I applied to Caltech this fall, fully expecting a rejection. So, after learning that I had actually been accepted, I was (and still am) shocked, confused, and very unsure of what to do.
I do realize how special the opportunity to go to Caltech is, but, honestly, I’m pretty terrified that I would be poorly prepared to succeed academically at Caltech and that I would be completely out of my depth intellectually.
I say that because:
I come from an area with not-so-stellar academic resources, and in high school I never took AP Physics, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, or the like.
In terms of test scores, I’m below Caltech’s typical standards. For example, I’m below the 25th (Caltech) percentile for ACT scores and SAT Math II scores.
I am definitely not someone who is used to learning things quickly and effortlessly. If I’ve done well in my classes, that’s only because I’ve put in extra work and time. (In fact, during class, I tend to take careful notes, but, typically, I only internalize the material and fully understand the lecture later, on my own time.) My fear is that thinking quickly on your feet is a prerequisite for succeeding at Caltech.
I would very much appreciate some fresh perspectives on my situation, including advice both on choosing whether to go to Caltech and on getting up to speed with my classmates if I did go. Thanks in advance!
(P.S. Just for context:
Some of my other options are Cornell, Columbia, Northwestern, and Harvey Mudd.
I do have strong interests in the humanities, but, if I knew for a fact that I could do well at Caltech, I would go there in a heartbeat.)