Claremont McKenna College Tour
I live in Los Angeles, and the drive east to the town of Claremont was quicker than I had expected on the multi-lane 10 freeway. I was going to tour Claremont McKenna College (CMC) and Pomona College, part of a 5-college consortium that is colloquially known as the 5Cs.
The participating colleges are CMC, Pomona, Scripps, Pitzer, and Harvey Mudd. You can read a previous blog entry here on the 5Cs to learn more about each school and their shared environment.
CMC is a very small liberal arts school with only around 1300 students and class sizes of 17 students to one professor. 95% of students live on the beautiful, manicured campus and study in an environment that the school describes as collaborative and not competitive. Our guide commented that introductory classes are not graded on a curve but upper-level classes are. Students are committed to helping each other pursue their own academic and professional missions.
Students can choose from an impressive number of majors, and you can also major at one of the other 5C colleges. One high schooler on the tour wanted to double major in psychology and music, and he learned he could major directly at Pomona given their strong reputation in music.
Two specialized resources that CMC offers to all students are their writing consultants and quant labs. Supplementing the Freshman mandatory writing seminar, CMC has upperclassmen and professors serve as writing consultants in this formal writing lab for your entire time as an undergrad. The school also is proud of their Quantitative and Computing Lab, which supports all students and faculty in gaining mathematical, data analysis, and computer skills through workshops and personal mentoring.
CMC also has 11 research institutes on subjects such as leadership, innovation, human rights, and international studies. Around 90% of students do paid research, which is in line with the school’s focus on the application of knowledge. Additionally, CMC promotes and financially supports all types of internships. They are particularly proud of their intense 40-hour-in-semester internships through their Washington DC and Silicon Valley programs.
CMC is very proud of their Athenaeum Speaker Series, which is housed in a dedicated building set up for lectures and formal dinners so that students can interact directly with visiting luminaries. The tour guide was clear that the school is trying to educate students on how to network, how to ask questions, and how to even eat properly at a formal dinner.
The school has a policy of no freshman-only dorms—CMC tries to push entering students to expose themselves to upperclassmen who may have a more defined sense of what they want to do. And being data driven, the school asks students to fill out complex housing survey forms which are then analyzed for days to come up with housing assignments based on noise preferences, lifestyle, and other factors. The college does offer same-sex dorms, substance-free buildings, and other tailored arrangements. CMC’s campus has an intimate feel, though the campus does not feel small. Many students came up to greet our tour guide and this reinforced the close-knit vibe.
Claremont has many D3 sports offerings and 3 gyms. The tour guide admitted that though some of the teams are competitive, they do not have a highly decorated sports program.
The tour guide was a senior from China, and he told us that each of the 5C schools has a different lens, somewhat driven by when they were founded and the needs of the times. CMC was founded in 1946 for a small group of men who had returned from World War II to prepare them to be future leaders of private and public enterprises through a distinctive liberal arts curriculum. The school has retained this very practical, professional motto of “learning for the sake of doing.” The school went co-ed in the 80s and has added a full liberal arts offering to complement its focus on leadership, economics, and governance.
The town of Claremont is absolutely lovely, with gorgeous trees that hover over the streets and make you feel far from fast-paced, urban Los Angeles. The town has tons of restaurants, coffee shops, and modern feel boutiques—the calm, elegant vibe is centered by the colleges.
I had both coffee and lunch in the town of Claremont, and everybody was so friendly and welcoming. This area is a hidden gem tucked below snow-capped mountains and near the California desert. I was honestly sold on Claremont very quickly—the town is safe, charming yet sophisticated with professors, students, and families walking, biking, and skateboarding everywhere.
Admissions and Financial Aid
CMC is a highly competitive liberal arts program with about half of their class coming from early admissions. My conversation with their admissions team revealed that their waitlist does move every year with around 20-30 spots opening up. CMC is test-optional and they do superscore the SAT and ACT. Interviews are not mandatory but are highly recommended and evaluative.
CMC meets full need and also offers several merit scholarships.
CMC is a very organized college with a beautiful, manicured campus. The school seems to foster a non-competitive environment while at the same time promoting readiness for professional life. Admissions officers I spoke with reinforced their internship-driven, pre-professional culture and career planning begins the 2nd week of Freshman year.
Students will experience an intense, residential, and safe campus life, yet Los Angeles is close enough for those who want to experience a big city escape or nearby beach life. CMC is quite dedicated to helping their students explore their paths early, supported by intimate faculty attention and impressive resources. Students have a palpable sense of purpose and drive, and the college nurtures them to graduate and succeed with confidence.