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California Institute of Technology (CalTech)


The highly renowned California Institute of Technology is a private research university started in the year 1891. Located in Pasadena, Caltech has gained a reputation as one of the best technological institutes in the world. Understandably, it receives a massive number of applications from all over the world, including thousands from India. However, it isn’t easy to get in. In fact, Caltech is arguably one of the toughest universities to get into; call it bias, prejudice, or racism, Caltech just doesn’t seem to admit enough Indians. Though we think this perhaps has something to do with the extremely high levels of expectation here, and not much else.



Like you probably just read, Caltech is located in Pasadena, which fortunately is just about 18km away from downtown Los Angeles. Sounds like the Best of Both Worlds? Definitely.


Infrastructure and Residing options:

Built on a fantastic 124 acre campus, Caltech really is an architectural marvel. All the buildings that may have weathered over the years have been demolished and reconstructed to perfection. Everything at the California Institute of Technology is state of the art – the research centers, the labs, the libraries, lecture halls, even the bathrooms. There are a couple of cafes on campus itself, and you often find students hanging out there itself.

At Caltech, even when you live off-campus, you could always choose to live in one of the Caltech-owned properties near the campus. Grad students either do that or choose to live completely off-campus, but that turns out to be frightfully expensive. Of course, you can more than recover everything you spend very soon after you graduate, but your choice of accommodation depends completely on how much you’re willing to spend. Oh and be prepared to live with roommates if you’re living in LA, because it’s plain unaffordable otherwise, with rents going as high as $1400 per month.



Well, California is known for its climate, and Los Angeles (which is almost next door) is perhaps the epicenter of the good weather. Most days are sunny, and LA receives rainfall roughly 30 days a year. The average annual temperature is about 20°C, and it barely ever goes more than 5°C here or there the entire year. There’s no snowfall, and the weather on a whole is quite pleasant.


Courses Offered:

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Applied Physics
  • Applied Mechanics
  • Applied & Computational Maths
  • Bioengineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Science and Engineering
  • Material Science Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Engineering


Faculty and Pedagogy:

The learning experience at Caltech is almost unparalleled. Although students find the academic program, well, rigorous to say the least, they end up enjoying it too. Studying under some of the most knowledgeable and renowned professors in the world is certainly a pleasure, although students sometimes complain of them being a bit too involved in their ‘top secret’ research activities. That being said, many professors are more than willing to go out of their way if students show interest; in fact, many professors are immensely keen on teaching, so as to impart their tremendously vast wisdom to the next generation.



The tuition fee at Caltech would set you back by roughly $37,000 per year.


Financial Aid:

Since it’s a private university, it’s not really easy getting scholarships at Caltech. Add to that the fact that you’ll be competing with some of the brightest minds in the world, and well, we really doubt it’s happening.


Eventual Placements:

This, though, we’re sure would be absolutely out of the world. If the history of the institute didn’t already give it enough of an upper hand, its location adds to the advantage. Some of the best companies in the world from various fields visit Caltech and pick up its students, with the hope that they’ll one day lead the pack wherever they are.


Crowd and Campus Life:

While there are constant complaints about the gender disparity (men outnumber women about three or more times) and the lack of well-dressed women, it’s not impossible to find agreeable people of either gender. Of course, very often you have to ‘make do’ with frustratingly geeky guys and girls, but Caltech students eventually start finding geekery mildly attractive. Yes we know, it may sound rather gay, but well that’s how it is.

As for hanging out, when you get the time, there are a number of places to go to. Not in Pasadena though – even the most boring of folks would find Pasadena rather dead – but you have the whole of Los Angeles waiting to be discovered, and that should really take care of the lack of on-campus beauty as well.


Famous Alumni:

  • Sabeer Bhatia - Co-founder of Hotmail
  • Cleve Moler - Inventor of MATLAB and co-founder of MathWorks
  • Gordon Moore - Co-founder of Intel and propounder of Moore's Law
  • Chester Carlson - Inventor of the photocopier


To be fair, you probably won’t get in. But if you do, don’t think. Just go.




+69 #1 [email protected] 2013-02-25 08:02
CAL-TECH was and still is my dream college...could n't make in though!!!
Actually they look for students who ultimately want to pursue Ph.D. They hardly give admit for pure MS course (same says the college website). Also their batch sizes are too small compared to MIT,Boston. For mechanical & aerospace they have only 50-60 odd seats and almost every Asian, European scholar applies to Cal-tech (to try out their luck!). MIT has almost six times its batch size i.e. about 300-350 per course and yet every CAL-TECH student can face a MITian face to face!!! So Cal-tech remains in super-ambitious category. And the verdict says it all:-
'To be fair, you probably won’t get in. But if you do, don’t think. Just go.'

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