With the start of the new school year, Caltech welcomes the class of 2020 to campus—236 students bringing a variety of backgrounds and unique viewpoints to Caltech's academic community.
"For science to move forward, we need to have a variety of perspectives at the table," says Jarrid Whitney, executive director of admissions and financial aid. "We look for a diverse group of students with unique talents and passions who are able to demonstrate a love for STEM fields and would thrive in an academically challenging environment," Whitney says. "That makes our campus richer."
The new students will arrive from 37 states, one US territory, and 13 other countries. Seventeen percent are members of an underrepresented minority group; 44 percent are women. In addition, 8 percent of the incoming class are first-generation college students; 13 percent are Pell Grant eligible; and 66 percent attended public or charter schools during high school.
The incoming students include patent-holders, published writers, adventurers, boardgamers, a ballroom dancer, a boxer, and even a self-described cat photographer.
Many of the students have already had a taste of life at Caltech during this year's Prefrosh Weekend. At the annual event, more than 450 prospective students and their parents spend three days on campus, eating and sleeping in the student houses, attending classes, and getting to know faculty and current students. "It's our biggest opportunity to showcase what Caltech is all about," Whitney says. This year, 65 percent of students who attended Prefrosh Weekend enrolled at Caltech.
The majority of incoming students are considering a major in one of the Engineering and Applied Science options, with computer science being the most popular specialty. But regardless of what they choose to major in, all of the freshmen can expect a rigorous core education in physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, humanities, and social science that is intended to equip already curious and bright students with the skills to tackle interdisciplinary problems.
The incoming undergraduates can also expect to be outnumbered by the faculty, grad students, and postdoctoral researchers on campus—where they have the opportunity to be scientists and engineers as well as students.
"Caltech students are incredibly ambitious and driven," says Joseph Shepherd, C. L. "Kelly" Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering and vice president for student affairs. "They pick up the [course] catalog and say, 'How quickly can I take this advanced-level course?'"
"We attract the very best of the top science and engineering students in the nation," he adds. "Caltech's greatest resource is the fantastic people that we have, and that starts with the students. Students bring a new way of looking at things and enthusiasm that invigorates the campus."