Caltech Announces Updates to Admissions Practices
To continue ensuring that Caltech remains the destination of choice for the brightest and most creative STEM students from all backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints, the Institute is announcing several updates to its admissions practices.
First, the Institute will extend its moratorium on the requirement of SAT and ACT test scores as part of the undergraduate admissions process for two additional years. This will allow the Institute to continue to assess the value of these metrics in the admissions process and to determine whether standardized test scores are informative of students' long-term success at Caltech. The Institute will not consider those test scores, even if they are submitted.
This decision extends the two-year moratorium announced by the Institute in June 2020 to five years. The original moratorium had been issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on access to standardized exams for students worldwide.
The current decision to extend the testing moratorium to five years is supported by a rigorous internal analysis of the academic performance of the last seven undergraduate first-year cohorts, representing classes that matriculated before and after the moratorium went into effect. The study, conducted by members of the Caltech faculty supported by professional staff, indicates that standardized test scores have little to no power in predicting students' performance in the first-term mathematics and physics classes that first-year students must take as part of Caltech's core curriculum. Further, the predictive power of standardized test scores appears to dissipate as students progress through the first-year core curriculum. The extension will allow for the collection of additional data from students enrolled under the moratorium, including one class that will have graduated from the Institute, and will facilitate a more extensive examination of academic performance and its relationship to standardized test scores.
"A consensus has developed among faculty and professional staff involved in admissions at Caltech. That is, that numerous other key attributes of applications serve as stronger indicators of the potential for student success here," says Jared R. Leadbetter, professor of environmental microbiology and chair of the first-year admissions committee that recommended the extension to the Institute's faculty board and senior leadership.
"The moratorium on our evaluation of standardized test scores has reinforced our intention to read deeply and review all substantive materials provided in applications. It is critical that we reach a deep and broad understanding of applicants, including their STEM interests, aspirations, and potential for continued intellectual growth, should they be admitted to Caltech," he says.
Jarrid Whitney, Caltech's assistant vice president for student affairs, enrollment, and career services, adds that the Institute's adoption of the moratorium was bolstered by practices that were already in place.
"Caltech has a well-established holistic admission process in which all aspects of an applicant's life and experiences are considered when assessing their preparation and potential performance in Caltech's rigorous academic environment. While standardized testing has been an element of the evaluation of applicants, it was never the sole metric or distinguishing factor for admissions," Whitney says. "Additionally, both the original and current moratorium removed standardized testing as a financial and logistical barrier to applying to Caltech."
As a second update, the Institute is adopting a new Restrictive Early Action (REA) model of admissions, effective fall of 2022. REA will replace the Institute's current Early Action program. REA, a model used by other colleges and universities, is a nonbinding option that limits the number of schools to which an applicant may apply during the early period but in return provides a student the opportunity to receive an offer of admission from their first-choice school. Students offered admission to Caltech through this process will not be required to accept immediately. Rather, they can wait until the Regular Decision processes at other colleges have been completed, giving them the opportunity to consider and compare financial aid offers from all schools at one time.
Restrictive Early Action applications will be due November 1; students will be notified of REA admissions decisions (admit, defer, or deny) by mid-December. Admitted students will then have until May 1, 2023, to decide which offer they will accept.
"In the last couple of years, Caltech's applicant pool has more than doubled. However, lowering our admit rate is not a goal for Caltech," says Ashley Pallie, director of undergraduate admissions. "We believe moving to a restrictive early admissions process is responsive to our applicants' desire to identify Caltech as their first choice while still giving them the flexibility to consider all financial aid packages. Additionally, we will reserve most of our admissions offers for Regular Decision, which is when the majority of applicants apply to Caltech."
Students who choose to apply to Caltech REA this fall may not apply Early Action nor Early Decision to any other institution with the following exceptions:
- An institution outside of the United States;
- Any public institution that has a nonbinding admissions policy, such as the University of California system;
- Institutions with a nonbinding rolling admissions process;
- If a student is deferred admission after applying REA to Caltech, they may apply to another institution's Early Decision II program. If they are admitted to that institution's Early Decision II program, they are required to withdraw their application of admission to Caltech.
In a third update, Caltech has changed its policy on international students applying for financial aid. International students (defined as students who are non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents attending secondary school outside of the United States) interested in applying for financial aid are now eligible to participate in Caltech's newly announced REA admissions program. Previously, international students in need of financial aid were only allowed to apply for aid during the Regular Decision process.
"Our goal at Caltech is to recruit and enroll the best STEM students from all around the world regardless of their financial circumstances; updating our policy to allow international students who need financial aid to apply during REA allows us to achieve this goal and to work toward more equitable admissions practices," says Pallie.
Caltech has also updated its testing requirements for international applicants. These students may now meet the English proficiency requirement through either the TOEFL, the IELTS, or the Duolingo English Test.
For more information on undergraduate admissions at Caltech, including the Institute's admissions deadlines and a Restrictive Early Action FAQ, visit https://www.admissions.caltech.edu/apply/first-year-freshman-applicants/deadlines.