The California Institute of Technology—better known by the nickname CalTech—is widely regarded as one of the top ten universities in the United States. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently named CalTech for the coveted spot #5 on its 2020 list. Want to know how to crack the CalTech essay supplements and present your best self to the admissions committee? In this post, we’ll go through each of their school-specific prompts for you and discuss how to best ace each answer.
First, a little background on the school itself. Located in Pasadena, California, this private technological institute was founded in 1891, with the intent to focus on pure and applied sciences. To this day, though the school remains small (with a total enrollment of about 2,200 students) the school’s intellectual legacy in science and engineering stands tall. The faculty hold myriad awards, ranging from Nobel Prizes to Fields Medals to Turing Awards and beyond. And the competition to study here is tough: the acceptance rate for undergraduates in the fall of 2018 barely passed 6% of the applicant pool.
Ready to take on the challenge? Alongside your shining report card and impressive test scores, let’s see how we can turn those essay questions into an asset for your application. In addition to the Common App prompts, CalTech requires applicants to complete four short answers this year. Their website explains that these questions are a chance for admissions officers to get to know you “as a student, scientist, and person, and ascertain who you'll be on our campus.” It’s your chance to show that you are a dimensional, dynamic person they’d like to meet!
If you’re interested in reading more about past CalTech prompts, check out this post here. Below, we’ve got the exact wording of this year’s prompts (for fall 2019) and advice on how to get started on the right foot:
- Describe three experiences and/or activities that have helped develop your passion for a possible career in a STEM field. (Your response for each experience/activity should range between 10-120 words.)
- Much like the life of a professional scientist or engineer, the life of a "Techer" relies heavily on collaboration. Knowing this, what do you hope to explore, innovate, or create with your Caltech peers? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.)
- Caltech students are often known for their sense of humor and creative pranks. What do you like to do for fun? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.)
- The process of discovery best advances when people from various backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives come together. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity of Caltech's community? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.)
Lots of colleges ask about your background, and what you want to do in college. This prompt wants to know what you will bring to their table. What skills and ideas can you add to the pot? How will you expand their existing horizons? As you get your gears turning on this topic, also think about the school itself. This prompt is a great opportunity to show that you understand the infrastructure of the school as it is today and that you’ve done research on the departments and environment—in other words, to show that you care about attending CalTech specifically. Understand the lay of the land and make a case for how you will carve out a new, invaluable niche.
Not so bad, right? Don’t let the odds scare you away. CalTech holds its students to a high caliber of both academics and creativity, so remember the words of the university’s motto: “The truth shall make you free.” Be true to yourself, do your best, and don’t panic. Just by reading this post, you’ve already taken the first step in the process—and we’re here to help you! If you sign up for our (free) student portal today, you’ll get a bonus free essay edit from our team of writing specialists. Looking for even more support? Talk to one of our team about what services we can offer for the whole college application journey, from essays to strategy to choosing a major.