CC to Caltech Transfer - how?
First of all, let me apologize that this post has become so super long.
I'm an international student from Germany and I'm currently attending a California Community College (just finished my 1st semester). My goal is to transfer to Caltech as a EE/CS major, it's definitely my top choice. I know it's probably too early but I want to ask you for advice on what I should do to maximize my chances. I want to start as early as possible, because after visiting, Caltech has become my dream school.
Here's something about me:
- Worked my whole life with Computers, Programming since I was 12, first programming job with 15/16 (Webdesign Company), 1-2 year part-time programming job in addition to high school. Then I went to the US and started College.
- Some Networking Certifications (CCNA/CCDA/ (got them when I was 16) almost CCNP, plan to be CCIE when I transfer)
- Computer Science Tutoring since 1st semester for all CS classes at my College, even though I haven't taken any CS classes there. I plan to it until I transfer, because I need the money.
- Working with CS Professors at my CC on different projects right from the beginning.
- I plan to have a 3.8-3.9 GPA when I transfer.
- I won't take summer classes but I will take a full course load (18 units) and work simultaneously during fall/spring. I want to do something else during summer because I want to demonstrate a rigorous course load.
- Right now (summer) I'm volunteering at a big university (CS research) and I'm also tutoring summer classes at my CC and doing some (very easy) work for a CS prof.
Now my questions:
- How important is the GPA? Is there a big difference between 3.8 and 4.0 or doesn't it really matter?
- What kind of recommendations should I aim for? I mean, how important is it from WHOM I get the recommendation(s)? Does admissions actually do research on the people who wrote them? I want to take my Physics series (3 classes) with a professor who worked as a postdoc at Caltech and got his PhD from Yale. I might sacrifice other things to get an outstanding rec. from him. Does it even matter where he went to school or would the same rec. from a random Prof. just be as good?
- Do you think it's even a good idea to get these Networking Certifications (CCIE)? It may not only take a lot of my time, but also a lot of my money (more than $1500 for the CCIE exam/lab as far as I know). I want to specialize in Networking/Security and I know I want to get them eventually, I'm just not sure if NOW is the right time for it (because I only have limited time and I want to do the most effective things to improve my transfer chances). How are these certifications seen by admissions (do they even know them?)?
- I'm volunteering to do research right now, but I know Caltech probably wants to se my OWN research/developments/algorithms/whatever. I have no idea how to get started with that, so this one is not really a question, but if someone has some tips/recommendations/advice how to get into these things, I would really appreciate that.
- How does starting my own small business look? I have a small business plan and an (almost) finished website for a German internet company (could possible be extended to other countries). I haven't continued working on it for over 6 months now. It is totally unrelated to my major EE/CS, except that I designed and programmed it myself. It will be a small company, only a part-time project. I just wonder if finishing it is worth my time or not.
- Any recommendations on what else to do during summer/break? Research volunteering? Tutoring at CC? Go back to Germany and work there for summer (maybe I can an go back to my old company, they are looking for people to give seminars and bootcamps for certain topics)? IT Certifications?
- Will being international hurt me or benefit me in some way?