Essay Scoop: How to Write CalTech Essays

Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

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Interested in engineering or math? Want to go to a school just for people with the same interests? CalTech, located in Pasadena, California has 24 majors, most of which are in Science or Engineering. The most popular undergraduate majors are Engineering, Computer and Information Sciences, and Physical sciences. If this school does make your list, you’ll want to know how to approach the CalTech essays properly.

About the school

CalTech has approximately 970 undergraduate students, most of whom live in one of 8 campus houses. Instead of dorms, students are assigned a house where they form friendships for social and academic support.

Another unique element of CalTech is the honor code, which states: “No member of the CalTech community shall take unfair advantage of another member.” Students take this rather seriously and understanding it is part of the admissions process.

CalTech Essays

When you apply to California Institute of Technology, you can apply using the Common App or the Coalition App. You will also write these additional college essays for CalTech:

Please list three books, along with their authors, that have been particularly meaningful to you. For each book, please include a sentence explaining their influence upon you. Please note that your response is not limited to math, science or school assigned texts.

What you read should reveal your interests and education level. Including the phrase “their influence upon you” means you need to explain how the books either changed your understanding of a topic, changed a behavior, or led you to explore something new.

You should probably include a range of genres in your list to show you have broad interests such as historical fiction, science, and mystery instead of simply a list of recent sci-fi novels. (If you haven’t read anything but a text book, get reading!)

What three experiences or activities have helped you explore your desire to study and possibly pursue a career in STEM? (200 words)

Plan a list of science, math, or engineering experiences that helped you find a passion for STEM. A great response will have experiences that have a common thread.

For example, you might have enjoyed chemistry experiments starting with a 4th grade project, a high school class chemistry activity, and a summer visit to a science museum which allowed you to explore liquid molecules.

Members of the Caltech community live, learn, and work within an Honor System with one simple guideline; “No member shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community.” While seemingly simple, questions of ethics, honesty and integrity are sometimes puzzling. Share a difficult decision that has challenged you.What was your response, and how did you arrive to a solution? (200 words)

Question 3 asks about “ethics, honesty, and integrity” that are slightly different things. Ethics means moral behavior, honesty means not lying, cheating, or stealing, and integrity means being a good person inside.” Since you only have 200 words, focus on one or two of the three terms and give clear examples that connect your decision with the principle you choose.

The question asks you to share the “challenge” of it so you should describe a transition. For example, you may have been hesitant to report a friend who copied test answers but honesty is important so you changed your hesitancy to a firm action to report him or her to the teacher.

Caltech students have long been known for their quirky sense of humor and creative pranks. Please describe an unusual way in which you have fun. (200 words)

Question 4 is a fun question you can use to reveal the lighter side of your personality, as well as a sense of appropriate humor!

In an increasingly global and interdependent society, there is a need for diversity in thought, background, and experience in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity of Caltech’s community? (200 words)

The words “global and interdependent” along with “diversity” means you should think of question 5 in terms of your openness to a variety of ideas and willingness to work with others in the classroom or in the lab. In your answer, you should combine your unique personal traits or experiences along with your willingness to work as a team with others. For example, your persistence helps you to make sure group projects get completed.

Scientific exploration clearly excites you. Beyond our 3:1 student to faculty ratio and our intense focus on research opportunities, how do you believe Caltech will best fuel your intellectual curiosity and help you meet your goals? (500 words)

Because question 6 asks you specifically about California Institute of Technology, you should do some research on the school to find out what will keep you energized while you attend. Be sure to connect the ideas of fueling curiosity and meeting goals. For example, living with other students in a house would help you get homework help so you keep high grades.

You Can Do It!

Be sure to use clear, concise language, active verbs, and clear examples in your college essays. Using analogies and metaphors can help add interest to what you write. Here’s a great primer on how to succeed with all your essay writing. The CalTech essays shouldn’t scare you away. If you need more tips on writing or how to handle these prompts yourself, reach out to the Empowerly team!

Questions? Let us know!