Caltech Vs. MIT: Which One to Choose?

A female student choosing between MIT and Caltech
Updated:
September 6, 2023
7 min read
Contents

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 9/6/23

Caltech and MIT are widely considered two of the best institutes of technology. This article will give you a thorough analysis of MIT vs. Caltech!

A male student researching colleges

Technology is one of the most popular fields of study for university students. If you’re a high school student nearing graduation and preparing to choose where to spend your undergraduate years, selecting the right place can be particularly exciting but also stressful. 

Two schools that have most likely popped into your mind are the California Technology Institution and the Massachusetts Institution. 

Caltech and MIT are two of the USA's most well-known technology, research, and educational institutions. They both are extremely prestigious, offer top-quality education, and provide bright career paths for their students. They are also extraordinarily competitive and are the most academically rigorous schools. 

If you’re pondering which of these two schools to choose, your worries are over. This article will compare and analyze these two schools in every important facet so you will know what decision to make when faced with the dilemma of Caltech vs. MIT.

Caltech Vs. MIT: Overview

Here is a quick overview of the two school’s profiles:

Caltech MIT
Location Pasadena, California Cambridge, Massachusetts
Acceptance Rate 4% 4%
GPA 4.21 4.17
SAT Score 1550 1505
ACT Score 34.5 34
US News Ranking 9th 2nd

At a glance, Caltech and MIT are quite similar. They both have a mere 4% acceptance rate, although admitted freshmen at Caltech have higher test scores and grades, albeit by a very slim margin. On the other hand, MIT has a higher school ranking and slightly more prestige. 

Of course, the similarities and differences between the two go much further. Now, let’s get on to the details!

Academics

The academics at Caltech can be summed up in three words: rigorous, collaborative, and connected. Although the curriculum is highly demanding, the faculty and department are always ready and eager to help students complete their academic and professional endeavors.

The student community at Caltech is very closely knit, with a student-faculty ratio of three to one. Caltech’s classes are also notably smaller than average university classes, making students, instructors, and academic advisors more connected. Help, guidance, and assistance are always readily available for students.

Caltech strongly emphasizes hands-on research and close collaboration between students and faculty, especially for undergraduate education. The institution seeks to help its young students develop the habit of teamwork, collaborating with others, and applying what they’ve learned to their work. 

Therefore, when studying at Caltech, expect yourself to spend much of your time outside classrooms. To further encourage hands-on practice, Caltech is also home to several high-profile research facilities, with the most famous example being the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which operates in partnership with NASA.

Caltech also has many student-faculty programs, such as The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF). This is a yearly opportunity for students to get the exciting opportunity to work at the frontier of their desired fields and conduct research under the guidance of experienced mentors. 

MIT has rich resources for teaching students and provides ample opportunities for its students to learn. Many faculties are ready to answer for help, and MIT has many highly effective learning programs such as UROP, UPOP, MISTI, Sandbox, D-Lab, OpenCourseWare, and many more. 

In addition, education at MIT has an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation. As a result, the institution holds a strong track record of producing successful startups and innovative technologies. Like Caltech, MIT does not just teach. It trains its students to become professionals and sets them up for success in the long run. 

MIT is home to many world-renowned research centers, including the Media Lab, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

While Caltech and MIT are amongst the best places in the world to study technology-related fields, Caltech leans a tad stronger on physics, science, and astronomy. At the same time, MIT has a slightly superior computer science and engineering education. 

Another key difference is that most of Caltech’s popular programs involve science and technology. This can also be said for MIT, but it is also renowned for its humanities, economics, arts, social studies, and management programs. While both places are superb for learning technology-related fields, MIT offers more versatility and diversity. 

Admissions

Caltech yearns for people with dreams and the will and skill to realize them. Caltech wants people who can both think and do. People who ask the questions that drive them forward in the right direction. On top of being academically savvy, they also need students who want a future in STEM. 

Meanwhile, MIT seeks applicants whose strengths, interests, and values  fit well with the institution. MIT strives for individuals who hope to build themselves in science and technology and use everything they have to serve and better the nation and the world as problem solvers, inventors, and humanitarians. 

As shown previously, the acceptance rate for Caltech and MIT dwindled to a mere 4%. You must show high-level academic prowess and a promising extracurricular profile that shows your passion and drive in the field of STEM if you want a chance to get admitted.

Diversity

Regarding diversity, Caltech has an honor code that states: “No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community.” Thus, they open their gates to anyone anywhere around the world. Caltech lists inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility as its main values

Because MIT believes that talent, excellence, and good ideas can come from anywhere, MIT prides itself on its diversity as it admits students from all 50 states and 118 countries.

MIT also has many diversity and inclusion programs, such as MLK programs, intercultural engagement, racism research (and its funding), gender identity initiatives, and LGBTQ+ services,  to name a few. 

Extracurriculars 

A female student playing the violin

Both schools offer many options for students to get involved outside of academics.

For Caltech, many  extracurricular activities are centered around science and engineering. Students can participate in various clubs and organizations, such as the Caltech Robotics Team, the Caltech Astronomy Club, and the Caltech chapter of Engineers Without Borders. 

The campus also has an enduring tradition of hosting student-run events and leisure activities, such as the annual Ditch Day, where seniors create elaborate puzzles and challenges for first-year students to solve, and the Inter House Games, a week-long competition between the school's eight residential houses.

MIT, on the other hand, offers a relatively wider variety of extracurricular activities. There are over 500 student-run clubs and organizations, from cultural groups to sports teams to political clubs. 

As MIT is known for its strong focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, it offers many resources for students who want to start their  businesses or pursue research projects outside of the classroom. 

Like Caltech, the campus hosts many events throughout the year for students, faculty, staff, and everyone to unwind and have carefree fun, such as the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and the MIT Hacking Medicine Grand Hack.

Location

Caltech is located in Pasadena, California. Pasadena is one of the lesser-known places in California, the 44th largest city in the state. Located in Los Angeles County, Pasadena is roughly 18 km away from downtown LA and is currently the primary cultural center of San Gabriel Valley. 

MIT is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge is much more famous than Pasadena, with many tourist attractions and sites, such as the River Cam and King’s College Chapel. The city’s unique architecture also lures in much favorable attention for the city. 

Size

Caltech is a small, private institution with a 124-acre campus. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 987 and around 1,000 graduate students. Academic-wise, Caltech offers 28 undergraduate programs and 31 graduate options.

MIT Vs. Caltech: Which One Should You Choose?

A female applicant thinking about what college to choose

Caltech and MIT are both highly regarded academic institutions with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. However, as you’ve read, there are differences between the two schools regarding their academic programs and research focus that you need to consider.

MIT has a significantly wider range of available departments and programs, while Caltech’s academic programs are more narrowed down to science and technology. 

Ultimately, the choice between Caltech and MIT will depend on an individual's academic interests and career goals. Both schools offer world-class education and research opportunities and have produced many successful scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. 

The best option is to be clear about what you want. You should thoroughly research the programs and departments for both schools and find the academic program that intrigues you the most. If you find yourself at a tie-breaker, one thing to do is consider the studying environment you want. 

Do you prefer a smaller, more tightly-knit community? Or do you want a large space with many individuals who are very different from you? Furthermore, what are the chances you’ll switch your program? If you’d like to try something other than STEM, MIT may offer more opportunities for making adjustments.

FAQs: MIT Vs. Caltech

If you still have questions about Caltech vs MIT, please check out our frequently asked questions that will help solve your questions!

1. Is Caltech Harder to Get Into Than MIT?

Both of these schools are  equally difficult to get admitted into. And, as you may have already known, both schools are remarkably challenging and competitive. 

2. Is Caltech As Good as Harvard?

It is completely fair to say Caltech is better than Harvard in STEM fields. Harvard leans more heavily on liberal arts, and while the school is also extremely prominent in STEM, Caltech is usually a more promising option for students who wish to pursue that field. 

3. Why Is MIT More Famous Than Caltech?

MIT is generally considered more famous than Caltech because of its large size, longer history, and broader range of programs. MIT was founded in 1861, almost 30 years before Caltech, and has had more time to establish itself as a leading academic institution. 

The location also plays a key factor. MIT is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a major metropolitan area with a long history of academic excellence, as the city also houses other well-known universities, such as the University of Cambridge. Meanwhile, Caltech is located in Pasadena, California, a smaller and less well-known city.

MIT's broader range of programs also contributes to its greater fame. While both schools are highly regarded for their science and engineering programs, MIT has strong programs in other areas, such as economics, management, and political science. MIT's Sloan School of Management, for example, is consistently ranked among the top business schools in the world. 

Another reason is that MIT has a larger and more diverse alumni network, which helps spread its reputation and influence worldwide.MIT has produced many prominent leaders in science, technology, and business, including Nobel laureates, CEOs of major companies, and government officials.

4. Is Caltech an Elite School?

Caltech can  be considered an elite school. Its education in STEM rivals, maybe even surpasses, that of Ivy League schools. The education quality its academic programs provide is amongst the best in the entire world. 

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve covered Caltech vs MIT it’ll make your decision between the two a little easier. Both schools have many similarities in their academic programs and research areas, there are also notable differences in their approaches to education, teaching, campus culture, and student life. 

As mentioned before, the choice between MIT and Caltech will ultimately depend on each individual's preferences, situation, academic and career goals, and the opportunities they seek. Both institutions offer unique advantages, opportunities, and challenges, as well as an enriching learning experience with promising futures.

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