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How to Write the Harvey Mudd College Essays 2022-2023

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.

 

Harvey Mudd College requires that you respond to two prompts, one about your own background and one about your dream Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts (HSA) class.

 

HMC receives thousands of applications from students with a strong academic record, so the essays are a great opportunity to showcase your uniqueness as an individual.

 

Read this HMC essay example by an accepted student to inspire your writing.

 

Harvey Mudd College Supplemental Essay Prompts

 

Prompt 1: “Scientific research is a human endeavor. The choices of topics that we research are based on our biases, our beliefs, and what we bring: our cultures and our families.  The kinds of problems that people put their talents to solving depends on their values.” – Dr. Clifton Poodry

 

How has your own background influenced the types of problems you want to solve, the people you want to work with, and the impact you hope your work can have? (500 words)

 

Prompt 2: Many students choose Harvey Mudd 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.

 

Prompt 1

“Scientific research is a human endeavor. The choices of topics that we research are based on our biases, our beliefs, and what we bring: our cultures and our families. The kinds of problems that people put their talents to solving depends on their values.” – Dr. Clifton Poodry

How has your own background influenced the types of problems you want to solve, the people you want to work with, and the impact you hope your work can have? (500 words)

This prompt is a combination of the very common Diversity Essay and “Why This Major?” prompt. The admissions committee wants to know where you come from, where you’re going, and why. HMC has a diverse pool of applicants, so they want to see the different perspectives that are being brought to their institution.

 

You should ask yourself some questions before writing to guide the direction of your essay:

 

What is a specific community that you belong to or background that you have that has impacted you and your development? Community can refer to people who share the same:



  • Ethnicity/Race
  • Gender
  • Country of origin
  • Language
  • Hometown
  • Income class
  • Illness
  • Interests/activities

 

How do you feel about your background? Think about some important experiences you had as a result of your background. Was there a formative experience that revealed a larger challenge or obstacle to your community? How has your identity influenced your outlook on the world? In what ways has your background impacted your goals for the future (major, career, projects, etc.)?

 

If you look at all the definitions above, you undoubtedly belong to several communities, but it’s best to focus on only one for this essay. You don’t want to list several communities and run out of room before elaborating on how one of them has contributed to your identity and worldview.

 

Once you’ve decided on the community you want to use, consider how it has changed your conception of the world. This can take many forms. Maybe you came from a working class area, and this upbringing inspired you to pursue civil engineering with the goal of fixing your town’s infrastructure. Or maybe you’re an African-American woman who noticed that your intersectional identity was underrepresented in medicine. Perhaps this background has made you want to study biology with the goal of becoming a doctor and serving your community.

 

For example, a student may begin to respond to this prompt like this:

“Grab your rain boots, the streets are flooded again!” I peered outside the window and yelled to my parents as we prepared to go grocery shopping.

 

Growing up in a small, coastal town, we occasionally experienced flooding, but it’d only gotten more frequent as we’d gotten older due to climate change. 

 

I ran out the door and splashed through the ankle-deep water to our elderly neighbor’s home, to ask if she needed anything from the store. I visited her weekly for tea and cookies, and she’d tell me stories of growing up in her home and all the mischief her and her brother got into. I knew it wasn’t safe for her to go outside in these conditions. But despite all the flooding, she refused to move because she’d lived in our town her whole life.

 

After learning about the solutions to coastal flooding in environmental science last year, I resolved to become a civil engineer to keep towns like my own safe, so that families could continue living there for generations to come…

This example is strong for several reasons. It commands the reader’s attention immediately while establishing the author’s background vividly. It then characterizes the exact kind of issue the author wishes to confront with her future work.

 

Think of this prompt as a sort of introduction to your identity. It should explain something about who you are, which will in turn give the admissions committee a clear idea of what makes you tick–your motivations and aspirations. Make sure to be sincere and concise, but also as comprehensive as you can be about the influence your background has had on your thinking.

 

Prompt 2

Many students choose Harvey Mudd 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.

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. If you want, you can even propose a course that blends STEM and non-STEM fields, such as the one written about in the example essay.

 

Before you begin writing, check out HMC’s list of HSA courses to ensure you don’t describe a class that already exists. Sure, your dream class might already be an available course, but this prompt is encouraging creativity and individuality so try to create your own class.

 

Regardless of your topic, you 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 tell a story 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.

Note three things about this example essay:

 

  • It’s vividly descriptive, while still being within the word limit (in fact, it’s exactly 100 words!)
  • It conveys both whimsical curiosity and a deep passion.
  • It is written about a very specific topic.

 

The last point is key; your essay should be as nuanced and specific as you can reasonably make it. You want to avoid writing a generic response along the lines of “I would like to take a class on music.”

 

Think of the non-STEM interests that truly fascinate, inspire, and fulfill you. Once you have your top one or two in mind, move to a deeper level of specificity. For example, if you decide to write about your love for comic books, think of your favorite hero or villain. Or, as in the example before, if you love music, think of your favorite musician or composer. Start by considering your interests broadly, then move into a more granular reflection on what in particular you like about/within that interest.

 

Be careful to clarify any technicalities in your writing, and make sure to let your passion shine through. If you’re specific, enthusiastic, and sincere, the sky’s the limit with this prompt!

 

Where to Get Your Harvey Mudd College Essays Edited

 

Want feedback on your Harvey Mudd College essays to improve your chances at admission? After rereading your own work dozens of times over, it can be difficult to even spot where there’s room for improvement. That’s why we’ve created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also sharpen your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays!


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, CollegeVine advisors have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school![/vc_column_text]

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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.