What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

UC Berkeley vs. Caltech: Which College is Right for You?

What’s Covered:


UC Berkeley and Caltech are enticing colleges to many college-bound high schoolers for a host of reasons, including their location in the Golden State and prestigious reputations. Although Caltech and UC Berkeley share many qualities, they’re also uniquely different from each other—for example, one is private and one public, one is small and the other large, and one is located in the southern part of the state while the other is found in the north. 


Keep reading to learn more about UC Berkeley and Caltech, and to gain some clarity in answering the question of which college to choose in the battle of UC Berkeley vs. Caltech.


UC Berkeley vs. Caltech: A Quick Overview



UC Berkeley 



Berkeley, CA 

Pasadena, CA 

Campus Type



Undergraduate Enrollment



Acceptance Rate



CollegeVine Ranking



Middle 50% SAT/ACT


Test-blind until 2025

Sticker Price

In-state $46,432

Out-of-state $70,006


Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need?


Need-blind and meets 100% of demonstrated need 


UC Berkeley vs. Caltech: A Closer Look


Location and Weather


UC Berkeley is located in Berkeley, California—a funky, vibrant, and artistic city adjacent to Oakland and just across the bay from San Francisco. Berkeley offers a multitude of cultural and entertainment opportunities and feels more intimate compared to its more metropolitan neighbors—its population is 117,145, compared to San Francisco’s 815,201. Opportunities abound in everything from careers to cuisine when you consider Berkeley’s proximity to other Bay Area cities. 


Berkeley is home to mild weather year-round with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. In general, temperatures don’t dip below the low 40s in winter or above the mid 70s in the summer. The city rarely receives any snow, so don’t plan on a white Christmas while at college. 


Caltech is located in Pasadena, California, about 11 miles outside of Los Angeles. Pasadena is a small city (though it can sometimes feel like a suburb of LA) known for its laidback southern California vibe and it provides access to a variety of outdoor activities, with the mountain in one direction, the ocean in the other, and more than 1,000 acres of parkland managed by the city. Pasadena is also home to a variety of cultural and culinary activities, ranging from cool coffee shops to historic parades.


Pasadena’s weather is best described as idyllic. The city receives nearly 300 days of sunshine a year (the national average is 205). Temperatures will drop into the high 40s in the winter and peak in the low 90s in summer—however, it never feels that hot thanks to the low humidity. 




When it comes to size, UC Berkeley and Caltech couldn’t be more different. 


UC Berkeley is a large public institution and its enrollment reflects that. UC Berkeley’s undergraduate enrollment is 32,479 students. The university is also home to 12,828 graduate students.


Caltech is comparatively small, with just 982 undergraduates plus 1,419 graduate students. Caltech fosters close interaction between students and faculty. The college is home to approximately 300 professional faculty and a staggeringly low 3:1 student-to-faculty ratio. 




UC Berkeley has five colleges and one school through which it offers 150 undergraduate majors and minors: 


  • College of Letters and Science
  • College of Chemistry
  • College of Engineering 
  • College of Environmental Design
  • College of Natural Resources
  • Haas School of Business


UC Berkeley offers degrees in everything from aerospace engineering to urban studies and has a well-earned reputation as a top school for STEM, business, and architecture—we rank it 12th among the best colleges for architecture. Those looking to study something off the beaten path will want to check out UC Berkeley’s medieval studies and Scandinavian majors. 


Caltech offers 28 majors—ranging from applied and computational mathematics to political science—through its six academic divisions:


  • Biology & Biological Engineering
  • Chemistry & Chemical Engineering
  • Engineering & Applied Science
  • Geological & Planetary Science
  • Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Physics, Mathematics & Astronomy


As part of its core curriculum, every Caltech student takes classes in each division. All Caltech undergraduates take the same classes during their first two terms and don’t declare a major until the end of their first term. Caltech is particularly well known for its physics program, which is ranked #2 in the country by U.S. News.




UC Berkeley undergraduates aren’t required to live on campus, however, the majority of them choose to do so—96% of incoming first-year students live in the university’s residence halls. UC Berkeley also offers a variety of themed housing co-sponsored by an academic department:


  • African American  
  • Bloom Asian American 
  • Casa Magdalena Mora  
  • Global Environment Theme House 
  • Native American 
  • South Asian, Southwest Asian, and North African Living Community   
  • UNITY Theme Program 
  • Empowering Womxn in STEAM


Students are required to participate in a weekly for-credit seminar, community service projects, and leadership activities tied to the themed housing program.  


Caltech requires undergraduates to live on campus for their first two years at the school and most students live on campus all four years. Caltech has a unique house system that features eight distinct residential communities, each with its own unique personality, traditions, and activities. 


First-year students are provided the opportunity to participate in rotation, a process through which they can explore the different residential communities. At the end of rotation, students are given a ranked choice for where they would like to live for the year and house membership is retained throughout their college career. For students not interested in participating in the house system, there are three unaffiliated (non-house) halls.


Financial aid


UC Berkeley practices need-blind admissions. Between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, 68% of the university’s undergraduates who graduated did so without loan debt. Over that same time, the average cumulative loan debt for graduating seniors was $19,733. UC Berkeley provides both need- and merit-based scholarships.


UC Berkeley ranks very highly on the website Payscale’s list of best-value colleges—placing 24th for in-state students and 46th for out-of-state students. 


The sticker price at UC Berkeley for the 2022-2023 academic year is:





Tuition and fees



Nonresident supplemental tuition 



Student health insurance plan*



Room and board






Books and supplies












*The student health insurance plan is waived with proof of insurance


Caltech practices need-blind admissions and will meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated need. Need-based and merit-based scholarships are available to Caltech students. Caltech ranks 12th on Payscale’s list of best-value colleges


The sticker price at Caltech for the 2022-2023 academic year is:












Books and supplies







Sports and Extracurriculars


UC Berkeley is home to a number of Division 1 sports that primarily play in the Pac-12, ranging from mainstream staples like baseball and basketball to more niche athletic endeavors such as water polo and rugby. A 2017 study found UC Berkeley trailing only Stanford, UCLA, and USC on the list of top colleges producing Olympians. In addition to varsity sports, UC Berkeley also offers a number of intramural sports, including dodgeball, flag football, and ultimate frisbee. 


Students with interests outside of athletics will be happy to learn that UC Berkeley is home to more than 1,000 student organizations encompassing everything from borsch to capital investment.


Caltech competes in Division III and is a member of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference. About a quarter of Caltech students are members of one of the college’s athletic teams. 


More than 100 student organizations call Caltech home and cater to seemingly every interest—clubs include everything from robotics to tennis to origami to turtles.


Culture and Diversity


UC Berkeley fields an ethnically-diverse class of undergraduates; the majority of students identify as people of color, almost a quarter are from underrepresented groups, and 29% are first-generation college students. 



Percentage of Student Body







African American 


Two or more races 


Other race 



The Bay Area is known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ community and UC Berkeley is no exception with 13% of its undergraduates identifying as LGBTQ+. The university is welcoming of LGBTQ+ and provides numerous resources and recently added an LGBTQ+ liaison position to its office of undergraduate admissions. 


Caltech is committed to attracting a diverse student body—33% of undergraduates are from underrepresented groups and between 2011 and 2021, the school has seen a 17% increase in Latinx students.



Percentage of Student Body



Asian American 






Black/African American


American Indian or Alaska Native


Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander


Race/ethnicity unknown



Caltech’s campus welcomes all types of students and is home to a visible population of LGBTQ+ students. The school even provides a campus map calling out its all-gender bathrooms.


How to Decide Between UC Berkeley vs. Caltech


If you’re deciding between UC Berkeley vs. Caltech, you’ve got a tough decision to make. Luckily, both schools have incredible reputations and are fantastic choices.


That said, there are some factors that might make one institution better suited to you than the other.


UC Berkeley is especially strong for students who:


  • Want to attend a large school—UC Berkeley’s undergraduate population is substantially larger than Caltech’s. 
  • Are interested in attending a school with big-time college athletics. UC Berkeley is home to a Division 1 athletic program that plays in the Pac-12, a Power Five Conference. 
  • Want to participate in Greek life—UC Berkeley is home to more than 60 fraternities and sororities, while there are no Greek organizations at Caltech. 
  • Want a wider breadth of majors, particularly in the social sciences and humanities—UC Berkeley offers more than 150 majors and minors while Caltech offers just 28 majors. 
  • Are cost-conscious California residents. The sticker price for UC Berkeley for in-state students is considerably lower than that of Caltech.


Caltech is especially strong for students who:


  • Want to attend a smaller, more intimate college—there are less than 1,000 undergraduates on campus. 
  • Are interested in living and learning in a small, tight-knit community, like what’s offered by Caltech’s house system.
  • Want to study STEM, which Caltech is particularly well-known for.
  • Want to attend a suburban-feeling school with easy access to one of the country’s biggest and most vibrant cities.   
  • Are interested in research. If you count faculty and postdoctoral fellows, there’s a 1:1 ratio of Ph.D. researchers to students at Caltech. Plus, almost every Caltech undergrad participates in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.  


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?


Both Caltech and UC Berkeley have extremely selective admissions and incredibly low acceptance rates, though your chances may be higher or lower than the average depending on the strength of your profile.


CollegeVine can help add clarity to your admissions odds at UC Berkeley, Caltech, and hundreds of other colleges across the country. Our free admissions calculator uses factors like grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and demographics to estimate your odds of acceptance. You can also use it to search best-fit schools based on everything from your chances of admission to the undergraduate population to the majors offered.

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.