Extracurricular Activities at Caltech

August 8, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Extracurricular Activities at Caltech

Caltech’s student body is known for being unapologetically quirky. Along with extensive STEM experience, an ideal Caltech candidate should have unique interests and qualities through various extracurricular activities at Caltech. Hence, we will learn more about the extracurricular activities at Caltech available for its students to participate in.

What is Caltech known for?

What is Caltech known for and where is it located? The prestigious California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has many claims to fame. For one, 58 faculty and alumni have received a National Medal of Science. The university also currently has seven Nobel laureates in residence. Plus, Caltech manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the leading center for the robotic exploration of the solar system for NASA.

Using spacecraft to investigate other planets in our solar system and measure the degree to which our own planet is undergoing change In addition, Caltech owns and manages a number of large-scale research facilities, such as the Seismological Laboratory and a worldwide network of astronomical observatories that includes Palomar and W. M. Keck Observatories, in addition to having a role in the establishment and management of LIGO.

Caltech building with a wide walkway.

The school was established in 1891, has a total undergraduate enrollment of 901 students (for the fall of 2020), is located in a suburban setting, has a campus size of 124 acres, and receives funding from private sources. It is also an independent institution. The academic year is divided into four equal parts known as quarters. The California Institute of Technology came in at number nine on the list of the best national universities in the 2022 edition of Best Colleges. It has a total cost of $58,680 for tuition and fees.

There are six different divisions at Caltech, which are as follows:

  • Biology and Biological Engineering (BBE)
  • Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (CCE)
  • Engineering and Applied Science (EAS)
  • Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS)
  • Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS)
  • Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy (PMA)

The university offers a total of 28 different majors to its students, the most popular of which is computer science. Other majors include bioengineering, astrophysics, geobiology, materials science, and mathematics.

Students have the option of majoring in subjects such as English, history, and political science in addition to STEM subjects; however, HSS programs frequently employ a scientific perspective in their instruction. Students have the option to pursue a minor in subjects such as aeronautics, computer science, philosophy, or structural mechanics.

As another component of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, students have the opportunity to design their own individualized study plans in conjunction with the program’s faculty advisors (ISP).

At Caltech, there is a strong emphasis on research; in fact, ninety percent of first-year students participate in research programs such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF), Amgen Scholars, and many others. These programs give students the opportunity to conduct research projects under the supervision of faculty and graduate students.

Caltech works closely with a number of other colleges on various opportunities and programs. For instance, during the fall terms of the academic year, the institution facilitates a student exchange program with the University of Chicago.

In the meantime, the 3/2 program gives students attending one of the liberal arts colleges that are listed below the opportunity to apply for transfer to Caltech after they have completed their junior year. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree from their home institution, students will continue their education at Caltech for an additional two years to earn a bachelor of science degree from Caltech. The following institutions that are taking part:

  • Bowdoin College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Grinnell College
  • Haverford College
  • Mt. Holyoke College
  • Oberlin College
  • Occidental College
  • Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Pomona College
  • Reed College
  • Spelman College
  • Wesleyan University
  • Whitman College

What’s it like to attend Caltech?

What’s it like to attend Caltech as a student? You can expect to take between 45 and 51 credits over the course of each 10-week term as a Caltech student. This may sound like a lot, but if you consider that a typical course consists of three hours of lecture time and six hours of homework per week, then you can see that this is actually a nine-credit course.

As a direct consequence of this, the vast majority of students at Caltech sign up for anywhere between five and six classes during each term. This is because the Institute breaks up the academic year into three 10-week terms, in addition to offering a research term during the summer. You will also abide by the Honor Code that is in place at Caltech.

Students getting ready for a class.

“Teachers” are a group with very varied areas of interest. Although a significant number of these students are accomplished musicians, the students’ other social interests are extremely diverse. Everyone in this place possesses astounding intelligence and is very dedicated to their work.

People who work in technology are typically laid back but enjoy having a good time. I believe that the majority of people’s motivation in this place is spent on their work, which leaves a lot of people’s free time open for nothing more productive than just hanging out.

There are people of many different races and religions, as well as people from many different countries and other places on the Caltech campus. This is another one of the many wonderful things about Caltech. But no one seems to care! Everyone is dealt with in the same manner, which is a wonderful thing. It is not important what a person’s cultural background or race is; what is important is how they behave and what they say.

On the other hand, this makes it possible for diversity to spread even more quickly, and for people to learn about other cultures without developing prejudices against those cultures. Additionally, students are typically classified into one of the 7 houses as well as one of the majors.

If someone is not a member of your household or your major, then it is likely that you will not interact with them as frequently. On the other hand, the size of the campus ensures that nearly everyone is familiar with one another.

What Extracurricular Activities does Caltech have?

What extracurricular activities does Caltech have for its students to participate in? Caltech is a small, collaborative community in which students, staff, faculty, and postdoctoral scholars from a wide range of histories, cultures, and experiences live, work, and interact with one another. Together, they have maintained their dedication to being a model for what the institution’s intertwined missions of research and education are capable of achieving.

Participating in one of Caltech’s organized athletic programs, its student-run clubs, or one of its many performing arts organizations is one of the best ways for students to develop their talents and interests further while also creating memories that will last a lifetime (music or theater).

The Caltech Center for Inclusion & Diversity makes it possible for students to learn about and participate in a wide range of cultural and awareness events, diversity workshops, and support groups. The Caltech Y provides opportunities for a variety of activities, including community service, outdoor exploration, and more.

Beyond the confines of the labs, there is a whole world to discover at Caltech!

Arts and Culture

Because of the Department of Theater Arts at the California Institute of Technology, Caltech is also home to a thriving theater community (TACIT). As part of the extracurricular activities at Caltech, this thespian troupe, whose members come from the ranks of students, staff, and even faculty, puts on three productions throughout the course of each academic year. These productions range from one-act comedies to musical theater to original plays.

You’ll also be able to find a group here that caters to your preferred style of music, whether it be instrumental or vocal, group or solo, classical or techno, or anything in between.

Group of students smiling at the camera.


On campus, we have two jazz bands, over 25 chamber music ensembles, men’s and women’s glee clubs, chamber singers, and several a cappella groups. As part of the extracurricular activities at Caltech, Caltech also offers a symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra, and concert band in conjunction with Occidental College.

Sports and Athletics

The Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation at Caltech is dedicated to the health and happiness of the student as a whole. They combine the development of a student’s physical, social, and emotional skills in order to contribute more effectively to the growth of a healthy mind and body.

Participation in intercollegiate, club, intramural, and intramural sports can be pursued on an individual or group basis thanks to the athletics department’s provision of these opportunities. Caltech is a founding member of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and participates in twenty different varsity sports at the NCAA Division III level (SCIAC).

The Beaver, also known as “nature’s engineer,” is the symbol of excellence for student-athletes at Caltech. This animal excels in both the classroom and on the playing field.

Caltech Club Sport

Caltech Club Sport, also known as Caltech Recreation, is dedicated to the health and happiness of Caltech students and members and uses intramural sports to help achieve this goal. Intramural sports provide an excellent opportunity for students and members to engage in physical activity, make new friends, acquire new skills, and take part in sporting activities that they find enjoyable.

Students playing basketball in a court.

As part of the extracurricular activities at Caltech, the leagues are designed to accommodate players of varying skill levels so that everyone can participate. The objective of our Intramurals program is to offer students and members a wide range of recreational opportunities that give them the chance to compete with one another in a spirit of healthy competition. Students who are seasoned athletes or who are just starting out in a sport are encouraged to participate in the FUN activities because everyone is welcome.

The following competitive sporting events can be participated in at various times throughout the year, either as part of a league or as one-day tournaments:

  • Basketball
  • Dodgeball
  • Flag Football
  •  Kickball
  •  Soccer
  • Softball
  • Volleyball

Sports Clubs

  • Alpine
  • Badminton
  • Baseball (wood bat)
  • Cricket
  • Fencing
  • Karate
  • Surf
  • Triathlon
  • Ultimate Frisbee

Caltech Clubs

Students at Caltech come from a wide variety of places and have a wide variety of skills and interests. Even though all of our students are scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, a significant number of them are also student leaders, musicians, artists, dancers, chess champions, and athletes.

You can probably find a group of people at Tech who share your interests if you just think about it. In that case, you are more than welcome to try to organize a gathering of your own!

Students sitting on the bench while doing school work.

Caltech Clubs: There are more than one hundred student clubs and organizations on campus, ranging from religious and faith-based organizations to groups that bond over community service, the environment, extracurricular interests, and food. These clubs and organizations cover a wide range of topics, including the following is a list of some of the clubs that you could join that make up the extracurricular activities at Caltech:

  • Caltech Vintage Computing Club
  • Caltech Visual Arts + Culture Club
  • Archery Club
  • Ceramics Club
  • Bridge Club
  • Engineers Without Borders
  • Caltech Catholics
  • Caltech Chess Club
  • Caltech Dance Team
  • Caltech Disability Coalition
  • Caltech Center for Inclusion & Diversity: Through the Caltech Center for Inclusion & Diversity, you can learn about a wide range of cultural and awareness events, diversity workshops, and support groups.
  • Caltech Y: Caltech students, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to participate in community service projects through Caltech Y, an independent organization that was formerly affiliated with the YMCA and YWCA but is no longer. In addition, the Y coordinates outings in the great outdoors, social gatherings, and educational programs for the local student population.

Caltech Traditions

Caltech Traditions are abundant, as they are at most colleges and universities; however, at Caltech, these traditions do not revolve around the traditional fight songs and mascots. The custom of having sit-down dinners that are served by student waiters is one that can be found in many of the student houses.

In addition, every house throws an “inter-house party” at some point during the academic year. Moreover, every family has its own set of traditions. Every Halloween, Dabney House stages a pumpkin drop from the top of Millikan Library, the highest point on campus; and before winter break, Lloyd House constructs a “light tree” on Millikan Library. For example, the Flems fire their cannon several times a year. Dabney House stages a pumpkin drop from the top of Millikan Library.


At Caltech, practical jokes are a common occurrence, and they frequently involve competition between the various student houses. It is not unheard of for members of the Tech community to carry their shenanigans off campus. Here are some of the more well-known practical jokes pulled by Caltech students:

Caltech was substituted for the University of Washington on the card stunts that were used during the Rose Bowl Game in 1961.

During the Rose Bowl Game in 1984, Caltech rewired the scoreboard so that it displayed their dominating victory over MIT (actually, UCLA was playing the University of Illinois).

1961: Altered the University of Washington’s card stunts during the Rose Bowl Game to display “Caltech.”
1984: Rewired the scoreboard during the Rose Bowl Game to show that Caltech was trouncing MIT (actually, UCLA was playing the University of Illinois).
1987: Changed the Hollywood sign to read “Caltech.”
2005: Handed out more than 400 prank T-shirts at MIT’s preview weekend.
2012: Upperclassmen pranked the frosh Physics 1a class, as is tradition. This year, they converted a small closet into a TARDIS.
2014: The Prank Club erected a “PASADENA” sign in the hills overlooking the Rose Bowl; at halftime during the BCS Championship Game, the sign changed to read “CALTECH” in bright orange lettering.
2014: The Prank Club distributed heat-sensitive coffee mugs to MIT’s admitted students.
2016: The Physics 1a pranksters strike again, this time recreating Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
2017: Helpfully delivered the new “MIT Transfer Application Form” to MIT’s Admissions Office.

Ditch Day

It’s like Senior Skip Day crossed with The Amazing Race, with seniors competing against underclassmen and brute force versus finesse. Hello, and thank you for joining us for Ditch Day, the annual undergraduate competition at Caltech and one of our longest-standing traditions. The seniors will leave campus on the day that has been predetermined for them to go have a good time with their friends.

As a result of their frustration at being left behind, the underclassmen attempt to break into the rooms of the seniors and cause mayhem there. Underclassmen are given “Stacks,” which are the senior class’s version of themed scavenger hunts, in an effort to deter this kind of behavior. These “Stacks” are challenging and creative puzzles that are meticulously planned out months, or even years, in advance to keep the underclassmen occupied throughout the day.

Did you know that the seniors don’t tell each other the date until the night of? This ensures that the other students are all ready for it to happen at any time by any means necessary. After all, “Ditch Day” is not until the following day!

Why Are Extracurriculars Important?

Why are extracurriculars important to Caltech’s students? The mission of Caltech is to educate its students in the necessary skills—physical, social, and emotional—for the cultivation of a sound mind in a sound body.

Through a wide range of intercollegiate, physical education, club, intramural, and informal recreation activities that are designed to cater to the requirements of each and every member of the community, the Department strives to foster participation in a well-rounded program that includes both individual and group pursuits.

Sports equipments placed on the floor.

In addition, Caltech places a high priority on providing each student in their various programs with a well-rounded education that is of the highest quality. In addition, they work hard to educate the entire Caltech community about the importance of good personal health and leading a well-balanced life through the use of a variety of programming.

Caltech will serve the community by educating its undergraduate and graduate students, taking action on the issues, ideas, and needs of those students, and responding to those issues, ideas, and needs both independently and in collaboration with the students, faculty, and staff. We make use of a wide variety of methods in our efforts to deliver services and programs of the highest possible caliber.

  •  Caltech will assist in the process of creating, supporting, and maintaining a diverse educational environment for its students.
  • The needs, wants, and desires of students will be determined at Caltech through collaborative efforts with the student body.
  • Caltech will foster a relationship of collaboration with its faculty and alumni, which will make it possible for us to work together to improve the overall quality of life on campus.
  • In order to educate, advise, and work together with students as well as the rest of the community, Caltech is going to develop a more collaborative educational strategy.

If you need help putting the finishing touches on your early applications, or want some advice on whether or not applying Early Decision or an Early Action is a good option for you, at AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process, including our athletic recruitment program.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.

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