How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Caltech
1. Achieve a high GPA while taking the most challenging classes available
Because Caltech is extremely selective, it’s imperative for your academic credentials to be strong. Like other colleges of its caliber, the university uses the Academic Index to filter out candidates. That means that they will only look at the more qualitative aspects of your application if you meet their minimum academic threshold.
And it’s not just about the number values. Caltech also wants to see students taking a challenging curriculum. That means plenty of honors and AP/IB courses, particularly in your area of specialization.
If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA.
2. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)
Caltech evaluates activities based on 4 Tiers of Extracurriculars, with Tier 1 indicating activities that are highly specialized and exceptional and Tier 4 indicating activities that are commonly found on students’ applications. (Check out these impressive ECs for college.)
It’s best to have one or two well-developed interests, as opposed to a plethora of interests and smattering of different activities. Instead, try to cultivate your passions and show at least a couple Tier 1-2 activities, such as placing in a national science competition or publishing research as a high school student.
3. Have a strong math and science background
Although the school has many choices of programs, Caltech is primarily a STEM institution. Regardless of your major, you will graduate with a Bachelor of Science.
That means you need to demonstrate a strong math and science background. Take challenging courses in subjects like Calculus, Statistics, Chemistry, Computer Science, and so on — depending on what’s available to you — and show preparation in other ways, such as through extracurricular activities in these areas.
4. Write engaging essays
Most students who apply to Caltech have strong academic credentials. To set yourself apart, you need to show skills in qualitative aspects of your application, too. Essays are one way to do this.
This year, Caltech has the following prompts:
- Tell us about a time or experience in which you encountered failure.
- Tell us about a life situation, media story, or topic – beyond or outside of a classroom or formal assignment – that has captivated you, inspired your curiosity, and led you to delve more deeply into learning about a subject on your own.
- Tell us about how you have collaborated with and worked together within a small group of your peers on some task or endeavor in the past, or about how you imagine you will work with your Caltech peers in the future.
These essays are opportunities to demonstrate your own voice and personality, giving the adcom insight into who you really are and what you value. See our advice for writing the Caltech essays in the 2021–22 year.
5. Apply Early Action/Early Decision
Caltech offers a non-binding, non-restrictive Early Action plan, meaning you can apply earlier than Regular Decision and not be required to attend the university if accepted and can also apply to other schools EA.
While Caltech doesn’t publish its EA acceptance rate, students usually have a slight advantage applying under this plan at other schools, although not as much as they do with an Early Decision plan. Given that EA is neither binding nor restrictive, there are few downsides to choosing this plan.
6. Develop relationships with teachers and secure strong recommendations
Caltech considers teacher recommendations “very important.” That means you should be working on cultivating relationships with your teachers early on in your academic career, although usually, you’ll want to ask those who taught you later in high school. You’ll also want to spend some time considering who really knows you the best and can attest to your character, as well as your academic abilities.
Note that Caltech requires two letters of evaluation, including one from a math or science teacher and one from a humanities or social sciences teacher. Get some tips on how to ask for recommendations.
How to Apply to Caltech
- Common Application or Coalition Application with Supplemental Application Essays
- Standardized test scores (waived during the three-year moratorium)
- Two teacher evaluations
- Secondary School Report
- Academic transcripts
- $75 application fee or fee waiver
Learn more about Caltech
Want to find out more about Caltech? Check out these resources:
International citizens and the Application Process
For international citizens (non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. permanent residents), the application will prompt you through a specific set of questions pertaining to Caltech being need-sensitive in the review of your application. More information about what need-sensitive means at Caltech can be found below.
International citizens must have completed Caltech's required academic preparation during their secondary school career.
We accept applications from students who have completed the approved curriculum provided by their home countries. These include, but are not limited to:
- IGCSE, AS, and A Level curriculums: The most competitive international applicants whose schools offer the IGCSE curriculums usually present three A Level exams with grades of at least an A or B.
- International Baccalaureate (IB): Competitive applicants whose schools offer the IB curriculum will typically have scores of 6 or 7 on their IB exams, including their "predicted" grades. The IB Mathematics HL track will meet Caltech's calculus requirement.
- Advanced Placement (AP)
- Cambridge Pre-U
- Other local public options
Please note that we do not automatically grant credit for AP, IB, A Level, Pre-U, or college courses taken prior to enrollment. Each student accepted to Caltech will take a math and physics placement exam prior to enrolling. Based on the results of these exams, you may place out of courses and be granted credit for those courses. For more information, please see the Registrar's website FAQ.
First-Year Application Requirements
The following is a list of materials required for a complete application for first-year admission. If your application is missing any one of these components, it will be considered incomplete.
- Common Application or Coalition Application with Caltech Questions: Caltech does not have a preference between the Common Application or the Coalition Application. We advise that you use the best platform for your application process.
- $75 application fee or fee waiver (by request)
- Standardized tests - In June 2020, Caltech enacted a two-year moratorium on both the requirement and consideration of SAT and/or ACT test scores as part of the undergraduate admissions process. As of July 2021, the original two-year moratorium was extended an additional third year. SAT Subject Tests were completely eliminated in January 2020.
- Teacher evaluations
- Secondary School Report: This is a document that is sent to Caltech by your high school college counselor. It provides context about your school that helps the Admissions Committee evaluate your application holistically.
- Academic transcripts
- Duolingo English Test or TOEFL Internet Based Test (TOEFL IBT) scores: Required of all international citizens unless 1) your native language is English, or 2) you have studied for two or more years in a school where English is the language of instruction. The latter must be completed prior to the application deadline. As of June 2020, Caltech added the Duolingo English Test as an accepted exam to demonstrate a student's English language proficiency. We do not accept IELTS scores.
- International Financial Aid Statement of Intent: When an international citizen applies for freshman admission, the application prompts questions to confirm their understanding of our financial aid policy and thus confirm their financial aid intent towards Caltech. Caltech is need-sensitive for international citizens because the total amount of financial aid funds is limited for these students, and we remain committed to meeting the demonstrated need of all admitted students. See our Financial Aid section below to read the full extent of our financial aid policy for international citizens.
Applying Early Action vs. Regular Decision
Caltech offers two rounds of admission: Early Action and Regular Decision. Early Action is non-binding and non-restrictive. If you apply to Caltech during Early Action, you can apply to as many other schools as you wish as long as you are not violating their policies. You are not required to attend Caltech if you are accepted during the Early Action round.
Financial aid is not offered to international citizens who apply under Early Action. If you wish to apply for financial aid, you must apply under Regular Decision.
For more information about the Early Action and Regular Decision admission plans and their deadlines, please visit our Application Deadlines page.
Financial Aid for International Citizens
Caltech is need-sensitive in its admission process for international citizens. The total amount of financial aid funds is limited for these students, and we remain committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated need of all admitted students. This limitation may result in financial need being a factor in the Institute's admissions decisions for international applicants who are neither U.S. citizens nor permanent residents.
To that end, when a student applies for first-year/freshman admission and indicates that they are an international citizen, the application prompts questions to confirm their understanding of our financial aid policy. There is no separate form for this step; rather, the student must answer and affirm their understanding through the questions asked on the application.
When a student is answering these questions on the application, they should keep in mind the following:
- An international citizen who plans to apply for financial aid at any time during their undergraduate career here must apply for it at the time that they apply for admission. An international citizen who does not receive assistance for their first year at Caltech is not eligible for aid for any other academic period during their undergraduate career. Exceptions may be made for citizens of Canada and Mexico.
- An international citizen who applies for aid and is offered financial assistance for the first year will be eligible to reapply for financial aid in subsequent years.
- An international citizen who applies as a freshman applicant through the Early Action plan should not expect financial aid. If you are an international citizen who plans to apply for financial aid, you must apply through Regular Decision.
- Caltech does not offer merit-based scholarships or financial aid. We meet 100% of demonstrated financial need.
For more information about how to apply for financial aid as an international citizen please see the International Financial Aid Statement of Intent, visit Financial Aid's website, or email their office at [email protected]
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Class Profile...sort of
This is where a school usually tells you something about their incoming class of students. In light of the changes that will impact directly the next incoming class(es) of students:
- Elimination of SAT Subject Test scores requirement
- Three-year moratorium on the requirement of and consideration of the SAT/ACT for students applying in the fall 2021, fall 2022, and fall 2023.
- The impact of COVID
We're going to put the usual class profile data in perspective.
Class of 2024
Freshman Applications: 8,008
Of course, what does this number really tell you besides there was a high level of interest in Caltech? Don't let this number faze you. We don't even like to widely publicize our admit rate because the number of applicants has grown disproportionately to the size of the incoming class, which directly affects the shrinking admit rate.
This number has fluctuated very little over the years. Each incoming class of students typically ranges between 235-240. Caltech is an intimately-sized campus by design.
We recommend that instead of focusing on the number of applications, ask yourself how you think you'd thrive on a college campus with fewer than 1,000 undergraduates.
Sex Assigned at Birth: 42% female, 58% male
Underrepresented Ancestry*: 22%
* Includes students who self-identify as American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, and/or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
If you came to this page to figure out your "chances" of admission based on the class profile, we suggest you click here to read about our holistic review process.
Location: Pasadena, California
SAT Writing: Not Required
School Type: Private
ACT Writing: Not Required
EA/ED: Yes (Early Action)
SAT Superscore: Allowed
EA/ED Deadline: November 1
ACT Superscore: Not Allowed
Regular Decision Deadline: January 3
SAT Score Choice: Allowed
US News Ranking: #9 (tie)
ACT Score Choice: Allowed
|Early Action/Regular Decision/Waitlist||Number of Students||Number of Students Accepted||Acceptance Rate|
|Waitlist||501 (394 Accepted Spots)||5||1.3%|
|Room and Board||$17,337||$17,337|
|Books and Supplies||$1,428||$1,428|
|Ethnic Backgrounds||First Year Students||Undergraduate Students|
|Black or African American, non-Hispanic||6||16|
|White, non-Hispanic||63||253||American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic||0||0|
|Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic ||1||1|
|Two or more races, non-Hispanic||19||84|
|Race and/or ethnicity unknown||1||1|
|Geographic Breakdown||Percent of Admitted Students|
|In-State (exclude international)||33%|
|Out-Of-State (exclude international)||67%|
Early decision acceptance rate caltech
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Oh, your boy is still asleep, but I will quickly fix it.Video: Is Early Decision Really an Advantage at Top Colleges?
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