CalTech adds REA (replacing prior EA), extends test blind policy for 2 years

Interesting development. Can’t apply early to both Cal Tech and MIT anymore.


“In the last couple of years, Caltech’s applicant pool has more than doubled. However, lowering our admit rate is not a goal for Caltech,”

(Emphasis added by me)
I haven’t seen any other school say this, so kudos to Caltech.
So many other schools seem to be in a race to 0. :smirk:


Caltech is probably already more self-selective than any of its peers, but the large increases in applications in the last few years put a strain on its resources (particularly the greater involvement by its faculty in admissions, compared to its peers) “to read deeply and review all substantive materials provided in applications”, as it stated in this announcement. I suspect that the school, with its adoption of the new REA model, actually hopes to reduce the number of applicants, thus raising its admit rate (by my own estimate, Caltech admit rate last year, which it never announced, is around 3.5%, one of the lowest anywhere).

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I agree REA might result in a decreased number of apps, as would requiring a test score. But, I respect they don’t feel they need a test score to effectively evaluate applicants…which many schools’ AOs also believe.

If they are stretched too thin in admissions due to volume, CalTech could also hire external readers to read applications. It’s not difficult to train people to do that, nor do the readers get paid much money ($15-$25/hour). I expect they would have plenty of alumni interested in reading apps.

For some students the biggest bummer is they will have to choose between CalTech and MIT for an early app now. I wonder if CalTech has data showing they are losing more applicants to MIT than they would like?

What Caltech needs isn’t just more typical application readers. Caltech has greater involvement by its faculty in admission process than any of its peers, including MIT, because of the way it evaluates applications.

A large proportion of cross-admits to both MIT and Caltech tend to choose MIT for MIT’s greater selection of majors/courses and name recognition. That has always been the case and that’s the single biggest factor that made Caltech’s yield lower than its nearest peers (its yield last year was around 53-54%, compared to its peers’ 70-80%).


I didn’t know this. It definitely makes sense that they would like to decrease apps, and hiring outside readers wouldn’t necessarily help.

Wonder if MIT will follow suit. Makes sense to cull applications in early round to those most interested in the school.

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MIT’s stated purpose for EA is to spread the workload across a larger time frame, not use it as an indicator of level of applicant’s interest.

Because of that stated purpose, changing it to REA is unlikely to make sense for them.

Note that MIT has gone the opposite of Caltech with respect to SAT/ACT. But this may be due to factors like:

  • The minimum level of academic strength necessary for Caltech is so high that the SAT/ACT is basically irrelevant in determining whether an applicant has it.
  • Caltech applicants may be more self-selective, so that those who would get lower SAT/ACT scores do not apply in significant volumes there. I.e. there is probably less of a need there to use it as a quick way of eliminating no-hope applicants.

I think that this will increase Caltech’s yield rate by removing the applicants that got accepted to both but preferred MIT. It may actually decrease the overall admission rate. Less “errors” in the early round.

MIT is effectively a REA school by the actions of others. What other peer private school can you apply to in the early round?

Caltech’s yield in the early round will undoubtedly increase, but Caltech has stated that it will reserve most of the available spots for the regular round, so the overall yield probably isn’t going to rise enough to overcome the likely reduction in applications.

This really won’t make any impact on its competitiveness, especially since they will probably be admitting the type pool of students than previous years

Georgetown and Chicago come to mind, but probably not competing for same students, except some slice of UC.

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Caltech’s early admission approach will differ from that of MIT in another area: EA deferrals.

MIT, on the other hand, will defer most qualified EA applicants, other than the clear admits who tend to be highly hooked (athletes, international contest winners, etc.), to the regular round.

I.e. only the true borderline early applicants get deferred, which appears to be a relatively unusual practice, since it appears that most colleges with EA or ED defer most applicants, including those who (in the eyes of the admissions staff) are clear rejects. Stanford is another school that defers only a small number of early applicants.

What it means is that a deferral at Caltech or Stanford suggests being on the borderline, while a deferral at most other colleges with EA or ED could mean either borderline or clear reject, with clear reject usually being the much larger group.

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Think Northwestern also doesn’t defer.

While they both defer only a small number of early applicants, Caltech’s REA approach will probably be very different from that of Stanford too. Stanford REA highly favors strongly hooked applicants, but Caltech has publicly stated that it gives no preference to any group.

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That does not sound specific to REA, but more about how hooks matter much more to Stanford than Caltech, whether in REA or RD. That is likely required because the minimum academic strength to succeed in Caltech’s core / general education requirements is much higher than at Stanford or most other colleges, and is uncommon even among admits to the most selective colleges in general, so everything else in college admission credentials is reduced in importance compared to showing a very high level of academic strength. In contrast, Stanford and most other most selective colleges have so many applicants who can succeed academically there, so that they have the luxury of considering hooks and other aspects besides academic strength in admissions.

I agree with you on the rational behind Caltech’s approach. My point is that Standard’s REA admits (much more so than its RD admits) are dominated by strongly hooked applicants.

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The current decision to extend the testing moratorium to five years is supported by a rigorous internal analysis of the academic performance of the last seven undergraduate first-year cohorts, representing classes that matriculated before and after the moratorium went into effect. The study, conducted by members of the Caltech faculty supported by professional staff, indicates that standardized test scores have little to no power in predicting students’ performance in the first-term mathematics and physics classes that first-year students must take as part of Caltech’s core curriculum.

My guess is this won’t get much play by those who insist that on the necessity of requiring standardized tests.


@ucbalumnus has explained it well:

Additionally, mastery of calculus is required for applicants to Caltech (but not MIT):

Academic Preparation | Undergraduate Admissions.

Caltech admissions also highly value applicants who have demonstrated mastery of physics (even though it isn’t required because such courses/ECs are much less likely to be available to all high school students) as Caltech believes physics is fundamental to a STEM education.

In other words, nearly all Caltech freshmen have demonstrated higher degrees of proficiency in math and physics (the two courses where students’ performances were measured) than their standardized test scores would have or could have.