At Caltech, we investigate some of the most challenging, fundamental problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Identify and describe two STEM-related experiences from your high school years, either in or out of the classroom, and tell us how and why they activated your curiosity. What about them made you want to learn more and explore further? (Min: 100/Max: 200 words for each experience)
To effectively address this question, select the two most meaningful and relevant academic experiences that have shaped your high school career. These can include classroom activities, research projects, extracurricular involvements, or even personal interests and hobbies related to STEM. Ensure that the chosen experiences genuinely activated your curiosity and had a significant impact on your perspective.
Whether you choose to write about an experience in or out of the classroom (meaning a class you took at school), be sure that the experience is unique and that the class was challenging (in a good way). Perhaps you went above and beyond on a project or research paper and it got published. Maybe your biology teacher recognized your talent for a particular topic and tapped you for a research project. To answer the question, “What about them made you want to learn more and explore further?” it would be wise to write about how expansion of your knowledge was in pursuit of the greater good, ideally some kind of humanitarian end. For example, maybe the engineering class allowed you to postulate different ways to improve public transportation.
The creativity, inventiveness, and innovation of Caltech’s students, faculty, and researchers have won Nobel Prizes and put rovers on Mars. But Techers also imagine smaller scale innovations every day, from new ways to design solar cells to how to 3D print dorm decor. How have you been a creator, inventor, or innovator in your own life? (Min: 200 / Max: 250)
This prompt offers an excellent opportunity to illustrate your creative thinking, inventive spirit, and innovative contributions. Since you’ve previously written about STEM-related experiences, it could be beneficial to use this prompt to write about a different side of your experiences where you’ve displayed creativity and curiosity outside of the classroom. Take a look at your extracurriculars and find an example where you found a solution to an everyday problem—perhaps you found a solution to fix all the broken bathroom stall locks at your school, or found some way for N-95 masks to be recycled. If you don’t have a STEM specific solution, think about solutions you’ve come up with outside of your STEM activities. Maybe you found an effective way to tutor younger kids in math, or you found a solution to the excessive amount of waste created by your school’s cafeteria. Whatever path your solution charted, detail the results and outcomes of your efforts. What changes or improvements did your project bring about? Whether it’s a tangible product, a process enhancement, a new perspective, or a positive impact on a community, describe the significance of your work.
If there are aspects of your life or social or personal identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please tell us about them below. (Max: 150 words)
This space allows for you to share any information that you believe is important to your application, but has not yet been conveyed through your essays or through your grades or test scores. Have you started your own company or initiative to help others? Have you had to help an ailing family member? Is there an alumni from Caltech who really inspired you to apply? Perhaps you’d like to elaborate on an aspect of your application that would require more context to fully understand. Whatever you choose to write, be sure to use this space wisely—you shouldn’t use this space to brag about all your amazing accomplishments, but rather, give more context or add information that you think would be valuable to your application.
When not surveying the stars, peering through microscopes, or running through marathons of coding, Caltech students pursue an eclectic array of interests that range from speed-cubing to participating in varsity athletics to reading romance novels. What is a favorite interest or hobby, and why does it bring you joy? (Max: 100 words)
This is a great opportunity to highlight something about yourself that is not STEM-related. Doing so will allow you to show your personality and interests even further and give you an opportunity to stand out in a sea of STEM applications. Mentioning a hobby—anything from knitting, to traipsing, to bird watching—will help you catch the eye of admissions officers!
Did you have a hard time narrowing it down to just one interest or hobby? We understand – Caltech students like to stay busy, too – tell us about another hobby or interest! (Max: 50 words)
If you have another hobby worth elaborating on, this is the place to share it!