Does Caltech Interview Everyone?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Caltech signage placed near a building.

Does Caltech Interview Everyone?

When students are preparing to apply to schools that routinely end up ranking within the top 10 of schools across the United States, knowing the ins and outs of the admissions and application process is a must.If you’re planning on applying to Caltech, you may be wondering, does Caltech give interviews or does Caltech interview everyone?

The truth is that these schools, such as schools in the Ivy League or other top 10 programs like MIT, Caltech, and Stanford, often put applicants through unique aspects of the application journey to help separate students who are best fit for the school from students who may be a better fit at other learning institutions.

One such application aspect includes the optional undergraduate interview process. At many of the country’s top schools, some applicants get the chance to take part in an interview with alumni. These interviews are typically quite informal and actually are known to not have a very large impact on a student’s ability to get into a given school.

In fact, Caltech – which is officially known as the California Institute of Technology, and is located in beautiful Pasadena, Calif. – does not offer interviews at all. Students who apply to this school do not have to worry about meeting with a Caltech interview to go over their application and their goals, and the obvious answer to the question, “How much does a Caltech interview matter?” is “not at all, because it doesn’t exist!”

Student talking her interviewer in an office.

Still, if you are planning on applying to Caltech and want to learn more about the admissions process and how you can separate yourself from the rest of the applicants even without the chance to meet with a Caltech interviewer, then you have absolutely come to the right place!

At AdmissionSight, we consider it our top priority to help the high school students that we work with every year get into the schools of their dreams. This means helping students find unique and effective ways to accentuate their strengths and make it clear to admissions officers at even the most competitive schools that they’d be a great fit at every school on their list.

The experience and knowledge that our admission consultants have gained over years of working within the undergraduate admissions industry allow them to offer the students that work with us a major advantage throughout the entire process.

The tools and strategies we incorporate throughout the entire process have a marked impact on the success rate of our students. What is that success rate, you ask? Among the students that we work with year in and year out, 75.0 percent of them end up getting into either an Ivy League school like Yale, Harvard or Columbia or a top-10 program that is not within the Ivy League but is no less prestigious such as Caltech, Stanford or MIT.

So, if you are interested in applying to Caltech and want to learn more about what you can do to impress the admissions officers at the school, then you have absolutely come to the right place. Even though the answer to the question “does Caltech give interviews?” is no, there are some very clear aspects to the application process that allow students to show who they are beyond their great grades, standardized test scores and more.

Does Caltech give interviews?

So, now that you know that Caltech does not give interviews to any students, you might be wondering why. Though some could see the fact that Caltech does not offer interviews as a negative reflection on the school’s admissions process, or the school in general, it is most likely a very pragmatic decision across the board.

If the answer to the question “does Caltech interview everyone” was yes, it would mean that somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 interviews would have to take place every application cycle.

Female student facing her interviewer in a room.

Considering the fact that graduating classes at Caltech are typically around 450 students, a very high percentage of the school’s alumni community would have to take part in this process. In the end, the school probably does not offer interviews because the number of students that apply is quite small and it is not a necessary part of the application process.

On top of that, considering the schools that do offer interviews, it does sometimes seem as though this is mostly for the “experience” rather than the actual utility of the process. The interview is, in a way, meant to make applying students feel special and elite. However, considering the fact that these interviews are known to not have a real impact on a student’s ability to get into a school, they are somewhat for show.

Caltech, while just as prestigious as the most historic and well-regarded schools in the country are a bit more reserved than a school like Harvard, Princeton or Yale. They are much less about the glitz and reputation and much more about the academics and resources that they offer their students.

After all, it’s a school that is known around the world as one of the best schools for students who are interested in science, technology, engineering, or math – otherwise known as STEM subjects.

How much does the Caltech interview matter?

Since you know that Caltech does not offer interviews at all, you may be curious about what the school does to make sure that it can get a good idea of who an applying student is beyond their academic history.

After all, it isn’t all about school when it comes to the college experience in the United States. A big part of the college or university experience for students also has to do with experiences outside of the classroom, clubs or groups they join, communities they become a part of, and the life-long relationships they forge.

Young woman holding her bag while walking.

So, when it comes to the admissions officers at Caltech making sure that they are identifying students that will not only be able to handle the school’s incredibly rigorous academic approach, but also thrive within the school’s community, how do they identify such students?

The simple answer is that they do it in the same way that the vast majority of schools (that don’t offer interviews) do, by expecting a lot out of an applicant’s personal statements, essays and teacher evaluations. These components of your application to Caltech are incredibly important and are going to put a lot of your academic and extracurricular achievements into context in terms of who you are not only as a student, but as a person as well.

Let’s cover both of these crucial components of your application.

Supplemental application essays

In order to apply to Caltech, students have to fill out either the Common Application or Coalition Application in full. That, of course, includes answering the essay prompts offered by whichever application you choose.

At many schools, there are no additional essays that you are expected to fill out, but at more competitive schools (including Caltech) there are often supplemental essays that students are required to fill out as part of their application. These supplemental essays tend to be more school-specific compared to the Common Application or Coalition Application prompts that are often more basic and wide-ranging.

Students studying in a table with books and notebooks.

While the Caltech prompts are known to change from year to year, they often encourage students to discuss or write about similar aspects of their unique experiences, points of view, goals, and more in order to tie those factors into why they believe Caltech is the right school for them. Here are the essay prompts that students who applied to Caltech in the 2021-22 application cycle had to answer as a part of their application. Each answer was expected to be between 100 and 250 words.

  • PROMPT #1: Tell us about a time or experience in which you encountered failure.
  • PROMPT #2: Tell us about a life situation, media story, or topic – beyond or outside of a classroom or formal assignment – that has captivated you, inspired your curiosity, and led you to delve more deeply into learning about a subject on your own.
  • PROMPT #3: Tell us about how you have collaborated with and worked together within a small group of your peers on some task or endeavor in the past, or about how you imagine you will work with your Caltech peers in the future.
  • PROMPT #4 (FOR TRANSFER AND 3/2 APPLICANTS ONLY): Tell us about any research experiences you have had thus far as an undergraduate. This may include extracurricular research or a class project that you have done under a professor’s direction.

While these questions may not seem specifically related to what a student’s experience may be like at Caltech, you can rest assured that these questions have been meticulously constructed by members of the admissions committee to get answers that will effectively help them determine which students would be the best fit at the school given their answers.

Teacher evaluations

The other main component that admissions officers at Caltech utilize when it comes to determining whether or not an applicant would be a good fit at the school is what information they received from teacher evaluations. These are also often referred to as letters of recommendation.

Here is what Caltech expects students to send in when it comes to this section of the application.

  • 1 math or science teacher evaluation
  • 1 humanity or social sciences teacher evaluation

Caltech makes a point to mention that the school recommends “asking teachers who can best speak to your performance as a student in their classroom.” This is indeed a very important part of this section of a college application no matter where you plan on applying.

Make sure that you are identifying teachers who have seen you struggle, succeed, lead and overcome challenges in the classroom. You will also want to consider asking teachers whom you have managed to form a positive and impactful relationship with.

Young woman explaining an extracurricular activity to a student.

Whether this is simply because you have taken numerous classes with them or because you have taken part in a group or club that they helped lead doesn’t matter much. What matters most is that they know who you are beyond just being a student. They should be able to comment on your strengths and perhaps even things you need to work on inside the classroom and out.

Beyond that, make sure that you give these teachers that you want to write your letters ample time to prepare. At Admissionsight, we recommend to our students that they approach the teachers they want, writing their evaluations sometime between the end of their junior year of high school and the start of their senior year. This will ensure that those teachers have the time to construct a fantastic letter for you.

Beyond that, Caltech has a few more requirements and encouragements for students as it relates to this section of the application. For the second letter – from a humanities or social sciences teacher – the school asks that students “submit evaluations from teachers who have evaluated your writing. In the past, students have used recommendations from the following classes to fulfill this requirement: English, Foreign Language, Philosophy, Religion, History, Economics, Government, Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology.”

Moreover, the school encourages students to “submit up to two additional evaluations from a mentor or supervisor who knows you in a different context.”

How to be memorable in your Caltech application?

Since Caltech does not offer interviews, you may be wondering how you can make sure that you are somehow memorable in your application to the school. The simple truth is that the best way to stand out and be as memorable as possible is to spend a lot of time and energy on the personal essay section. The personal essay section would be your best way to achieve this even if the answer to the question “does Caltech interview everyone” was yes.

The personal essay section has gained even more value in recent years as more and more schools have opted to adopt a standardized test-optional policy. So, to wrap up this quick breakdown of how you can try to stand out in this school’s heavily competitive admissions process, we thought we would break down seven ways that you can work to create a more unique and effective batch of personal essays in your application to Caltech. You can utilize these tips in both your Common Application or Coalition Application essays as well as your Caltech supplemental essays.

  • Write about something that matters to you: What schools look for most in these answers is proof that you are a passionate and excited individual who loves to learn and grow. For that reason, a great place to start is to choose a topic that matters to you in a deep way.
  • Reflect on your past experiences: Simply regurgitating experiences is not going to leave you with very impressive or interesting essays. However, using those experiences to reflect about what you gained from them can make for great essays. Beyond that, they prove that you are mature, introspective and always looking to grow from past accomplishments and failures.
  • Your comedy shouldn’t be your main concern: Sure, it’s fun to write something that seems funny, but keep in mind that you do not really know your audience. So while a joke or two could be helpful, it can also lead to you wasting highly valuable words on a joke that may fall flat. You may want to think twice before you include sarcasm, a one-liner, or anything off-color in your essays.
  • Give yourself time to write a lot of drafts: One of the most important things to know is that, when it comes to the essay section, time is always going to lead to a better outcome. Make sure you give yourself a lot of time to write, edit and improve your essays. We advise that students start working on their essays almost immediately after the prompts for that application cycle become available.
  • No need to repeat: There should never be anything in your essays that repeat or contradict anything in your other application documents. That information speaks for itself, use your essays to cover other important aspects of your life.
  • Keep the question in mind: Once you have finished an essay, make sure to reread the question carefully and confirm that your essay actually fulfills the prompt and answers the question provided to you.
  • Have your essays edited: Whether you are working with a peer, parent or your admissions consultant, make sure that at least one person is reading your essays and offering feedback, as well as checking spelling, grammar, etc.

Succeed in the Caltech application

Applying to Caltech is a strenuous experience, and it is very hard to overcome this school’s incredibly low acceptance rate. With that being said, hundreds of students do it each year! If you are interested in learning more about how you can improve your chances of getting into Caltech, contact us at AdmissionSight today to schedule a free consultation.




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