How Big Is Caltech?

August 12, 2022
By AdmissionSight

How Big Is Caltech?

Is Caltech A Large Campus?

Caltech, also known as the California Institute of Technology, is one of the most selective colleges for science and engineering in the nation. The majority of new students graduated in the top ten percent of their high school class. Caltech has consistently been rated as one of the top ten universities in the country.

If Caltech caught your attention, you might wonder “How big is Caltech?” The 124-acre Pasadena campus is 10 miles from Los Angeles. Despite its strict academics, Caltech has a close-knit community.

Approximately 86% of college students spend their entire four years living on campus. Each year, there are 11 different residences from which students can select. These residences offer a range of living options, including singles, doubles, and suites, as well as special traditions and events. With many gathering undergraduates from all class years to share and explore different perspectives, interests, and passions with faculty, staff, and occasionally even graduate students, all residences offer opportunities for students to learn from and grow together.

Caltech building with a pond near the building.

Living near the California Institute of Technology (more commonly referred to as Caltech) campus in Pasadena has provided a much-needed break from the pandemic. The lush campus is a beautiful place to stroll through and a tranquil haven with its turtle pond, fountains, historic structures, and groves of eucalyptus trees. It’s possibly Pasadena’s best park, if I may say so.

A tour of the top Caltech campus attractions should include these numerous fascinating structures and gardens scattered throughout the campus. These could give you an answer to the question “Is Caltech a large campus?”

1. Neuroscience Research Building: One of the newest structures on campus is located on the corner of campus, facing Wilson and Del Mar. The brand-new neuroscience building is a cutting-edge design with glass and unusual angles, bronze panels that glitter in the sunlight, and odd angles. The entrance is a palm tree court on Wilson, but I advise going down Del Mar to access the new garden.

A lot of stones and succulents make its appearance like a desert garden, but as it slopes toward the building’s basement, you can see ferns that were grown in the shade. This slope is crossed by a bridge that leads to the building’s center, which at night is lit in a gentle blue light.

2. Beckman Institute: One of the campus’ most attractive structures is the Beckman Institute, which was constructed in the Spanish mission style and features arcades on both sides that lead to a lush courtyard.

The chemistry and biological research center are housed in the building, which bears the name of a former Caltech professor who developed the first pH meter to enable local citrus growers to gauge the acidity of lemon juice.

The structure features two fountains. One is a sculpture of a polyhedron with water gently flowing down its surfaces in the courtyard’s center. A plaque explains the significance of the polyhedron shape (perhaps it has to do with protein structure), but it is so densely written in technical terms that it is difficult to understand it unless you have a background in bioscience.

3. Beckman Auditorium: It is the only respectable example of Space Age architecture at Caltech, and it’s right in the middle of campus.

Edward Durell Stone, a very well-known modernist architect who also designed the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and many other notable buildings of the time, created this circular structure in the 1960s. The auditorium’s intricate details are worth noticing, including the slender roof edge, the starburst pattern at the top of each column, and the distinctive lanterns strung along the exterior.

4. The Hameetman Center: A relatively new structure that houses the Caltech store and two cafes flanking the outdoor seating area, serves as the student center.

The building’s most intriguing feature is on the other side; cross the seating area, go through the small tunnel next to the store, and you’ll come to a sundial incorporated into the sidewalk on the side facing Olive Walk, another pedestrian thoroughfare. A plaque on the structure explains how to use it; all you have to do is stand in the appropriate spot and use your own shadow to determine the time.

5. Fleming House Cannon: Since there isn’t a sign explaining what an old cannon is doing here, here is the backstory:

The Franco-Prussian War saw the casting of this cannon, but it was never put to use in a conflict. The American military received it from the French and kept it until it was no longer useful before donating it to a military academy in San Marino, where it sat on the front lawn for many years. When the academy decided they no longer wanted it in the 1970s, Fleming House acquired it and put it back in working order.

6. Throop Memorial Garden: The quietest area on campus is the highlight of any stroll through Caltech. The garden is located on the site of Throop Hall, a neoclassical building that was constructed in 1910 and served as the campus’s first building before being demolished in 1971 due to concerns that it would collapse.

A small stream is now filling two pools in the garden, where turtles are currently lazing in the sun. The garden is shaded by a thick canopy of trees, many of which are fragrant eucalyptus trees. Squirrels can frequently be seen darting across the treetops.

7. Caltech Library/Pond: Overlooking a long reflecting pool that connects it to the Throop Garden, the 10-story main library, unquestionably the tallest building on campus, is one of the campus’ most iconic structures. Recently, the pool underwent renovations and was cleaned and restored.

In the middle of the pool is a kinetic sculpture with various parts that rotate in the wind, while a small curved bridge gracefully arcs over the water. You might even get to see the fountain turn on if you’re lucky!

8. Calder Arches: On your left, just past the Iris Garden, is a very distinctive architectural element.

The Beckman Laboratory of Chemical Synthesis, with its enormous arched windows embellished with exquisitely carved statuary, is located on a bridge that connects the two buildings. The stonework, which bears the name of the sculptor Alexander Calder, is found on the campus’s original structure, Throop Hall. The stonework was restored and mounted on the laboratory bridge after it was left in a city yard after the building was demolished for more than a decade.

9. Bechtel Mall: This charming mall, which was constructed in the 1930s as a grand entrance to Caltech, is flanked on both sides by Spanish mission-style arcades and is framed by structures that combine the mission-style and stylized Mayan architectural elements. Twin miniature domes with ceramic tile on top stand at the entrance facing Wilson Avenue, and the mall itself is home to fragrant jacaranda trees.

What Is the Area Around Caltech Like?

How big is Caltech’s neighborhood? A neat, beautiful city with about 140,000 residents, Pasadena is located eleven miles northeast of Downtown Los Angeles. Its name, which translates from the local Ojibwa tribe as “Crown of the Valley,” still makes it a very popular place to live.

The center of the city’s culture and commerce is located in downtown Pasadena, also known as Old Town Pasadena. If you wonder and would like to wander what is the area around Caltech like, it is primarily home to stores, eateries, bars, bookstores, and theaters.

Dead trees planted near a building.

The Rose Bowl is another famous site. Built-in 1922, this stadium has since been expanded to accommodate more than 100,000 spectators. This stadium serves as the home of the UCLA football team and various other significant sporting occasions. The renowned Rose Bowl Flea Market opens here on the second Sunday of every month.

However, this exciting way of life is not cheap, and Pasadena’s housing is generally expensive. There are well-kept Spanish, Craftsman, and Victorian homes with well-kept lawns. Many are old; one 16-block area called Bungalow Heaven, with its early 1900s Arts and Crafts-style homes has been named a landmark district.  For people looking for less space or more affordable living, there are many condos and apartments available.

Contrary to what you may think, Pasadena is not some idyllic, Stepford-like community. Like any city, there are less developed areas with higher crime rates and fewer amenities than the wealthier parts.

Altadena and the Angeles National Forest are Pasadena’s northern and eastern neighbors, respectively; San Gabriel, San Marino, and South Pasadena are its southern and western neighbors; and Arcadia is its eastern and westernmost neighbor.

How Many People Apply To Caltech In A Year?

The California Institute of Technology is a magnet for the most accomplished STEM minds in the nation and is a popular location for shows and films about brilliant young scientists (Big Bang Theory, Numb3rs, Real Genius, and countless others).

In many ways, it would be accurate to refer to Caltech as “MIT-West,” but the university is much smaller, with only 987 undergraduate students as opposed to MIT’s 4,600+.

Female student walking near a walkway.

Now, how many people apply to Caltech in a year given their low admission? By virtue of their IQ and previous academic success, the 13,000+ applicants to Caltech each year would unquestionably qualify as “geniuses,” but only 3–4 percent are accepted. Every successful Caltech applicant has a flawless academic record, perfect or nearly perfect scores on the standardized tests, and prodigious talents that go beyond the classroom. Unfortunately, given that Caltech rejects valedictorians every single day of the admissions cycle, these qualities are frequently necessary but frequently insufficient.

What Is Caltech’s Acceptance Rate?

Caltech is known as a highly-selective college, now, what is Caltech’s acceptance rate? Only 510 of the 13,026 applications for a spot in the freshman class of 2021–22 at Caltech were accepted. The 3.9 percent acceptance rate was nearly the same as MIT’s for the same cycle. The university received 8,007 applications for a place in the Class of 2024 the previous year, and 536 of those applicants were accepted, for an overall acceptance rate of 6.7 percent.

Although the exact numbers for the Class of 2026 have not yet been disclosed, we do know that only 432 applicants were selected. This could indicate that the 2022–23 freshman class’s acceptance rate was closer to an even 3 percent.

Here are some trends to show how big is Caltech’s admissions statistics this year:

  • Females make up 51.4% of the accepted Class of 2026.
  • Public schools were attended by 66% of the admitted Class of 2026.
  • From 25 different countries, including Zimbabwe, Poland, and Jamaica, international students were accepted.
  • In the fall of 2022, Caltech hopes to have a student body of 235.
  • Caltech accepted a record of 35 QuestBridge applicants.

What Is the Average Class Size At Caltech?

The number of students who join each new class of students is typically in the range of 235 to 240. Over the course of these many years, this number has changed only marginally. The campus of Caltech was intentionally laid out to be quite small.

Students sitting on the bench while doing school work.

As Caltech is considered a small college, what is the average class size at Caltech? With a total undergraduate population of approximately 1000 students, the average class size is less than 20.

With one of the lowest student-to-faculty ratios in the country, the Institute’s 300 professorial faculty members provide a demanding curriculum, a wide range of learning opportunities, and opportunities for hands-on research to about 1,000 undergraduate and 1,400 graduate students. This may lead you to ask “How big is Caltech’s student-to-faculty ratio?” The abovementioned numbers lead to a three-to-one student-to-faculty ratio.

How Many Majors Does Caltech Have?

Undergraduates at Caltech can select from 28 majors across six academic divisions, and the school’s curriculum emphasizes interdisciplinary learning and research.

The California Institute of Technology was established in 1891 as Throop University and changed its name to its current name in 1920 on the basis of the tenet that “the fundamental science of one generation is the applied science of the next.”

Group of students talking in a library.

Techies call their majors “options” for their careers. The majority of students choose an option toward the end of their first year, start to specialize in their chosen field in their second year, and focus on it in their third and fourth years.

Six academic divisions make up the Institute:

  • Biology and Biological Engineering
  • Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
  • Engineering and Applied Science
  • Geological and Planetary Sciences
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy

Comprising these six divisions, how many majors does Caltech have? The options and minors available to Caltech undergraduates are listed below.


Applied and Computational Mathematics

Applied Physics




Business, Economics & Management

Chemical Engineering


Computational and Neural Systems

Computer Science


Electrical Engineering

Engineering and Applied Science







History and Philosophy of Science

Information and Data Sciences

Materials Science


Mechanical Engineering



Planetary Science

Political Science




Computer Science

Control and Dynamical Systems


Environmental Science and Engineering

Geological and Planetary Systems


History and Philosophy of Science

Information and Data Sciences


Structural Mechanics

Interdisciplinarity Studies Program

With the help of faculty advisors, students can design individualized curricula that may include Caltech courses, academic year research, courses at other institutions, or independent study courses through the Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP).
Programs in interdisciplinary studies combine two or more conventional academic courses of study to create a more specialized major. An interdisciplinary degree enables students to explore a more narrowly focused topic that cuts across multiple fields, in contrast to a liberal arts degree where you will study a wide range of subjects.

For instance, if your goal is to work in corporate sustainability, you should make sure that your coursework includes subjects from a range of academic disciplines, including business, science, and ethics. Or perhaps you enjoy both learning languages and writing. You can focus on several topics with an interdisciplinary studies degree to better prepare for the career you want to pursue. Students who want to combine several interests into one specialization will benefit greatly from the increased flexibility.

The difficulty of your high school course load, your scores on standardized tests, the application essays you write, the recommendations you receive, and your character and personal qualities are the five aspects that Caltech lists as being “very important” to the admissions process. The committee places a high value on factors such as class rank, grade point average, and involvement in extracurricular activities. These factors might be overwhelming but AdmissionSight has programs and tutorials that could help you revamp your application in every crucial aspect.

Though one of your worries will be about how big is Caltech’s admissions statistics, the one you should focus on is how to make your application YOU. Let’s put together the strongest application possible with the help of AdmissionSight so that you can get into any school you want.

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