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The United States is home to the Ivy League, a group of eight of the world's most prestigious universities. However, the US is also home to numerous world-class universities that are on par with the Ivy League in terms of reputation and academic resources.
With different locations, sizes, academic focuses, and research opportunities to take into account, you may find that your best-fit university may not be an Ivy League school.
Caltech and MIT, in particular, are two of the most prestigious technological institutes in the US. Their classes are just as challenging, professors just as distinguished, alumni networks just as esteemed, and their acceptance rates just as competitive.
Each university has its own unique academic and extracurricular programs, and some students may prefer one over the other. What makes each university unique, and how do you decide which university is right for you? What is Caltech known for, and is MIT better?
We're here to help you better understand the differences between MIT and Caltech, so keep reading to learn more!
MIT vs. Caltech: The Top 3 Rivalry Pranks
If MIT or Caltech is the school of your dreams, Crimson can help you achieve your goal. Our strategists include former admissions officers and top university graduates who can help you put together a solid application that stands out from the crowd! Learn more about our Admissions Support Program.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the most highly regarded private universities in the United States. The coeducational, independent institution maintains a strong focus on scientific and technological research. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT sits on the Charles River not far from its highly prestigious neighbor Harvard University.
MIT comprises 30 departments across five schools and colleges and offers undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral degree programs. It was founded in 1861 by William Barton Rogers, who served as the university’s first president and envisioned a “new polytechnic institute” for technical and scientific education. Built during the Industrial Revolution, MIT’s original purpose was to help drive the U.S. industry forward.
Did you know: Researchers at MIT identified the first genes responsible for cancer in humans!
**California Institute of Technology (Caltech) **is a world-renowned science and engineering institute located in Pasadena, California, about 10 miles north of Los Angeles. The small, private university is known for its academic excellence in STEM fields, receiving grants from the likes of NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Caltech’s undergraduates can choose from 28 majors across six academic divisions with a curriculum that focuses on interdisciplinary education and research, It was founded in 1891 as Throop University and became the California Institute of Technology in 1920 on the principle that “the fundamental science of one generation is the applied science of the next.”
Did you know: 64 Caltech faculty and alumni have received a National Medal of Science, and the university has seven Nobel laureates currently in residence!
|QS World University Ranking 2022
|Class of 2025 Acceptance rate
|Average SAT/ACT scores
|SAT: 1520-1580 ACT: 34-36
|SAT: 1530-1570 ACT: 35-36
|Median starting salary for graduates
|Cambridge, Massachusetts — across the Charles River from Boston. The campus is a few steps away from the T, which allows students to explore the different nooks both Boston and Cambridge have to offer. As it is also home to many prestigious universities, the city naturally cultivates an intellectual yet vibrant scene.
|Caltech's 124-acre primary campus is located in the suburban city of Pasadena, California, about 18 kilometres northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
|As MIT is located in New England, you'll experience all four seasons, with summers that average 77°F to winters that are often colder than 0°F.
|Caltech is located in California, so you can expect warm weather all year round.
Among the many academic subjects for which MIT and Caltech are known, here are a few of the most popular!
|Average class size
|Total student population
|International student size
Elite universities in the United States typically charge high tuition rates, but the good news is that they also offer generous financial aid packages (more on that later). Undergraduate tuition rates at MIT and Caltech for 2021-2022 are $55,510 and $56,364, respectively. After considering additional costs such as fees, accommodation, travel, and personal expenses, the annual cost to attend either MIT or Caltech is about $77,020 - $79.947.
|Room (Housing) and Board (Meal Plan)
|Total estimated cost of attendance
It’s no secret that the sticker price of attending a top university can be quite high. Regardless of your reasons for pursuing an education, the cost of tuition shouldn't stop you from achieving your goals.
The figures mentioned above may seem out of reach for many, but there are often financial aid opportunities at both MIT and Caltech!
Typically, students from families who earn under a certain level of income are not required to pay tuition at most elite US universities. At MIT, the admissions process is need-blind, which means that applicants with financial needs will not be discriminated against. That puts MIT as one of six need-blind US universities that meet the full needs of every student — including international students.
Meanwhile, students at Caltech receive financial aid that meets 100% of their demonstrated financial need through a financial aid package that includes grants and scholarships, student employment, and student loans. The main difference in the aid assistance between the two universities is that MIT has a no-loan policy for families with income under $90,000, which means that student loans will not be factored in the financial aid package granted to students.
Crimson's admissions experts have provided this free resource on How Financial Aid Works & How To Apply For Financial Aid if you'd like to learn more!
MIT has approximately 450 student organizations including the Outing Club, the Solar Electric Vehicle Team, the Debate Team, the FM station (WMBR), the MIT Society for Women Engineers, the Student Art Association, Model UN, and clubs focusing on dance, chess, and strategic games. At MIT, these clubs enhance campus life in a way that complements the academic pursuits of students.
Though Caltech pales in comparison to MIT in the sheer number of extracurricular activities available, the university still offers over 100 student clubs and organizations on campus, covering everything from faith-based organizations to groups that bond over community service, the environment, extracurricular interests, and food.
When it comes to sports, both Caltech and MIT are NCAA Division III schools.
No matter your extracurricular interests, you'll find a club that will help you develop your academic and holistic self! You can also start your own student organization if there isn't one that you’re interested in at MIT or Caltech — both universities offer support and encouragement to help you succeed.
MIT and Caltech are both highly competitive science institutions, and applicants must meet minimum GPA requirements. While grades and accolades are important at both of these top universities, both consider applicants holistically, beyond academics.
MIT Admissions emphasizes test results and grades, but they also consider the application as a whole. MIT also evaluates you based on how well you match with the institution’s mission and values. They’re looking for students who align with MIT’s mission, collaborate and cooperate, take initiative and risks, possess hands-on creativity, show intensity curiosity and excitement, and prioritize balance.
When it comes to the essays, MIT requires you to submit several short supplemental essays and responses so they can get to know you better. The MIT supplemental essay is your chance to connect directly with the admissions team and show them why you want to attend MIT. Be open and honest with your answers.
The academic expectations for admission at Caltech are aligned with the depth and breadth of their undergraduates' academic curriculum. The admissions office considers students who they believe will succeed in the rigor of their first year and beyond. In order to apply to Caltech, prospective students need to show that they have taken the most rigorous English coursework available. The university also has specifications on the degree of preparedness of each student in science and mathematics. To learn more about Caltech’s admission requirements, their website goes in-depth about their expectations!
If you want to learn how to boost your overall application to top universities and make sure your application stands out, download our free eBook on How to Crush Your US College Application!
Quality education is guaranteed regardless of which top university you attend. When narrowing down your university options, remember to prioritize the academics — examine the course descriptions thoroughly or consider attending open days at each university to get a feel for them. You might also consider getting in touch with alumni from MIT or Caltech.
To learn more about what it takes to gain acceptance to MIT, Caltech, or any of the world’s top universities, check out our Ultimate Guide to Gaining Admission to Top US and UK Universities.
If you’re interested in applying to MIT or Caltech, Crimson Education can help. Our admissions advisors know what it takes to get into these prestigious universities. They can help you choose classes and extracurriculars that pair well with your future major and answer any questions you have about the application process. Schedule a free consultation with an admissions counselor today.