California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Nestled into a quiet, upscale neighborhood in Pasadena, the California Institute of Technology – Caltech – is a unique place where just under a thousand undergraduates work closely with 300 faculty members – 32 of whom are Nobel Laureates – to find answers through engineering, science and math.  Yes, there are humanities at Caltech – in fact, all students are required to take 12 humanities or social science credits before they graduate – that’s one each academic quarter (students generally take classes three quarters per year).

Caltech 1
Located in a residential Pasadena neighborhood, Caltech buildings are mostly old California style architecture.

The student-to-faculty ratio at Caltech is a mind-boggling three-to-one.  There are about 1,200 graduate students; they do assist professors but they do not teach courses.

Caltech doesn’t hide the fact that the education here will be rigorous! Caltech students will build upon the work of the scientific community and push science forward.  Caltech is the only college to manage a NASA facility – the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Admission to Caltech

Caltech receives about 16,000 applications, admits just a tiny sliver of 3% in an effort to enroll a freshman class of 235.  Students who stand out in Caltech’s admissions process are those who have not just excelled at math and science, but who have “demonstrated passion for math and science,” according to Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Jarrid Whitney, who has worked in admissions offices at Cornell, Dartmouth, Stanford and Santa Clara Universities.  Whitney notes that Caltech is looking for students who are “involved in math and science activities to a higher level.  Joining the robotics team is not enough – students must be leaders or programmers who are competitive at the state or national level.”  Taking calculus, physics and chemistry in high school is required for admission.   

Aspiring scientists and engineers – know that Caltech is truly looking for well-rounded students! They not only want you to excel in the most rigorous math and science courses your school offers, but also the English and social studies courses you have available to you. Caltech is very clear that the education they provide will not only help you explore the sciences, but it will also help you learn to write and communicate better within your chosen field. You’re expected to take the most rigorous courses possible!  APs are not required, but if they’re offered at your school, they’re expected.  Even the AP humanities classes!  You must take calculus, chemistry and physics to be considered for admission – they are the building blocks of everything Caltech students do.  This is very much a school that is looking to foster success – so they’re only looking for students who are prepared to move to the very high level of study and research that is the basis of the Caltech education.

Caltech requires not just any two teacher recommendation letters – they want one from a STEM teacher and one from a humanities teacher.

Caltech is permanently test-blind – they will not consider SAT or ACT scores in the admission process.

Fay and Evelyn have visited Caltech on separate occasions, and a group of Magellan counselors visited in winter, 2024.  You can scroll through all of the photos from our visits below.

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