Caltech opens doors to students from schools without calculus, physics, chemistry

The California Institute of Technology has long been one of the most selective schools in the country, boasting an admission rate of only 3% last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It’s something the school embraces, highlighting that “Caltech is hard” on the school’s webpage listing academic requirements for applicants.

For some gifted applicants, however, what was already a daunting prospect was truly impossible, as Caltech refused to admit students who did not take physics, calculus and chemistry, even if their schools did not offer those classes.

But Thursday, the Pasadena school announced a new pathway for students who weren’t offered the chance to take those classes, according to the Times.

Those students can take and score highly on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or some other certification tests, including by taking and passing free online classes through Khan Academy to prove their mastery of the subjects.

The change could affect a large number of teens, as more than a third of U.S. high schools don’t offer calculus at all, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Furthermore, about 12% of schools don’t offer chemistry, and more than a quarter don’t offer physics.

It’s a problem of equity and opportunity, Richard Murray, chair of the biology and biological engineering division at Caltech, told the Times.

“You might just live in a town that only has one high school, and that high school doesn’t happen to offer calculus … then you’re kind of out of luck…,” he said. “It just seemed to me that we should allow for the fact that not everybody has … equal access to the things that would help you be successful at Caltech.”

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