How to Apply as a First-Year Applicant

If you have not yet earned a high school diploma (this includes students in high school/college dual enrollment programs) or have not enrolled in college courses for credit after graduating from high school, you will be considered as a first-year applicant.

The following sections list everything you will need—both academically and in terms of forms and information—in order to apply to Caltech.

Academic Preparation Checklist

(If you have not taken all the listed courses, you should at least be enrolled in them at the time of your application.)

  • 4 years of math (including calculus)
  • 1 year of physics
  • 1 year of chemistry
  • 3 years of English (4 years recommended)
  • 1 year of U.S. history/government (waived for international students)

Please note that we do not grant credit for AP, IB, A Level, Pre-U, or college courses taken prior to enrollment. Each student accepted to Caltech will take a math and physics placement exam prior to enrolling. Based on the results of these exams, you may place out of courses and be granted credit for those courses.

First-Year Application Requirements

  • Common Application or the Coalition Application with Caltech Questions - Caltech does not have a preference between the Common Application or the Coalition Application. We advise that you use the best platform for your application process.
  • $75 application fee or fee waiver (Common App waiver, Coalition Application waiver, or Caltech-specific waiver)
  • SAT with Optional Essay or ACT with Writing (official scores from testing agency)
  • SAT Subject Test in Mathematics Level 2 (official scores from testing agency)
  • 1 SAT science subject test: biology (ecological), biology (molecular), chemistry, or physics (official scores from testing agency)
  • 1 math or science teacher evaluation
  • 1 humanities or social sciences teacher evaluation
  • Secondary School Report
  • Academic transcripts

Coalition Application - Available now: Caltech is proud to be an inaugural member of the new Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. The Coalition comprises 90 of America's leading colleges and universities, and is dedicated to making the college search process more accessible for students across the nation. A suite of online college planning tools will be available - completely free of charge for all high school students - and students applying to Caltech for fall 2017 can use the Coalition application. More information on the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success can be found at Caltech will continue to accept the Common Application; we will not have a preference between the Coalition Application or the Common Application.

Additional Recommendations: In addition to the two required teacher evaluations, you are welcome to submit an evaluation from a mentor or supervisor who knows you in a different context. If you have published a scientific research paper, you may submit the full paper to Caltech. Instructions on how to submit these papers will be included in your application confirmation email.

Testing Policy: ALL required tests (listed above) must be completed prior to the application deadline. The Admissions Committee reserves the right to withdraw the applications of students who do not submit all of our required testing.

New/redesigned SAT policy: Caltech will require the essay portion of the new/redesigned SAT (first offered in spring 2016). Those applying for the Fall 2017 start term will be able to submit either the current SAT w/writing or the new SAT w/essay. Applicants applying to Fall 2018 should submit the new SAT w/essay.  Keep in mind that we will continue to accept the ACT w/writing.

Additional Requirements for International First-Year Applicants

You must apply as an international student if you are not a U.S. citizen or if you do not have permanent residency status at the time of submitting an application to Caltech. All of the above checklist items apply to international applicants except where noted; please have all teacher evaluations and course names on transcripts translated into English. In addition, international students should supply the following:

  • TOEFL scores - Required of all international citizens unless 1) your native language is English; or 2) you have studied for two or more years in a school where English is the language of instruction. The latter must be completed prior to the application deadline. We do not accept the IELTS or any other substitute for the TOEFL requirement.
  • International Financial Aid Statement of Intent - When an international citizen applies for freshman admission, the application prompts questions to confirm his/her understanding of our financial aid policy and thus confirm his/her financial aid intent towards Caltech. Caltech is need-sensitive for international citizens because the total amount of financial aid funds is limited for these students, and we remain committed to meeting the demonstrated need of all admitted students. Click here to download the full extent of our financial aid policy for international citizens.

We accept applications from students who have completed the approved curriculum provided by their home countries. These include, but are not limited to, the IGCSE, O, AS, and A Level curriculums; Cambridge Pre-U, AP, IB, and local public options may be considered as satisfying high-school course requirements. The most competitive international applicants whose schools offer the IGSCE curriculums usually present three A Level exams (the physics exam is required) with grades of at least an A or B. Competitive applicants whose schools offer the IB curriculum will have scores of 6 or 7 on their IB exams, including their "predicted" grades.

Additional Information for Homeschooled Applicants

Our Homeschooled Student Fact Sheet has information specific to homeschooled applicants about how to navigate the application process.