How stressful is Caltech?

<p>I was curious to know 1) how competitive within the classrooms are the students taking Caltechs classes (in Biology)? 2) Usually how deep does the professor go in terms of course breadth in the sciences? </p>

<p>I am really interested in being a biology major, but I wasn't sure how hard it would be to maintain a high GPA (3.75+) at Caltech? </p>

<p>3) Also, can someone comment about the grade inflation/deflation? Being as a Bio/Biochem major, would some classes be capped for 'A's? Like, if a professor caps out his grade distribution by 15% A+'sA's/A-s, 45% B's, etc. For instance, if you have a 94 average, (but somehow in the top 20%), would you not get an 'A' in that class?</p>

<p>I asked the same question in different forums as I wish understand the nature of specific colleges, and what others think of it.</p>

<p>Are you interested going into medical school and that is why you have a specific GPA in mind? If that is the case, then you should read this thread on this forum</p>

<p><a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/california-institute-technology/577759-why-caltech-different-open-letter.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/california-institute-technology/577759-why-caltech-different-open-letter.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I am interested in going to medical school, and I have read the letter before. </p>

<p>The reason being is, I am interested in the Caltech/UC San Diego Medical scholars program. IF by a chance I do have the opportunity, I would like to know the atmosphere of Caltech if I do attend, hence the reason why I posted. (The specific GPA just shows the level of work I WOULD LIKE to perform even though I know the medical scholar program just requires a standard gpa of 3.5+)</p>

<p>I don't know anything about grade inflation or biology at Caltech, but I can say, based on anecdotal evidence from one friend of mine (who is one of the smartest kids I know) who just finished up his freshman year at Caltech, that you probably will not get much sleep. Again, I actually have no actual idea, and my sample size of one person is dangerously small.</p>

<p>My friend's son had a tough freshman year at Caltech also. He is very smart (the valedictorian , 800 math SAT kind of smart) and maybe a bit shy/nerdy but not excessively so. I thought his goal was to become some kind of scientific researcher one day. Anyway, his mom said he hadn't made many friends his first year and ate his meals alone in his room. He said the work was very challenging. He did get some kind of research position in California after his freshman year doing research. I know he'll be going back in the fall.</p>

<p>1) Almost everyone is competing with themselves, not with each other.
2) Most classes go pretty far in depth to their course material.</p>

<p>I don't know of any classes that cap the number of A's, B's, etc. I know in high school they talk about bell curve grading so that there are a very limited number of A's, but I've never seen or heard of that happening here. If you show through your homework and exams that you've earned an A in the class, you'll get an A. (This is usually easier said than done, and obviously depends on what the professor thinks is good enough for an A)</p>

<p>I find the comments that freshman year was tough to be curious. That definitely wasn't the case for me, freshman year was a total breeze, the later years were much tougher, especially third year. </p>

<p>Perhaps some departments structure their programs differently so the harder courses are earlier, but freshman year is mostly for the Core which was not tough at all in my opinion.</p>

<p>yeah right caltech is stressful. i can get an A+ in any high school math/science there is, why would caltech be any different</p>

<p>


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<p>Not sure if you are being provocative or you really mean it. Let me put this way, most students students in CalTech can get a A+ in any high school math/science class. So what does this make most of the students in the cohort group. Average.</p>

<p>ok, i was kind of joking. but what i really meant is that i've always seen math and science as concrete subjects and very easy to do well in, and i've never been challenged. I just want to understand HOW caltech courses are difficult. is it because they are fast paced, have difficult subject matter, or etc.? what do students need to do well there?</p>

<p>^^^^^
is it because they are fast paced, have difficult subject matter,</p>

<p>From what I understand it is fast paced, it is difficult subject matter as they go beyond what is normally taught in an undergraduate program, a lot of the stuff is proof based (as opposed to knowing how to plug in variables in a calculator) and hence requires a deep understanding of theory. Most other schools do not require that.</p>

<p>And to what I mentioned, you would be a part of a class that has some of the highest SAT scores in the nation. Teachers tend to adjust their class to the level their students are, and if all them are at high level the pace is different. </p>

<p>Never forget that the fellow students have an immense part in your learning experience. Students can learn a lot in party schools but the common (often wrong) perception is that party schools are not rigorous as students there are not very academically motivated. No one would ever consider CalTech a party school</p>

<p>I will agree with compucomp that not everyone finds frosh year terribly difficult, especially if you don't take analytical physics. However, by the middle of sophomore year, pretty much everyone I know has been challenged quite a bit by at least some of their classes.</p>

<p>sic_infit, most people here were like you in high school- took all the AP courses they could, and didn't necessarily find them terribly challenging. Caltech courses move much faster and expect you to solve much much harder problems. In many high school courses, you learn techniques, and then you apply that technique to solve a problem- and it's usually pretty clear what technique to use. In many courses at Caltech, you'll learn a bunch of different techniques, then have to combine them in clever and non-obvious ways to solve problems. Typical sets (depending on the area) have 5-8 problems, and take 5-10 hours to finish (if you're lucky).</p>

<p>Does Caltech have something similar to MIT's Opencourseware? OCW has practice sets and exam questions, and I'm just wondering if this is what's comparable to Caltech work.</p>

<p>Yes, I would say MIT's OCW can be rather comparable for many courses (especially first year core courses). For example, 8.022 uses the same book as Ph1b/c analytic and I found OCW occasionally useful. Caltech does not really have anything as organized and similar as OCW, but many class websites are up if you search for the class on google.</p>

<p>"ok, i was kind of joking. but what i really meant is that i've always seen math and science as concrete subjects and very easy to do well in, and i've never been challenged. I just want to understand HOW caltech courses are difficult. is it because they are fast paced, have difficult subject matter, or etc.? what do students need to do well there? "
^^, what a naive statement</p>

<p>sic-Infit said "yeah right caltech is stressful. i can get an A+ in any high school math/science there is, why would caltech be any different "</p>

<p>Oh my....sic_infit, you are really making a very naive statement. Caltech is definitely not your ordinary high school. I was wondering whether we are talking about the same place: This is the board for Caltech as in "California Institute of Technology". May be you thought this is the board for Calpoly or a two-year technical school. Judging from your posts, I am quite sure that you have confused the two places. In that case, your posts are ok.</p>

<p>^sic-Infit is already a rocket scientist working at JPL, if u wanna know</p>

<p>oh my GAWD you guys, how hard can finding the molar mass of a compound be? chemistry is so straightforward, Caltech would not be any different, piece of cake I would get A's.</p>

<p>
[quote]
sic-Infit said "yeah right caltech is stressful. i can get an A+ in any high school math/science there is, why would caltech be any different "</p>

<p>Oh my....sic_infit, you are really making a very naive statement. Caltech is definitely not your ordinary high school. I was wondering whether we are talking about the same place: This is the board for Caltech as in "California Institute of Technology". May be you thought this is the board for Calpoly or a two-year technical school. Judging from your posts, I am quite sure that you have confused the two places. In that case, your posts are ok.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>There's a professor in the math dept. at Caltech who was also an undergrad there. He got a "C" in Number theory and a bunch of other math classes when he was an undergrad. As a prof, he solved many of the open problems in number theory. That gives you an indication of just how hard the curriculum is at Caltech. It sometimes happens that people who are good at research aren't as excellent as Caltech, but when that occurs it is most often in an experimental field, not a theoretical one like math.</p>

<p>It's hard to communicate just how hard classes typically are (and MIT opencourseware, btw, doesn't give you an indication of how hard it is to major in engineering there) until you've experienced it.</p>

<p>oh yeah, im sure majoring in engineering is hard <em>sarcasm</em></p>