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Transferring from CA CC to Caltech/MIT

  1. Jun 20, 2012 #1
    Hello I don't post often here but I'm an avid reader of the board. Well I'll get to the point. I will be a CA CC student this coming fall. I was wondering what one would need to do besides the obvious, (getting high grades on science/math classes) in order to increase one's odds of being accepted to Caltech or MIT? I know these schools have super low transfer rates but what should I do to even stand a chance? I will probably be applying as Physics major if that makes a difference. Thank you for your suggestions/help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 20, 2012 #2
    I don't know.

    I reckon the "mini essays" are important. Try finding out what they are ("tell us about your world", "a significant challenge you faced and how you got past it", "what do you like to do for fun?") and think about them a little. They aren't too hard. From what I understand (reading posts on here and the admissions' blog), a lot of those questions are asked specifically to check for some things. People there tend to overwork themselves and they don't like that. (apparently)

    Other than that, there's not much else within your control.

    If by CA, you mean California, then you definitely aren't screwed if you can't get into MIT. The UCs are meant to be great.
  4. Jun 20, 2012 #3
    Yeah I meant California. I'm planning to also do a TAG (transfer admission guarantee) to UCSD, UCSB or Davis just in case I don't get in into my top choices which will most likely happen! What UC is best to study Physics at?
  5. Jun 20, 2012 #4
  6. Jun 21, 2012 #5
    Make sure you complete at least one Math subject SAT II and either Bio, Chem, or Physics subjects SAT IIs in addition to your SATs. They must be recent scores (no older than 3 years or you'll have to re-take them) in order to be eligible for application to MIT. Other than that, the transfer process is relatively similar to other schools.

    Caltech doesn't require any formal testing scores, but they do require you take an entrance exam which lasts approximately ~7 hours and covers the topics of maths/physics. AFAIK there are no sample tests or leaked exams going around on the internet, but if there are then they're probably difficult to find. But the rumour is that they are heavily proof-based. Caltech's transfer statistics say only about 5 out-of-state transfer students are admitted each year out of the entire pool, so you will have to work very hard (not that you won't have to for MIT).
  7. Jun 21, 2012 #6


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    Half the students who get into CalTech each year as freshmen have already done original research in their field with a college professor or at a national lab. They did this while in high school. To get in as a transfer, you need to have even more going for you than a freshman applicant. Almost all their own physics students will be involved in research projects by their junior year. They don't want to take any students who are further behind.
  8. Jun 21, 2012 #7
    You also need to self study. I went to CC. Calculus, gen chem, etc at CC will very likely not prepare you for caltech courses. They are hard.
  9. Jun 21, 2012 #8
    Yeah that what I was having on mind. The courses the teach at my cc college are all on basic computation but I already know that (did some self study). Do you think it would help to pick up both volumes of Apostol's and study them thoroughly?

    Regarding research. Does anyone know of any opportunities for cc students? Every REU I've looked up on the net requires you to be enrolled at a 4 year university. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough.
  10. Jun 21, 2012 #9
    It wouldn't hurt. Or Spivak. Spivak is incredible. Caltech has their math classes online, do their problem sets too.

    This varies a ton. For whatever reason, my CC had research opportunities there through the chemistry department, but you may have better luck just contacting professors at a local university.
  11. Jun 21, 2012 #10
    I know our community college works specifically with the government to give us grants for research and the PI of our school selects students to do research over the summer. Other than that you don't really have too many options for REUs, but I'd suggest looking into research that isn't limited to undergraduate students. Don't know how much luck you'd have in those areas, but it's worth a shot
  12. Jun 21, 2012 #11
    I've been doing some research and I found some year-long opportunities at the NASA AIMES facility located in Mountain View CA, I live on Mountain View also. I will apply to it and see if I get into it. It's worth a try.
  13. Jun 22, 2012 #12
    I'm a California CC student as well, planning applying to Cal Tech for transfer. Here is my response to your situation from what I have learned:

    Regarding research: there are plenty of opportunities for CC students all over the country/world... just dig and dig around for these opportunities via REU and SURF. Get in touch with your faculty at the community college or even a local university. They can have a lot of information for you in this matter, if not actual opportunities.

    Regarding the caltech transfer exam:
    Caltech has a list of subjects/topics that are on the test for both the physics and math portions. This is supposedly taken from their course curriculum. You can find all of their curricula for their classes under respective department web pages. I suggest self studying this material and looking at the homework problems, mid-terms, and final exams posted on the course pages. Most of them even have lecture notes.

    As far as the test goes, from what I've heard, it is indeed mostly proof based. However, I heard from someone who took the test that there are some demanding computations involved. Since no calculators are allowed during the test, they assumed that the numbers would be small/manageable. They said that some of the numbers were incredibly large and difficult to deal with. Based on this, I've started doing all of my homework without a calculator (I use it to check answers), which is probably good practice considering that you won't be allowed one on tests if you do transfer to Cal Tech.

    I also heard that the entrance exam is the most important factor regarding your transfer admission. If you don't pass it, they will not look at ANY of your application... it goes straight to the trash. As far as the rest of your application goes, I've heard conflicting information: some people say that you need tons of research experience, accomplishments, extracurricular activities, etc. in addition to a high exam score while others have stated that if you score well on the exam, they will be pretty interested in you as long as the rest of your application looks decent (as long as your essays are good and well written). I've heard the next biggest factor is actually your recommendations. If you can get physics professors, faculty, or those employed in the field (or whatever your desired major is) to recommend you whole-heartedly (ESPECIALLY if they teach at or graduated from Cal Tech themselves) you will be much more desirable.

    The other thing that seems very important: take as many science classes from as diverse of a selection as you can. The prestigious schools seem to value taking several semesters each of Bio, Chem, Phys, and Math as possible. It also seems that the more foreign language you take, the better (for instance, I believe Princeton requires 4 semesters of foreign language).

    If you do get accepted into Cal Tech, it seems most transfers do not transfer in at the Junior level. You will likely have to "retake" classes due to their demanding curriculum. So it may take you longer to graduate. Just what I have heard.

    I hope this helps.
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