need some advice/chance me caltech

SAT: 1570 (800 math)
subject tests: haven’t taken, scoring 770-800 math 2, chem, and physics in practice
gpa: 4.6 weighted, 4.0 unweighted
APs: Physics 1 (5), computer principles (5), Chinese (5) + chem, lang, comp sci, and physics 2 (probably 4s and 5s)
senior courseload: AP lit, AP physics C, AP bio, AP stats, AP calc BC, AP econ

ECs:

  • museum docent at local science museum since freshman year with considerable responsibility
  • CSF
  • school honors society (class of 700, large public magnet school)
  • varsity fencing
  • girls who code (trying to get a leadership position)
  • women in stem founder and president
  • baking club treasurer
  • misc. quirky hobbies and stem activities

Extras:

  • internship at NASA the summer after my sophomore year, planning to get a research recommendation
  • awards: AP scholar, book award, NCWIT national certificate of distinction, NCWIT national honorable mention, definitely national merit commended maybe semi-finalist
    no AMC or science fairs :frowning:
  • I’m applying to RSI and SSP this year and if I don’t get those I will work at NASA on the same project again
  • female

To add a little more information about my personality, I am very passionate about science and confident that I can express this through my essays. My ECs are not super impressive, but I genuinely want to devote my life to science. I also have some quirky hobbies: lockpicking, cardistry, etc. that I think fit well with the caltech stereotype.

What is your question? What is your Plan C (not B!)

You’re a competitive admit, but there are no locks for Caltech.

I think you have a great chance, but.

I’m going to play devil’s advocate and tell you this: Your GPA isn’t that great- I know freshmen with higher GPAs. Also, your math and science aren’t that advanced- I know people that took AP Chem and Calc BC as freshmen.

I’m just trying to prepare you for the worst- I think that you’re certainly a top-tier applicant, but just know that you’re not superbly special. You said it yourself- you fit the Caltech stereotype. You’re a standard strong applicant, which means that your application will be a bit of a crapshoot.

@iusedtobesmart at many schools it is impossible to have above a 4.0 uw GPA. I I think you are looking at weighted GPA which is irrelevant.

I’m looking a weighted, which is definitely not irrelevant.

I think that you are a very strong candidate, even for Caltech.

University admissions will care about your grades, and will care about the rigor of your classes in high school. They will not care about how your high school happens to calculate GPA. At the high schools that my daughters attended, it was not possible to have a GPA over 4.6. Do not be concerned about how your school computes your weighted GPA.

Also, it is important for Caltech to have a rigorous course load in high school. However it is not a contest to see who could jump ahead in math the fastest. More important is to have very high grades in math. A+'s are better than A’s in math classes when you are applying to Caltech or MIT.

I expect that at least 80% of applicants to Caltech are very strong candidates. They accepted 7% of applicants in a recent year. Your chances are probably better than 7%. It is very much worth an application if you want to go to Caltech and if you want to work very hard for a full four years of university. Of course you need to also apply to match and safety schools as I expect that you know very well.

Almost no one has a “great chance” at a school with a 6.6% acceptance rate.

OP, you have the objective facts that put you in the range of accepted students. The reality is that probably 40+% of applicants have these statistics, so that means maybe a 15-25% chance once those not meeting the objective criteria have been eliminated. Then it comes down to essays, recommendations, specific needs of the admissions committee, etc.

Unweighted GPA is meaningless without a weighting scheme, and until all weighting schemes are made the same, which will never happen.

My D had a 5.12 weighted. Does that mean she’s among the best ever, since most schools don’t allow anything over a 5.0 (Hint: she wasn’t in the top 10% of her class).

This.

My school doesn’t let freshman take AP classes

That’s fine. Caltech will take that into account. Your GPA is excellent.

I think you are a strong candidate. It will depend a lot on your recs and essays - Caltech really cares about those. Getting into RSI will definitely help, but the NASA research will make a difference. Have your mentor/supervisor write a strong rec. Caltech is a different place and either it is a match or it isn’t.

Good luck

Nice resume regardless of whether you are accepted or not. Great accomplishments. Keep it up.

Caltech is a reach for every student except Alex on Modern Family.

It may sound hard, but try not to get too infatuated with one college. Find some others, that you might like about as much.

Good luck!

To clarify: Richinpitt obviously had a typo and meant to write “Weighted GPA is meaningless…”

Update: accepted to and attended SSP but rejected from RSI

My son took BC as a senior and is doing just fine at Caltech. The year before, one of his schoolmates took AB a senior and is also at Caltech. Many of the kids who apply are qualified and do well at Caltech, they’re just looking for that “special sauce,” which none of us are privy to.

Hey, was poking around for Caltech’s internal GPA distributions but found this - I thought I’d give it a go. I graduated Caltech this year so (I hope) my view is still fresh.

First, anyone who tells you it is impossible to chance is a fool, or plainly incompetent. Unfortunately, the one person who noted that chancing doesn’t do you much good with a prior of 6.6% is correct, especially with your uncertain inputs. I will highlight areas you are stronger-than-average-at-Caltech in. Please update your scoring information when you get a chance. Your GPA is also very difficult to interpret without an internal ranking (top 3%? 1%?) so chancing is not going to be very precise. You can refer to some newly uploaded Youtube videos to get a more detailed overview of some stats.

TLDR: in senior year, focus all of your energy on making utility from your research project at NASA, and none of your energy on extracurriculars that aren’t science related. The following ranges are my best guess at a 50% confidence interval.

Tier 1) If you can publish your NASA work or win some kind of science fair with it, I would chance you at around 70%-85%.
Tier 2) If everything is “as hoped” minus publication possibility, I would chance you at around 45%-65%. This takes into account your SSP and NASA research (both are drivers).
Tier 3) If everything falls short of expectations (including SAT2s, APs, etc.), then 25%-40%. This isn’t great, but notice that it’s 5x the prior and so high precisely due to
the SSP and NASA stuff.

Note that the upper chance is over 10x the prior of 6.6%, but still nothing to bet the farm on. Apply to other places too and don’t set your sights too much on one school. Despite their reputation, I know quite a few kids at MIT who are just as bright as my peers.

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SAT: 1570 (800 math)

average or lower

subject tests: haven’t taken, scoring 770-800 math 2, chem, and physics in practice

depending on what you got in this range, you could be worse or better than average. If you didn't get 800 on math2, I would say your chances are under 20%.

gpa: 4.6 weighted, 4.0 unweighted

p sure this is average or better, unless you're not in the top 3%. A percentile ranking would help immensely.

APs: Physics 1 (5), computer principles (5), Chinese (5) + chem, lang, comp sci, and physics 2 (probably 4s and 5s)

this is one of your weaker points - you don't already have many advanced science APs. I really hope you got 5's in the STEM ones.

senior courseload: AP lit, AP physics C, AP bio, AP stats, AP calc BC, AP econ

makes overall coursework considered average at caltech

ECs:

  • museum docent at local science museum since freshman year with considerable responsibility

better than average

  • CSF

    not sure what this is

  • school honors society (class of 700, large public magnet school)

    not useful, it's redundant because of your goopa. Omit on commonapp if lacking space. I'd put even "lockpicking club" before "honors society".

  • varsity fencing

    unfortunately fencing was disbanded this year due to cost cutting, This would have provided a small but significant edge. Its bearing is uncertain now, but better than nothing.

  • girls who code (trying to get a leadership position)

    i think this is pretty common, but no reason to spend effort getting a leadership position - it's "redundant" due to your next activity below.

  • women in stem founder and president

    common, but better that you are founder and president

  • baking club treasurer

    not very useful - more on this later

  • misc. quirky hobbies and stem activities

    there is a house with long-standing tradition in one of your hobbies, so put these before putting stuff like "national honors society, AP scholar, good at PSAT, national merit, etc."

Extras:

  • internship at NASA the summer after my sophomore year, planning to get a research recommendation

absolutely get that recommendation. It's in the top 3 most importants of your application if your research is classified. Contact your mentor ASAP asking for a recommendation and whether it is possible to publish the work.

  • awards: AP scholar, book award, NCWIT national certificate of distinction, NCWIT national honorable mention, definitely national merit commended maybe semi-finalist # this is redundant - conveyed already by your scores. Omit this garbage unless you have nothing else to put. On a quick look, I think the book award is the best of them.

no AMC or science fairs :frowning:

don't worry, but try to do a science fair if your research isn't classified. If you're allowed to publish, publishing takes higher priority than science fair. Don't waste time on olympiad stuff at this point if you don't have experience already.

  • SSP

    average or better, but note that this programme doesnt produce research results for competitions/publications. Try to make use of the NASA stuff by publishing or entering in science fair. If it's classified research then never mind.

  • female

    average or better - I have strong suspicions that there is some affirmative action going on in recent years, so this may boost your chances. If you are a URM then even better, although I am uncertain of exactly how much affirmative action is going on. Since the relevant data is nonpublic, one can only do some kind of idea like so: quora[dot]c0m/q/hklwaajtxamupwup/On-the-Statistical-Detection-of-Demographic-Biases-in-College-Admissions-http-jsho-ryin-main-quora-com-On-the-Statis

followup on 2 points since I can’t edit posts-

gpa: 4.6 weighted, 4.0 unweighted

p sure this is average or better, unless you're not in the top 3%. A percentile ranking would help immensely. Note that GPA contributions to admissions exhibits diminishing returns - top 3% is much better than top 5%, but top 1% doesn't really contribute that much more than top 3%. This is one fact I am unsure on, but I believe that thresholding, rather than linear regression, is used when looking at GPAs. "I know Freshmen with better GPAs" is irrelevant since you are being compared to people within your own class

  • no RSI # RSI would have been really good (you'd pretty much get guaranteed harvard+mit back in my day), but the admissions is full of BS, just like those two schools. SSP holds maybe ~70% of the prestige that RSI does, assuming you don't enter any competitions with the material.

I’m in the top 1% according to my counselor and the 4.6 is out of a 5 point grading scale where an A in a regular class is 4 and an A in honors or AP is a 5. Not sure about sat 2s because they keep getting cancelled but I haven’t gotten below 800 on any practice tests.
Also an update on junior year APs. I got 5s on all, so for stem that’s 5s on AP physics 1&2, AP comp sci principles, AP comp sci, and AP chem.
As for my NASA research, unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible for me to publish it but I’m definitely getting a rec from my mentor

oh also neither Caltech or MIT are considering SAT 2s this year (caltech isn’t looking at SATs at all so this is where national merit might be helpful)