Amherst vs Caltech: Which University is Right for You?

August 16, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Amherst vs Caltech: Which University is Right for You?

Choosing the right university can be a tough decision, especially when you have to choose between two highly reputed universities like Amherst and Caltech. Both universities have a lot to offer, and choosing the right one comes down to your interests, career goals, and financial capabilities. In this article, we’ll compare Amherst vs Caltech, so that you can make an informed decision and choose the right university for yourself.


Caltech, short for the California Institute of Technology, is a private research university located in Pasadena, California. The university is renowned for its programs in science and engineering, and is often ranked among the top universities in the world. Caltech consistently receives high ratings from various ranking agencies, highlighting its strong academic programs and research opportunities.

In addition to its strong academic programs, Caltech is also known for its unique campus culture. The university has a strong emphasis on collaboration and interdisciplinary research, with many students and faculty members working together across different fields. Caltech also has a strong commitment to undergraduate education, with a low student-to-faculty ratio and opportunities for students to participate in research projects from their first year on campus.

Academic Programs and Majors Offered at Amherst and Caltech

Amherst is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts, and is known for its rigorous academic programs in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The college has a strong focus on undergraduate education, and thus offers a wide range of majors and minors that cater to the diverse interests of students.

Caltech, on the other hand, is primarily focused on science and engineering, and offers undergraduate majors in fields ranging from physics and mathematics to biology and geology. The university also offers graduate programs in these fields, as well as in computer science, applied physics, and more.

At Amherst, students have the opportunity to design their own majors, allowing them to tailor their education to their specific interests and career goals. The college also offers a number of interdisciplinary programs, such as the Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences Program, which allows students to study marine biology, oceanography, and environmental science across five different colleges in the area.

Caltech is known for its strong research programs, and students have the opportunity to work alongside faculty members on cutting-edge research projects. The university also offers a number of unique programs, such as the Space Innovation Summer Program, which allows students to work on projects related to space exploration and technology.

Amherst vs. Caltech: Student Life

Amherst and Caltech have significantly different student cultures, and those cultures greatly affect the experience of students at the respective universities. At Amherst, the college has a strong focus on community involvement, with students encouraged to participate in clubs, organizations, and other extracurricular activities. There is also a strong emphasis on student wellness, with various resources like counseling services and student support groups.

Caltech has a different student culture, largely because of its focus on academics and research. The university has a relatively small undergraduate population, and students are highly motivated and dedicated to their studies. Extracurricular activities and clubs do exist, but they are not as popular or widespread as they are at Amherst.

Despite the differences in student culture, both Amherst and Caltech offer unique opportunities for students. At Amherst, students have the chance to participate in the Five College Consortium, which allows them to take classes and engage in activities at nearby colleges like Smith and Mount Holyoke. This provides a wider range of academic and social opportunities for students.

At Caltech, students have access to cutting-edge research facilities and opportunities to work alongside renowned faculty members. This can lead to valuable research experience and networking opportunities for students interested in pursuing careers in science and technology.

Amherst vs. Caltech: Faculty and Student Ratio

Both Amherst and Caltech have low faculty to student ratios, which means that students get personal attention and guidance from their professors. At Amherst, the faculty to student ratio is around 1:7, which means that students get ample opportunities to interact with their professors and seek help when needed. Similarly, at Caltech, the faculty to student ratio is around 1:3, which reflects the university’s focus on undergraduate research and individual attention to students.

However, it is important to note that the low faculty to student ratio at Caltech also means that the university has a highly competitive and rigorous academic environment. Students are expected to be highly motivated and self-driven, as they work closely with their professors on cutting-edge research projects. This can be both challenging and rewarding for students who are passionate about science and engineering.

Admission Requirements for Amherst and Caltech: What You Need to Know

The admission requirements for Amherst and Caltech are similar in some respects, but different in others. Both universities require students to submit transcripts, standardized test scores, essays, and teacher recommendations. However, Caltech requires students to take the SAT Subject Tests in Mathematics and a science subject, while Amherst only recommends these tests.

Additionally, Caltech has a significantly lower acceptance rate compared to Amherst. In 2020, Caltech had an acceptance rate of 6.4%, while Amherst had an acceptance rate of 12.6%, making Amherst a comparatively easier university to get admitted to.

It is important to note that while Amherst may have a higher acceptance rate, it is still a highly selective institution. The average GPA of admitted students is 3.9, and the middle 50% range for SAT scores is 1430-1560. Similarly, Caltech also has high academic standards, with an average GPA of admitted students being 4.0 and the middle 50% range for SAT scores being 1530-1570.

A Caltech front building

Affordability of Studying at Amherst vs. Caltech

Studying at a private university like Amherst or Caltech can be expensive, but both universities provide need-based financial aid to students who require it. Amherst is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of all admitted students, meaning that if your family’s income is below a certain threshold, you will not be expected to pay anything towards your education.

Caltech also offers a generous need-based financial aid program, which can cover up to 100% of a student’s demonstrated need for aid. However, Caltech does not offer merit-based scholarships, whereas Amherst does offer merit-based scholarships to outstanding students.

In addition to financial aid, both Amherst and Caltech offer various work-study programs to help students cover their expenses. At Amherst, students can work on campus in various departments, such as the library or dining services, and earn money to pay for their education. Caltech also offers work-study programs, where students can work in research labs or assist professors with their work.

Another factor to consider when comparing the affordability of these universities is the cost of living in the surrounding area. Amherst is located in a small town in Massachusetts, where the cost of living is generally lower than in larger cities. On the other hand, Caltech is located in Pasadena, California, which has a higher cost of living. This may affect the overall cost of attending the university, as students may need to budget for higher housing and living expenses.

Career Prospects After Graduation: A Look at Placement Rates of Both Universities

Both Amherst and Caltech offer strong career development programs that help students land jobs after graduation. Amherst has a well-established career center that provides job search advice and networking opportunities to students. The college’s alumni network is also strong and can be a valuable resource for job seekers.

Caltech has a similarly strong career development program, with resources like career counseling, internship opportunities, and employer networking events. The university also has a strong network of alumni who go on to work in industries like tech, finance, and engineering.

However, there are some differences in the career prospects of graduates from these two universities. According to recent data, Amherst graduates have a higher overall employment rate within six months of graduation, with 95% of graduates finding employment or enrolling in graduate school. On the other hand, Caltech graduates have a higher median starting salary, with an average of $85,000 per year.

It’s important to note that these statistics can vary depending on the field of study and individual circumstances. For example, Caltech graduates in the engineering and computer science fields may have even higher starting salaries than the overall median. Similarly, Amherst graduates in certain fields like education or social work may have lower starting salaries but higher job satisfaction rates.

Research Opportunities at Amherst and Caltech: A Comparative Study

Both Amherst and Caltech offer research opportunities to undergraduate students, but the scope and scale of research differs between the two universities. At Amherst, research opportunities are largely focused on the humanities and social sciences, with limited opportunities in science and engineering. The college does have a strong focus on undergraduate research, however, and provides funding and resources for students to pursue their research interests.

Caltech is renowned for its research programs in science and engineering, and undergraduate students have ample opportunities to conduct research in cutting-edge fields. The university has state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities, and students work closely with faculty members on research projects.

It is worth noting that while Amherst may have fewer research opportunities in science and engineering, the college has a strong interdisciplinary approach to research. Students are encouraged to explore connections between different fields of study and to approach research questions from multiple perspectives. This can lead to innovative and unique research projects that bridge the gap between traditional academic disciplines.

Amherst College

Extra-Curricular Activities Offered at Amherst vs. Caltech

As mentioned earlier, Amherst has a strong focus on extracurricular activities and student organizations. The college has a wide range of clubs and organizations, ranging from performing arts groups to political action committees. Additionally, Amherst has a Division III athletics program, with teams competing in sports like football, basketball, and tennis.

Caltech has a smaller selection of extracurricular activities, though there are still clubs and organizations that cater to diverse interests. The university has a Division III athletics program as well, with teams competing in sports like cross-country and swimming.

Despite having a smaller selection of extracurricular activities, Caltech offers unique opportunities for students to get involved in research and innovation. The university has several research groups and projects that students can join, such as the Caltech Robotics Team and the Space Innovation Club. These groups allow students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems and gain valuable experience in their fields of interest.

Another difference between Amherst and Caltech is the availability of outdoor recreational activities. Amherst is located in a rural area with access to hiking trails, skiing resorts, and other outdoor activities. In contrast, Caltech is located in an urban area with limited outdoor recreational options. However, the university is close to several beaches and parks, providing opportunities for students to explore the natural beauty of Southern California.

Amherst vs. Caltech: Campus Safety Measures

Both Amherst and Caltech take campus safety seriously, and have various measures in place to ensure the safety and security of their students. Amherst has a campus safety office that works closely with local law enforcement, and the college has a system in place for reporting and responding to incidents of sexual violence and harassment. Additionally, Amherst has a 24-hour emergency hotline that students can call in case of an emergency.

Caltech also has a strong campus safety program, with a dedicated campus security team that patrols the campus 24/7. The university has a system in place for reporting and responding to incidents of crime and sexual harassment, and has mobile safety apps that students can use to alert security in case of an emergency.

Both universities also offer self-defense classes and workshops to their students. Amherst’s campus safety office hosts regular self-defense classes, which are open to all students, faculty, and staff. These classes teach basic self-defense techniques and strategies for staying safe on campus and in the surrounding community. Similarly, Caltech offers self-defense workshops that are designed specifically for women, LGBTQ+ students, and other marginalized groups.

In addition to these measures, both universities have implemented safety features in their campus buildings and facilities. Amherst has installed security cameras in high-traffic areas, and has implemented a keycard access system for dormitories and other buildings. Caltech has also installed security cameras throughout the campus, and has implemented a system for monitoring and controlling access to campus buildings and facilities.

Amherst College

Amherst vs. Caltech: Student Diversity

Diversity is an important factor to consider when comparing universities, and both Amherst and Caltech have diverse student populations. At Amherst, students come from all 50 states and 60 countries, and the college has made efforts to increase diversity on campus in recent years. The student body is roughly split between male and female students, and there are a significant number of students from underrepresented minorities.

Caltech, on the other hand, has a smaller student population, and the majority of students are male. However, the university has a significant international student population, with students from over 50 countries. Additionally, Caltech is committed to increasing diversity on campus, and has initiatives in place to attract and retain students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Despite the differences in the student populations at Amherst and Caltech, both universities have a strong commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. At Amherst, there are numerous student-led organizations and initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion, such as the Multicultural Resource Center and the Queer Resource Center. Similarly, Caltech has a number of student groups and programs that focus on diversity and inclusion, including the Caltech Center for Diversity and the Caltech Women’s Center.

Furthermore, both universities recognize the importance of diversity in preparing students for success in a globalized world. Amherst offers numerous study abroad programs and encourages students to engage with different cultures and perspectives. Caltech also emphasizes the importance of global awareness and offers opportunities for students to participate in international research and collaborations.

Housing Options for Students at Amherst vs. Caltech

Housing options for students at Amherst and Caltech differ significantly, largely because of the nature and size of the universities. At Amherst, all first-year students are required to live on campus, and there are a variety of housing options available, ranging from traditional dormitories to apartments. Additionally, the college has a strong residential life program, and students often form close-knit communities within their dorms.

Caltech also requires first-year students to live on campus, and provides housing options ranging from traditional dormitories to apartment-style living. However, because of the smaller student population, housing is generally easier to come by at Caltech, and students often have more flexibility in selecting their housing options.

At Amherst, upperclassmen have the option to live off-campus, but the process is highly competitive and requires students to apply for permission to do so. Off-campus housing options are limited and often more expensive than on-campus options. In contrast, Caltech allows upperclassmen to live off-campus without needing to apply for permission. This gives students more freedom to choose their living arrangements and potentially save money on housing costs.

Another factor to consider is the location of the universities. Amherst is located in a small town in western Massachusetts, which can limit off-campus housing options and make transportation more difficult. Caltech, on the other hand, is located in the heart of Pasadena, California, which offers a wider range of off-campus housing options and easier access to public transportation.

Technology Infrastructure at Both Universities: Which One is Better?

Both Amherst and Caltech have state-of-the-art technology infrastructure that supports the academic and research programs of the universities. At Amherst, the college has a robust wireless network, classroom technology, and research equipment that is available to students and faculty members. Additionally, the college has a team of IT professionals who provide support and assistance to students and faculty members.

Caltech has an even more extensive technology infrastructure, with advanced laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment that supports research in science and engineering. Additionally, the university has a high-speed wireless network that covers the entire campus, and IT support is available 24/7 for students and faculty members.

Despite the similarities in technology infrastructure, there are some notable differences between Amherst and Caltech. For example, Amherst has a strong emphasis on integrating technology into the liberal arts curriculum, with courses that explore the intersection of technology and society. In contrast, Caltech’s focus is on cutting-edge research in science and engineering, with technology playing a critical role in advancing these fields.

Another difference is the level of access that students have to technology resources. At Amherst, students have access to a wide range of technology resources, including laptops, tablets, and other devices that can be borrowed from the library. Caltech, on the other hand, has a more limited selection of devices available for student use, but provides access to specialized equipment and software that is essential for research in science and engineering.

Athletics Programs Offered by Amherst vs. Caltech

As mentioned earlier, both Amherst and Caltech have Division III athletics programs, with teams competing in a variety of sports. At Amherst, athletics are an important part of the college experience, and the college has a strong athletic tradition. The college’s teams are known as the Amherst Mammoths, and compete in sports like basketball, football, and soccer.

Caltech’s athletes compete in a variety of sports, including basketball, swimming, and cross country. Although sports are not as central to the Caltech student experience as they are at Amherst, the university still places importance on athletics and has invested in sports facilities like the Braun Athletic Center.

One notable difference between the athletics programs at Amherst and Caltech is the level of competition. While both colleges compete in Division III, Amherst is known for having highly competitive teams that often rank among the top in the country. In contrast, Caltech’s teams are still developing and have not yet achieved the same level of success.

Another difference is the level of participation in athletics. At Amherst, a large percentage of students participate in varsity or club sports, and many students attend games and matches to support their classmates. At Caltech, however, the majority of students are not involved in athletics, and attendance at games is often low.

Amherst campus from afar


Choosing between Amherst and Caltech is not an easy decision, but hopefully this article has provided you with a comprehensive comparison of the two universities. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your interests, career goals, and financial capabilities. Whichever university you choose, we wish you the best of luck in your academic and professional endeavors.

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