California Institute of Technology Top Questions

What is your overall opinion of this school?


Great for education if you have the brains and the passion. If not, it'll be a dark and rather stressful of a place.


Sinply the best most difficult school for science in the world


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.


Caltech is one of those schools where, looking back, you are quite fond of the uniqueness and zaniness of the experience, but during your time there, you longed to be elsewhere. I should stress that the dorm situation at Caltech is quite unique: each "house" at 'tech has a unique personality ( the hippie/druggie house, the sadistic house, the mostly christian house, the sporty house, etc.) that you will soon adopt as your own, whether you want to or not ( I was in the hippie/druggie). Once selected into one of these houses, a majority of the students will essentially confine themselves with this one group of people for the rest of their four years. So be careful about which house you choose to live in.


One of the things that makes Caltech distince is the honor code. Students are trusted to not cheat, steal, or do anything that negatively affects the community. Though it may sound futile, it has been shown that less cheating occurs at Caltech than at similar universities. Because of the honor code, we get many priveleges unique to Caltech. These include: *All tests are take home *We are trusted, and even encouraged to cooperate on almost everything *Many students have a "south master" key, which gives us access to most of the buildings on campus whenever we want. Another aspect that defines us is our side. Currently there are 864 undergraduates, which means we get as much help and attention as we seek. However, it can be difficult to meet new people. Caltech, despite our reputation, has many good athletic departments. Since we are a small school that focuses on academics first, the teams are typically less competitive. Because of this there is less athletic pride; however, it is pretty easy to start a sport - regardless of skill level. When I tell someone I go to Caltech, I get one of two reactions. Some people usually ask "is that a 4 year school" or "oh, Cal Poly?" - which can be annoying since it's difficult to tactfully descripe the academic rigor. Nonetheless, I've found that any scientist, engineer, or job interviewer typically responds with a "oh" that clearly expresses he is impressed. Typical student complaints are usually either an overwhelming workload or the 70-30 guy to girl ratio (which is exacerbated by the small size of the undergraduate population).


Caltech is a small school with a beautiful campus in Pasadena. The small size and extremely favorable student-faculty ratio of 3-to-1 allows for increased access to opportunities like research in top labs, access to professors, athletics, special funds and scholarships, study abroad, the arts, and travel grants. Unfortunately, Caltech's name recognition among the average population is surprisingly low. However, as one of the country's top academic and research institutions, Caltech is a very intense and rigorous place. This translates to the education, and as a result many Caltech students work extremely hard and eventually burn out. Furthermore, many Caltech students are top students before they arrive, and therefore they might already be burned out.