What are colleges like MIT and Caltech looking for in applicants? Do you have to have a 4.0 GPA and a lot of activities?Answered
I am a junior in Florida who is looking into cybersecurity as a potential major, and I have always dreamed of attending a prestigious school such as MIT or Caltech. However, last year I had a rough patch regarding my grades due to some mental health troubles and stress from COVID. I took AP Physics 1 and could not understand the material, and therefore got an 84 as my transcript grade in that class, which dropped my unweighted GPA to a 3.86 along with a 89 in Precalculus Honors. I have always had straight A's in school before this, and it is upsetting that I have now ruined my GPA. This year, AP Biology and AP Calculus AB are worrying me because I currently have B's in those classes this quarter which I am hoping to fix. I am asking for advice on this because I am very aware that those that attend MIT or Caltech are the best of the best. From researching these colleges, I see that the average unweighted GPA of those that are accepted tend to be 3.95-4.0 and their SAT scores sit anywhere between the 1500s to a perfect score of 1600. I have considered other schools I could potentially attend if I do get rejected from either of my dream schools such as Rensselaer, NYU, UF, DePaul, UC Berkeley, and ERAU, however I would really like to have the best opportunity I can to attend either MIT or Caltech.
I would like to think that I have a decently strong collection of extracurricular activities that may help cushion my application. I serve as historian for my school's Model United Nations club, and I have served as an assistant chair and feedback staff for the past 2 MUN conferences that my school has run. I have won 3-4 awards at several MUN conferences as well. I also serve as the vice president for my school's sector of Chinese National Honor Society. I have over 150 volunteer hours and counting, and I partake in National Honor Society. Finally, I partake in Vex Robotics. These are my current extracurriculars, which I potentially will add to. Although not necessarily extracurriculars, I participated in the Duke TIP competition in 7th grade and earned state recognition. I have also been selected for the College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program.
This is all I can think of so far! I would really appreciate any help! If you need more information about my academics or other activities I will gladly provide it :)
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I'm sharing with you a few CollegeVine guidelines. Read them carefully and then decide if you are still going to apply to these schools.
In my humble opinion, MIT and Caltech admits are the quintessential highest achieving nerds, geeks, and naturally gifted admit picks in the entire college admissions process. They can quote the first 100 digits of Pi, solve a rubrics cube in under 30 seconds, do complex math in their head, multitask and program code while playing beer pong and for fun will hack your electrified skateboard to go 40 mph.
Academically, most of them took AP Calculus before 11th grade and have taken 2 or more advanced-level maths. They walk in cold on SAT or ACT test day, and get a 1560 or 35 or better without studying. And they play Division III sports for fun and comradery.
MIT and Caltech admit are not spikey, they have full-grown horns coming out of their heads. Admits commit to going to MIT because they want to, not because they really want to go to an Ivy. With a 76% yield, 3/4 go as their first choice just like Harvard or Standard admits.
Caltech is a much smaller school, about 5 times smaller so the incoming freshman class is only about 230 students. They don't even have dorm buildings, students live in large on-campus residential houses similar to Lawrenceville boarding school houses. Caltech applicants usually also apply to Stanford as their first choice and UC Berkekley as their safety. And many apply to MIT and Ivys as well. Their 41% yield implies that only 2 out 5 admits really want to be there. In most cases, they'd rather be at a larger college campus with more social opportunities and access to other coursework. I would call CalTech the MINI-MI of MIT. They both have the same sorts of cohorts but MIT is more coveted because you can take any Harvard class and also they are in a consortium with Wellesley the women's college, so you can take any classes there as well. And if you are interested in dating Wellesley women, there are a good number of social soirees and dances to accommodate that.
These schools reject on average 95% of applicants so they are far-reaches for most applicants. Who am I not to encourage everyone to take their shot? So take your shot but have a Plan B and Plan C as well.
If you are interested in cybersecurity, there are plenty of excellent college choices that will be less difficult to scale to get in.
-Carnegie Mellon University
-Stevens Institute of Technology
-University of Illinois
-University of Indiana
Colleges such as MIT and Caltech do require a high GPA and test score in addition to many EC activities. If your GPA is a 3.89, then you can finish out the year with a 3.9 if you stay focused and diligent in your studies. Have you taken the SAT/ACT? I would highly suggest taking either or both in your junior and senior years. Also, getting a degree from an extremely prestigious university does not guarantee better job opportunities than getting a degree from a slightly less prestigious university. Your GPA is more than satisfactory, but for a school like MIT, you will need to have an impressive academic resume to be accepted. You do have more than enough EC activities, and this will increase your admission chances, and I would say you have a good chance of being accepted at either of your dream schools, but still, you need to have a plan B and C. One more note is that the reason your GPA dropped was that you took AP classes. Colleges will definitely notice how many AP classes you take. Good luck, hope this helps.
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