Undergraduate Admissions

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Admissions Reflections

What do you remember feeling when you found out you had been accepted to Caltech?

I remember the exact moments I got into Caltech. I was backstage at a dance recital, I had my hair and makeup done, I was in costume and about 20 minutes away from going on stage to perform. I had to quickly run upstairs to forward my mom the email link with the recital tickets since there was no signal backstage. After I forwarded her the email, I noticed an email from Caltech with a subject line of “View your Caltech admissions decision online.” To be perfectly honest, I thought there was no way I would get in. I had resolved myself to opening the rejection and moving on with my day. I logged into my account and opened the letter. Confetti flew across my screen as I read the words “Congratulations!”

I screamed in excitement and ran backstage. I screamed at my best friend Mary: “I GOT INTO CALTECH!” I was beyond excited and frankly completely in shock. Tears of joy filled my eyes, and it took all the self-control in the world to not completely ruin my stage makeup. I went on stage about 5 minutes later and the show was a disaster. I forgot all the choreography and was consistently a beat behind the other dancers, but that still did not put a damper on my mood. I was simply too ecstatic to even care.

How did you decide to attend Caltech?

Honestly, Caltech was the best school I got into so the decision was not difficult. I was concerned that I would not fit in because I expected everyone to be the same “cookie-cutter” nerd that wanted to study 24/7. While I love science, I also wanted to have a social life in college, make friends, and have interests beyond academics. After visiting campus, I realized, yes, everyone is a huge science nerd (in the best possible way). But, everyone had their own passions and interests that they wanted to pursue. The experience made me realize Caltech is more than just “an academically rigorous” university, it is also a community that I would find my place in.

I expected everyone at Caltech to be the same person: a workaholic science geek that only wanted to study and do research all the time. This intimidated me because I also wanted to find friends and have a social life outside of school. I visited Caltech and talked to current students to see if Caltech was the right fit. After my visit, I realized Caltech is full of diverse personalities and interests and I would be able to find my people.

What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself senior year of high school?

I would tell myself to learn more basic life skills -namely, personal finance, organization, time management, and cooking. Although I am pretty good at these things now, I think my life in college would have been easier if I learned these things during high school instead.

What advice would you give to the admitted Class of 2025?

Caltech is full of resources and it is important to take advantage of them. However, take other people’s advice with a grain of salt. You must decide what YOU want out of life and out of college. For example, upperclassmen are a great resource. They can tell you if your course load is too ambitious, or which classes are fun to take, etc. But at the end of the day, you know yourself the best. When I was a freshman, I gave too much credence to upperclassmen opinions. I decided to try out computer science because so many people advocated for the major and the career. However, I knew that I was more passionate about biology and chemistry. Now, I am a Premed pursuing a chemistry degree.

Vanessa Mechem ’22

Hi! I am Vanessa, an alum (Class of 2022) Chem major and pre-med student. I am originally from Shanghai, China but I’ve been living in sunny Southern California for the past 7 years. I was the Vice President of Page House, a Health Advocate, and a member of the Clemons lab. I love dancing, singing (poorly), goofing off with my friends, playing poker, and watching the same shows on Netflix for the 15th time.