Beyond arguably one of the most rigorous undergraduate educations in science out there, Caltech is a small, tight-knit community that is “geared towards training tomorrow’s leaders and pioneers in the field of science.” There may be a heavy emphasis on scientific learning and research, but “not to the point where students can do nothing else,” as the core curriculum “exposes each student to a broad range of subjects” beyond the stereotypical fare. At Caltech, passionate researchers “work together to solve the problems of tomorrow, while enjoying great weather.” Or to put it in the parlance of collegiate times: “Cross collaboration of ideas and ingenuity leads to epic-ness!” Academics are understandably “intense” at Caltech: “The work can be hell but you’ll love what you learn.”
Classes are small and it’s often easy to form tight bonds with the professors.” “My academic experience here has been an extremely difficult whirlwind of humbling and fascinating knowledge,” says a student. Much learning is done through the homework sets, on which students are encouraged to collaborate. The dedication Caltech has for training the researchers of tomorrow is renowned, and is evident in the accessibility to research for all students, even freshmen. The academic experience isn’t just in the classroom.
“Everyone knows each other” at this “beautiful, small campus,” and there’s “no way around it “the fantastic SoCal weather, is hard to beat anywhere in the world.” Students here are “smart” and “nerdier than average,” but “there is a wide range in personality within the student body.” Most everyone has “an odd sense of humor and a serious hobby, whether it be MineCraft, building lasers, or rock climbing.” There is “complete trust within the student body” at Caltech, and the house system provides “a family-like support network for students,” which is a welcome respite from “extreme academic pressures.”
Modeled after the Oxford college system (and “very similar to Harry Potter”), the Caltech house system is the basis for undergraduate life, offering both a place to live and a social center for students. Freshmen are placed into one of eight houses after the first week of school, and “immediately are integrated into a close social network/safety net. Basically each student automatically gets ~100 friends.” Each house has “a slightly different culture, and most people find that they identify strongly with at least one of the cultures”; as one student says, “My house has a tool room and turned down the housing office’s offer to buy us a TV,” says a senior electrical engineering major. In keeping with the one big happy family vibe, “undergraduates and grad students play Frisbee together, students and faculty play together in music groups, grad students go to undergraduate parties…and the students have a lot of unexploited trust from the faculty because of the Honor Code.”