Is CalTech Ivy League? Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

Founded in 1891 as a preparatory and vocational school, the California Institute of Technology has made a name for itself as a premier American institution devoted to the instruction of pure and applied sciences.

Caltech’s six academic divisions are housed on the school’s 124-acre campus, located northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The campus boasts resources such as the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology, and the Warren and Katherine Schlinger Laboratory for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. 

The school is largely self-sufficient, thanks to a 1.3 MW solar array that produces approximately 1.6 GWh.

Thanks to its advancements in science and engineering, Caltech enjoys an endowment of $2.83 billion. With that money, the school embarks on ambitious research projects, including its over 50 centers and institutions. 

One of the most important projects is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), one of five NASA facilities on Caltech’s campus. At the JPL, researchers create spacecraft that have flown to the sun and every planet. The lab created a camera that sits at the edge of the solar system to examine Earth. 

Thanks to its research focus, Caltech has been associated with winners of every major science award. 76 Nobel laureates have been faculty, partners, or alumni with Caltech, including chemist Linus Pauling –  the only individual in history to win two unshared prizes.

Additionally, Caltech associates have included four Fields Medalists, six Turing Award winners, eight Crafoord Laureates, and 71 winners of the United States National Medal of Science or Technology. 56 non-emeritus faculty members have been elected to one of the United States National Academies, including four Chief Scientists of the U.S. Air Force. 

But despite all of these achievements, one question remains: Is Caltech an Ivy League school? 

Let’s look closer to find out.

Is CalTech an Ivy League School?

California Institute of Technology, Kerckhoff Laboratory of the Biological Sciences, CC BY-SA 3.0

CalTech is not an Ivy League school.

Believe it or not, the Ivy League isn’t an academic organization. Rather, the Ivy League is a Division I NCAA athletic conference. Founded in 1958, the Ivy League consists of eight private research schools, including Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. 

Because it includes some of the oldest and most respected schools in the country, the “Ivy League” has become shorthand for “good school.” When people ask if a particular college or university is in the Ivy League, they aren’t asking about its upcoming football schedule; they’re asking if the school has impressive teachers and if it graduates exceptional students. 

Except for Cornell University (formed in 1865), all of the Ivy League schools were established before the founding of the United States. More importantly, the Ivy League schools boast the highest academic standards, a devotion to research, and a long line of distinguished alumni. It’s no wonder that the Ivies have some of the most selective admissions standards in the world. 

As our introduction shows, Caltech matches these schools on nearly every level. The school has been involved with some of the world’s greatest scientists and remains at the forefront of research developments. By every standard, Caltech is one of the best schools in the world, even if it is not recognized as an Ivy League school.

Why Is CalTech Often Confused As an Ivy League School?

Because people use Ivy League as a shorthand description of good colleges, many assume that Caltech is an Ivy League School. They make this assumption not because they’re big fans of the Beaver’s athletic achievements, but because they know that Caltech is an excellent school. 

So while it’s not part of the same athletic conference, Caltech matches up with Ivy League schools by nearly every metric.

Caltech is an extremely competitive school, one of the most elite in the world. The school only accepts 6.4% of those who apply for entry, making it more selective than Ivy League Cornell. In fact, that rate fits nicely among the other Ivies, including Dartmouth’s 6.2% acceptance rate and Penn’s 5.7% acceptance rate. 

Another important element to Ivy League schools is their spending. With an endowment of $2.8 billion and $400 million in research expenditures, Caltech sits among the 50 richest schools in the United States. It doesn’t spend quite as much as Harvard or Yale, but it isn’t far below Dartmouth and Brown. 

When you look at what the school has done with that money, winning awards and pushing to the forefront of scientific innovation, it’s easy to see how Caltech earned its reputation. 

Is that enough to put Caltech in the Ivy League? No, it isn’t. None of these states put the school into the Ivy League athletic conference. 

But it does make it easy to understand why so many people assume the school belongs among the world’s best. As these statistics demonstrate, Caltech has all of the prestige, history, and spending power of the Ivy League. It deserves to belong on any list of the best schools in the world.

California Institute of Technology: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

CalTech, Broad center, CC BY-SA 3.0

As indicated by its very low 6.4% acceptance rate, Caltech is one of the world’s most selective schools, just like the Ivies. 

Caltech has to be selective to continue its tradition of excellence and maintain its rankings. gives the school an A+ grade, citing its academics, value, and its diversity. The site lists the school as the #1 spot for several lists, including Hardest Colleges to Get Into in America, Best Small Colleges in America, and Best Colleges for Physics in America. 

Coming in tied with Johns Hopkins and Northwestern University for the #9 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings, Caltech stands alongside the Ivy League schools. The site also places the school at #5 for computer science, #5 for best undergraduate engineering programs, and #2 in undergraduate research programs. concurs, placing the institute #8 on its list of best American Colleges, and giving it special commendation as the second-best school in the West, and #8 on the lists of Private Colleges and Research Universities. 

The Washington Monthly, which ranks schools not according to money but by service, research, and social mobility, places the school at #57, noting the school’s excellent research programs and high earnings for alumni. 

While these numbers might be awe-inspiring, it’s essential to put them in context. The various scales that these publications use to develop their rankings cover everything a college does, and not all of that will be important to you. 

As you consider the California Institute of Technology as a possible choice, look at the special commendations these publications identify, especially for research and technology. If you desire these aspects in your higher education, Caltech may rank even higher for you than Ivy League schools. 

How to Get Into California Institute of Technology

Unsurprisingly, it isn’t easy to get into the California Institute of Technology. To maintain its reputation as an elite school, Caltech demands the most from its students and therefore accepts only the best of its thousands of applicants. 

Students accepted into Caltech have an average GPA of 4.19, which means that they prefer straight-A students, many of whom take difficult AP and college-level courses in high school. 

Furthermore, while the ACT and SAT are now optional, admission counselors like to see high scores on both tests. The University expects SAT scores around 1545, with reading scores around 750 and Math scores around a very difficult 795. On the ACT, students have an average score of 36. 

While those numbers are important, admission counselors at Caltech take a holistic approach to choosing students. 

According to their admissions website, the Institute wants to see applicants who “value the ability to boldly pursue their interests in STEM while immersed in an intimately-sized community of scholars.” 

In other words, the school wants students who aren’t just intelligent and passionate, but who also know how to collaborate and be part of a community. 

One way to show that commitment to community and collaboration is participation in extracurricular activities. These activities can develop not only experience but also help secure letters of recommendation to the school. 

While recommendations and extracurriculars are not a replacement for bad grades, they can make the difference for those falling a bit short on their GPAs and standardized test scores. These elements allow applicants to put their studies into perspective and give the school a chance to see the whole person beyond mere numbers. 

Recap: CalTech Is Not an Ivy League University. However, It Is One of the Best Universities in the Nation

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

If you have your heart set on an Ivy League school because you like the title, then Caltech is not the school for you. It does not belong to the Ivy League athletic conference and therefore is not an Ivie.

However, if you prioritize a rich learning experience, being part of an elite group of scientists, and working in some of the world’s best resources, then you should certainly consider the California Institute of Technology. Not only does the school rank alongside the Ivies on nearly every academic metric, but it also has attributes that not even Harvard or Yale can offer. 

As a highly selective school, Caltech features an elite student body taught by some of the most decorated teachers in the nation. Few institutions can match Caltech’s resources, which it operates in partnership with NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and more. 

And if athletics are deeply important to you, then Caltech won’t disappoint in that regard. The Caltech Beavers compete in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, track and field, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s water polo. 

So, while the California Institute of Technology is not an Ivy League school, it competes with those institutions in nearly every regard, and even besting them in some categories. Those who want a top-notch STEM education in a school at the forefront of research and innovation, then they can do no better than Caltech, not even in the Ivy League.