How to Write the Caltech Supplemental Essays

In addition to the personal essay in the Common Application or the Coalition Application, applicants for first-year admission to Caltech must complete required supplemental short-answer essays. These are questions that the Admissions Committee has devised to get to know you better as a student, scientist, and person, and ascertain who you’ll be on our campus. Here is a guide to answering each of the essay prompts for Caltech’s application:

Describe three experiences and/or activities that have helped develop your passion for a possible career in a STEM field. (Your response for each experience/activity should range between 10-120 words.)

The first step towards answering this question is reflecting on the most salient and impactful experiences that inspired you to pursue the STEM field. Is there an organization or club that you have been a part of that played a huge role in your life? Did you launch your own project that positively impacted your community and encouraged you to pursue the STEM field in college? Have you been studying a particular field or topic for your own personal interests, if so, what? The maximum number of words is only 120 per activity, so be succinct and hone in on the most impactful experience you are describing. These experiences or activities don’t all need to be on a huge scale – it can be as simple as avidly watching a robotics Youtube channel or creating personal google extensions to make your life easier. Whatever you write about, dive deep into the topic to demonstrate why you want to learn more about it in the future!

Much like the life of a professional scientist or engineer, the life of a “Techer” relies heavily on collaboration. Knowing this, what do you hope to explore, innovate, or create with your Caltech peers? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.)

Caltech is looking to see how well you can work with your peers in your future endeavors. A great way to preview how you will act in the future is to show what you’ve done in the past. Have you worked in a team setting before and learned valuable skills that you hope to bring to Caltech? What were those skills and how did that experience set you up for success? How have you demonstrated creativity and innovation, and how do you see yourself developing your interests with your peers at CalTech? After delving into your past experiences, take some time to imagine how you see your passions and interests playing out on Caltech’s campus, working with fellow Techers in a collaborative community.

Caltech students are often known for their sense of humor and creative pranks. What do you like to do for fun? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.)

This is a unique opportunity for you to highlight your talents, personality, and how you see yourself in the Caltech community. You can take a look at historical pranks and traditions from Techers past and present here to get an idea of students’ creativity and humor. What interests you outside of school that you are passionate about? Is there a hobby you picked up that has evolved and become your favorite pastime? What makes these activities enjoyable for you? Authenticity is key! Don’t try to impress admissions by making it seem like like you read for Physics textbook for fun. Be genuine, quirky, and unique!

The process of discovery best advances when people from various backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives come together. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity of Caltech’s community? (Your response should range between 250-400 words.)

Answering this question requires conducting research on Caltech’s student body, their student organizations, and the ways in which Techers are involved in their communities. Mention one or two on campus organizations you would like to contribute to. You want to show genuine interest in the these groups and explain why they fit into your passions, goals, and pursuits at Caltech. Your response should also highlight what you can contribute to the Caltech community through your previous experiences working and collaborating in group settings. Have you worked on a special project with your peers that built upon the backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of your teammates? How did you make a difference only you could make, and how does that ability transfer to Caltech?