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How to get into California Institute of Technology (Caltech) – General Information

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private university in Pasadena, California. Caltech was founded in 1891 and is well known for its exceptional science and engineering programs. The Caltech total enrollment for undergraduates is 901 students. 

What we’ll cover in this How to Get Into Caltech guide: 

  • Caltech average GPA
  • Optimal Caltech SAT scores
  • Caltech total enrollment
  • Details on Caltech Early Action
  • Caltech application deadline
  • Tips for Caltech essays
  • Preparing for a Caltech interview, and more!. 

When thinking about how to get into Caltech, focus on every part of your application. This includes studying for standardized tests to meet the average Caltech SAT scores, earning grades that match the Caltech average GPA, and pursuing extracurriculars that highlight your passions. 

Figuring out how to get into Caltech takes strategy. We can help. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Caltech graduates. Want to maximize your Caltech admissions odds? Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272. 

How do I get into California Institute of Technology? 

As you think about how to get into Caltech, there are many aspects of the application process to consider. In this guide, we will examine how things like the Caltech average GPA, the Caltech SAT scores, and the Caltech total enrollment impact the admissions process. We’ll also explain how to use the Caltech essays to show Caltech why you belong on their campus. 

In order to maximize your admissions odds, start preparing early. To submit a truly competitive application, start building your “how to get into Caltech” strategy well before the Caltech Early Action or regular Caltech application deadline. 

How hard is it to get into California Institute of Technology? 

According to U.S. News, Caltech is considered a highly competitive school with an acceptance rate of 7%. Just over 8,000 students applied for the Caltech Class of 2024. Of those applicants, the Caltech total enrollment was only 244 students. 

The Caltech average GPA ranges from 3.9 – 4.19. The average Caltech SAT scores range from 1530-1580. In the U.S. News 2022 edition of Best Colleges, the California Institute of Technology is ranked #9 in National Universities. 

If you want to know how to get into Caltech, you must understand that admission to this university is extremely competitive. Caltech would be a “reach” for any student. Becoming a Caltech Beaver will take much more than just meeting the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores. 

To increase your chances of admission, make sure to prepare your materials well before the Caltech Early Action or regular Caltech application deadline. Study for standardized tests, strive for a high GPA, and write genuine, thoughtful responses to the Caltech essays. Also, if you know that Caltech is your top choice, consider applying by the Caltech Early Action deadline. 

What is the average GPA for California Institute of Technology? 

Although there is no minimum GPA that will guarantee you admission to Caltech, most students should strive to maintain a GPA that aligns with the Caltech average GPA. The Caltech average GPA ranges from 3.9 – 4.19, meaning that most students had around a 4.0 GPA. 

Caltech will evaluate the GPA you earned by the end of your junior year. This means you should strive for high grades throughout high school, and that starts with choosing the right courses for you. Be sure to take advantage of all the resources available to you. This will give you a better chance of meeting the Caltech average GPA. 

Wondering how to get into Caltech with grades lower than the Caltech average GPA? Check out our blog article. You’ll find helpful tips on how to make your application stand out, even if you don’t meet the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores. 

What does the Caltech application look like? 

There are many parts to a Caltech application, but each one is essential to your “how to get into Caltech” strategy. Applicants are encouraged to submit all Caltech essays, optional test scores, and supplemental materials well before the Caltech Early Action or regular Caltech application deadline. 

The Caltech Early Action application deadline is November 1st, and the Caltech application deadline for Regular Decision is January 3rd. Caltech Early Action is non-binding, so if you apply under the Caltech Early Action deadline, you can still explore other options. 

Applicants must submit: 

An important part of your “how to get into Caltech” strategy is to compile all these materials well before the Caltech Early Action deadline or Regular Decision Caltech application deadline. The earlier you start strategizing, the stronger your application will be. 

Need some help acing the Common App? Read our guide here

Caltech introduced a test-optional policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we still suggest you submit high scores to maximize your admissions odds. 

Prospective applicants must submit three Caltech essays. These short-answer Caltech essays are designed to provide the admissions committee with a better understanding of who you are as a student, scientist, and person. We will also expand on the Caltech essays later in this guide. 

What extracurriculars do I need for California Institute of Technology? 

Want to know how to get into Caltech? Start by identifying your passions, interests, and talents. 

Extracurriculars contribute heavily to your candidate profile. Your candidate profile is a 1-2 sentence description of who you are, what you do, and why colleges should admit you. Having a strong candidate profile can set you apart from other applicants and is a crucial part of your “how to get into Caltech” plan. 

Caltech does not look for one specific extracurricular activity. Instead, Caltech wants to see that you are dedicated to your interests. So, it is more about the quality of your extracurriculars, rather than the quantity. 

Caltech also takes special note of any involvement in math or science extracurriculars. As a world-renowned science and engineering institute, Caltech wants students who naturally use math and science in different parts of their lives. Perhaps you co-founded a social club that solves physics problems for fun. Or, maybe one of your hobbies includes reading books about math theories and differential equations. Either way, try to highlight your intellectual curiosity about math and science in your Caltech application. 

What is the acceptance rate at Caltech? 

The Caltech acceptance rate is another key component to consider in your “how to get into Caltech” approach. Caltech has an acceptance rate of 7%, making it a highly selective school and ensuring that the Caltech total enrollment remains small. 

Caltech received just over 8,000 applications for the Class of 2024. Of those applicants, the Caltech total enrollment for the freshman class was 244 students. The Caltech total enrollment for each incoming class of students normally ranges between 235-240 students. That puts the Caltech total enrollment for the entire campus at fewer than 1,000 undergraduates. 

But what do acceptance rates mean, really? Acceptance rates come from the ratio of total applicants to accepted students. The Caltech acceptance rate varies each year and can be influenced by a variety of factors, like the Caltech total enrollment or standardized test scores.  

Although Caltech switched to a test-optional policy, we encourage you to take standardized tests if you can do so. The average Caltech SAT scores ranged from 1530-1580, and the average ACT score ranged from 35-36.  

In order to match the average Caltech SAT scores, start studying well before the Caltech Early Action or regular Caltech application deadline. Plan to take your first standardized test during your junior year. This gives you time to retake the tests if necessary so you can meet the average Caltech SAT scores. 

Want to learn more about how acceptance rates affect the admissions process? Read our blog article here.

Does California Institute of Technology require interviews?

As you strategize about how to get into Caltech, you might wonder if a Caltech interview is an option. Unfortunately, applicants are not offered a Caltech interview. 

In lieu of a Caltech interview, you should focus on securing strong teacher recommendations. This can show Caltech who you are in the classroom and help them envision you on their campus. Caltech requires two teacher recommendations—one from a math or science teacher, and one from a humanities or social sciences teacher. These teacher evaluations serve the same purpose as a Caltech interview—they help the admissions team learn more about you.

Beyond these two required teacher evaluations, you can also submit up to two additional evaluations from mentors or supervisors. These evaluations can also highlight your unique identity and interests, like what you would discuss in a Caltech interview. 

These additional evaluations should be from people who know you in a different context. For example, you could ask your former supervisor from a summer internship to write about your leadership skills and work ethic. Or, you could ask your youth pastor to describe your service efforts with your church. These evaluations can help you stand out from the crowd, much like a Caltech interview would. 

So, what should be included in these evaluations? Here are a few ideas: 

  • Personal achievements (both inside the classroom and out)
  • Extracurricular involvements
  • Leadership experiences
  • Interests and talents
  • Special skills

Much like a Caltech interview would help the admissions committee learn more about you, these evaluations help Caltech see what you care about, what kind of student you are, and how you will contribute to their community. 

Want to learn more about how to secure strong recommendation letters in lieu of a Caltech interview? Read our blog article

How do I answer a Caltech essay? 

In addition to the main essay prompt found in the 2021-2022 Common App or Coalition App, the Caltech application requires three supplemental Caltech essays. All three supplemental Caltech essays have a maximum of 250-words.

Be sure to craft genuine, thoughtful responses to the Caltech essays. Additionally, if your GPA or test scores are just below the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores, the Caltech essays could be your chance to shine. We suggest you start writing the Caltech essays well before the Caltech application deadline. 

The first prompt:

This prompt asks about a time when you encountered failure. This essay is designed to assess your potential to overcome any obstacles you might face in the future. Anchor your response with details about how you showed resilience and persistence.

Here are some guiding questions from the Caltech website to help your brainstorming session: 

  • How do you define failure? 
  • What was the problem you were trying to solve? 
  • What did you learn from the experience?

The second prompt:

The second of the three Caltech essays asks you to identify a subject that has inspired you to learn more about it. This prompt lets you show your intellectual curiosity and desire to learn new things. Here are the guiding questions for the second of the three supplemental Caltech essays: 

  • What was the situation, story, or topic? 
  • In which ways did it spike your curiosity? 
  • How did the pursuit of a deeper, more focused understanding of this prove valuable or satisfying to you? 

The third prompt:

The last of the Caltech essays wants you to describe a time when you collaborated with your peers on a project or how you would do so once you join the Caltech community. This prompt seeks to understand your ability to work with others toward a common goal. Here are the guiding questions for the last of the Caltech essays: 

  • What have your peers told you about the ways you contribute to working in groups? 
  • How do you approach problem solving in groups? 
  • What would your peers tell us about how you collaborate and work together with them?

Be sure to include specific details throughout your Caltech essays. The more detailed you are in your Caltech essays, the more likely it is that the admissions team will connect with you.

The Caltech essays are designed to assess who you are, apart from your academic transcript and test scores. So, use the Caltech essays to highlight what makes you unique. Finally, be sure to add how you will enrich life on campus in your Caltech essays. 

For more tips on how to write Caltech essays, read our Caltech essay guide

How does Caltech review applications? 

When thinking about how to get into Caltech, many students only concern themselves with the Caltech average GPA, Caltech SAT scores, or Caltech total enrollment. Although these are important factors in the application process, there are other things to consider in your “how to get into Caltech” approach. 

Once the Caltech Early Action and regular Caltech application deadline have passed, Caltech begins the holistic review process. Each application is reviewed individually in order to determine a student’s strengths, experiences, perspectives, intellectual curiosity, and interests in science, engineering, and technology.  

Understandably, many prospective students have questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact their college application. However, as the Caltech website suggests, Caltech wants students to take care of themselves and their communities first. As COVID-19 continues to impact the world, put yourself first—not your Caltech application.

Caltech is committed to reviewing students within the context of the opportunities and resources available to them. So, if your application falls short of the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores because of circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic, Caltech will understand.

Contributing to community

It will take much more than just meeting the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores to perfect your “how to get into Caltech” strategy. As they review applications, admissions officers will also consider how each applicant might contribute to the Caltech community. 

Since the Caltech total enrollment is so low, Caltech cares deeply about who they admit. Caltech describes itself as a community that is “deeply immersed in inclusion, care, and collaboration.” So, use the Caltech essays to describe how you will exemplify these values as part of the Caltech community, in lieu of a Caltech interview. 

Spend time strengthening your academic achievements and extracurricular talents as you prepare your application. Additionally, be sure to craft your candidate profile well in advance of the Caltech application deadline, as this will help with your “how to get into Caltech” approach. 

Want more information about how to get into Caltech? Visit the Caltech website to read more about the holistic review process.

Will Caltech look at my social media?

As you think about how to get into Caltech, you might wonder if your social media presence could affect the admissions process. Rest assured, it is not likely that Caltech admissions officers will have the time or energy to review your social media accounts. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you can or should post offensive, disrespectful, or derogatory content on your social media. While these kinds of posts might not directly affect your application, there are plenty of other situations in which your social media accounts can impact your life. Many potential employers will review your social media presence when you apply for a job or internship with their company. 

Above all, we recommend using social media responsibly. Although it is not likely that Caltech will check your Instagram or Twitter accounts, there’s always a chance. 

Is Caltech a good school for me? 

As you research how to get into Caltech, it is important to reflect on whether Caltech is the right place for you. Yes, Caltech is ranked #9 in National Universities, and students who attend Caltech can pursue their STEM interests in a small academic community with a 3:1 student-faculty ratio. However, this doesn’t mean that Caltech is for everyone. 

As evidenced by the high Caltech average GPA, Caltech SAT scores, and low Caltech total enrollment, academics at Caltech are top-notch. Students begin their Caltech education with a core curriculum that ensures a strong foundation in mathematics and natural sciences. 

At Caltech, majors are referred to as an “option.” Students select an option towards the end of their freshman year. They then specialize in that option during their sophomore year and, finally, focus on their chosen field in their junior and senior years. 

As far as campus life, Caltech students can choose between 11 different residences that offer collaborative living and learning environments with unique traditions and pranks. One of the more well-known Caltech traditions involves sit-down dinners served by student waiters. 

As you are thinking about how to get into Caltech, ask yourself the following: 

  • Am I interested in a small, STEM-oriented university?
  • Does Caltech offer the major or “option” that I want to study?
  • How can Caltech help me achieve my future goals? 

As you reflect on these questions, consider how your answers can help you craft stronger Caltech essays, as there is no Caltech interview option available. 

If you decide that Caltech is for you, you can either apply through Caltech Early Action or Regular Decision. Caltech Early Action admissions are non-binding. This means you can still explore other schools even if you get into Caltech. Either way, be sure to submit your materials well before the Caltech application deadline.

To learn more about whether Caltech is right for you, visit the Undergraduate Student Blog

Additional tips to get into California Institute of Technology

  1. Build your candidate profile

As you construct your “how to get into Caltech” approach, keep in mind that Caltech looks for innovative thinkers and leaders. Pursue your interests and seek out experiences that will strengthen your candidate profile well before the Caltech application deadline. 

2. Write compelling Caltech essays

The Caltech essays are your chance to show the admissions team who you are beyond your transcript and test scores. Be thoughtful and authentic as you build your responses. Finally, be sure to highlight your unique achievements and future goals —Caltech wants to know what kind of student you are and how you will add to the Caltech community. 

3. Don’t procrastinate

Don’t wait to apply—prepare your materials well in advance of the Caltech application deadline. You want to build the strongest application possible, so give yourself plenty of time to do so. Be proactive about completing your Caltech essays, especially since there is no Caltech interview available. 

Don’t let the Caltech average GPA or Caltech SAT scores stop you from applying. Although there is no guarantee you will be admitted to Caltech, following the tips and advice in our “how to get into Caltech” guide will help you craft the strongest application you can. Good luck!


This guide was written by Claire Babbs, UT Austin ’12. If you want to know how to get into Caltech, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Caltech graduates. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.