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The California Institute of Technology

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Caltech only admits peopleQuite BrightNeuroscience/Cognitive Science
Caltech only admits people who can handle the coursework. That said, it's been a rewarding experience so far. People oscillate between high stress and overwhelming happiness. It's what happens when you love science and go to a school that lets you act on it.
1st Year Female -- Class 2013
Collaboration/Competitive: A+, Innovation: B
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BrightEngineering Department
Hard work. Thin on girls. But I'll be better off in the long run.And some fantastic stuff happens here.
1st Year Male -- Class 2009
Collaboration/Competitive: A+, Social Life: C
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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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