CalTech Acceptance Rate: What Does It Take To Get In?

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Only 6.6% of CalTech applicants are admitted. What does it take to get in?


The California Institute of Technology (fondly known as CalTech) is a private research university located in sunny Pasadena, California. CalTech is a world-renowned science and engineering institute, with a faculty and alumni network that have earned both national and international accolades, including 39 Nobel Prizes.


CalTech is also known for being a smaller, selective campus. They have one of the lowest faculty: student ratios in the nation, which allows for a more personalized and intimate learning experience for each student. Given its small size, it’s no wonder that CalTech has a pretty low acceptance rate of 6.6% (based on the Class of 2022).


So, what does it really take to get into this small, prestigious institution? Read on for CollegeVine’s tips on optimizing your CalTech admission profile.


Want to learn what CalTech will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering CalTech needs to know.


Applying to CalTech: A Quick Review


CalTech’s undergraduate admissions website claims that their admissions decisions are more of an art than a science. When evaluating applicants, they ask themselves three things:


    • Are You Academically Prepared?
    • Have You Demonstrated A Consistent Interest in Science, Technology, or Math?
    • How Will You Impact Caltech’s Campus Community?


In your application and in an interview setting, you should be prepared to clearly address all three of those questions.


In order to apply to CalTech, you can either fill out the Common App or the Coalition App. You do not need to fill out both. There are also a few supplemental application essays that you will need to fill out. You’ll also need to submit either an SAT or ACT score. It’s important to note that the SAT essay and ACT Writing exam is no longer required.


In addition, CalTech requires each of its students to take and submit an SAT Math Level 2 Subject Test and 1 Science SAT Subject Test (Ecological Biology, Molecular Biology, Chemistry, or Physics). You will need to schedule and take these exams well in advanced in order to submit it on time for your application to be considered by CalTech admissions.


CalTech also requires two recommendation letters from your high school teachers, and they are very particular about where those recommendation letters come from. One of your recommendation letters must come from a math or science teacher. The other should come from a humanities or social sciences teacher.


Finally, CalTech requires its students to submit a Secondary School Report submitted by your high school counselor. This is a special counselor recommendation form that you will need to meet with your counselor to set up. You will also need to send in an official copy of your high school transcript.


How Difficult is it to Get Into CalTech?


While every admitted class at CalTech is slightly different, you might be able to get a good idea of what CalTech’s class looks like by looking at some stats from the CalTech Class of 2022. Here’s what you need to know:


  • Number of applications received: 8,208
  • Admit rate: 6.6%
  • Enrolled: 231
    • Women: 46%
    • Men: 54%
    • Underrepresented minorities: 25%
    • International students: 8%
  • Middle 50% SAT and ACT test score ranges:
    • ACT: 35-36
    • SAT: 1520-1570
    • SAT Math Level 2 Subject Test: 800-800


For more information on CalTech’s undergraduate admissions, feel free to go through the CalTech undergraduate admissions website.

So, How Does One Get Into CalTech?


With such a low acceptance rate, impressing the Admissions Committee at CalTech is a two-part process. First, you have to meet some of their basic requirements, and then you need to wow them with the rest of your application.


To start, you’re going to need to work hard to ensure that your GPA and test scores are on par with the average test scores of an admitted student at CalTech. The average scores and GPA to shoot for are as follows:


  • Average high school GPA of a CalTech student: 4.0 (unweighted)
  • Average SAT Score of a CalTech student: 1555
  • Average ACT Score of a CalTech student: 35


Once you’ve met all of their academic requirements, you need to stand out through your application. According to CollegeBoard, CalTech ranked the application essay, character/personal qualities, and recommendation letters as three “Very Important” factors in their admissions decision.


If you need help with your CalTech essay, check out CollegeVine’s essay breakdown on How to Write the CalTech Application Essays 2018-2019.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out


As a school that focuses on a STEM-related curriculum, it is important that your high school resume shows an aptitude for STEM fields. There are many ways to show interest in STEM, including:


  • Taking more math or science electives than required
  • Joining STEM-related extracurricular activities like Science Olympiad or Mathletes
  • Scoring in the highest percentile on all science and math standardized tests


Of course, an aptitude for STEM is not the only thing that can make your application stand out. You want your application to be unique, and you want the Admissions Committee to remember you. Your essays are the main way for you to set yourself apart. When thinking about what to write, think critically about what makes you different from other applicants, and try to articulate this in your essays.


What if You Get Rejected?


If you get rejected from CalTech, it’s not the end of the world. CalTech has a very low acceptance rate, so just because you don’t get accepted does not mean that you are not a capable student who could excel elsewhere.


The next step for you would be to find and apply to other universities that also have great STEM programs. You also want to make sure that these schools have similar admissions criteria as CalTech so that you can maximize your chances of getting in.


Where do you find all of this information? CollegeBoard has a great resource called Big Future which compiles all of the admissions information for many colleges and universities in the United States.


Need help with your college applications? Check out CollegeVine’s College Application Guidance Program, where you’ll work with your very own Applications Consultant and receive the guidance you need to succeed in the admissions process. We’ve helped over 6,000 students navigate the college admissions process, so we know what it takes to put together a successful application while making the process less stressful.


For more resources on admission to CalTech, visit these other CollegeVine posts:


The Ultimate Guide to Applying to the California Institute of Technology

Resources to Make Your College Search Easier

Rising Seniors: A Comprehensive Guide to Application Season


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!