How to Get Into Caltech: Acceptance Rate + Admission Guide

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Updated:
April 17, 2024
12 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 1/18/24

As a world-renowned science and engineering institution, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a popular addition to college lists nationwide. Read on to learn more about standing out in the admissions process and how to get into Caltech! 

Caltech, established in 1891, is a prestigious school popular among students hoping to make their mark in science or engineering. If you're interested in attending Caltech's 124-acre campus in Pasadena, you'll need to perfect your college application for the best chance of acceptance. 

We'll walk you through everything you need to know about how to get into Caltech, including a step-by-step guide, how hard it is to get accepted, and the benefits of attending. 

Caltech Acceptance Rate: 3.1%

The CIT acceptance rate is about 3.1%. This rate reflects Caltech’s prestige and means students have to bring their absolute A-games to their applications! 

Data shows that Caltech received 13,136 applications in the most recent admissions cycle, but only 412 students were offered admission. Of this percentage, only 263 matriculated

The Caltech deferral rate is similarly quite low. While they don’t provide a specific percentage, they do state that they’re very selective with the applicants they choose to defer from Restrictive Early Action. 

To give you more insight into the Caltech acceptance rate, here are some admissions trends from the past few years: 

Year Number of Applicants Number of Accepted Students Acceptance Rate
2023 13,136 412 3.1%
2022 16,626 448 2.7%
2021 13,026 510 3.9%
2020 8,007 536 6.7%

Source: Caltech Common Data Sets

Caltech Restrictive Early Action Acceptance Rate: <5%

Caltech offers a Restrictive Early Action plan, rather than a simple EA or ED process. Their REA acceptance rate is roughly the same as their overall rate, at less than 5%. 

Caltech does not commonly release early action acceptance data, but their website states that both their EA and RD admit rates are under 5%, with a negligible difference. From this info, we can assume that the EA acceptance rate sits around 3%. 

How Hard Is It to Get Into Caltech? 

With an acceptance rate of 3.1%, Caltech is an extremely selective school. You’ll need high SAT/ACT scores, a strong application with an outstanding essay, and stellar letters of recommendation to get in. 

The school’s prestige plays a part in this. According to U.S. News World and Report, Caltech is ranked as the No. 7 Best National University. Given its ranking based on outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, and more, it’s no wonder that Caltech is considered a highly selective school. 

Take our interactive quiz below to find out how likely you are to get into Caltech.

Caltech Admissions Statistics

To understand more about what it will take to get into Caltech, here are some admissions statistics. 

Caltech Average GPA: 4.19

The average GPA at Caltech sits at around 4.19. Caltech also states that most successful candidates are in the top 5-10% of their class. This means you’ll need to strive for excellent grades in your high school classes!

While there is no Caltech minimum GPA, they recommend that applicants aim for at least a 3.5 on a 4.0 scale to be competitive. Strive for the highest GPA possible for an excellent foundation.

Caltech Average SAT Score: 1545

Although Caltech is a standardized test-free school and will not consider standardized test scores in its application review through 2025, students who do decide to submit SAT scores typically earn 1545. 

This means that the rest of your academic record is valued very highly in your application, so make sure to achieve high grades in order to demonstrate your academic prowess!

Caltech Average ACT Score: 36

The ACT falls under the same test-free policy that Caltech has put in place; however, students who choose to submit their Caltech ACT score typically achieve a 36.

If you do choose to submit ACT or SAT scores, Caltech will not look at or consider them.

What is Caltech Looking For In Applicants? 

Caltech seeks to admit resilient, collaborative, and creative students who can demonstrate a passion for math, chemistry, and physics. They also value a strong academic record and a high GPA. 

For more info on how Caltech evaluates applications, take a look at this table:

Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Rigor of secondary school record X
Class rank X
Academic GPA X
Standardized test scores X
Application essay X
Recommendation X

Non-Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Interview X
Extracurricular activities X
Talent/ability X
Character/personal qualities X
First generation X
Alumni/ae relation X
Geographical residence X
State residency X
Religious affiliation/commitment X
Racial/ethnic status X
Volunteer work X
Work experience X
Level of applicant’s interest X

Source: Caltech Common Data Set

Caltech Admissions Requirements

You’ll need a rigorous academic record to get into Caltech. Aim for a weighted GPA of 4.19 and SAT/ACT scores of 1570 and 36. Competitive applicants also take academically challenging courses, such as AP or IB courses, and demonstrate their passion for STEM in their admission essays and extracurricular activities.

In your application for Caltech, you’ll need to include the following

  • Common App or QuestBridge Application (no preference)
  • $75 application fee
  • School Report (submitted by counselor)
  • Teacher evaluations
  • Official transcripts
  • Mid-Year Report
  • Supplemental materials (i.e. research paper, maker portfolio, visual art, internship description)
  • Supplemental application essays (submitted through Common App or QuestBridge)

Note that in order to prepare yourself for Caltech’s Core Curriculum, you should demonstrate specific preparedness in subjects like mathematics, calculus, physics, chemistry, and biology. The admissions committee wants to be confident you can succeed, so it’s crucial to demonstrate your science aptitude and preparedness. 

We suggest taking the most challenging curriculum available to you. Taking IB or AP classes and doing well shows the admissions committee that you can handle Caltech's curriculum rigor and excel.

Caltech Application Deadlines 

Applying to college is a hectic process. Here’s an overview of Caltech’s important deadlines to help you stay on top of things. 

Application Step Deadline
Restrictive Early Action deadline November 1, 2023
Restrictive Early Action decision notifications Mid-December, 2023
Regular Decision deadline January 3, 2024
Regular Decision notifications Mid-March, 2024
Restrictive Early Action and Regular Decision admit reply deadline May 1, 2024

Caltech Regular Decision Deadline

The deadline to apply to Caltech through Regular Decision is January 3, 2024. If you’ve submitted your application, you should hear a decision by mid-March. 

Caltech Restrictive Early Action Deadline

Caltech’s Restrictive Early Action deadline is November 1. REA applicants normally receive their decision notifications in mid-December.

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Into Caltech

Consider these tips to make your Caltech application stand out:

Focus on Having Outstanding Academic Performance

Caltech is a highly selective school with rigorous curriculums. To prove you can handle Caltech’s robust programs, you’ll need to maintain a high GPA and take challenging courses, especially advanced mathematics and science.

Have Exceptional Extracurricular Involvement

As if maintaining a high GPA wasn’t enough, Caltech also appreciates students who make good use of their free time. You should pursue valuable extracurricular activities that demonstrate your passion for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). 

Seek unique activities that can set you apart from the crowd and help you achieve notable accomplishments.

Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation

It’s important your letters of recommendation match the rest of your application. They should speak to your intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, and character. Ensure that your recommenders know you well and can provide specific examples of your achievements and potential.

Caltech requires recommendation letters from: 

  • One math or science teacher 
  • One humanities or social sciences teacher 

You may also include an additional letter of recommendation if you have a mentor, coach, or supervisor in your life who could give insight into your character and abilities. 

Write Compelling Personal Essays 

Write thoughtful and authentic supplemental essays that highlight your unique qualities, your experiences, and your fit with Caltech's academic and research culture. Do your research when answering questions about your interests, and ensure you add personal anecdotes to make your essays memorable! 

Trust the Experts

If you’re still unsure of how to differentiate your profile or where to start, our Caltech admissions counselors have got you covered! They can offer you one-on-one support throughout the admissions process and provide you with insider knowledge to ensure you submit the most competitive application!

Caltech Essay Prompts

Caltech asks all first-year applicants to respond to several supplemental essay prompts: one academic question, three short answers, and a few optional short answers. 

Academic Question

If you had to choose an area of interest or two today, what would you choose? Why did you choose that area of interest? (200-word limit)

Required Short Answers

1. 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)
2. 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)
3. 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
Share what one or more of these values evokes for you. (Min: 200 / Max: 400)

Optional Short Answers

1. 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)
2. 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)
3. 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 Answers 

1. 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.
2. 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).

Crafting thoughtful essays is key to getting into Caltech's undergrad program. Ensure you spend time brainstorming, outlining, and editing your responses before submitting them. Remember to keep your writing concise: you don't have many words to get your main idea across! 

FAQs: How to Get Into Caltech

Do you still have questions about how to get into Caltech? Let these FAQs be your guide! 

1. Will Caltech Consider My SAT/ACT Scores? 

Caltech will not require or consider any SAT or ACT scores until at least fall 2025. 

2. Can Anyone Set Up Caltech’s ISP Curricula?

To set up Caltech’s ISP curricula for yourself, these two criteria must be met: 

  • “The program must enable educational goals that cannot be achieved in any of the other available Options.
  • In scope and depth, the program must be comparable to a normal undergraduate program.” 

3. Do I Have a Better Chance of Getting Into Caltech With Restrictive Early Action? 

It depends. While Early Action/Early Decision pathways generally have higher acceptance rates at top colleges, this is usually because students have worked hard to have their applications perfected. 

Applying to Caltech through REA won’t make much of a difference from Regular Decision if your application is not polished enough! You know how hard it is to get into Caltech, but a well-executed application can make all the difference. 

4. How Do I Get Into Caltech as a Homeschooled Student? 

Many homeschooled applicants are curious about how to get into Caltech undergrad programs. The Caltech admissions committee does not require any additional application materials from homeschooled students than it does from their traditionally educated peers. Caltech reviews each applicant within the context of their experiences. 

5. I Am Not In the Top 10% Of My Class. What Are My Chances of Acceptance? 

Almost all students admitted to Caltech are in the top 10% of their graduating class. This means that only 1% of admitted first-year students are not in the top 10%. 

6. What Classes Should I Take to Get Into Caltech? 

It would be best to take the most challenging curriculum available to you, especially in your STEM subjects. Caltech admits students who challenge themselves and show they're ready for a rigorous, STEM-based curriculum. 

7. How Do I Get Into Caltech As a Transfer Student?

If you’re wondering how difficult it is to get into Caltech as a transfer student, it’s even more challenging than regular admissions. You’ll need to maintain high grades at your current college, particularly in STEM coursework, as you’ll be required to write entrance exams on the following topics: 

  • Calculus of One and Several Variables
  • Linear Algebra
  • Differential Equations
  • Classical Mechanics and Electromagnetism
  • Waves, Quantum Mechanics, and Statistical Physics

You should also have strong supplemental essays that share how you explore STEM outside of the classroom!

8. How Much Is the Tuition Fee At Caltech?

So, you’re ready to reap all the benefits this school has to offer and start your application, but how much will it cost to go to the California Institute of Technology? Caltech’s tuition costs $63,402 a year. On top of your other college expenses, it’s estimated you’ll spend between $80,000 to $90,000 a year to attend this school. 

If this cost is too steep for you, consider looking into financial aid options. 

9. Does Caltech Do Interviews? 

No, Caltech does not offer admission interviews as part of the application process. This means that you’ll need to give the admission committee a very good sense of who you are through your supplemental essays and other application materials. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you know more about the admissions process and how to get into Caltech, you can take the appropriate steps to give yourself the best chance of acceptance. 

While getting into Caltech’s undergraduate program is difficult, taking challenging courses, writing well-crafted essays, and securing stellar recommendations will boost your chances of acceptance. With patience and hard work, you can make your dreams of attending Caltech a reality! 

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