Caltech Transfer Acceptance Rate, GPA, and Requirements

Caltech is the ideal collegiate location for transfer students who want to work hard and play hard. 

The STEM-focused school joins the ranks of elite institutions like MIT and Stanford and is located in Pasadena, California, where it is close to numerous popular outdoor attractions.

At Caltech, most students will attend classes with 20 or fewer students, though the required first term courses seat up to 200 in a lecture hall. 

While a 3:1 student-to-faculty ratio is appealing in and of itself, students also have myriad opportunities to collaborate with Caltech’s world-renowned engineering faculty members.

Caltech students maintain a course load of 45-51 credits per each 10-week term – this translates to three hours of class time and approximately six hours of homework each week per course. 

Typically, Caltech students are enrolled in 5-6 classes per term (fall, winter, and spring). Students also have the option to enroll in a summer research term.

Potential transfers should not be overwhelmed by the course schedule, which deviates from more traditional semester schedules. 

There is still plenty of time for students to enjoy Pasadena and get involved in extracurricular activities; in fact, 80% of Caltech undergraduate students participate in some form of athletics and more than 65% can play at least one instrument!

The undergraduate population of under 1000 students has over 100 club options to choose from, including organizations related to philanthropy, sustainability, and food and beverage.

Caltech fun even drifts into the mischievous on occasion – the school is the only university to be listed twice on the Museum of Hoaxes’ list of the top 10 college pranks of all time!

In one hilarious example, Caltech students traveled over 2,500 miles to land on MIT’s campus and orchestrate a laser show on the school’s tallest building. 

Not stopping there, they lifted a massive Caltech blimp into the rafters of the MIT Great Dome and passed out 1,000 free t-shirts to newly admitted first-year students, which read “MIT” on the front and “Because Not Everyone Can Go To Caltech” on the back.

Cheeky and fun shenanigans aside, Caltech’s campus provides an intimate location for students to gain an outstanding education in STEM-focused fields and work alongside experts to develop groundbreaking solutions for some of the world’s most complex problems. 

Reading ahead, we’ll discuss Caltech’s acceptance rate, minimum GPA requirement, and standard application materials, followed by important deadlines for those intending to transfer to the prestigious university.

Caltech Transfer Acceptance Rate

Antony-22, Dabney Hall Caltech, CC BY-SA 4.0

Caltech historically accepts 2% of transfer applicants – a rate that is consistent with its incoming first-year student enrollment rate of 2.8%.

Transfer applicants can be accepted to Caltech up until their senior year of college, at which point they are no longer eligible. 

Prospective transfers must have finished their secondary school education and earned course credit at a college or university they are enrolled in outside of Caltech.

In a fairly recent development, Caltech is currently offering transfer applicants from students whose post-secondary education has been disrupted by the war in Ukraine. 

This is an atypical situation, as the Undergraduate Admissions Office usually does not accept requests for exchange students, and the priority for admission is first-come, first-serve.

There are no specific course requirements that transfer applicants must fulfill, though successful applicants demonstrate excellence in STEM-related courses outlined in Caltech’s Core Curriculum. 

Strong applicants should have received credit in subjects like quantum mechanics, calculus, and statistical physics.

Application Requirements & GPA

CalTech Library, Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library at Caltech, CC BY-SA 3.0

There is no minimum GPA requirement for Caltech transfer students. The majority of admitted applicants maintain a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale and perform within the top 5-10% of their class.

Potential transfers should also note that Caltech currently has a three-year moratorium on their standardized test requirement. 

Transfers applying for the fall 2023 semester should not send their SAT or ACT scores, for the admissions review committee will not even consider them.

All transfer applicants must submit eight required items, and international citizen applicants have three additional materials to share. Continue reading to learn more about the admission requirements, including specific details about the supplemental essay prompts.

The first essential item is the Coalition Application, which includes the Supplemental Application Essays. While the Coalition Application asks students if they have any family members who have attended or been employed by Caltech, the school does not use that information to make an admissions decision. 

Second, applicants may submit the $75 application fee or the fee waiver. In some instances, paying the fee can create financial difficulty for an applicant’s family. 

If this is the case, the transfer applicant should visit the Fee Waiver section of their MyCoalition Profile, then check all relevant criteria boxes (i.e., “I have received a College Board fee waiver”). 

From that point, applicants can view a list of all schools – including Caltech – that will waive the application fee. 

What makes a transfer applicant eligible for a fee waiver? They are eligible if they qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program or a Pell Grant. 

Additionally, they may receive a waiver from the College Board, ACT, or NACAC. If they are participating in a TRIO program, they may also waive the $75 fee.

The third and fourth required items for application review are the Entrance Examination Self-Proctor Form and the mathematics and physics entrance examinations. Potential students will take these assessments independently – thus, on an honor code – after submitting their Coalition Application.

Students should expect to spend approximately eight total hours completing both entrance examinations, though they do not need to be completed on the same day. 

When signing the Self-Proctor Form, transfer applicants promise that they only viewed the exam within the time frame of four hours that they completed it. 

Additionally, they state that they refrained from using calculators, textbooks, notes, or any reference materials while fulfilling the entrance exam requirement. 

The fifth requirement stipulates two evaluations from college faculty members who specialize in STEM fields. 

Transfer applicants may also elect to submit the third evaluation from a mentor or employer who can attest to their qualities and aptitudes in a context outside of STEM.

One important thing to note – there is no official form for the third evaluation, so completers should be sure to include the transfer applicant’s full name and birth date within the letter. 

Sixth on the list is the Transfer Report Form, which can be found within the Coalition Application. 

Once an applicant begins their Coalition Application, they will receive instructions for downloading this item and sharing it with a current university dean or registrar for completion. 

The last two items transfer applicants must submit are transcripts – an official set from all colleges or universities they have attended, and an official set from all secondary schools they attended. 

International applicants will need to submit the equivalent of a transcript for grades 9-12.

Now, let’s talk about the essays. In addition to the standard essays within the Coalition Application, Caltech transfer applicants must also respond to four short-answer prompts.

The first essay prompt asks the transfer applicant to discuss an experience where they failed, and we advise focusing on how the perceived failure led to a later success or lesson learned. 

The second prompt inquires about a situation or story beyond the classroom that piqued the applicant’s curiosity and compelled them to initiate self-directed research – it may be wise to connect this experience to a desire to attend Caltech and contribute to their community.

The third prompt seeks to understand a transfer applicant’s experience of collaborating with a small group of peers regarding a shared mission and to elaborate on how they will work with their future Caltech colleagues. 

Finally, the last prompt encourages applicants to share details about any undergraduate or extracurricular research experience conducted under the direction of a college professor. 

Caltech’s short answer responses must be composed using 100-250 words. With so few words to capture a broad range of experience, transfer applicants must demonstrate focus, clarity, and self-awareness in their responses.

As previously mentioned, international transfer applicants must submit three additional materials. The first of those items is proof of English language proficiency and is required of all international citizens whose native language is not English, or who have not studied for more than two years in an English language-based school.

To fulfill this requirement, international transfer applicants may share results from the Duolingo English Test of the TOEFL web-based test – the latter option should be completed before the application deadline, which we will share in the section that follows.

The last two required materials for international Caltech transfer applicants are the International Financial Aid Statement and Translation

The former simply asks applicants to confirm that they understand they are ineligible for need-based financial aid. 

The latter requires all application materials to be submitted in English – if printed in a language other than English, they must be translated by an official translator (not the applicant).

Caltech Transfer Deadline

Transfer applicants have until February 15 to apply for the fall semester. Caltech only grants admission to those applying to commence their studies in the fall term and does not grant admission for the spring or winter terms.

From that point, transfer applicants have until March 22 to submit the results of their entrance examinations. 

As of April 2022, Caltech is accepting applications from potential transfer students whose post-secondary education has been hampered by the war in Ukraine. 

There is no current deadline for these applications, which will be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Ukrainian refugees who were admitted to a university in Ukraine in the fall of 2022 or in their first year of study when the war began may apply as first-year students. 

Ukrainian transfer applicants may self-report their university classes and grades on the Coalition Application and upload an official copy of their transcript, if it is available. 

Caltech is also waiving the letter of evaluation requirement for Ukrainian refugees, though these transfer applicants may still submit them.

What Is the Decision Date for Caltech?

Admission notifications for transfers are usually distributed in early May of each year. Applicants will receive one of two outcomes: acceptance or denial. 

There is no waitlist at Caltech, which at least gives transfer applicants a definitive answer so that they can devote their energy to their next most preferred school.

Transfer applicants who receive a denial notification are also not permitted to go through an appeals process.

That being said, denied transfer applicants are more than welcome to reapply for the subsequent fall admission term if they desire. Successfully admitted transfer applicants have until June 1 to share their decision to transfer to Caltech.

Once an admitted transfer student replies that they will be attending Caltech, they may wonder which of their courses will receive credit at their new school. Caltech faculty members review each course that a transfer applicant submits for credit on a case-by-case basis.

In the scenario where the faculty review committee is unable to determine the quality of work taken from an outside institution, the admitted transfer student may be asked to complete an additional examination

Deciding Whether You Should Transfer to Caltech

Many students make the decision to transfer to a different college based on financial need. 

Those interested in attending Caltech will be pleased to know that the institution meets 100% of all demonstrated financial need.

Caltech also offers The 3/2 Program, where students in their junior year at a small list of liberal arts colleges may apply to transfer to Caltech, reside at Caltech for two consecutive years, and complete all graduation requirements. 

These students will not only receive a BS from Caltech; additionally, they will receive a second bachelor’s degree from their original liberal arts school. 

Examples of participating colleges include Bowdoin in Maine, Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania, and Spelman in Georgia.

We previously mentioned that Caltech students benefit from close collaborations with faculty scientists and engineers. 

More than half of students start conducting laboratory research in their first year of study, and over 95% of students participate in some type of undergraduate research experience.

The opportunity to delve immediately into research may draw many potential Caltech transfers to apply – one such opportunity includes the chance to perform research at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is the only NASA facility managed by a U.S. university.

Outside of academics, many transfers are looking to attend school in a location that offers a thrilling collegiate experience. Pasadena, California – known as the City of Roses – is the perfect school locale for students who love the great outdoors.

Caltech students can often be found walking the beaches or surfing along the Pacific coast. There is an abundance of hiking trails that wind throughout the Angeles National Forest, and Caltech is also close to Topanga State Park, the Santa Monica Mountains, and Mount Baldy (where they can go skiing).

Other thrilling attractions like the Aquarium of the Pacific, exist within a one-hour drive of Caltech’s campus. Sites like the LA Zoo and Botanical Gardens and Museum of Contemporary Art are less than 15 minutes away. 

Some of the best amusement parks in the country are within two hours – imagine alternating weekends among Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Six Flags Magic Mountain! 

Those who prefer to stay closer to campus will find plenty of local treasures, including Old Pasadena. The area is at once historic and modern, boasting a handful of museums, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.

One thing is for sure – a Caltech student will never be bored in Pasadena!

RECAP: How to Apply As a Transfer Student to Caltech

All in all, there are eight required steps for potential Caltech transfer applicants to complete. The first two steps entail completing the Coalition Application (which houses the Supplemental Application Essays) and submitting the $75 application fee. 

Remember that eligible students may waive the fee based on demonstrated financial hardship.

Next up, it’s time to take the mathematics and physics entrance examinations! Since applicants will take these exams on an honor code, they will need to submit the Self-Proctor Form in addition to their examination results. 

Following those submissions, transfer applicants should focus on obtaining at least two letters of recommendation from previous or current college professors. Ideally, these contacts teach in a STEM-related field and can speak to the applicant’s aptitude in science, math, and engineering. 

Potential transfers may also ask a third contact to submit a letter of recommendation on their behalf, especially if they can speak to the applicant’s character outside of a STEM context.

The last three items are all forms that must be submitted on an applicant’s behalf by an accredited institution. 

First, the Transfer Report Form should be shared by a dean or registrar at the applicant’s current school. 

Second, one must share official transcripts from any colleges or universities they have attended before transferring to Caltech. 

Finally, they must also share their official high school transcripts.

Keep in mind that while there is a current moratorium on the consideration of standardized test scores, that policy is subject to change in the upcoming years. The best approach to gaining acceptance to Caltech is to continue demonstrating excellence in STEM-related classes and exhibiting a desire to contribute to an ever-growing body of research.