If Potential Major Is Math, Penn Vs. CalTech, Which One Do You Vote?

The choice may seem obvious since I plan to go into finance i.e. quant, vc, PE after college, but I keep wavering on the benefits of each school. Caltech is incredible for STEM, and I'm okay with the small campus size. However, I live about 2 hours from Penn, making travel easier, and my parents really like Penn’s vibe. I wonder if it might be better to attend an Ivy League school with a more diverse student body. I have reservations about Caltech being entirely STEM-focused. If I lose interest in math, what other options would I have at Caltech? It's known for being more theoretical, and I’m not sure I want that since I don't plan to pursue a PhD. But if I choose Penn, I'll always wonder if I missed out on Caltech. Does anyone have advice or has been in a similar situation? Actually, my strengths lie more in the humanities than in STEM, even though I qualified for AIME multiple times. 

Penn Vs. CalTech

35% (18 votes)
65% (34 votes)
Total votes: 52

Choosing between Penn and Caltech for a potential major in math, especially when considering a future in finance sectors like quant, VC, or PE, involves weighing several factors:

  1. Academic Strengths and Interests: Caltech is renowned for its rigorous STEM programs, which could provide a strong foundation for quantitative finance roles. However, if your strengths and interests lean more towards humanities, Penn's diverse academic offerings might cater better to your broader educational goals.

  2. Campus Environment and Location: Proximity to home and the overall campus vibe are important for your college experience. Being close to Penn allows easier travel and family visits, which can be a significant comfort factor. Additionally, Penn's diverse student body might offer a more balanced college life, especially if you're considering stepping outside STEM.

  3. Career Opportunities: Both institutions have strong networks, but Penn, being an Ivy League school, has extensive connections in finance, VC, and PE industries. This network can be invaluable when looking for internships and job placements.

  4. Flexibility in Academic Path: You mentioned a concern about losing interest in math and the theoretical focus at Caltech. Penn might offer more flexibility to explore and switch majors if your interests evolve over time, given its broader range of programs outside of STEM.

  5. Long-term Goals: Consider where you see yourself after graduation. If you are certain about entering a finance-related field, the broader alumni network and recruitment opportunities at Penn could be more beneficial. However, if you decide to stick with a highly technical or research-oriented role, Caltech's rigorous math program might be the better choice.

In conclusion, while Caltech offers a top-tier education in STEM, Penn provides greater flexibility and potentially better alignment with your interests and career aspirations in finance. It's also worth considering personal comfort and support systems, as these can significantly impact your academic success and overall college experience.

Sources: Deciding on quantitive majors/career path?, Leaving FAANG dev job for serious finance (Yes, you read that right), From Heartbroken Undergrad to Elite Wall Street Warrior – My Story, Are you guys happy with life? Help me please., You Get to Redo College

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Sounds like you are leaning towards Penn. I don’t think you’d be at a significant advantage going to one versus the other in terms of quant recruiting; however, the two schools have VERY different cultures/vibes. There aren’t many people who would be comfortable going to a college with less students than most public high schools. But if you are a nerd at heart, CalTech might be a great fit for you. You are spending 4 of the best years of your life at either of these schools, so I recommend picking based on culture rather than any minuscule advantage you’d get recruiting out of one versus the other.


This is an idiotic poll — Caltech 100%. Caltech will make you more interesting in a PE interview and as a colleague than Penn.

Also, non-Wharton Penn screams “I’m just here because I didn’t get into Wharton but want to extract from the Penn brand.” And people at Caltech are doing things WAY more interesting than PE lol. 

Go to Caltech and never look back. Perplexed why this is even a question.

Sounds like a troll post.


If you’re interested in pure math/engineering, why would you major in business? Penn is strong in disciplines outside of Wharton, and if you are interested in quant Penn math >= Wharton. I personally could not suffer through CalTech’s culture and lack of social scene for four years, so I’d choose Penn even if it means a minuscule decrease in chances at high finance


GPA should not a worry whatsoever. If I see a Cal tech kid with a 3.3 GPA vs 4.0 GPA Penn kid I’m choosing the Caltech kid 100%. Having a kid on my desk from that background would be incredibly enriching


1. Non-Wharton Penn is not even close to the same caliber as Wharton. Non-Wharton Penn = non target.

2. If OP wants to major in math, Caltech is a no brainer. Even from a cultural perspective, OP would grow more from being surrounded by the Cal Tech student body. OP will get dumber if he/she goes to Penn over Caltech

3. OP can still get his/her dose of humanities by going to cal tech through a couple of electives.

There will be far more growth at Caltech than the Non-Wharton Penn joke


We get it, you go to Caltech lmao. You're delusional for thinking Caltech is the #3 school when its not even top 12, especially for finance. I'd take every ivy other than columbia (have had terrible experience interviewing candidates there), stanford, mit, duke and chicago over caltech


If you are wanting to do quant, then I think Cal Tech’s more quantitative / technical reputation will be more helpful. Anecdotally, the CalTech grads I have met tend to be among the brightest guys I know. Culturally very academic though (think: grew up doing Putnam questions with their dad on the weekends)

For more traditional finance roles, Penn is a great school with lots of industry connections. Regionality and network certainly help, but I can’t speak to how the Wharton vs Non-Wharton distinction plays out in hiring (I am not in that world)

Both schools will pretty much ensure you get past the resume screen for either type of role, so it’s somewhat a matter of preference regarding (1) desired skillset, (2) desired career, and (3) desired culture


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