonder that Caltech is considered a highly selective school.
Caltech is also known for its relatively small campus population . As of the 2021/2022 academic year, 987 undergraduate students and 1,410 graduate students attend the school, for a total student population of less than 2,500. A more intimate campus generally means fewer seats available for students.
Other class profile data includes:
- 59% male, 41% female
- 64% students of color
- 18% international
Caltech boasts of its diverse and highly accomplished teachers!
How to Get Into Caltech Undergrad: Step-by-Step
You need to fulfill numerous requirements before you submit your application to Caltech's undergraduate program. Here's a step-by-step guide on what you need to know to get into Caltech.
Perform Well in Your Classes, Especially Math and Science
Achieving a high cumulative GPA is essential to getting a leg up in the Caltech admissions process. While Caltech doesn't state the average GPA of incoming students , 99% of students placed in the top 10% of their high school’s graduating class. Strive for the highest GPA possible for an excellent foundation.
Besides performing well in all of your classes, pay special attention to your math and science courses. Caltech is a science and engineering institute at its core; you want to ensure your strong grades are those in related fields of study.
Show Your Academic Preparedness
Because of Caltech’s five-year moratorium on the requirement and consideration of SAT or ACT scores , the admissions committee will never consider your SAT or ACT examination scores in its admissions evaluation process. The moratorium was introduced in June 2020 and will last through Fall 2025.
To prepare yourself for Caltech’s Core Curriculum , the admissions committee wants to see:
- Students have taken the most advanced English coursework offered by their high school.
- U.S. students that have completed at least one course in history or government. International students are exempted.
To show your preparedness in math, Caltech wants to see students who have mastered calculus. The admissions committee also wants to see that students are ready to tackle other math topics, including:
- Set Theory & Logic
- Differential & Integral Calculus
- Linear Algebra
- Ordinary Differential Equations
Caltech’s Core Curriculum includes courses like Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. The admissions committee wants to be confident you can succeed, so it’s crucial to demonstrate your science aptitude and preparedness.
Because not all high schools offer the same course opportunities, you can show you’re ready to tackle undergraduate science courses by:
- Taking one year of both physics and chemistry. Biology isn’t required, but Caltech will “look for indicators that you are prepared for taking biology coursework.”
- Showing your command of calculus through chemistry and physics classes.
- Although not a requirement, it’s in your best interest to complete science classes in the most challenging curriculum offered by your school.
We suggest taking the most challenging curriculum available to you. Taking IB or AP classes , and doing well, shows the admissions committee that you can handle Caltech's curriculum rigor and excel.
Gain Volunteer/Work Experience, Participate in Activities, and More
When students think about how to get into Caltech as an undergrad, they may think their academic record is all that matters. While it's crucial to show your academic aptitude, you'll compete against many other students with promising records.
The best way to differentiate yourself from the crowd is to participate in various extracurricular activities that illuminate your passion, impact on the community, or facilitate growth and leadership. Here are some examples of things you can do to stand out to the Caltech admissions committee.
Volunteer in your community . Host a charity event, help provide essentials at a food bank, host a community cleanup, or tutor your peers or younger students.
Participate in extracurricular activities . You can join a sports team or any other school club, play an instrument, or even start your own school club if you see a gap in offered programs.
Enroll in a pre-college summer program . Enrolling in a pre-college summer program is an excellent way to stand out to Caltech, especially if the program is STEM-related. Examples of prestigious pre-college summer programs include MIT Research Institute, Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes, and even Caltech’s multiple programs .
Attend prestigious student conferences . Prestigious student conferences can help you gain and hone skills such as effective communication, public speaking, critical thinking, and research. Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of these conferences is Model UN , a simulation of the UN General Assembly for high school students.
Work/internship experience . Working a part-time job (even one unrelated to your field) is an excellent addition to any college application. Internship experience (especially in your field of interest) shows you have gained the necessary experiences and skills and have taken steps to explore and understand your field of interest.
No matter what activities or experiences you choose, ensure that you're passionate about them and not doing them just to put them down on your college application. Always go for quality over quantity: you'll need to balance your school and other responsibilities.
Choose How to Apply
You can apply to Caltech using the Common Application or the Coalition Application . Using the QuestBridge Application, you can also apply to the school through the QuestBridge National College Match. The school doesn't prefer either application, so pick whichever is best for you.
Ensure Your Transcripts and Secondary School Report Are Submitted
Caltech will need your official academic transcripts and a secondary school report submitted by your school counselor. The secondary school report aims to provide "context about your school that helps the Admissions Committee evaluate your application holistically."
Ensure you stay in communication with your guidance counselor and that they submit everything they need to on your behalf.
Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation
Although some top colleges may not have any preference on which teachers provide you recommendations, Caltech requires recommendation letters from :
- One math or science teacher
- One humanities or social sciences teacher
Although Caltech indicates that you can ask teachers who instructed you in any year, it's best to secure strong letters from teachers who can speak to your recent achievements, growth, and demeanor in the classroom.
Caltech requests letters from a humanities or social science teacher who has evaluated your writing. Here are some examples of classes that can fulfill this requirement:
- Spanish, French, or another language
- Specialized writing classes
Beyond these required recommendations, Caltech gives students the option to present two additional recommendation letters from “a mentor or supervisor who knows you in a different context.”
It’s in your best interest to take advantage of these extra letters if you feel that you can obtain strong recommendations. Some examples of people you can ask include :
- Sports coaches
- Professors from community college courses you’ve taken
- Your supervisor at your part-time job
- Your supervisor at your volunteer organization/community service project
- Anyone else who knows you well (who isn’t a family member) and can speak to your positive character qualities and college readiness.
Write a Stellar Personal Statement
Your personal statement is the heart and soul of your application. It shows admissions committees who you are beyond test scores and GPA. To write an excellent personal statement, you'll need to:
- Highlight select positive characteristics you possess (aim for two or three)
- Choose relevant anecdotes that uncover your personality and motivations
- Show colleges what they’ll gain by accepting you, and explain what/who you want to be
Personal statements should include a lot of detailed imagery, have a logical flow, and focus on your experiences and their impact on your journey.
Thoughtfully Answer Supplemental Essays
Caltech asks all first-year applicants to respond to several supplemental essay prompts : one academic question, three short answers, and a few optional short answers.
If you had to choose an area of interest or two today, what would you choose? Why did you choose that area of interest? (200-word limit)
Required Short Answers
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)
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)
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)
Optional Short Answers
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)
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)
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)
Optional Academic Short Answers
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.
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).
Crafting thoughtful essays is key to getting into Caltech's undergrad program. Ensure you spend time brainstorming, outlining, and editing your responses before submitting them. Remember to keep your writing concise: you don't have many words to get your main idea across!
Mark these dates on your calendar to stay organized in the application process:
The non-binding restrictive Early Action application is perfect for students who are sure Caltech is one of their top options and want to receive their admissions decisions as early as possible!
Benefits of Attending Caltech
Caltech is a highly competitive and prestigious school. As such, it offers many benefits.
Small Class Sizes/Campus
If you love the idea of a small campus and small class sizes, Caltech is a fantastic option. According to recent Caltech data , the school only has approximately 1,000 undergraduate students and 1,400 graduate students in attendance. In the most recent entering first-year class, only 270 students enrolled.
These numbers show that you'll be a part of a relatively close-knit and small campus. Caltech offers a lovely alternative if you don't love crowded and bustling spaces (like some major public university campuses).
Small class sizes also mean more opportunities to interact with your professors one-on-one, receive more help and guidance, and get more attention than you would in a room with 500 other students. You'll likely see many of the same students in your classes too, which can make it easier to make friends!
A Short Skip Away From LA
Caltech is a relatively short distance away from Los Angeles, the world's entertainment capital. No matter what you're interested in, LA has it all: museums, theme parks, movie studios, lively nightlife, and outdoor activities.
While this may not be related directly to Caltech and its offerings, thinking about the area where you'll live for four years is essential.
There Really Is an Educational Path for Everyone
Caltech has an incredible initiative called the Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP). ISP “enables students to craft custom-tailored curricula—comprising Caltech courses, academic-year research, courses at other schools, or independent study courses—in collaboration with faculty advisors.”
The program can give you even more flexibility and personalization than what’s already offered at Caltech. You can also borrow a designated academic specialty on the transcript, including but not limited to:
- Decision Neuroscience
- Environmental Science and Policy
- Quantum Information Science
An Emphasis on Undergraduate Research
At Caltech, over half of the students participate in undergraduate research in their first year. More than 90% of Caltech's student body participates in research during their time at Caltech. If you're an inquisitive person who would love to do hands-on work and find new solutions, Caltech may be the perfect school for you.
Caltech offers these programs:
- Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF)
- Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF)
- SURF Exchanges
- GROWTH SURF
- Amgen Scholars
- WAVE Fellows
Caltech undergraduates are also offered several research opportunities from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and NASA for those interested in aerospace.
Tips to Improve Your Chances of Getting Into Caltech
Consider these tips to make your Caltech application stand out:
Focus on Having Outstanding Academic Performance
Caltech is a highly selective school with rigorous curriculums. To prove you can handle Caltech’s robust programs, you’ll need to maintain a high GPA and take challenging courses, especially advanced mathematics and science.
Have Exceptional Extracurricular Involvement
As if maintaining a high GPA wasn’t enough, Caltech also appreciates students who make good use of their free time. You should pursue valuable extracurricular activities that demonstrate your passion for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).
Seek unique activities that can set you apart from the crowd and help you achieve notable accomplishments.
Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation
It’s important your letters of recommendation match the rest of your application. They should speak to your intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, and character. Ensure that your recommenders know you well and can provide specific examples of your achievements and potential.
Write Compelling Personal Essays
Write thoughtful and authentic personal essays that highlight your unique qualities, experiences, and your fit with Caltech's academic and research culture. Do your research when answering questions about your interests and ensure you add in personal anecdotes to make your essays memorable!
Trust the Experts
If you’re still unsure of how to differentiate your profile or where to start, our Caltech admissions counselors have got you covered! They can offer you one-on-one support throughout the admissions process and provide you with insider knowledge to ensure you submit the most competitive application!
FAQs: How to Get Into Caltech
Do you still have questions about how to get into Caltech? Let these FAQs be your guide!
1. Will Caltech Consider My SAT/ACT Scores?
Caltech will not require or consider any SAT or ACT scores until at least fall 2025.
2. Can Anyone Set Up Caltech’s ISP Curricula?
To set up Caltech’s ISP curricula for yourself, these two criteria must be met:
- “The program must enable educational goals that cannot be achieved in any of the other available Options.
- In scope and depth, the program must be comparable to a normal undergraduate program.”
3. Do I Have a Better Chance of Getting Into Caltech With Early Action?
It depends. While Early Action/Early Decision pathways generally have higher acceptance rates at top colleges, this is usually because students have worked hard to have their applications perfected.
Applying to Caltech through Early Action won’t make much of a difference from Regular Decision if your application is not polished enough! You know how hard it is to get into Caltech, but a well-executed application can make all the difference.
4. How Do I Get Into Caltech as a Homeschooled Student?
Many homeschooled applicants are curious about how to get into Caltech undergrad programs. The Caltech admissions committee does not require any additional application materials from homeschooled students than it does from their traditionally educated peers. Caltech reviews each applicant within the context of their experiences.
5. I Am Not In the Top 10% Of My Class. What Are My Chances of Acceptance?
Almost all students admitted to Caltech are in the top 10% of their graduating class. This means that only 1% of admitted first-year students are not in the top 10%.
6. What Classes Should I Take to Get Into Caltech?
It would be best to take the most challenging curriculum available to you, especially in your STEM subjects. Caltech admits students who challenge themselves and show they're ready for a rigorous, STEM-based curriculum.
7. How Do I Get Into Caltech As a Transfer Student?
If you’re wondering how difficult it is to get into Caltech as a transfer student , it’s even more challenging than regular admissions. You’ll need to maintain high grades at your current college, particularly in STEM coursework as you’ll be required to write entrance exams on the following topics:
- Calculus of One and Several Variables
- Differential Equations
- Probability and Statistics
- Classical Mechanics and Electromagnetism
- Waves, Quantum Mechanics, and Statistical Physics
You should also have strong supplemental essays that share how you explore STEM outside of the classroom!
8. How Much Is the Tuition Fee At Caltech?
So, you’re ready to reap all the benefits this school has to offer and start your application, but how much will it cost to go to the California Institute of Technology? Caltech’s tuition fees cost $63,255 a year. On top of your other college expenses, it’s estimated you’ll spend between $80,000 to $90,000 a year to attend this school.
Now that you know more about the admissions process and how to get into Caltech, you can take the appropriate steps to give yourself the best chance of acceptance.
While getting into Caltech’s undergraduate program is difficult, taking challenging courses, writing well-crafted essays, and securing stellar recommendations will boost your chances of acceptance. With patience and hard work, you can make your dreams of attending Caltech a reality!
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How To Get Into Pomona College: Admission Requirements
How To Answer Scholarship Interview Questions
Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree or the equivalent before beginning graduate study. Applicants who already hold a Ph.D. degree will not be considered for a second Ph.D. degree. Transcripts from each college or university attended, three letters of recommendation, a CV, and the applicant's statement of purpose are required components of the application and are carefully and equally weighed during the evaluation process. GRE tests (general and advanced subject) are not required and in most options scores will not be considered for admission. Most of the funding sources require work authorization. As a consequence, matriculation into the PhD program requires evidence of work authorization, unless special compensation can be arranged with the admitting option. Applicants are expected to read, write and speak English and comprehend the spoken language. Although not required for admission, for applicants whose native language is not English or who have not received a degree from a university or college where English is the primary language of instruction, it is important to demonstrate a strong capability in English. This can be done by self-reporting scores from the Educational Testing Service (TOEFL), Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic), the Cambridge Examinations and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or other services that provide a certified English-language proficiency examination.
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- Application Deadlines
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- Transcripts and Letters of Recommendation
Is Calculus Necessary? As Caltech Drops Requirement, Other Colleges Stay Course
Posted: November 6, 2023 | Last updated: November 6, 2023
When the prestigious California Institute of Technology announced in August it would drop calculus as an admissions requirement — students must prove mastery of the subject but don’t have to take it in high school — observers of an ongoing education equity debate might have thought it was the last holdout.
But a survey by The 74 reveals the answer is more complex, that while some schools have revised their acceptance criteria based on the availability of rigorous courses, including calculus, others have not.
Queries sent to 20 top-tier colleges and universities, many of which are recognized for their strong engineering programs, found that 11 do not require it while six strongly recommend or encourage it.
Calculus may not be a must, but it is still expected at many institutions.
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Princeton looks for some applicants to complete the class if they have access to it. Likewise, MIT , Carnegie Mellon and Purdue strongly recommend or encourage at least some applicants to take the course in high school.
Cornell was alone among the 20 in still mandating calculus. In fact, the Ivy League school tells incoming freshmen that at least one of their two letters of recommendation must be from a math teacher and they are “strongly encouraged” to make that person their precalculus or calculus teacher.
Caltech dropped calculus, physics and chemistry from a list of required courses while widening students’ opportunity to showcase their abilities through other means, including the completion of online courses through the free Khan Academy .
Ashley Pallie, Caltech’s executive director of undergraduate admissions, noted it was a significant shift for the STEM-intensive titan. The school had required a calculus course for decades, she said, despite pushback from applicants.
“Every year, we would get lots of students who would write in and say, ‘I was on track to take it, but the teacher isn’t able to teach us here,’ or, ‘Not enough students signed up for the class,’ or, ‘The class isn’t offered at my high school,’” she said. “And the answer was always, ‘No. We need to have the course requirement.’ ”
But that changed when Pallie and two faculty members, who set admissions criteria, learned at a February conference on equity and college acceptance the extent to which the course is not available, particularly to low-income applicants, students of color and those living in rural areas.
Pallie credited Melodie Baker, national policy director at Just Equations , an organization that promotes math policies that support equity in college readiness and success, for sharing the information at that gathering. Calculus still has merit, Caltech faculty concluded, but should no longer be mandated.
“So now it’s less about having taken the course and more about, ‘Can you showcase to us that you have proficiency and mastery?’” Pallie said.
‘A Bankrupt Concept of Math’: Some Educators Argue Calculus Should Be Dethroned
MIT follows a similar model; it wants incoming freshmen to have two semesters of calculus but allows them to place out of the requirement either through outside credits or by taking an Advanced Standing Examination.
Calculus is not required for admission to any University of Michigan school or college, including the College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business.
And the same holds true at Harvard , Columbia , Northwestern , Rice and Johns Hopkins .
The explanation is simple, according to one school’s spokesperson.
“We recognize not all high schools have a calculus course available to students, so it is not required for admission to Johns Hopkins University,” said Jill Rosen.
Baker, of Just Equations, said colleges and universities should always seek to widen the opportunities for bright applicants so they can one day help solve the world’s most complex and enduring problems.
“When math is used as it was intended, to cultivate and develop talent rather than rank and sort students, the future of STEM looks like a microcosm of the larger society,” she said. “It looks very different from what it looks like today: It looks well-represented.”
The University of Minnesota doesn’t demand calculus for entry to any of its undergraduate programs. However, the school does prefer that students study the topic at some stage: It’s mandatory for some majors, though it can be taken at the college level.
Still, a spokesperson for the five-college system said, “Anyone can get in without it.”
For other colleges, the answer is nuanced. Neither calculus nor precalculus is a requirement for first-year admissions at the University of California , a spokesperson said.
The vast U.C. system, which encompasses 10 campuses and some 280,000 students , does, however, note that those interested in STEM, data science and the social sciences are “strongly encouraged” to consider a math course sequence that prepares them for calculus — either during high school or in their first year at the university.
Sharon Veatch, school counseling department chair at the rural Housatonic Valley Regional High School in northwest Connecticut, follows college admissions criteria closely. Two of her former graduates are now at Harvard and a couple of others have recently graduated from Cornell.
She said universities have become less focused on calculus in recent years: Their decision to largely drop SAT and ACT admissions tests from consideration means they are looking at students more holistically, placing less emphasis on any one class.
But, Veatch said, many top-ranked universities urge students to take the most rigorous course available. For those at her high school, that means Advanced Placement calculus. The campus hasn’t offered AP Statistics for years.
“In general, when I advise students, I say, ‘You need to max out on the curriculum,’” she said. “Because that’s what I’m being told.”
Maxing out, of course, means something different from one state to another as several are reassessing their mathematics offerings.
California has tried to broaden high school students’ opportunities by providing other academic pathways, not just those that lead to calculus.
But there’s been a push and pull between equity and rigor , with the state recently backtracking on a key issue for college applicants: The faculty committee that sets admissions requirements for the U.C. system decided in July that data science could no longer be a substitute for Algebra II. The state Board of Education, which oversees K-12 and is looking at reframing math statewide, soon after removed its endorsement of data science as a substitute for that subject.
Stanford , a crown jewel in higher education in that state, recommends four years of rigorous mathematics — including algebra, geometry and trigonometry.
“We also welcome additional mathematical preparation, including calculus and statistics,” its website advises.
Calculus is not necessary for entry to the University of Wisconsin. But spokesman John Lucas said direct admittance to the engineering program is highly selective, “so, it’s rare for a student to not have taken calculus.”
Georgia Tech is a bit more explicit. Laura Simmons, an admissions counselor there, said in an online video , that students should take the most challenging courses available to them. If that means seeking out a dual enrollment math class at the local college, they should choose wisely.
“We’re never going to pretend that college algebra is the same as a calculus class,” she said.
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