How to Write the Harvey Mudd College Essays 2021-2022
Note: HMC’s essay prompts historically do not change very much, if at all. These prompts aren’t yet confirmed for the 2021-2022 cycle, but we expect them to stay the same. Check back in August for any updates!
Passionate about STEM, but unwilling to give up the humanities? Certain that you want to major in computational biology, but secretly hoping to also continue your weekly art projects? Meet Harvey Mudd, a liberal arts college in the Claremont consortium near Los Angeles, California. While there are barely more than 800 undergraduates at HMC, four other colleges and two graduate schools are right across the street, offering unparalleled resources to all Mudders. Besides the pranks and a healthy rivalry with nearby Caltech, HMC’s notable curriculum features a generous humanities requirement alongside its ten STEM majors.
The admit rate for the Class of 2024 was 13%, so don’t disregard those supplements! Keep reading to find out how to write standout essays for Harvey Mudd. Want to know your chances at Harvey Mudd? Calculate your chances for free right now.
Want to learn what HMC will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering HMC needs to know.
How to Write the Harvey Mudd Essays
Prompt 1: What influenced you to apply to Harvey Mudd College? What about the HMC curriculum and community appeals to you? (500 words)
While you agonize about getting into HMC, the admissions office is fretting over whether you’d actually enroll. Remember that every admitted student is a gamble on their end, too! Accordingly, this essay should convince them that there has never been a more reliable investment than yourself.
Step one is to do your research. Start with the website─make a list of one specific class you would like to take a HMC, one club or resource you would like to take advantage of, and one aspect of campus culture that resonates with you. You can get a good sense of HMC’s culture by digging through YouTube and talking with alumni.
Once you have a solid idea of what aspects of HMC connect with you, you can start thinking about what to write. The challenge with this prompt is that you’ll be covering a few things that stand out to you—a list, in other words, but a list is hardly an essay. The challenge becomes how creatively you present your list items and how smoothly you connect them together, with the ideal end product being a cohesive and memorable narrative.
Remember that as with any “Why School?” prompt, the question you should really be answering is “Why this School and You?”. HMC already knows that HMC is amazing, so don’t pitch the college to itself. Instead, the topics you discuss in this essay should illustrate what you care about, and the reader should walk away with a better sense of who you are and why you’re interested in HMC. Make sure that your “reasons why” for attending HMC include the university’s values, academics, extracurricular activities, and social life.
The easiest approach is to begin your essay by highlighting one main theme that connects everything in your list. Here is an example:
This may sound out of the blue, but I want to build dams one day, specifically concrete-face rock-fill dams. My interest in large civil structures came from the stories my auntie told of Guyana and how her country needs better infrastructure. To most people, all of that would sound like “too much” ─ but not at Harvey Mudd College. I saw that during my campus visit, where students took the time to explain their physics equations on the workroom board when I asked. This spirit of open-mindedness is found in every aspect of Harvey Mudd, and I aspire to partake in it.
I am drawn to Harvey Mudd’s Department of Engineering in particular because its faculty includes Dr. Duron, who could mentor me in research involving field test procedures for large concrete dams. My career goal is to redesign hydroelectric dams to be more eco-friendly and efficient ─ Harvey Mudd’s open-minded and interdisciplinary engineering curriculum, combined with its strategic vision of Informed Contributions to Society, would give me the educational foundation I need to think through dam design…
“These past three years, I have received many college brochures about the magical concept of AND. This isn’t an OR place, they insist. Here, you can have pre-professionalism AND learning for learning’s sake, sports AND academics, professors who do great research AND teach you at the same time! What a steal!
The introduction sets the stage for the author to connect the HMC value of open-mindedness to each of the characteristics of HMC that appeals to them. The second paragraph shows the level of specificity required to connect your individual goals to the academic resources that HMC offers. The step beyond this part is to answer the “community” question of the prompt ─ what extracurricular activities, aspects of HMC social life, virtues of campus culture, and/or spaces on campus are a great fit for you compared to the offerings at other universities? Here is an example answer:
I value giving back through community service, and I have a particular interest in Harvey Mudd’s Mudders Making a Difference program. As a four-year volunteer math tutor and homeless shelter staffer, I hope to continue this work as a MMAD member. I am excited to collaborate with my peers to run CHAP community cafes and educate budding young scientists at the PUSD Science Fair. At Harvey Mudd, I can work with open-minded people to make a meaningful difference…
It would be a good bonus to discuss your interactions with members of the HMC community in your essay ─ this lends credence to your list items and demonstrates initiative. Think about whether you have had an enlightening conversation with an admissions officer, or maybe even a professor. Did you get a chance to visit campus, or interview with an alum? Explain what you’ve learned about HMC through these experiences, along with how they have solidified your interest in the school.
Beware of getting too carried away with setting up context (details are good, but they can also stretch out expositions unnecessarily), and remember that everything you describe should come back to who you are—not the admissions officer/alum/professor with whom you spoke.
Those who’d prefer to be creative, however, should do some serious brainstorming. An oft-relied on technique is writing from the perspective of a non-human or inanimate object—perhaps the sparrow that flew into your host’s room when you visited campus, or the age-old gum stuck underneath that one chair in the Sprague lab. (Best, however, would be a letter from the Caltech cannon that Mudders stole in 1986.)
Prompt 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. Tell us about your dream HSA class. Your answer might (but doesn’t have to) include projects you could do, texts you might want to read, or topics you would want to explore. (100 words)
As the prompt suggests, this is a great opportunity to showcase your interest in something non-STEM! Some expertise (or research, at the very least) will likely be necessary to write an effective essay, so if you have a specific passion or hobby in the humanities, social sciences, or arts, this is the prompt for you.
The possibilities are endless—a pianist who especially adores Chopin, for instance, may propose a course focusing on how the composer’s life experiences influenced his musical output, or a student interested in social psychology may propose a course concentrating exclusively on theories of conformity.
Regardless of the topic, however, those who plan to answer this prompt must take care to be very specific (as proof of genuine interest), while also keeping the essay comprehensible and relatable to the average “outsider,” i.e. the admissions officer.
Remember that your reader may not understand the particulars of your topic as well as you do, so be sure to contextualize details and storytell rather than list. Let your passion bleed through the essay—a conversational tone mixed with a sense of wonderment and curiosity would work well.
The essay about Chopin may look like this:
“You see, there’s just something exquisite about Chopin’s works, a perfection and masterful simplicity to them that I’ve never seen elsewhere. While I’ve studied some of the theory, I long to better understand how he was inspired to create such masterpieces in the first place. My dream HSA course would examine the influences that made Chopin’s music into the legacy they are today, studying topics like his strong sense of nationalism, his relationship with George Sand, his circle of friends, and his own favorite composers. I’d like the course to be a sweeping overview of his life story, played leggerissimo.”
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