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Im 14 and would like to go to CalTech. Any advice?

  1. Jun 30, 2014 #1
    I am going to start highschool and would like to get a PhD in Astrophysics, but I feel that I'm behind. I am barely going to take algebra 1 in my freshman year. I am going take summer courses so I can get caught up. Now all I would like to know is what is expected to go to CalTech and any good physics books to read so I can know a lot more of physics compared to everyone else. In my 8th grade year, they taught me Laws of Motion, I would like to know more about that and many more physics concepts. I really enjoy physic, my passions are science, computers, and Dota 2.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2014 #2
    Not shooting for a single elite school because admissions will be a crapshoot for pretty much anyone.
  4. Jun 30, 2014 #3
    I dont plan on only applying for them, I would just prefer going there.
  5. Jun 30, 2014 #4


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    Just try to do well in your classes, and junior year you can try and gauge how competitive you are academically.
  6. Jun 30, 2014 #5
    Schools like Cal tech and Mit cater to the elite or extremely gifted. Typically a child who is around 14 should have already mastered calculus 1 and planning to complete his calculus series by the age of 16 with other college courses under his belt. Not saying that you are slow by any means. Your aI'm is to go to caltech, you won't necessarily go there but the experience of working hard may land you at UCLA. you can not really learn physics unless you have completed a course in calculus 1. It is great that you show ambition. Start volunteering to build a resume for yourself.
  7. Jun 30, 2014 #6

    Try not to be arrogant when others respond to you. We understand that you are a kid, yet their are rules and regulations for this website we must adhere to. Before you go to a school you must apply it, unless you make a great contribution to the stem field they will come knock on your door.
  8. Jun 30, 2014 #7


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    No one applies only to CalTech. Even if you are an extremely qualified applicant your chances of being accepted are very small. They are extremely selective.

    You need a back-up plan. If you want to aim at CalTech as your "dream" school, that's great!
  9. Jun 30, 2014 #8
    A friend of mine did research with a professor at Caltech for 2 summers while he was still in high school and he got into Caltech. Maybe look at their summer programs for high schoolers? I'm sure that will help. Good luck.
  10. Jul 1, 2014 #9
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  11. Jul 1, 2014 #10
    Maintaining the highest GPA and test scores as you can are a given. What you should look forward to is as you are planning to, finish algebra 1 and 2 during your freshman year, finish geometry in your summer while simultaneously studying functions and trig, then take calculus BC in your junior year. In your senior year, no higher math is provided by your high school, so I recommend that you go to a local community college to finish calc 3 and possibly differential equations. For high school physics, I suggest you take AP physics C mechanics in your junior year while you learn calculus 1 and 2, and AP physics C electromagnetism in your senior year. If you can, I also recommend you take AP computer science. Programming comes almost necessary in most STEM fields.

    But then again, you are only a freshman in high school. Enjoy that period of time, but don't let distractions take the best of you (Dota 2's a big one). You seem to have great passion for physics, so don't ever get discouraged with big and small failures. As long as you don't give up, at the end, things work out for you.
  12. Jul 1, 2014 #11

    +1 to taking some time to enjoy high school. You only go to high school once. :). It's a great time of life.
  13. Jul 1, 2014 #12


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    I agree with almost everything that the people above have said, try hard in school, do the best you can, but it's too early to be thinking about such things.
  14. Jul 1, 2014 #13


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    I did not take Calculus in High School but was accepted at (and graduated from) M.I.T. I did take some summer courses that gave an introduction to college Mathematics (Number Theory, Abstract Algebra).
  15. Jul 1, 2014 #14

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    But Halls, you are a retired math professor. That means when you went to high school no one had yet stepped on the surface of the Moon. Like me, you probably had to walk to school, uphill both ways, through deep snowdrifts under a blisteringly hot sun, and perhaps even had to fend off a dinosaur or two on the way!

    I suspect most entrants to MIT in this new millennium did take calculus in high school. MIT now recommends that prospective students take math, through calculus, in high school.

    On the other hand,
    I truly doubt that this is typical, or anywhere near typical, even in this new millennium.

    Nobody has commented on this yet. Emphasis mine.
    There's nothing wrong with video games per se, but do watch out. They take up a lot of precious time, and they teach bad habits. Video games teach you to think rapidly, intuitively. (Otherwise you're dead.) You need to develop patience and learn to think analytically.

    MIT and other high end schools look at your extracurricular activities in their decision process. You might want to think of some extracurricular activity other than Dota 2. Science fairs, writing a video game as opposed to playing one, participating in sports, working as a volunteer on some social problem, etc. There are lots of extracurricular activities that will make your application shine. Video gaming is not one of them.
  16. Jul 1, 2014 #15


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    As long as you have completed calc 1 and physics by the time you apply you should have a shot.
    You don't need to be insanely gifted to get into those school, it just has to appear that way
  17. Jul 1, 2014 #16

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    As long as you have completed calc 1 and physics and have received at least an A- all the way through is a better way to state this. Someone who gets Cs or even Bs in high school math and science classes is not going to have much of a chance at getting into one of those highest echelon colleges.

    But you don't have to have learned calculus by age 14. That is over the top.
  18. Jul 1, 2014 #17


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    good point
  19. Jul 1, 2014 #18


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    This is a great point. Also, I think worth adding to this (coming from me, a reformed high school video game addict) is that video games are designed to give short term, targeted rewards and pleasure. They train you in a way to seek nearly instant gratification. Pleasure from the pursuit of science and perhaps knowledge in general comes from a longer term satisfaction. The rewards are far removed from the effort in many cases. Sometimes the benefits are reaped years later.

    I strongly recommend limiting video games to a few hours per month at best. I prefer to play a game like Civ 5 now, and I pick one Sunday per month to play for 4 or 5 hours with friends. If I could go back in time to a 12 year old ZombieFeynman, that's what I'd tell him. Instead, I suggest finding recreation outside of physics in music, sports, writing, art and outdoor pursuits. These will foster discipline and allow you to acquire skills for life.
  20. Jul 1, 2014 #19


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    I don't know if it is still true, since it was a long time ago for me. However, it used to be true that for Cal Tech and MIT there were a set of objective criteria, that should you meet them, you had a 75% or better chance of getting in. Much of their class were somewhat below this, but there was a cutoff which gave you good chance. This was different from the Ivy leagues, where no set of numbers gave even a 50% chance of admission (well, except for something like a medal in the math olympiads, which didn't exist when I was in high school). In my day:

    A average
    top 5 in graduating class
    800 or close to it in math section of SAT and math II achievements
    675 or over in SAT verbal
    well over 700 in at least one science achievement
    4 or 5 in BC AP calculus exam

    would 'nearly guarantee' admission to Cal Tech, and certainly guarantee admission to MIT. However, Ivy Leagues would still be a crap shoot.
  21. Jul 1, 2014 #20

    I had most of that list when I was applying to undergrad schools 5 years ago - I was not top 5 in graduating class - we had a huge graduating class of high achievers. I didn't get into either of the ivys I applied to (Yale and Columbia) nor Stanford. Didn't apply to MIT or Caltech cause I knew I had no shot. And honestly, where I went has been really good for me, so I have 0 regrets. It was probably a better experience.

    Those criterion would not guarantee selection to Caltech. Did you see the link I posted above? 25% of admitted students had perfect 800 sat math. 25% had 35 or 36 act composite. One of my good friends with a perfect 36 was rejected to MIT. I would speculate that a 4 on the AP calculus BC would absolutely kill any hope of acceptance when everyone is such high caliber.

    They look at much more than just grades. You can't put a % chance of admission on someone by just looking at their academic achievement anymore. I have no idea how they decide...
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