Comparing Washington University in St. Louis vs Caltech

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Young woman smiling at the camera while in front of the computer.

Comparing Washington University in St. Louis vs Caltech

When considering where to pursue a higher education, it is important to do your research and make an informed decision. Two top institutions that often come up in these discussions are Washington University in St. Louis and California Institute of Technology, commonly known as Caltech. In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between Washington University in St. Louis vs Caltech in great detail, covering everything from academic programs and faculty to campus culture and community engagement efforts.

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Campus Facilities and Location

The campuses of Washington University in St. Louis vs Caltech are vastly different in terms of location and facilities. Washington University is located in St. Louis, Missouri and covers over 169 acres of land, consisting of a mix of modern and historic buildings. The campus has been recently renovated and boasts state-of-the-art research facilities, classrooms, and housing options for students.

On the other hand, Caltech is located in Pasadena, California, and covers a much smaller area of about 125 acres. The campus is known for its unique architectural style, which blends the traditional Mediterranean with modern and contemporary designs.

Despite its smaller size, Caltech has a reputation for having some of the most advanced research facilities in the world. The campus is home to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech for NASA. This facility has played a key role in many of NASA’s most important missions, including the Mars Rover and the Voyager spacecraft. Additionally, Caltech has a number of specialized research centers, including the Kavli Nanoscience Institute and the Center for Advanced Computing Research.

Academic Programs Offered

Both universities are renowned for their academic programs, but Caltech is particularly notable for its emphasis on STEM subjects, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In fact, the university only offers degrees in these fields, along with some interdisciplinary programs.

Washington University, on the other hand, offers a wide range of academic programs, including arts, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences, in addition to STEM fields. This makes it an ideal choice for students looking to explore different academic areas and find their niche.

Caltech’s STEM programs are highly regarded and have produced many notable alumni, including Nobel laureates and pioneers in their respective fields. The university’s rigorous curriculum and focus on research provide students with hands-on experience and opportunities to work alongside faculty members on groundbreaking projects.

Washington University’s liberal arts education is also highly respected, with a strong emphasis on critical thinking, communication skills, and interdisciplinary learning. The university’s faculty includes Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, and other distinguished scholars who are dedicated to providing students with a well-rounded education.

Faculty and Staff Quality

The quality of faculty and staff is an important factor to consider when choosing Washington University in St. Louis vs Caltech. Both WashU and Caltech have a distinguished group of professors, who are experts in their respective fields, and have been recognized for their contributions to academia.

At WashU, the faculty-to-student ratio is 8:1, which allows for more personalized attention and interaction with professors. Similarly, at Caltech, the faculty-to-student ratio is also low, at about 3:1, indicating a strong commitment to individualized attention and mentorship.

In addition to the faculty and staff quality, both universities also offer a wide range of resources and support services to help students succeed academically and personally. At WashU, students have access to academic advising, tutoring services, and career development programs. Caltech offers similar resources, including a writing center, study abroad programs, and mental health services. These resources and support systems demonstrate the universities’ commitment to the success and well-being of their students.

Student Life and Extracurricular Activities

College is more than just academics, and both universities offer a vibrant social scene and numerous extracurricular activities for students to engage in. Washington University has over 300 clubs and organizations that cater to a wide range of interests, from performing arts to community service projects. The university also has a Division III sports program, with 19 varsity teams and a strong intramural sports culture.

Group of students talking in a room.

Caltech has a smaller campus and student population, but still offers numerous opportunities for students to get involved. The university’s social scene is centered around the student-run Caltech Y, which organizes various events and programs throughout the year. In addition, Caltech has intercollegiate sports teams and a variety of student clubs and organizations.

Both universities also offer a variety of student-led initiatives that allow students to engage with the local community and make a positive impact. At Washington University, students can participate in programs like the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, which connects students with local organizations and provides opportunities for community service. Similarly, Caltech’s Engineers Without Borders chapter allows students to apply their engineering skills to real-world problems and make a difference in communities around the world.

Furthermore, both universities have a strong focus on wellness and mental health. Washington University offers a variety of resources for students, including counseling services, wellness programs, and a student health center. Caltech also has a student health center and offers resources like the Caltech Center for Diversity, which provides support and advocacy for underrepresented students on campus.

Admissions Process and Requirements

Getting into either university is no easy feat, as both have selective admissions processes and stringent requirements for applicants. At WashU, the admissions process is holistic, considering academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, and personal qualities. The university accepts both the Common Application and Coalition Application, and requires standardized test scores, transcripts, and recommendations.

Caltech has a similar admissions process, looking for high academic achievement, as well as a strong interest in STEM subjects and research. The university requires standardized test scores, transcripts, recommendations, and essays. It is important to note that both universities also consider demonstrated interest in their respective institutions. This can include attending information sessions, visiting campus, and engaging with admissions representatives. Additionally, WashU offers an optional interview for applicants, which can provide further insight into their qualifications and fit for the university.

For international students, both universities require proof of English proficiency, typically through standardized tests such as the TOEFL or IELTS. WashU also offers an English Language Program for students who need additional language support before beginning their academic studies.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid Options

College can be expensive, and it is important to consider the cost of attendance and financial aid options when making a decision. Washington University’s cost of attendance for the 2020-2021 academic year is approximately $77,440, which includes tuition, room and board, and other fees. The university offers need-based financial aid, as well as merit-based scholarships, to help offset the cost of attendance.

Caltech’s cost of attendance for the 2020-2021 academic year is approximately $78,594, which includes tuition, room and board, and other fees. The university offers a generous financial aid package, which includes need-based aid, scholarships, and work-study programs.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance and financial aid options can vary greatly between different colleges and universities. Some schools may offer more generous financial aid packages than others, while some may have lower overall costs of attendance. It is important to research and compare different schools’ financial aid options and costs before making a decision on where to attend college.

Research Opportunities Available at Each Institution

Both WashU and Caltech are renowned for their research programs, and offer numerous opportunities for students to engage in research and collaborate with faculty members. Washington University’s Office of Undergraduate Research coordinates research projects and offers funding opportunities for students. The university is also home to many research centers and institutes, including the McDonnell International Scholars Academy and the Siteman Cancer Center.

Students working with their teacher in the classroom.

Caltech is famous for its research programs, particularly in the fields of physics, engineering, and computer science. The university encourages undergraduate students to get involved in research projects and work with faculty members on various initiatives.

Additionally, both WashU and Caltech have partnerships with various research institutions and organizations, providing students with even more opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research. WashU has partnerships with the Danforth Plant Science Center and the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, while Caltech has partnerships with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Career Services and Job Placement Assistance

After graduation, students want to be prepared for the job market and find opportunities in their respective fields. Washington University’s Career Center offers a range of services, including resume and cover letter review, career counseling, and job search assistance. The university also holds numerous career fairs and on-campus recruiting events throughout the year. Caltech’s Career Development Center offers similar services, including career counseling, job search assistance, and interview preparation. The university also hosts various career events and fairs throughout the year to help students connect with potential employers.

Additionally, both universities have strong alumni networks that can provide valuable connections and job opportunities for recent graduates. Alumni often return to campus to speak with current students about their career paths and offer advice and mentorship. Both universities also have online job boards and resources specifically for alumni, allowing them to stay connected and informed about job opportunities in their fields.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio and Class Sizes

The size of classes and the student-to-faculty ratio can have a significant impact on the academic experience for students. At WashU, the average class size is 15 students, providing a more intimate learning environment and opportunities for increased interaction with professors. Similarly, Caltech has a small student body, allowing for close interactions between students and faculty members.

In addition to WashU and Caltech, many other universities prioritize small class sizes and low student-to-faculty ratios. For example, Williams College has a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1 and an average class size of 12 students. This allows for personalized attention from professors and a collaborative learning environment. Additionally, small class sizes can lead to more engaging discussions and a deeper understanding of course material.

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives on Campus

Creating a welcoming and inclusive campus environment is a top priority for both universities, and they have implemented various initiatives to support diversity on campus. Washington University has an Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, which supports underrepresented groups and provides resources and programming for students, faculty, and staff. The university has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, which is reflected in its diverse student body and numerous programs dedicated to promoting equality and social justice.

Group of students walking in the campus.

At Caltech, the Student Affairs team works to create a welcoming campus environment for students from diverse backgrounds. The university has established several multicultural organizations and diversity initiatives, including the Center for Diversity, which supports underrepresented students and promotes a more inclusive campus culture.

One of the initiatives implemented by Washington University is the Diversity Peer Educator Program, which trains students to facilitate workshops and discussions on diversity and inclusion topics. The program aims to promote dialogue and understanding among students from different backgrounds and to create a more inclusive campus community. Caltech also offers a similar program called the Diversity Peer Educator Program, which provides training and resources for students to lead workshops and events on diversity and inclusion topics.

Alumni Network and Success Stories from Graduates

Alumni networks can be a valuable resource for graduates, providing networking opportunities and potential job connections. Washington University has a large and active alumni network, with over 140,000 alumni worldwide. Many WashU alumni have gone on to achieve success in their respective fields, including Nobel Prize winners, Olympic gold medalists, and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Caltech also has a highly accomplished alumni network, including numerous Nobel Prize winners and prominent figures in science and technology. The university’s alumni have made important contributions to society in a variety of fields, such as space exploration, medicine, and engineering.

Another university with a strong alumni network is Harvard University. Harvard has produced numerous successful graduates, including eight U.S. presidents, over 150 Nobel laureates, and more than 30 heads of state. The Harvard Alumni Association provides a platform for alumni to connect with each other and offers various resources, such as career services and mentorship programs. Similarly, Stanford University has a thriving alumni community, with over 220,000 alumni worldwide. Stanford alumni have made significant contributions to various industries, including technology, finance, and entertainment. The university’s alumni association hosts events and provides resources to help graduates stay connected and advance in their careers.

Sports Teams and Athletic Programs Offered

For students who enjoy sports and athletic activities, both universities offer a range of programs and opportunities to get involved. Washington University has a robust Division III sports program, with 19 varsity teams and numerous club sports and intramural activities. The university also offers fitness classes and recreational activities for students who wish to remain active but are not interested in competitive sports. Caltech also has intercollegiate sports teams, offering programs such as basketball, volleyball, and softball. The university’s athletic department also provides fitness and wellness programs for students who wish to stay healthy without participating in organized sports.

Male student holding a ball.

Additionally, both universities have facilities that cater to different sports and athletic activities. Washington University has a state-of-the-art athletic complex that includes a swimming pool, a track and field stadium, and a fitness center. Caltech, on the other hand, has a gymnasium that houses basketball and volleyball courts, as well as a weight room and a dance studio.

Moreover, both universities have a strong tradition of supporting their student-athletes. Washington University provides academic support services to help student-athletes balance their academic and athletic commitments. Caltech, on the other hand, has a unique program called the “3/2 Program,” which allows students to participate in intercollegiate sports at nearby colleges while pursuing their engineering degree at Caltech.

Campus Culture and Community Engagement Efforts

The campus culture and community engagement efforts can greatly impact the overall experience for students when choosing between Washington University in St. Louis vs Caltech. Washington University places a strong emphasis on community service and engagement, with numerous programs and initiatives dedicated to promoting social justice and diversity. The university also hosts various events and activities throughout the academic year, encouraging students to get involved and connect with their peers and the broader community.

Caltech has a unique campus culture that emphasizes collaboration and innovation. The university encourages interdisciplinary work and encourages students to engage in research and explore new ideas. Additionally, Caltech has a strong commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. The university has implemented various initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable practices, such as using renewable energy sources and reducing waste. Students can get involved in these efforts through clubs and organizations dedicated to sustainability, as well as through research opportunities focused on environmental issues.

Partnerships with Local Businesses and Organizations

Both WashU and Caltech have strong ties to their respective local communities, and have established partnerships and collaborations with local businesses and organizations. Washington University has numerous partnerships with local organizations and community groups, including a partnership with local schools to offer after-school programs for underserved students. The university also has strong ties to the St. Louis business community, providing students with opportunities for internships and employment after graduation.

Caltech has strong partnerships with local businesses and organizations, particularly in the fields of technology and engineering. The university is located near many leading tech companies, providing students with opportunities for internships and employment after graduation. In addition to these partnerships, WashU also collaborates with local healthcare organizations to provide medical services to underserved communities. The university’s medical school offers free clinics and health screenings to residents in the St. Louis area.

Caltech has also established partnerships with local environmental organizations to promote sustainability and conservation efforts in the surrounding community. The university works with these organizations to develop and implement eco-friendly practices on campus and in the local area.


When comparing Washington University in St. Louis vs Caltech, it is clear that both institutions are top-ranking universities that offer their students unique experiences and opportunities. While they have different focuses, locations, and campus cultures, both WashU and Caltech provide their students with an unparalleled education that prepares them for success in their chosen fields. Whether you are interested in STEM fields or a more diverse range of academics, both universities have something to offer and will leave you feeling inspired and well-prepared for the future.

A woman writing an essay on a table.

It is important to note that both universities also prioritize research and innovation. WashU is known for its cutting-edge medical research and its collaborations with nearby institutions such as the Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Caltech, on the other hand, is renowned for its contributions to the fields of astronomy and physics, and has produced numerous Nobel laureates. Both universities offer students the opportunity to work alongside world-class researchers and contribute to groundbreaking discoveries.



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