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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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How to Write the Claremont McKenna Essays 2019-2020

Claremont McKenna College (CMC), is a small liberal arts college located within a cluster of seven prestigious institutions, collectively known as the Claremont Colleges consortium. CMC’s place within the consortium allows students to choose from over 2,000 classes and activities alongside 7,000 other students, despite limiting its own enrollment to 1,400 undergraduates.


One of the only colleges to truly be able to offer both an intimately-small campus and the resources of a much larger school, CMC is seeing its applicant pool grow rapidly with each passing year. In the 2018-2019 admissions cycle, Claremont McKenna admitted just 584 students of over 6,000 applicants, for an acceptance rate of 9.3%. 


Have your heart set on attending Claremont McKenna College? The supplemental essays are a great place to stand out in a high-achieving applicant pool. Want to know your chances at Claremont McKenna? Calculate your chances for free right now.

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

This prompt is straightforward, but incredibly important. Claremont McKenna accepts fewer than 600 students each year, and this prompt is your chance to show them why you should be one of the few who gets a spot. Prove that you’re a fit for Claremont McKenna.


Before you start writing, set aside several hours to research the school. Ask yourself the following questions to guide your search:


  1. What makes CMC unique?
  2. What gets me excited about CMC? 
  3. Why is this the school that can best help me accomplish my goals?


I separated these out into three separate questions, but the truth is, your final product should find a way to implicitly answer all of them with the same one to three examples. Moreover, it should be incredibly specific to Claremont McKenna. Let’s say you’re applying as an economics major with a passion for social entrepreneurship. Here are some topics you might mention in the essay:


  1. Claremont McKenna’s motto of “learning for the sake of doing” fosters a community of students who collaborate to bring change, facilitating this exchange with resources like the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Tie this into your own goals within the space of social entrepreneurship, and how you hope to use these resources and community to work toward your objectives. 


  1. The Athenaeum brings in speakers with diverse backgrounds. As an example, you might mention one of the speakers in CMC’s 2019 lineup, such as Haben Girma who will be speaking about innovation within the disability space. 


Both of the above examples can only apply to CMC, proving to the admissions officer that the applicant did their research and didn’t just copy and paste from another essay. The examples also demonstrate the applicant’s personal passions, as well as how the applicant will pursue these passions at CMC. 


Essentially, your essay should paint a picture of yourself at Claremont McKenna, demonstrating why the two belong together.


A person sitting cross legged, pointing to the text, with an abstract monitor behind them  

Your GPA and SAT don’t tell the full admissions story


Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographics, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

Calculate your acceptance chances

Your GPA and SAT don’t tell the full admissions story


Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographics, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

Calculate your acceptance chances

Required: What is intellectual courage? (150-250 words)

For this prompt, CMC wants you to think outside the box. There really isn’t a right answer; rather, the school wants to see your thoughts and how you back them up. Remember, they’re trying to bring together a group of bright students, each able to contribute something unique and interesting to the classroom. Try to think creatively instead of providing a safe, or cookie-cutter, response.


In order to accomplish this, we recommend using a personal anecdote. This will give you a chance to show your personality and will make for a more engaging read. 


As an example, let’s say your class was having a debate and the teacher invited people to pick a side to argue; maybe the majority of the class picks the same side, but you decide to choose the other side because you want to inspect the unpopular viewpoint. This is intellectual courage: you stepped outside of your comfort zone to explore a new perspective. You can go on to explain what this taught you, both about the specific debate, as well as in exploring new viewpoints in general.


There are many other definitions, examples, and narratives you can provide for intellectual courage. Here are a few other examples:


  1. Exploring a new hobby
  2. Confronting a fear
  3. Overcoming an obstacle
  4. Sharing your work with an audience


The list could go on and on, but essentially boils down to going beyond one’s comfort zone. Brainstorm several of your own possible definitions and various personal anecdotes to support each. Select one that you feel embodies your version of intellectual courage and will allow you to speak to your own personality and interests. This is a great opportunity to showcase your own voice, so use it!

Required for applicants with a criminal or disciplinary history: Please give the approximate date(s) of each incident, explain the circumstances, and reflect on what you learned from the experience. (600 words)

While this prompt doesn’t apply to most applicants, it’s an extremely important opportunity for the applicants it does apply to. This is your chance to share your perspective, as well as your growth. 


CMC allows 600 words—more than double the length of either of the school’s standard supplemental essays—because they genuinely want to hear your story and give you the benefit of the doubt. In explaining the circumstances, it’s important to accept responsibility, where appropriate. Be mature, straightforward, and honest. Most importantly, show how you have grown and learned. 


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