Student Life

Every Techer's journey is unique. Here's a sense of what your life could be like at Caltech. 

You'll start your journey

On any given day, you'll head to class after breakfast in Chandler Café or in Open Kitchen. As a freshman (or frosh), your educational journey will start with our core curriculum, which is a set of required courses for all undergraduates, no matter their area of concentration. The core requirements encompass a variety of classes in math, physics, chemistry, biology, and the humanities and social sciences. You may also find yourself in a freshman seminar or a  lunchtime pizza class, where you can explore a range of topics in-depth in the lab, in the classroom, or out in the research field. Most of your classes will have 20 students or fewer, although the first-term required core science and math courses can have as many as 200 students. With our 3:1 student-to-faculty ratio, however, opportunities abound to interact one-on-one with Caltech's scientists and engineers, who are pursuing world-changing research.

You'll define your variables

As a Caltech student, you'll take a course load of 45–51 credits per 10-week term.  That may sound like a lot, but if you think of a typical course as three hours of class time and six hours of homework per week, that's a nine-credit class. The net result is that most students at Caltech are enrolled in five to six classes each term—the Institute divides the academic year into three 10-week terms, plus the option of a summer research term. You'll also live by our Honor Code.

You'll get involved

Between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., you might have practice for one of our 17 NCAA Division III sports teams, a club meeting or activity, or a music or theater rehearsal. About 80 percent of undergrads at Caltech participate in organized athletics, and over 65 percent play at least one musical instrument. 

You'll feel at home

Most nights, you'll eat dinner in your student house and then close out the evening with classes or problem sets. You may even find yourself involved in one of our traditions or planning a prank. Caltech Security will watch out for you, and it's a very safe campus. Take a look at our Annual Security Report and see for yourself! 

You'll push the boundaries of discovery

As you complete your first year of study in our core curriculum, you will declare an option (Caltech's version of a major) in one of 30 academic fields offered across six academic divisions. You will have made a home in one of our eight student houses and lived by the Caltech Honor Code, with take-home exams and a focus on collaboration. And you'll probably start some research, either in our labs as a part-time researcher or in our Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program, where you'll get to propose and carry out your own project (and get paid for your work!).