How to Write the Claremont McKenna College Essays 2020-2021

Claremont McKenna, or CMC, is a small, liberal arts college about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Although the student body is only about 1,300, CMC is part of a five school consortium called the Claremont Colleges. Students are able to take classes, play sports, and join clubs at Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Pomona, and Pitzer in addition to CMC. Combined, about 8,500 students attend these five schools.

 

In 2020, US News ranked CMC the seventh best liberal arts college in the country. CMC’s acceptance rate was roughly 10% for the Class of 2024, with a middle 50% SAT range of 1380-1490, and 31-34 for the ACT. Want to know your chances at CMC? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

Want to learn what CMC will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering CMC needs to know.

 

Claremont McKenna College Supplemental Essay Prompts

Prompt 1: Why do you want to attend CMC? (150-250 words)

 

Prompt 2: One of the hallmarks of a CMC education is the first-year humanities program that all students take in their first year at the College. The program has two components: the Freshman Humanities Seminar (FHS) and the Freshman Writing Seminar (FWS). While each FHS and FWS seminar has a distinctive approach in terms of texts and topics, their pairing gives first-year students a shared academic experience in small, writing-intensive courses that foster critical thinking about a wide range of important issues.

 

FHS introduces first-year students to some of the crucial questions that human beings face with relation to society and the world. Individual sections are taught by faculty from a range of departments. Past and current topics include:

 

  1. Democracy and Leadership
  2. Women in Science
  3. Unconventional Thinking

 

FWS, taught by faculty from the literature department, develops students’ abilities in written and oral communication at the college level. Past and current topics include:

 

  1. Art of the Personal Essay
  2. Blackness in American Cinema
  3. Post-Apocalyptic Humanity

 

For the purpose of this essay prompt, pick one FHS or FWS seminar to study at CMC. What part of your personal experience—or your desire to know more about an area outside of your experience—best explains your seminar choice? (150-250 words)

Prompt 1

Why do you want to attend CMC? (150-250 words)

As a classic “Why this college?” prompt, there are two things you want to focus on in your response. First, specific opportunities offered at CMC. Second, how those opportunities align with your passions.

 

Let’s begin with identifying specific opportunities. When you start brainstorming, it’s possible you realize the reasons you’re interested in CMC are pretty general: perhaps you like California, or you want to go to a small school. That’s completely normal, since there’s only so much you can learn from brochures and info sessions, but you’ll need to research more concrete reasons in order to write a strong response.

 

For example, perhaps you’re a woman interested in a career in business. After exploring the CMC website, you might write about how you envision the Women and Leadership Alliance, which “highlight[s] issues faced by women in leadership in business, government and the professions,” helping you develop skills to combat workplace discrimination. 

 

CMC also offers the Washington Program, an off-campus program in Washington DC where students spend a semester completing an internship while taking CMC classes at night. You might discuss how this program will give you an opportunity to identify potential career paths.

 

In contrast to the examples above, just saying you like CMC’s government department is boring and ordinary. Every college has a government department, so that doesn’t tell the admissions committee anything about why you want to attend their school specifically. The examples above, on the other hand, are specific and unique to CMC.

 

These examples are also strong because they tell the committee something about who you are and what you hope to achieve in college. The opportunities you mention should be very different from the ones listed above based on your interests and goals.

 

There are also some things you want to avoid doing. First, “Why this college?” is a very common prompt, one you may have already responded to for another school. We strongly discourage you from just recycling that response and replacing the school name with CMC. You want your essay to feel original and thoughtful, not like you’re working from a template.

 

Second, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Once you start doing research, you’ll probably identify a whole bunch of things you’d love to do at CMC. But this essay isn’t long enough to mention all of them, and if you try to fit them all in you’ll likely run out of room to connect these opportunities to your own interests.

 

Third, try to avoid writing about the appeal of the Claremont Consortium. Although the Consortium is absolutely an awesome thing about CMC, it isn’t the best thing to mention in this particular essay. Wanting to be part of the Consortium only tells the committee you want to attend one of five schools, not their school specifically.

 

In summary, you want to paint a picture for the committee of what you would look like as a CMC student. What opportunities are you interested in, and what is your personal interest in those particular opportunities? If your essay answers those questions, you’re in great shape.

Prompt 2

One of the hallmarks of a CMC education is the first-year humanities program that all students take in their first year at the College. The program has two components: the Freshman Humanities Seminar (FHS) and the Freshman Writing Seminar (FWS). While each FHS and FWS seminar has a distinctive approach in terms of texts and topics, their pairing gives first-year students a shared academic experience in small, writing-intensive courses that foster critical thinking about a wide range of important issues.

 

FHS introduces first-year students to some of the crucial questions that human beings face with relation to society and the world. Individual sections are taught by faculty from a range of departments. Past and current topics include:

 

  1. Democracy and Leadership
  2. Women in Science
  3. Unconventional Thinking

 

FWS, taught by faculty from the literature department, develops students’ abilities in written and oral communication at the college level. Past and current topics include:

 

  1. Art of the Personal Essay
  2. Blackness in American Cinema
  3. Post-Apocalyptic Humanity

 

For the purpose of this essay prompt, pick one FHS or FWS seminar to study at CMC. What part of your personal experience—or your desire to know more about an area outside of your experience—best explains your seminar choice? (150-250 words)

This prompt gives you an opportunity to write about your academic interests in a more creative way than the standard “Why this major?” essay. Because you’re writing about just one class, not what you want to study for four years, your essay should focus more on your curiosity and learning style rather than your interest in one particular topic.

 

The first thing you want to do is choose the seminar you want to write about. Although the prompt lists a few examples, there will likely be a lot of applicants writing about those, so we suggest you look at the full list and pick one from there. That’s not to say you can’t write a strong response about one of the examples above, so long as you are genuinely drawn to it.

 

As you scroll through the full list of offerings, keep a couple of things in mind. First, note any courses that immediately catch your eye. All of these courses are offered at CMC, so don’t think about what will seem most intellectual—focus on the courses that speak most to you.

 

You should also remember that this isn’t a “Why this major?” essay. The prompt itself says you can write about your “desire to know more about an area outside of your experience,” meaning you are being encouraged to write about interests other than your intended major.

 

For instance, just because you’re interested in media studies doesn’t mean you have to write about “Literary Genres through Film.” You can, of course, but you should also feel free to choose a course that’s different from your normal academic interests, for example “Drug Development, Policy, and Innovation.”

 

Once you have selected a seminar, you want to think more deeply about the reasons you are drawn to it. Let’s say, for example, that you select “Literature and History in Opera and Ballet.” Perhaps you have never been to the opera or the ballet, but you love Netflix and are fascinated by what popular TV shows reveal about modern society. You could then write about how you are excited by the thought of using new art forms to learn about other time periods.

 

Alternatively, say you select “Voice, Variety, and Vernacular” because you love music and singing. You might choose one of your favorite songs and write about how the combination of lyrics and tone affects your interpretation of the song, and then express your hope that this course would show you some of the rationale behind these artistic choices.

 

These hypothetical reasons for wanting to take these two courses are both specific and personal. They show your reader that you are curious, thoughtful, and can think critically about the world around you. In contrast, if you just said you wanted to learn more about ballet, or that you like music, your reader wouldn’t get any sense of what you’re like as a student. 

 

If you’re having a hard time narrowing the focus of your essay, ask yourself leading questions: 

 

  • Why do you want to learn more about [X subject]? 
  • Why does your interest in [X subject] lead to your interest in this class? 
  • How will this class allow you to continue exploring [X subject]?

 

These kinds of questions will hopefully help you brainstorm specific experiences that will illustrate exactly how you will take advantage of the academic opportunities at CMC.

 

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