Will my B in math freshman year be held against me in Caltech admissions?

I got a B [85] in a geometry-equivalent class freshman year of HS and am worried it might hurt my Caltech application because they take math courses seriously. I got all A’s after that, and am on track to get straight As in math, along with all other classes.

I’m thinking of this stuff rn:

  • I could give the math level I subject test international tests are still available and I’m international, and prove my efficiency with algebra and geometry.
    -I do have a school-level math award freshman year. Came second in intraschool math bowl. I didn’t work hard in the class, that was it, it actually didn’t mean I was having difficulty in the class.
    -I could do some more stuff to show colleges I’m comfortable with advanced math. Some stuff I tried doing - took the SAT and received a great composite and 790 math, entered math contests and placed satisfactory on them, took an online class on precalc from Coursera and received a 95 per cent final grade.

Would love your opinions!

Caltech is test blind, at least for this and the next application cycles, so it won’t look at your test scores (including subject test scores) even if you submit them. It will look at your entire academic record holistically, however.

Why Caltech and what other schools are you interested in? The B in frosh geometry isn’t going to be what hurts your application, but what is it that makes you a desired candidate for CalTech? CalTech gets a little under 10K applications a year, admits about 500 and enrolls less than 250 freshman a year! What are you interested in studying? What have you done as far as research in that field? are you exploring outside learning in that area? What AP classes have you taken? Did you score 5 on the tests?

Have you competed in any state or national level Math competitions? If you post your stats, and what you are interested in studying you will get some really great advise on developing your college list (yes it can contain CalTech)

I’m a sophomore, so I think by the time I apply to colleges Caltech will look at scores, right?

Thanks for your opinion. I really do hope my B won’t hurt me.

I am a Lumiere Research Scholar 2020 with math research, accepted to the Boston Leadership Institiute for summer 2021, AP classes include up to AP Calc planning to take multivariable calc if possible, 2 math awards at state and school level so far competing for international award in the near future, 5 on AP Stats so far and will take AP Calc BC exam. I’m interested in CS/electrical engineering, and I have far better ECs in that field -app coded, lots of experience with web dev, app dev and programming, mentored at a girls coding program, IT dept of nonprofit intern and PM, tutored CS etc. along with a national level programming award. AI Inspirit summer program.

I hope this gives insight into my candidancy!

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Congrats. You are quite accomplished already! One piece of friendly advice, please do not get obsessed with CalTech. There are many incredible schools that will have your intended major. Getting into any top school now a days is so competitive even for the most high stat kid. Keep an open mind and focus on finding the schools where you can flourish inside and outside of the classroom and dont get hung up on some idealized vision of a “dream school”. BTW, my cousin is in the admissions office at CalTech so I hear a lot about how competitive it is.

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Great- you’ve got your reach school identified.

Now put Caltech out of your head and focus on finding a couple of colleges which will love you just the way you are, b’s and all!

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I never attended Caltech, and never thought to apply there. I did however attend what you might call the “Caltech of the east”, aka MIT as a math major.

One thing to keep in mind: Jumping ahead in math is not the best way to do well at a top university such as Caltech or MIT. Doing really well in math is. You need to learn each step very, very well, because you will use it a lot in the future. Algebra should be only slightly easier than tying your shoes (except the hard stuff can be slightly harder than tying your shoes).

At least in my experience students at MIT and therefore probably also Caltech are not fretting over a B in a high school math course. They are fretting over the one A that they got in a high school math course (rather than their normal A+, for me it was trigonometry) or the one question that they got wrong on the math SAT test (giving them only a 790).

Do not worry about the past. It is over and your freshman year of high school will be a lot less important than your next two years. Do the best that you can from now on and feel free to apply to Caltech. However, when applying to universities reaches are often easy to identify because they are famous. You need to spend time identifying at least two safety schools that you know you will be accepted to, you know you and your parents can afford, that have good programs in your intended major, and that you would be happy to attend. Often safeties are in-state public schools and easy to identify. Otherwise they can be more difficult to identify, but you definitely need to put effort into finding safeties.

I also have to ask: Why Caltech? Why is it your “dream” university?

That’s really helpful, thank you. Caltech is my “dream” school in a way, but I know getting attached isn’t the way to go. Because it’s really competitive and no one knows what will stand out to a Caltech admissions officer.

That’s really helpful. MIT is also a school I’m planning to apply to!

I understand math is like that. Math is really one of my passions and I’ve had a weird journey with it- never good at it in middle school, hated it. But I don’t know where it turned into immense love for the subject. I do-actually. My B in frosh math reflects this story, and I’m thinking of writing my Common app essay about this.

Your third paragraph did give me anxiety though, and made me doubt whether I’d fit at Caltech even if I were accepted which sounds nearly impossible. I’m not fretting about my grades, I just wanted to know if my B would hurt my application for the future. I don’t fret about failure. Sounds like I wouldn’t be happy around people who fret about A’s and 790’s.

I’m really so much better in my math classes and actually have straight A’s then onwards [calc included]. I’m also finding my classes fun. I have safety schools planned out, schools I’d be happy to attend and would be amazingly affordable.

Caltech would be my dream university because the undergrad coursework is reputed for being tough and I like challenges, and a small student body is something I’d be happy to be part of.

Thank you again for your opinions.

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This is so optimistic. Made my day.

Unlike many other colleges, Caltech likes students who are passionate and dedicated. It wants to know how you developed that passion and dedication. Telling your story in an essay is a great way to do it. Caltech will look at your B in the context of your entire journey.

That’s so good to hear! Thank you