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Admissions Process for First-Year Applicants

Let's face it—we love all things quantitative at Caltech. And yet, here in the Undergraduate Admissions Office, our admissions decision-making process is much more of an art than a science. 

Instead of simply putting your grades and test scores into a computer to calculate admissibility, we read every application—and every essay—to get a sense of who you are and whether you would be a good fit at Caltech. That's why our advice to all our applicants is to take your time preparing your short answers and your essays. You are more than a GPA and a set of test scores!

So, how do we make decisions? We start by asking ourselves the following three questions.

Are you academically prepared?

We first look for academic ability by evaluating test scores, grades, and recommendations. Caltech students are gifted in math and science and are also good test takers. If you have low math and science test scores, we will look for evidence of abilities in other parts of your application. Even if you have done well on your standardized tests, we will confirm that ability with your grades and teacher recommendations. Our admissions counselors read applications from the geographic regions they have visited and know well. Students are not compared to one another, even if they come from the same high school, because each student has a different set of life circumstances. We gather this information from the "personal background" portion of your application and from your secondary-school profile. If you have taken courses or done research outside of school, be sure to include those transcripts and, if possible, recommendations from those experiences.

Have you demonstrated a consistent interest in science, technology, engineering, or math?

Caltech students are not only good at math and science; they love those subjects, too. In the application, you'll have plenty of opportunities to tell us more about your math and science activities. What is it about STEM that excites you? Whether it's researching or tinkering that you enjoy, tell us about your experiences! If you have done research, feel free to submit an additional research mentor evaluation along with your research paper. We want to know what excites you about science, engineering, technology, or math. Are you ready to push the boundaries of scientific discovery?

How will you impact Caltech's campus community?

We want to know who you'll be in our labs, our classrooms, and our community. Techers are collaborative and trustworthy. In the application, you may wonder why we ask you about an ethical dilemma you have encountered. One thing we look for is your ability to live and work within our Honor Code: "No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of another member."  Every piece of information you give us is like another pixel in the portrait of your life as a potential Techer. Feel free to even tell us about the things you do when you're not in school.