The Ivy Coach Daily

August 16, 2021

California Institute of Technology 2021-2022 Essay Prompts

Caltech has released its essays for applicants to the Class of 2026 (photo credit:

The California Institute of Technology has released its 2021-2022 essay prompts. Applicants to Caltech’s Class of 2026 are required to answer three essay prompts. Each response should be between 100-250 words. Yet loyal readers of our college admissions blog know all too well that when an elite university says you can write between this many words and that many words, you should always go up to the maximum word count to use all of the space they give you to make your case for admission. So what are Caltech’s three essay prompts this year, you ask? Wonder no more!

The first Caltech essay prompt reads, “Tell us about a time or experience in which you encountered failure. We would like to know more about your potential to persist through challenges and problems that you will face in the future. Qualities such as resilience and persistence can be key to solving the many problems and responding to the frequent failures that can be encountered in academics or research. In an essay about research and discovery at Caltech, “The Transformative Power of Failure”, several current and past members of our community share their anecdotes about, and perspectives on, various forms of failure. Here are questions that may help guide your response: How do you define failure? What was the problem you were trying to solve? What did you learn from the experience? Did you seek advice or help from others? If so, did you receive any, or did you move forward without? What contributed to your resilience as you struggled, and what motivated your persistence?”

The second essay prompt reads, “Tell us about a life situation, media story, or topic – beyond or outside of a classroom or formal assignment – that has captivated you, inspired your curiosity, and lead you to delve more deeply into learning about a subject on your own. We would like to learn about the nature of your own curiosity and drive to learn independently. Here are questions that may help guide your response: What was the situation, story, or topic? In which ways did it spike your curiosity? Down what path did this newfound interest lead you? How did the pursuit of a deeper, more focused understanding of this prove valuable or satisfying to you?”

And the third essay prompt reads, “Tell us about how you have collaborated with and worked together within a small group of your peers on some task or endeavor in the past, or about how you imagine you will work with your Caltech peers in the future. We would like to know more about your potential to collaborate and work together with others as you reach your own understanding of the problem and solution, whether it be an academic assignment or a research project. At Caltech, it is often the case that problem sets assigned during the first year can be challenging enough that any one student is unable to come up with the solutions in isolation. This has fostered a tradition of small groups of students forming to work together to solve these problems, such that each team member also reaches a deep understanding, both of the solution and the path taken to get there as a collaborative group. Here are questions that may help guide your response: What have your peers told you about the ways you contribute to working in groups? How do you approach problem solving in groups? What would your peers tell us about how you collaborate and work together with them?”

Have a question about the California Institute of Technology 2021-2022 essay prompts? Let us know your question by posting it below.

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