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Harvey Mudd Essay Example: Breakdown + Analysis

If you’re a STEM student who can’t bear to part with the humanities, look no further than Harvey Mudd College! Just an hour away from Los Angeles and on the same campus as four other colleges of the Claremont Consortium, HMC is a West Coast magnet for aspiring engineers and scientists who also seek unrivaled opportunities in less technical subjects. Famous for pranking, a rivalry with nearby Caltech, and a flagship Clinic Program that blends academics with industry work, HMC’ is a great place to attend.


As with most highly selective colleges, essays are often the deciding factor in admissions. This year, only two supplements are required: 


1. Please answer the following (500 word limit): What influenced you to apply to Harvey Mudd College? What about the HMC curriculum and community appeals to you?


2. Many students choose HMC because they don’t want to give up their interests in the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts – or HSA as we call it at HMC. Briefly (in 100 words or less) describe what you’d like to learn about in your dream HSA class.


In this post, we’ll be looking at an essay that worked for the second prompt. For crafting your Why HMC essay, we suggest reading through these: 



Harvey Mudd Supplemental Essay Prompt

Many students choose HMC because they don’t want to give up their interests in the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts – or HSA as we call it at HMC. Briefly describe what you’d like to learn about in your dream HSA class. (100 words)

Harvey Mudd Example Essay 

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 


“Politics intruded on science.” That was the tagline of a New York Times op-ed by Dr. Rod Schoonover, a senior analyst at the State Department. He had just resigned because the White House blocked his paper on the threats climate change poses to national security. 


Politics and science have been inextricably linked for centuries, and strong relations between the two can revolutionize our world. Unfortunately, such relations have soured: claims of “fake news” subvert data and delegitimize reporters. It is now imperative that all scientists are as well-versed as Schoonover was in his op-ed, so that we can salvage the relationship between science and politics. The HSA course I am suggesting, “From Galileo to the Green New Deal: STEM Advocacy Through a Governmental Lens,” would focus on this connection.


The first half of this course would study the history of struggles between government and science from the 1500s to the present day. This history would start off with the Scientific Revolution, a conflict between the old ideology of the Catholic Church, a religious and political body, and the new ideology of leading scientists. 


The history component of this course would conclude with modern conflicts between science and politics, including the climate change debate and the Green New Deal, the overuse of antibiotics in farms and medical treatments, or the addictive properties of opioids and their propagation in Middle America. All of these current issues have one thing in common: through science, we have identified a problem that exists and how to resolve it, but a lack of communication prevents us from taking concrete action. 


The second half of this course would focus on improving students’ communication skills by applying the rhetoric of older scientists to modern-day controversies. At this point, students would study a variety of scientific writers and their argumentative techniques. 


These rhetorical strategies are just as varied as the topics that these scientists wrote about. For instance, Galileo used Simplicio, a fictional character modeled after two philosophers who disagreed with Galileo, to present (and contradict) existing geocentric beliefs in Dialogue. Charles Darwin introduced his theory of evolution with staggering detail and a conversational tone in The Origin of Species, anticipating the backlash he would receive from religious leaders. Rachel Carson combined an informative tone with pathos to warn readers of chemical pesticides in Silent Spring. Armed with these techniques, students would complete a final project, writing (and potentially publishing) an article like Dr. Schoonover’s, explaining a STEM-based argument in a political context to the public. 


In this era especially, scientists must also function as politicians, crafting their words to promote their work. This course would improve the existing political landscape, dominated by alternative facts and fake news, and raise a new generation of leaders that effectively combines science and politics, which could improve our world for generations to come. 

Why This Harvey Mudd Essay Example Worked


First: did you notice that this essay wasn’t 100 words? As it happens, this prompt used to have a limit of 500 words, so the above sample clocks in at a whopping 471. Keeping in mind that length does play a role in what you can cover, we will adjust our analysis accordingly and highlight what translates well to a shorter essay. 


Ultimately, this piece effectively demonstrates the author’s clear appreciation and understanding of how STEM critically applies to the other issues in the real world, showing off her interest in civic engagement along with hinting at how she herself might contribute in the future as a scientist. It’s particularly successful because she offers specific examples and ideas to back up the interests described here, lending her ethos and showing the depth of her commitment and knowledge to areas outside of STEM. She’s presented herself as an all-around educated figure who is passionate about what’s going on in the world, and also identifies a thoughtful solution to an important problem — exactly the kind of perspective, spirit, and promise for impact that HMC likes to see. 


Let’s go step-by-step. “Politics intruded on science,” is the op-ed quote she begins with, showing that she stays on top of the news while also introducing her overlapping interests in science and politics. This is special because many students who look at the prompt may very well pick something utterly unrelated to STEM to discuss, expounding on their interests there. While this strategy can work too, it’s also deft to unite STEM with non-STEM and show how the two are connected. 


Next, the writer identifies the problem to be solved: communication is (and always has been) critical to salvaging the relationship between politics and science. Accordingly, the rest of her essay delves into how her proposed HSA class will educate STEM students on historical conflicts between these two branches and help them develop the skills necessary for effectively tackling similar situations in the future, as — she points out — they likely encounter this need in their future careers. 


To lend further credence to her argument and demonstrate the depth of her knowledge, the author provides specific examples, referencing the Green New Deal and the current opioid crisis. She also discusses rhetorical strategies in works of literature like Galileo’s Dialogue, Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, all of which had significant historical impacts on our public understanding of science. Her analysis of each shows that she not only read these books but also thought about them, enough to derive intelligent insights from each. 


Her suggested final assignment further aligns with the notion of real-world impact, asking students to consolidate their knowledge and make productive contributions. Her concluding remarks nicely summarize the necessity of this proposed class, reinforcing our understanding of her passion for using knowledge to solve current and future problems. 


Key Takeaways


So, what might you do with only 100 words? The first step is details: as this author demonstrated, they can make all the difference. Whatever topic you choose, you should be able to reference specifics, as they engage the reader and prove that you’re genuinely interested and educated in what you’re talking about.


Second, you can either go for an overlap in STEM and your topic — as this author did here with science and politics — or stay solidly in a non-STEM subject, which may be especially practical for those who have a deep interest in something truly esoteric and/or nerdy: e.g. Wagner operas, Enlightenment philosophy, or 1970s graphic novels, to name a few. Either method can demonstrate your fit with HMC — just don’t choose something too adjacent to STEM to solely focus on, such as artificial intelligence or space exploration. 


Third, don’t waste space with setting up. The main difference between your 100 words and this author’s 500 words is space for cushioning: she put in an introduction, conclusion, and nice transitions throughout that you simply won’t have space for. As you only have 100 words, get to the point quickly! Spend the bulk of your response on fleshing out relevant details and building a coherent line of reasoning. 


And lastly, we strongly recommend that you find some way to demonstrate everyday relevance or tie your topic to a current world issue. By virtue of the subject matter, the author easily accomplished this. You can see how it gave her an identity of being involved in her community, passionate about bettering the world, and a strong likelihood of being significant in whatever she chooses to pursue. HMC students are a close-knit community and often go on to do impressive things, so you want to demonstrate that as fascinating and learned as you are in your niche HSA interests, you also recognize their potential for impact and share a desire in making this world a better place. We suggest that you either begin or end here, and also remember that this sentiment doesn’t take much to communicate — just a well-written concluding sentence could be enough!


If you want more help for writing your HMC supplements, check out How to Write the Harvey Mudd College Essays.


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