Reflecting on College Admissions

Reflecting on College Admissions

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

In short: I was completely shocked. Caltech had been my first-choice school for years (warm weather, great science, what’s not to love?). However, I didn’t ever think I’d get in: nobody had gotten in from my high school in the living memory of any teacher and my guidance counselor had told me point blank that it was a longshot.

So, the scene: December 15, 2016. A cold, chilly day in Denver, Colorado. I’m wearing a sports coat and khaki pants. Why? Well, I was in the literal middle of an interview with Duke when I got the email push notification saying that there was an update to my admissions portal. To this day I have absolutely no idea how I finished that interview. But once I got out of eyesight, I immediately opened my phone and clicked on the link expecting to find disappointment. I was amazed to be greeted with confetti instead – so much so that I did a jump and punched the air, much to the confusion of the few people walking on the street beside me.

How did you decide to attend Caltech?

For me, it came down 100% to academics. When I visited Caltech on a tour, one of the fencing team members had told me that Caltech Geological and Planetary Sciences was objectively and subjectively the best undergraduate program in the world. And honestly that’s true. It’s a 2:1 faculty to student ratio, and we get a trip to Hawaii senior year (although maybe not this year).

A Fieldtrip to Death Valley

What really sold it was the interactions I had on my visit to campus. One of the professors, Paul Asimow, spent an hour showing me every geosciences lab and talking about the research. It’s this connection that immediately made me realize the potential of Caltech. A tenured faculty member was taking time to interact with me, a student who hadn’t even committed yet. I’ll talk about this more in another post, but I really didn’t relate to any of the students I met (although I’ve since met great people on campus). But when I committed, I was willing to completely sacrifice my social life for four years to get that student-faculty relationship.

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

I would’ve told myself to relax a bit. Have fun. Enjoy the people I was around and the memories I was making. I haven’t really interacted with a lot of people from high school since graduating. Most of them have stayed in-state with the same friend groups they’ve always had. I think one thing I didn’t really do is appreciate those connections enough in the moment. High school isn’t really a fun time, and we all suffered through that together. I wish I’d spent more time with those people and really just cherished that bond – I didn’t really realize how special that was until it was gone.

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

I’m going to spin this out in a separate post, but in short, it’s this: take the time to know every school you get accepted to. Make sure that above parental influence, external pressure, or scary posts on Quora, you make the best choice for yourself. Whether that’s Caltech or anywhere else. Our school isn’t right for everyone. But if you were admitted, our admissions team believes that it’s right for you.

– Chandrew