3 Success Stories from Caltech Admits
The college admissions process isn’t easy, even for the most talented and qualified students. It takes a lot of research, preparation, and commitment to ensure you have the best chances of getting accepted to your desired university.
The uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the college application process are even more palpable for students seeking to attend some of the highest-level universities in the entire country. Caltech definitely fits that description. If you’ve got your heart set on this highly esteemed university, you might be looking for some encouragement and tips from “how I got into Caltech” success stories.
There’s a plethora of information regarding Caltech and its admission process online, but there’s something unique about hearing from an admitted applicant. Not only can these individuals provide you with firsthand knowledge of the process, but you can rest assured that their advice is pertinent as they succeeded in what you’re currently attempting.
Another awesome benefit coming from these “how I got into Caltech” success stories is the motivation they can instill in applicants. With so much pressure involved, it’s nice to receive some encouragement. It can take you from feeling down and defeated to “yes, I can definitely do this!” And you can!
Here, we’ll take a look at Caltech’s acceptance rate, what they typically look for in students, and some impactful success stories and tips from admitted applicants.
How hard is it to get into Caltech?
Caltech has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the top engineering and science universities in the entire country. In fact, it’s only one of a few institutes of technology primarily dedicated to instructing applied and pure sciences. The prestige of Caltech naturally attracts high schoolers from all over to apply.
Despite its relatively small size when compared to other universities, Caltech still received over 8,000 applications for the Class of 2025. Of these applicants, only 1,749 candidates were accepted. That brings the admittance rate to 6.17% which is down a significant amount from the previous year where it was 8.79%.
To put that into perspective, for every 100 students that apply to Caltech, only six are admitted. Phew! That doesn’t seem like a lot, does it? Even compared to the Ivy League, which is composed of the most prestigious universities, Caltech is still incredibly selective.
In fact, it falls somewhere in the middle of these eight institutions in terms of acceptance with Harvard leading the pack with an admittance rate of just 3.4% and Cornell at the other end with a 9% acceptance rate.
As you can see, it’s not easy to get into Caltech. It’s up there with some of the most notorious colleges such as Dartmouth and Princeton in terms of selectivity. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Caltech has world-class academic offerings and research opportunities.
The low acceptance rate is easier to digest when put into this context. And with thousands of students vying for limited positions each year, it’s understandable that admissions officers at Caltech have to be diligent about who is accepted and who isn’t. Now that we know how hard it is to get into this university, let’s take a look at what kind of students get accepted.
What kind of students make it into Caltech?
Caltech takes a comprehensive approach to its admissions process which simply means that admissions officers consider a wide variety of factors when determining who gets accepted and who gets rejected. However, only a few of these factors are objective, measurable, and comparable.
For example, it’s nearly impossible to compare your extracurriculars with those of previously accepted students as these achievements are somewhat subjective and might be considered differently between each candidate. GPAs and standardized test scores, on the other hand, are excellent ways to determine how you stack up against successful candidates because of their standardization.
Unfortunately, Caltech doesn’t release public information regarding the academic performance of their incoming classes. But we were able to glean some helpful estimations. Based on our research, the average GPA of Caltech students hovers around 4.19 on a standard 4.0 scale. This means you’ll need straight A’s in order to compete with admitted candidates.
We highly advised students to take honors and AP courses to boost their overall GPA. If you find yourself falling behind, you’ll need to nail your standardized tests in order to compensate…which leads us to our next topic. What SAT and ACT scores do you need to get into Caltech? Similar to GPA scores, Caltech doesn’t make this information public, but we were able to glean some estimations again.
The average score on the ACT for admitted Caltech candidates was 36. For perspective, the 25th percentile score is 35 and the 75th percentile is 36. Clearly, this is a very competitive score. The same is true when it comes to the SAT.
The average score on the SAT for accepted applicants was 1545 on a 1600 scale. The 75th percentile score is 1570 and the 25th percentile score is 1530. We recommend aiming for at least 35 on the ACT and 1570 on the SAT.
Caltech doesn’t have a score cutoff for either standardized test, which means your application won’t automatically get rejected due to a lower score. However, poor performance in these areas can certainly limit your chances of getting in.
Success Story #1
I was one of the research mentors for siblings who both were accepted to Caltech for their undergraduate studies around 2016.
These students both were already taking advanced math and science classes at the University of California while in high school. They were essentially late sophomore-level standing at University but only 17. They had > 4.0 GPAs in high school, straight A/A+ at the university, were leaders in clubs and science/math competitions and were already doing research involving quantum mechanics.
They were very intellectually mature and curious for their age, and probably had great SAT and SAT II scores. I helped write them strong letters of recommendation, which they undoubtedly deserved. They had multiple letters of recommendation from university professors. This is just an example of the type of student who is selected to go to Caltech as an undergraduate.
Success Story #2
Herein I expand the concept of a Teacher beyond the answers already provided:
I entered Caltech in 1989. I knew that I wanted to study there since I was in second grade. It was my dream school, but I almost didn’t apply! I thought I had no chance. When a friend had an extra application the day before the deadline, I just poured my heart out. My love of power tools was a topic of discussion after admittance.’
There are many types of Teachers, one type of which I have seen described in the other answers. The multitude of undergraduate houses physically encompasses these Teacher types in ways large, small, and, for some, microcosmically.
My experience of every Teacher I know and love is boundless creativity. Coupled with voracious inquisitiveness. Exquisite sensitivity and observational capacity, usually along multiple axes. An awareness and appreciation that n-spaces know no boundaries between the disciplines. And that is so interesting!
One of the biggest gifts I received from my time at Caltech is the visceral understanding that I ask odd, unconventional, and worthy questions. So many wonderful things come from asking questions so this is a generous gift indeed.
How hard is it to get into Caltech? I urge you to consider: Why do you want to go?
I went because I wanted to spend my life doing research AND I wanted to continue doing research AND I could do that at Caltech.
Because throughout my life, everything I loved about Science touched Caltech from genetics to planetary science. Because throughout my life, Caltech demonstrated that Teachers were the type of people who burned with the same passion for asking and answering questions that I shared.
Without a why I think it is hard to be admitted to Caltech
- Linda Maepa, Caltech alumna, BS Geobiology, Darb
Success Story #3
I got into Caltech this year and (although initially skeptical about applying, I am SOOO glad I did), but I think the reason I and the other couple hundred other students (who I have met on Discord) were admitted is solely because we showed inventiveness, creativity, and genuine passion and dedication for STEM (as well as extensive resumes).
I didn’t take any college courses or win a Nobel prize, I just took as many APs as I possibly could ( I got 2 A-s), stuck my nose into a University lab and got a research internship, and contributed to some biological research that ended up being published by National Geographic (still screamingggg!!!), followed my passion for science, and worked really hard to become an internationally competitive weightlifter (I hope that gives some insight into what they may consider “acceptable”).
What I also noticed is that each of the admittees is probably the best people I have ever met: we love collaborating (and have literally come up with invention ideas together already), we’re unique and contribute to the small community in our own way, have sought out unique opportunities on our own, wrote about being supportive of peers and other fun things in our essays (I may or may not have mentioned lighting props on fire for one of my short films… haha).
During the pandemic, my friend contacted UCBerk professors and did biological research, I contacted USC professors to conduct research and wrote an astronaut-oriented spacecraft engineering research paper. I love inventing, I love reptiles and insects, and I love film — I emphasized all of those characteristics as much as possible and I think that appealed to them (not to mention that I am a female looking to go into astronautical engineering).
I know it’s cliche, but BE YOU! Write your essays with vivid detail, TALK to the reader, engage them, use stories! It can only help to have a fun and weird essay that stands out from a bunch of typical super impressive resumes and bland essays. Don’t be afraid to be weird.
- Sascha Goldsmith, B.S.E Mechanical Engineering & Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering, Caltech
Write Your Own Caltech Success Story
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