Marybeth's review of California Institute of Technology

Marybeth's answers to common questions

Describe the students at your school.

Another great thing about Caltech is that there are many different people on campus, various races, various religions, from many countries and so on. But nobody cares! Everyone is treated the same and that's great. It matters how a person behaves and what they say, not their cultural background or race. However, because of this, the diversity can spread even easier and people find out things about other cultures without being biased against them. Also, Students generally are divided into the 7 houses and by majors. So if someone is not either in your house or major, chances are you won't interact with them so much. On the other hand, the campus is so small that almost everyone knows everyone.

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Here's your chance: Say anything about your college!

People generally don't realize how much hard work Caltech is, but also how important the Honor Code is for us and how these two things alter life here, making it very different from other colleges. People are always working, but they work together. It's stressful, but with your friends there doing the same thing, it's even fun sometimes.

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Is the stereotype of students at your school accurate?

I think they are accurate. Caltech students work very hard (quality and quantity wise.) If I were an employer after I graduated, I'd hire Caltech students in an instant.

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What are the academics like at your school?

Students collaborate on homework and there is no competition, which is wonderful. No spiting, no envy. We are smart enough to realize that there's no point. Everyone does their best. The work is so hard it simply cannot be completed alone. The professors are friendly and always willing to talk to students. But people don't really have much time for anything but school. Outside of class, people generally spend 5-10 or more hours per day on schoolwork. Most of the times when people skip class, it’s because they have some urgent homework to finish. The core curriculum at Caltech is very hard and there are a lot of classes required. All undergrads, however, can get a summer job in research if they want, and Caltech has an awesome summer program for that called SURF.

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What are the most popular student activities/groups?

People don't really have time for many activities. The average student has about two slightly time consuming activities outside schoolwork. More would be impossible. These range from sports to singing, dancing, playing video games or being involved in student government. Students are generally always consulted on issues that concern them. There are several committees who serve these roles, and students serve on them by volunteering or being elected in the houses. Not may people leave campus, mainly because of lack of time. The most often is diner and a movie on weekends off campus. People stay up very late doing work. It's usual to hear people saying they went to bed after 5 am. Sleeping is rare and very precious. Many people complain about the social scene especially because of the male/female ratio and the smallness of the college. But most of the time people just hang out and talk. I like this very much because it's more entertaining. You find out stuff, you laugh. There are also parties, but not as often as in other colleges. The dorm life is very intense, there's always something going on, everyone keeps their doors open and music goes on till 4 am.

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What is the stereotype of students at your school?

Caltech has one of the best reputations of all the colleges in the U.S., so the stereotype is that all students are extremely bright. Employers and grad schools know that if they pick a Caltech graduate, they will get a very intelligent person, used to working very hard and never giving up.

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What is your overall opinion of this school?

There are a couple of things at Caltech that I don't think can be found in many other places. One is that Caltech is very small, but very selective, so all the people here are incredibly smart and have many talents. It's a great community. Also the hard work is overwhelming many times, and people are being pushed to their limits. But those limits are many times a lot farther than they think. A third aspect is the Honor Code, which works great. All tests are take-home, collaboration is encouraged and profs trust students in whatever reason they give for not turning hw in on time, or similar things. Another wonderful thing that makes the busy life of the students much better is the House System. People have to pick into 7 different houses, each with its own traditions and personality type. It brings a lot of people with similar interests together and makes them get to know a 7th of the campus much, much better. Also, students organize many events which are very inventive and interesting - if they have time. The biggest shock, though, is for the incoming freshmen. Used to being the first and doing all the work very easily, they are shocked to find out that all the 200 other students are quite similar, just as smart and just as hardworking. 100 of those will have to be below average. This is why the first two terms at Caltech are pass/fail only. You need time to get used to not being first and not understanding everything from the very beginning.

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