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The California Institute of Technology

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I graduated back in '02.BrightEngineering Department
I graduated back in '02. Caltech is one of those schools that looking back at your experience, you are quite fond of the uniqueness and zaniness of the experience, but during the time there, you longed to be elsewhere.

Almost everyone you will meet from 'tech will give their two cents about the social life there: a skewed male-female ratio, nerdy and eccentric students, etc. As far as the ratio goes, if you are a guy, you're going to be in for some tough times with the women for the next 4 years. All the desirable girls are usually picked up within the first 1/2 of freshman year, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves. My buddies and I were able to meet girls outside of school, however, since 'tech is within walking distance of PCC, and driving distance of UCLA. But all in all, on-campus dating is a nightmare, that not only creates frustration for the guys, but creates this weird social divide amongst the women that I cannot fully describe nor comprehend (This would be a good thesis topic for some of you sociology majors out there.

The rest of the partying that you would associate with any college environment is actually quite intact at Caltech. At least once every year, each "house" within campus will host a mega-party, complete with a custom-built structure that students will spend weeks of their academic term building. Also, expect friendly but nerdy conversation in whichever dorm you live in. I should stress that the dorm situation at Caltech is quite unique: each "house" at 'tech has a unique personality ( the hippie/druggie house, the sadistic house, the mostly christian house, the sporty house, etc.) that you will soon adopt as your own, whether you want to or not ( I was in the hippie/druggie). Once selected into one of these houses, a majority of the students will essentially confine themselves with this one group of people for the rest of their four years. So be careful about which house you choose to live in.

The type of people you'd meet as a student at Caltech are who I'd deem as the "outcasts" from your high school: the nerds, the hippies, the anti-socials, the quiet. Very rarely will you find the average dresses-trendy, basketball playing (if boy), wears a lot of makeup (if girl) student that comprises most larger universities. And I have a feeling that the admissions committee does this on-purpose; they select the unique applicants because they're usually the most creative.

And creativity is definitely a part of Caltech that you'd notice immediately. Students are allowed to draw "art" on their dorm rooms, and build weird structures for parties and senior puzzles, etc. And that's the single greatest social aspect about Caltech: that the administration supports the students both socially and academically to express themselves and foster new ideas.

You have a great amount of leeway at Caltech to do whatever you want, whenever you want. At Caltech, you are treated by the administration as a child by his hippie parents, with lots of care, attention, and freedom to find your own path. There's plenty of opportunities to do research, to take interesting classes without worrying about grades, and to take tests at home when YOU have time to do them. All of which is awesome. Now if only there were more girls here :).

Oh, one more thing. The classes are hard, but they teach you a lot. So be prepared to work your ass off, but get a world-class education because of it. You'll get treated with a lot of respect when you come out, too :)

4th Year Male -- Class 2002
Campus Aesthetics: A+, Social Life: D+
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Caltech offers excellent preparation for any field thatBright
Caltech offers excellent preparation for any field that requires qualitative thinking. Though the education is billed as science/math, a key aspect of Tech is that it teaches you how to think. How to innovate and think creatively. Professors ask you to write a computer program or design an experiment to figure something out. My friends are entrepreneurs or are in software, patent law, finance, as well as science. Until I went to medical school, I never picked up a scantron.

It's a small school, and you can do almost anything you want, for better or worse. This allows for some incredible opportunities. Also, there aren't any "gunners" at caltech; there are so few undergrads and everyone is doing his/her own thing that you don't compete against one another.Finally, the social life is what you make it. There's a quirky on-campus scene, which sucks compared to any other college, but has it's moments. Pasadena is a great city; you can take classes at Occidental or Art Center, which are incredibly. L.A. is accessible, with a car. But you won't have much time.

4th Year Male -- Class 1998
Faculty Accessibility: A+, Social Life: C-
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The reason I came to Caltech and theQuite BrightComputer Science
The reason I came to Caltech and the reason I stay is the atmosphere here. This is a community of people who are all trying to help one another. I can't count the number of times someone has put aside everything else to help me out of an academic bind.

My major doesn't have an increadible variety of classes, but I'm learning things here that I don't think I could get anywhere else. I've learned how to work with other people on projects, how to ask for help when I need it, how to give help to others, and how to approach and solve almost any problem I'm faced with. There have been countelss times I've read an assignment or test through for the first time and didn't have any idea what they were talking about or how to go about solving the problem. But Caltech has given me the skills I need to break it down, understand what needs to be done, research ways to do it, and then get it done. Caltech has definitely pushed me to my limits. There were times when I called home crying because I didn't think I could make it, but in the end I'm always amazed by what I've accomplished.

2nd Year Female -- Class 2006
Collaboration/Competitive: A+, Social Life: C+
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