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Are my chances for getting into Caltech zero?

  1. Nov 23, 2008 #1
    Only recently have I taken an interest in science (halfway through 10th grade). I'm a junior now in 1st semester. The aforementioned lack of interest was due to my not being exposed to the interesting things in science, the mind numbing math, the mysterious bonds that occur within substances, the intricate proccesses of life that occur every second of every day.

    Only since halfway through sophomore year in high school was I supposed to challenging, in depth science classes. Thus, for me it was near impossible to develop an interest that I didn't know the wonders (if you'd call it that) of.

    Why did I tell you science life story? Well I stumbled upon someone who was once part of the admissions at Caltech on the Web, and he explicitly said such students had to have such a love of science that they designed experiments in their own garage, derived calculus on their own, or their knowledge learnt on their own far surpasses their teachers. On top of that, I read at another website about all these high school applicants who are scared they won't even get accepted with perfect scores on the Math component of the SAT (pretty damn near perfect in other areas too), perfect scores on Calculus, Chemistry and Physics SAT II, and 5s on the same subject.

    My GPA is near perfect except 2 regular classes I lazily and unwisely took in freshmen year, and I have no worries about acing the SAT II or the AP test. I'm prepared to divulge to them the nonstop homework and studying I do in high school total, but I doubt they'd care since half of it has nothing to do with math or science and how I don't have any scientific extra-curricular activities. I wanted to join the Science Fair competition but I kept going back and forth because I didn't think I could think of anything interesting or semi-new, but by then (now?) I figured it was far too late into the semester to join. So I've decided to join Science Fair and also SOS (this club where you act as tutors to others for science).

    But what I know (or think I do) in my head is that it's too late to show extracurricular interest in science or math. I don't meet the majority of the credentials the admissions guy stated, nor do I even compare to the Caltech hopefuls I viewed over a Google result. I do however meet the hardworker credential that they probably require, and though my AP and SAT I & IIs probably won't be perfect, I am sure I'll get a high score. I am probably in the top 5-10% in my class because my school is such a competitive school the lowest GPA for top 10 is usually a 4.8, and I'm sure they'll just think that "4.8" is equivalent to the lowest top 10 at other schools, i.e. as easy to get.

    So after all that, do you think I have any chance of qualifying? I know Caltech doesn't do affirmative action, but just in case I'm no where near rich and I'm Asian (which I'm sure they have enough of). I'll try my hardest to be more science active in senior year, though a quarter way through that year I'll be sending my college apps off anyway, thus it might seem like I tried extra hard last minute just for that.

    Just how hard will it be? What do you recommend for me to do to improve my credentials? I'm really stuck in a rut, because Caltech sounds like a great university.

    Thanks a lot in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2008 #2
    Don't worry so much, you have a whole year ahead of you. And I wouldn't worry about trying to bolster your resume for college: Just do what you enjoy. Surely, some top schools like Caltech are selective, but that does not mean that you need to make a major scientific breakthrough in order to get accepted.

    I wouldn't pay much attention to the people posting their scores on the internet worried about acceptances either, as some of those sites really exaggerate how difficult it is to get into some schools (and some people exaggerate their scores). You are not your just scores, and you can show that in many ways when applying to schools.

    Besides, if you end up not making it into your top university, there are so many other great ones out there, even at the state university level. But I think you've got a better shot than you give yourself credit for.
  4. Nov 23, 2008 #3
    Exactly. Caltech is not the only school in the world - in fact, all of the universities that I have ever visited or attended were awesome places to be, regardless of how they might be ranked. Of course you should strive for the best school that will take you, but if you burn out in the process, you won't even get to enjoy it.

    So do your best work in school, do science fairs, tutoring, service work, etc., if you enjoy doing it, and put out a wide net of applications. You might not get in to Caltech, but you'll be a very strong applicant at other schools.
  5. Nov 24, 2008 #4
    If you plan on going to grad school then where you go for undergrad doesn't make much of a difference (as long as they have research opportunities for your major), if that takes any of the load off of your mind.
  6. Nov 24, 2008 #5
    Are you in California? Go to one of the state schools. I went to Cal State Long Beach for my undergrad engineering degree. It is cheap and a great school. I had a friend who went to Cal Tech after Cal State. It is better to go to the expensive private school as a graduate student and have the school pay for your expenses.
  7. Nov 24, 2008 #6
    To OP.
    I am in my seinor year and I used to wonder the same thing. I got very high marks on my SATs, am 4th in my class and play sports/clubs the whole extra curricular deal. I was looking into some of the top universities for a while, but decided against it because honestly I wasn't so sure about my chances, and I found out from this great site (PF is unbelievable) that going to a graduate school with prestige would be more important. Afterall, thats what will be looked at for job resume's and what not.
  8. Nov 24, 2008 #7
    I just want to make sure that none of this reassurance comes off as a "don't bother." While you needn't get your hopes up, or fear for your life if you don't get accepted to Caltech, it's certainly a wonderful place to be and unless you have serious financial constraints which prevent it, you absolutely should apply there
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