1. What’s your favorite place to go to study or hang out at Caltech?
It honestly changes depending on my mood. I’m someone who gets distracted very easily so a lot of times I like to work in the dining area at Red Door Marketplace, or in the dining hall/lounge of one of the houses (usually Ricketts House where I’m a member). That also provides nice social time to chat with people and collaborate if you’re like me and like to switch between tasks frequently. Other times the ninth floor of the library is really nice and peaceful.
2. Do you explore outside the campus while at Caltech? If so, where are your favorite places to go?
Yes, I have a long term goal to get off of campus at least once per week. A lot of times it’s just to Lake Avenue which is a block away. They have boba and a 24/7 donut shop and Trader Joe’s and restaurants. It’s nice to just find some friends and be like, “Hey, want to go walk to Tea Spots?”
I also like to do indoor rock climbing, so I’ll take the Metro over to a nearby climbing gym when I have a free evening. Beyond that, there are termly organized events to farther away places like ski, desert, and beach trips, depending on your house.
3. What was the hardest part about Caltech you had to overcome? (e.g. courses, psets, exams, workload)
I’m still finding the answer to that question; so far it’s been avoiding burnout. I’m someone who tends to fill my schedule with activities and stuff to the point where I have no free time, and I’m trying to learn how to not do that. It’s a really bad state to be in, feeling like you have so much stuff to do that you just want to curl up into a ball and hide from it all. I highly recommend you start learning to discipline yourself for that kind of stuff; that’s what I’m having to do now, lol.
4. How do you feel about the small class size at Caltech?
I came from a small high school, so I really like the small class size. I enjoy the feeling of familiarity with most people I see and most places I go at any given time. Of course it takes a long time to get to that level of familiarity, and you may start off feeling like Caltech is an impossibly large place, but it really is quite small once you’ve been around for a year or so, and for me that’s comforting.
5. Have you done any research at Caltech or done internships?
Yes, although I’m a little bit of an outlier. I was originally admitted to the Class of 2024 (who are juniors this year) but I decided to take a gap year before starting at Caltech, so now I’m part of the Class of 2025 (the sophomores). During my gap year I did an internship in Boston with a tiny startup company run by college students, which was a great experience to get familiar with various engineering-type concepts. That following summer (of 2021), I was able to get an internship at an electric truck company near Pasadena. I actually got that internship from one of the Caltech Discord servers. An upperclass student was asking if anyone was interested in an internship at this company called Xos Trucks. (She had also taken time off from Caltech and had been working there during the year.) I was like, “uhh YES”, so she gave me the email of the CTO, who is a Caltech alum, which helped me get the internship. The Caltech alumni community is extremely overpowered for getting internships! This past summer (of 2022) I did an internship at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, which Caltech subsidized, and which I got connected to through a similar series of coincidences and emails to the right people at the right times. This year I might be working on a project in the astronomy department, which I found out about by literally walking into a professor’s lab in the basement of the Cahill building, and saying, “Hey hi I’m an undergrad can I ask you about your work?” He was like, “Sure!” and showed me around. (That is the extremely short version of the story but the point is you can do that kind of thing pretty easily, and sometimes it turns into something!)
6. What would you want to do a few years from now (when you’re about 25-30)? How do you hope to use Caltech to get you to who you want to be in the future?
Haha. Ha. Hmmm. Good question. I wish I had a good answer lol. Best answer I can give is I want to build stuff that does space science. I would love to work on a spacecraft going to the outer solar system maybe. Or on new astronomy instruments. Idk. What I do know is that being part of the Caltech community – all the real world experience I get here and the people I meet – all of that will be invaluable assets to working toward that future. I repeat, the Caltech community is extremely overpowered if you take advantage of the resources it has. :)) (In more specific terms, it’s less the actual classes and academics that make Caltech unique and that will really help me in the future, although the academics are very worthwhile. It’s the things I learn by walking into a professor’s office and asking them if I can get involved, for example.)
7. What’s your favorite place to go to where you grew up?
I grew up in a retiree town in Florida and there wasn’t much to do. My favorite place was the local Fab Lab, which had a maker space with tons of tools and machines that I could use to go and build anything. They also had after-school STEM programs for younger kids that I often helped teach. It was a really welcoming place where I could nerd out and it got me where I am today, without a doubt.
Special thanks to Brandon L for supplying the questions!
I am a sophomore undergrad at Caltech, not actually part of the Admissions team, so I feel like I should say that the views and opinions in this post are my own. That said, if you have any questions about Caltech or college apps in general, I would totally love to help! Feel free to email me at email@example.com 🙂