Let’s Talk College: The Claremont McKenna Consortium

In order to make the right college choices, it is important to have the right information. The value of a college goes far beyond its ranking. In fact, as I have reported previously, many of the 16 factors used by U.S. News & World Report to rank colleges have little or no significance to the vast majority of families who use the rankings as an absolute measure of a college’s quality or value. While you can be fairly certain that a college ranked in the top 20 will provide your child with an excellent education, far too little attention is paid to the question of whether a college is actually a good fit for a student. In this series of articles, I will provide parents with some insights into some of the lesser-known factors of well-known colleges. It is my hope that by providing this information, I will help parents and students make the right decisions with respect to where they apply to college. 

The Claremont McKenna Consortium

The CMC Consortium, as it is known, is made up of five undergraduate colleges and two graduate colleges that, in effect, all share a single campus in Claremont, California. All seven colleges are located in a 1 square mile area. Students at each of the five undergraduate schools can take classes in any of the other four, and even fulfill a major at any of the other four. Quite literally, it is a two-minute walk from Harvey Mudd to Pomona, or from Claremont McKenna to Scripps or Pitzer. If you don’t want to walk, bicycles are readily available to take you from building to building in college to college. All five of these colleges are highly ranked and highly respected nationally. 

The highest ranked is Pomona, 5th among all liberal arts schools in the country according to U.S. News & World Report. Pomona is impressive, both in terms of its campus and its academics. It boasts small classes, super smart students, an intellectual atmosphere, and a low stress, high achievement mentality. You don’t go to Pomona to fool around, though there are plenty of opportunities to exercise your body as well as your brain. Pomona definitely has the feel of a California school, but the level of classes and intelligence of its students are top-notch. Pomona is best known for its programs in government and economics, though it also has a great international relations program and science program. There is really nothing not to love about Pomona. Its campus is gorgeous, classes are small, and its level of academics is second to none. The fact that you can take classes at Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, or Pitzer makes it even better.

Claremont McKenna is currently ranked 9th for liberal arts colleges. It is literally right next to Pomona, and shares some of Pomona’s laid-back attitude. The students have a reputation of being super friendly and super helpful. Yet, the academics are rigorous and most students at Claremont McKenna have a great deal of success getting into top-ranked graduate schools, especially medical schools. As with Pomona, students at Claremont McKenna are super smart and work very hard while maintaining a healthy work–play balance. Claremont McKenna allows candidates to create a two-minute video in lieu of an essay. Some of these videos are remarkably creative and effective. If you are considering applying to Claremont McKenna, you should definitely consider making a wonderfully creative video. 

Harvey Mudd is the technical school on the CMC campus. Like the other CMC schools, it is highly ranked and well respected. While it is ranked 18th among liberal arts colleges, it is tied for 1st place in undergraduate engineering programs among colleges that do not offer doctoral programs. That is pretty amazing when you consider the number of excellent engineering programs in the US. Harvey Mudd has a strong honor code that students abide by. Imagine taking a timed final exam in your dorm room! Imagine professors that actually trust you to do the right thing because honor is more important than grades. As for the other CMC schools, there is a tightknit student community. Its total undergraduate enrollment is about the size of a medium high school. Of course, having the ability to take courses at the other four colleges in the CMC system makes the Harvey Mudd experience that much more enriching. If you are looking for a small engineering school with a great reputation, you need go no further than Harvey Mudd. The campus is replete with green grass and modern classrooms. Also, there is evidence to support that Harvey Mudd graduates earn higher incomes than Ivy League graduates. Finally, Harvey Mudd is well known for collaboration among students. Typically, problems are assigned to groups rather than individuals and collectively these groups work through problems to find group-oriented solutions. Since this matches life in the real world, Harvey Mudd graduates are ready to conquer some of the greatest challenges that the world of engineering has to offer.

Scripps is currently unranked by U.S. News & World Report because it provided misleading data to the publication. When it was ranked, it was in the top 20 liberal arts colleges. Like the other CMC colleges, Scripps students can take courses, or even undertake majors at the other four schools. Scripps is perhaps the most laid-back of all the CMC colleges. Its campus is idyllic, with lots of places to sit and rest among the gorgeous gardens and picturesque buildings. The students at Scripps are incredibly friendly, and also success oriented. They have an active social life with students at the other four CMC schools. Scripps has an incredibly strong program in biomedical sciences, as well as social sciences and psychology. Visiting the campus might give you a misleading opinion, since it is so picturesque and relaxing. In reality, students are challenged and supported. While there may be some exceptions, every student on campus seems to be happy and feel that they made the right choice in accepting an offer to attend Scripps College.

Pitzer seems to attract students who are socially and environmentally aware. Its most popular majors are psychology and environmental science. Also, students have the option of designing their own major. Pitzer students also gain from the fact that they can take courses at the other four CMC colleges. Pitzer’s campus is different from the other four CMC colleges, and perhaps could be considered the least attractive of the five. However, at CMC, the campus is all five campuses. Like the other CMC schools, Pitzer is very selective, with only a 13% acceptance rate. The average Pitzer student is highly intelligent, highly motivated, highly idealistic, socially active, and ready to change the world. 

Final note: it is quite easy to see all five colleges in a single visit, though you will not be able to officially tour all five colleges in a single day. That is because each tour takes approximately two hours, and includes a visit with the admissions department.

Neil Chyten, Founder, 

VIP College Counselor

NC Global Education, Inc. 

Member NACAC

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