Caltech believes that transformative, meaningful, and challenging experiences shape a person's growth, aspirations, and interests. And students often ask us: What should I do over the summer? What do admissions officers believe is the best use of my time when I'm not in school?
- If you're the type of student who has family responsibilities, wants to hold a summer job, or wants to rest and recharge for another rigorous year ahead: you might be a great fit at Caltech.If you're the type of student who can't stop, won't stop, and presses on with summer learning, volunteering, internship opportunities, and more: you might be a great fit at Caltech.
- If you're the type of student who is somewhere in between or has several interests (maybe STEM + sports, music, or something else entirely), you might be a great fit at Caltech.
In other words, there's no specific type of Caltech student. Everyone has different strengths and interests. Caltech students rise up to challenges, and we understand that the word "challenges" can manifest in a multitude of ways.
There's no formula calculating the "perfect" summer. What's important to consider is what you enjoy, and what you can do.
No matter what you choose to do, our job as admissions officers at Caltech is to consider the context of your experiences. So what can you do over the summer? Well, that decision is up to you. Here are some thoughts to get you started:
I spent my summers practicing clarinet and at summer band camp. There was one summer where I did a few (STEM) college classes, but mostly because I was interested in those classes. I'd recommend aspiring students do things that they're interested in and enjoy their summers because with the stress of high school - it's nice to have some semblance of a break.
- Academic planning, you gotta love it. Take a look at your transcripts, and note the required courses for schools that you're interested in applying to (like our Admissions Requirements). Research summer programs, and fly-in programs, if they appeal to you. Look at application prompts to begin to think about how you can tell your story to admissions committees.
- Think about how you learn and how you study to prepare for the upcoming year. Adjust your habits accordingly.
- Become literate about the financial aid and scholarships process is at times understated–Caltech offers resources to help you get started.
Build Your Network
You'll need teacher recommendations for your application, so consider which teachers to ask. For any optional recommendations, build your network through internships, volunteer work, independent outreach, or personal mentorship. This will also help grow the number of people who will be able to speak to your strengths. Make friends with similar interests, or identify people who are working in the field you're interested in. Caltech is all about collaboration, and we reach across disciplines to solve scientific problems every day.
Most summers in high school I did an externship at a nearby hospital, but I also spent most of the time doing school related activities like marching band and working at a nearby restaurant.
Live Your Life
- If you love research, find an opportunity to do some. Or find an internship. Or read a book. Engage with STEM in whatever way makes sense for you.
- Perform in a musical; or band, play on a team, earn money through a summer job – skills earned through work experience and extracurricular activities can be significant, meaningful, and valid summer experiences.
- Explore the world: if you're able, travel is another effective method of growth, exposure, and learning. Sometimes the best exploration happens in your own neighborhood.
- Improve your community: Techers see a problem, and they want to fix it. Perhaps you feel similarly.
Take Care of Yourself
- Rest. School is hard. Caltech is hard. The past few years have been hard. Rest is necessary, so examine when you feel you need a break, and listen to that inner voice. Mental wellness is extremely important and we acknowledge that students also want their summer break to actually feel like a break.
- Seek out inspiration. For what? That's up to you. We hope that what inspires you helps you be the best version of yourself, and would lend itself well to your ability to engage with science. Inspiration can also help you think about what you'd like to say in your essays.
All things considered, we must mention that none of these singular activities guarantees admission or fit for Caltech. Every student at Caltech has a unique admissions, high school, and life experience. Caltech understands that not every student has ready access to research opportunities and may feel limited by their proximity to resources, and these are in no way requirements to attend college here.