When you apply to Caltech through the Common App or QuestBridge Application, you will also submit the Caltech Specific Questions (for QuestBridge applicants, these questions come if you become a Match Finalist and you ranked Caltech). These questions change annually, are updated, and published in the summer.
The essays are an opportunity to tell us about yourself in your unique voice. There are no right or wrong answers but we do have some advice:
- Remember, Caltech is an unapologetic STEM institution. Literally, there is no way to write about too much STEM in your supplemental questions. So lean all the way in on the STEMiest of STEMmy topics (yep, those are made-up words but totally appropriate). Review our What We Look For page before you get started.
- Faculty at Caltech review files of the most competitive applicants. So don't worry that your science won't make sense to a lay-person because our faculty with PhDs conducting research that will change the world will understand what you're saying. We promise.
- If there is anything important about who you are, what you've done, or how you've experienced your life - we want to know about it. Holistic review means whole person review. We're here for whatever you want to share.
All Fall 2024 applicants will be asked to review Caltech's guidelines on the ethical use of AI before submitting their supplemental essays.
Required Academic Question
Because of the rigorous courses in the core curriculum, Caltech students don't declare a major until the end of their first year. However, some students arrive knowing which academic fields and areas already most excite them, or which novel fields and areas they most want to explore.
If you had to choose an area of interest or two today, what would you choose? Why did you choose that area of interest? (Max: 200 words)
Required Short Answer Questions
- At Caltech, we investigate some of the most challenging, fundamental problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Identify and describe two STEM-related experiences from your high school years, either in or out of the classroom, and tell us how and why they activated your curiosity. What about them made you want to learn more and explore further? (Min: 100/Max: 200 words for each experience)
- The creativity, inventiveness, and innovation of Caltech's students, faculty, and researchers have won Nobel Prizes and put rovers on Mars. But Techers also imagine smaller scale innovations every day, from new ways to design solar cells to how to 3D print dorm decor. How have you been a creator, inventor, or innovator in your own life? (Min: 200 / Max: 250)
- Caltech's mission – to cultivate learning, discovery, and innovation for the benefit of humanity – relies on its community members embracing fundamental Caltech values:
- Openness and enthusiasm for having preconceptions challenged
- Respect and appreciation for the idea that, while we are all members of the same community, the opportunities we've had to develop, showcase, and apply our talents have not been equal
- Passion for the ideal that science can and should meaningfully improve the lives of others
Optional Short Answer Questions
We know, we know ... you see optional and start to wonder if we mean it. But in this section, we truly do! See these as completely optional opportunities to show us more of your personality.
Optional. We promise.
- If there are aspects of your life or social or personal identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please tell us about them below. (Max: 150 words)
- When not surveying the stars, peering through microscopes, or running through marathons of coding, Caltech students pursue an eclectic array of interests that range from speed-cubing to participating in varsity athletics to reading romance novels. What is a favorite interest or hobby, and why does it bring you joy? (Max: 100 words)
- Did you have a hard time narrowing it down to just one interest or hobby? We understand – Caltech students like to stay busy, too – tell us about another hobby or interest! (Max: 50 words)
Optional Academic Short Answer Questions
OPTIONAL: Have you had any extenuating circumstances (such as limited course selection or disruptions), that have affected your coursework, but that are not described elsewhere in your application? If so, tell us about them here.
Some Caltech applicants engage in STEM competitions locally, nationally, or internationally (eg., AIME, Science Olympiad, International Science Olympiads). If you have received any STEM honors or awards, list them here (with scores, if applicable).