Middlebury vs. Caltech: Which School is Right for You?

September 15, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Middlebury vs. Caltech: Which School is Right for You?

If you’re a high school student looking to attend a top-tier college, you may find yourself choosing between Middlebury College in Vermont and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. Both schools have excellent reputations and offer unique academic opportunities. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast Middlebury vs. Caltech across different categories to help you decide which school is the best fit for you.

Location and Campus Size: A Comparison of Middlebury vs. Caltech

The biggest difference between Middlebury and Caltech is their locations. Middlebury College is located in a small town in rural Vermont, while Caltech is situated in the bustling Los Angeles area. Middlebury’s campus is located on 350 acres of land, while Caltech’s campus sits on 124 acres.

California Institute of Technology front view

The size of the campuses is reflective of the student body. Middlebury has around 2,500 students, while Caltech has less than 1,000 students. Middlebury’s campus offers a tightly knit community that values personal connections and engaging with nature. Caltech’s campus offers a more compact environment, where students are surrounded by the energy and innovation of Silicon Valley.

Despite their differences in location and campus size, both Middlebury and Caltech offer unique opportunities for their students. Middlebury’s location in rural Vermont allows for easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and camping. Caltech’s location in the heart of Silicon Valley provides students with unparalleled access to internships and job opportunities in the tech industry. Additionally, both schools prioritize academic excellence and offer rigorous programs in a variety of fields, ensuring that their students are well-prepared for their future careers.

Academics: How Do Middlebury and Caltech Stack Up?

Academics are critical when deciding which school to attend. Middlebury is known for its strengths in the humanities, languages, and environmental studies. Caltech, on the other hand, is widely recognized for its research excellence in the natural sciences and engineering.

Both Middlebury and Caltech have rigorous academic standards, and students are expected to take challenging courses. For Middlebury students, the college offers a broad range of courses, including interdisciplinary classes. Similarly, Caltech provides students with interdisciplinary opportunities, including the option to pursue a joint degree with nearby institutions.

However, there are some differences in the academic experience at Middlebury and Caltech. Middlebury has a strong emphasis on experiential learning, with opportunities for students to engage in research, internships, and study abroad programs. Caltech, on the other hand, has a more focused approach to academics, with a heavy emphasis on research and theoretical coursework.

Demographics: A Look at the Student Body at Middlebury vs. Caltech

The student body demographics differ significantly between Middlebury and Caltech. Middlebury College is known for its diverse student body, with roughly 43% of the student population composed of students from ethnic or racial minority groups. At Caltech, the vast majority of students are male, and students from minority groups represent a small percentage of the student population.

Both schools attract students who are passionate about their education and achieving their academic goals. While Middlebury seeks students who are well-rounded, creativity, and interested in contributing to the community, Caltech looks for students with exceptional math and science skills.

Two women talking while looking at a piece of paper.

Despite the differences in demographics, both Middlebury and Caltech have a strong commitment to providing their students with a high-quality education. Middlebury offers a wide range of majors and minors, including programs in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Caltech, on the other hand, is primarily focused on science and engineering, with a strong emphasis on research and innovation.

Another notable difference between the two schools is their location. Middlebury is located in a small town in Vermont, surrounded by mountains and natural beauty. Caltech, on the other hand, is located in the heart of Pasadena, California, just a short drive from Los Angeles. This difference in location can have a significant impact on the student experience, with Middlebury offering a more traditional college experience and Caltech providing access to the vibrant culture and opportunities of a major city.

Campus Culture: The Differences Between Middlebury and Caltech

The campus cultures of Middlebury and Caltech also differ. Middlebury students are renowned for being outdoorsy, active, and social. The college encourages students to engage in community service, leadership, and cultural activities. In contrast, Caltech’s campus culture can be described as academic, research-focused, and driven by scientific inquiry.

Both schools have active student organizations that offer a range of extracurricular activities. Middlebury is well-known for its music, art, and dance scenes, while Caltech offers a range of academic and research clubs.

Another notable difference between the campus cultures of Middlebury and Caltech is the social scene. Middlebury students often participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and camping. The college also hosts a variety of social events, including concerts, dances, and festivals. In contrast, Caltech students tend to focus more on their academic pursuits and research projects, with less emphasis on social events and activities.

Additionally, Middlebury’s campus culture places a strong emphasis on sustainability and environmentalism. The college has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable practices, such as using renewable energy sources and reducing waste. Caltech also prioritizes sustainability, but its campus culture is more focused on scientific research and innovation in fields such as energy and climate change.

Student Life: What to Expect at Middlebury vs. Caltech

While academics are essential, student life is also vital to consider when choosing a college. At Middlebury, students are given many opportunities to explore their interests and passions outside of the classroom. The college takes pride in its robust outdoor recreational programs, which explore the natural beauty of Vermont.

At Caltech, students tend to be more serious about their studies and spend a significant amount of time in the lab or library. However, the school offers many unique opportunities, including access to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is located on its campus.

College professor explaining to her students about a lesson.

Additionally, Middlebury has a strong emphasis on community service and encourages students to get involved in volunteer work. The college has partnerships with local organizations, and students can participate in service trips during breaks. This commitment to service helps students develop a sense of social responsibility and empathy for others.

Meanwhile, Caltech has a thriving arts scene, with many opportunities for students to explore their creative side. The school has a state-of-the-art performing arts center, which hosts concerts, plays, and other performances throughout the year. Students can also take classes in music, theater, and visual arts to further develop their skills and interests.

Extracurricular Activities: A Comparison of Clubs and Organizations at Middlebury and Caltech

Both Middlebury and Caltech offer a range of extracurricular activities. Middlebury has more than 150 student organizations, ranging from the Model U.N. to dance groups. Caltech has over 120 student clubs and organizations that focus on various academic, social, and recreational interests.

Extracurricular activities help students build friendships, gain leadership experience, and develop skills outside of academics.

However, there are some differences between the types of extracurricular activities offered at Middlebury and Caltech. Middlebury has a strong focus on community service and sustainability, with many organizations dedicated to environmental activism and volunteering. Caltech, on the other hand, has a greater emphasis on STEM-related clubs and organizations, such as robotics and coding clubs.

Housing Options: What Are the Living Arrangements Like at Middlebury vs. Caltech?

Living arrangements are different between Middlebury and Caltech. At Middlebury, students live on campus for all four years with a wide variety of housing options ranging from dorm rooms to small houses. At Caltech, first-year students are required to live on campus, but upper-year students are not. Instead, they can live off-campus.

Caltech offers a variety of housing options, including traditional dormitory-style housing and apartments. Middlebury offers more unique housing options for upper-year students, including co-op living and language houses.

At Middlebury, students have the option to live in theme houses, which are living communities centered around a particular interest or identity. These houses provide a unique opportunity for students to live with others who share their passions and engage in activities related to their theme. Caltech also offers themed housing options, such as the Women’s House and the International House.

Additionally, Middlebury has a strong emphasis on sustainability and offers eco-friendly housing options, such as solar-powered dorms and a LEED-certified residence hall. Caltech also prioritizes sustainability and has implemented green initiatives in their housing, including energy-efficient appliances and water-saving fixtures.

Athletics: A Look at Sports Programs at Middlebury vs. Caltech

Athletics can play a significant role in student life and campus culture. Middlebury has a strong focus on sports and offers 31 varsity teams, including ice hockey and lacrosse. At Caltech, athletics are a smaller focus and the school only offers six varsity teams.

Sports equipments placed side by side.

Both schools offer a range of intramural sports and recreational activities.

Despite the difference in the number of varsity teams, both Middlebury and Caltech have successful athletic programs. Middlebury has won 31 NCAA team championships, while Caltech has produced several individual national champions in sports such as swimming and track and field.

Additionally, both schools prioritize the academic success of their student-athletes. Middlebury has a high graduation rate for its varsity athletes, and Caltech has a program called “Academics and Athletics” that provides support for student-athletes to balance their academic and athletic commitments.

Cost Comparison: Which School Offers the Best Value for Your Money?

The cost of attending college is a significant factor for many students and their families. Middlebury’s tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 academic year are $79,710, and room and board costs an additional $17,826. Caltech’s tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 academic year are $56,862, and room and board costs an extra $17,058.

Both colleges offer financial aid based on need and merit.

It’s important to note that the cost of attending college goes beyond just tuition and room and board. Students should also consider additional expenses such as textbooks, transportation, and personal expenses. Middlebury estimates these additional costs to be around $2,000 per year, while Caltech estimates them to be around $1,500 per year.

Furthermore, students should also consider the potential return on investment of their education. Middlebury has a strong reputation for producing successful graduates, with an average starting salary of $60,000 and a mid-career salary of $129,000. Caltech graduates also have a high earning potential, with an average starting salary of $83,000 and a mid-career salary of $151,000.

Admissions Requirements: How to Get Into Middlebury vs. Caltech

Applying to college can be stressful, and understanding the admissions process can help reduce anxiety. Both Middlebury and Caltech have highly selective admissions processes, with both schools accepting less than 15% of applicants.

The admissions requirements for both schools include a high school transcript, SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. Middlebury also requires the submission of a mid-year report.

In addition to the standard admissions requirements, Caltech also places a strong emphasis on math and science coursework. They recommend that applicants have taken four years of math, including calculus, and four years of science, including physics and chemistry. Caltech also encourages applicants to participate in research or other scientific activities outside of the classroom.

Career Opportunities After Graduation: Which School Sets You Up for Success?

Ultimately, college is about preparing for a career and achieving professional success. Both Middlebury and Caltech have excellent track records for placing their graduates in successful careers and graduate programs.

At Middlebury, graduates pursue a range of careers, including finance, consulting, non-profit work, and government jobs. Caltech emphasizes professional training for scientist and engineers and its graduates often secure positions in research, development, or technology industries.

However, it’s important to note that career opportunities also depend on the individual student’s interests, skills, and networking abilities. Middlebury offers a robust career center that provides students with resources and guidance for job searching and networking. Caltech also has a strong alumni network and partnerships with industry leaders, providing students with opportunities for internships and job placements.

Additionally, both Middlebury and Caltech offer graduate programs that can further enhance career opportunities. Middlebury has graduate programs in areas such as environmental studies, international policy, and language education. Caltech offers graduate programs in engineering, science, and applied mathematics.

Alumni Network: A Comparison of Middlebury and Caltech’s Graduates

The strength of an alumni network can play a significant role in career advancement, mentorship, and professional opportunities. Both Middlebury and Caltech have committed and active alumni networks.

According to LinkedIn, Middlebury alumni work in a range of careers, including finance, education, and media. Caltech alumni primarily work in research, technology, and engineering.

However, Middlebury’s alumni network has a stronger presence in the non-profit sector, with many graduates working for organizations such as the United Nations, World Health Organization, and various NGOs. On the other hand, Caltech’s alumni network has a stronger presence in the private sector, with many graduates working for companies such as Google, SpaceX, and Intel.

Faculty Quality: How Do Professors at Middlebury Compare to Those at Caltech?

Faculty quality can play a significant role in student success and can also make a difference in your college experience. Both Middlebury and Caltech have exceptional faculty members who are experts in their fields.

Professor teaching someone using a laptop.

At Middlebury, professors are known for their accessibility, support, and dedication to their students. Caltech faculty members are renowned for their research excellence and their contributions to scientific advancement.

However, it is important to note that the teaching styles at Middlebury and Caltech may differ. Middlebury professors often prioritize classroom discussion and collaboration, while Caltech professors may focus more on individual research projects. It is important to consider your own learning style and preferences when choosing a college with the right faculty for you.

Research Opportunities: What Kind of Research is Conducted at Middlebury vs. Caltech?

Research opportunities can provide unique learning opportunities and can set students up for future success in graduate school or the workforce. Middlebury offers undergraduate research opportunities in a range of areas, ranging from the arts to environmental sciences.

Caltech is known for its outstanding research programs and boasts an impressive research budget. The school offers research opportunities in nearly every area of science, math, and engineering.

At Middlebury, students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on research projects. This allows for personalized attention and mentorship, which can be invaluable for students looking to gain research experience. Additionally, Middlebury has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research, which allows students to explore connections between different fields of study.

On the other hand, Caltech is known for its cutting-edge research facilities and state-of-the-art equipment. This allows students to work on projects that are at the forefront of scientific discovery. Caltech also has a strong emphasis on collaboration, with many research projects involving multiple departments and even multiple institutions.


In conclusion, choosing between Middlebury and Caltech ultimately comes down to personal fit, goals, and interests. Both schools offer unique academic and extracurricular opportunities and are highly respected by employers and graduate schools. We hope that this article has provided you with useful information to help you make a more informed decision.

It is important to note that while both Middlebury and Caltech are excellent institutions, they have different campus cultures and environments. Middlebury is located in a small, rural town in Vermont and has a strong focus on the liberal arts. Caltech, on the other hand, is located in the bustling city of Pasadena, California and is known for its emphasis on science and engineering. It is important to consider these factors when making your decision, as they can greatly impact your college experience.


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