Claremont McKenna College


Recognized as one of the nation’s most prestigious liberal arts colleges, Claremont McKenna College sets itself apart from its counterparts by its focus on leadership. The college’s mission statement is to train “leaders in the making” and leadership is stressed everywhere, from the classroom to dorm life to athletics. Many students pursue the “Leadership Sequence,” which includes courses focusing on leadership across disciplines, in addition to their major.

With especially strong programs in economics and government, the college excels in preparing its students to pursue careers in business, government, and the professions. The economics department is ranked first among liberal arts colleges and more than thirty percent of students graduate with a degree in economics. However, the liberal arts curriculum requires that students complete a broad distribution of courses across departments, including mathematics, literature, and foreign language. More than half of students choose to pursue dual or double majors, often combining fields as disparate as economics and literature.

The school is located on a fifty-acre campus in the convenient and safe college town of Claremont, thirty-five miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It is close to two major freeways, and for beach lovers, Laguna Beach and Santa Monica are each about an hour away; nature enthusiasts often head to Joshua Tree National Park for camping and hiking; and on weekend evenings many students make the forty-minute drive west to Hollywood or Universal City. It also is not uncommon for students to take weekend trips to San Francisco, San Diego, or even Las Vegas!

The college is also unique through its inclusion in the Claremont Colleges consortium. As part of the consortium—a group of five undergraduate colleges and two graduate institutions— located in one square mile—the atmosphere is that of a small college within a larger university. The consortium makes this an ideal choice for students who want a small college experience academically but also want the resources that a larger university would provide.

Information Summary

Ranks 3rd in California and 18th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 98.7
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $73,810
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 34 / 1500
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 8 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 96% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 1,327


The small size of the school allows for an academic environment that is rigorous, yet personalized, as students can count on a great deal of interaction with their professors. In fact, student participation is expected, where the average class size is sixteen students (the average in a laboratory is eighteen).


Students are known for their eclectic choice of majors as many students pursue a double major or a dual major. (A student with a double major fulfills all course requirements in both majors while a student with a dual major fulfills slightly fewer courses than a full major in both departments.) Students are also allowed to complete a major at one of the other Claremont Colleges that may not be offered here. Another option is the self-designed major, which must be planned with direction from a faculty advisor.


There are various general education requirements that all students, regardless of major, must fulfill. These include three semesters of social sciences, two semesters each of science and humanities courses, and one semester of literature, math (calculus-based), and world civilization. Additionally, all students must either demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language or complete three semesters of foreign language study.

An additional requirement for all students is the senior thesis, a major research paper or project designed by the student. Normally completed during the senior year and overseen by a faculty advisor, this one- or two-semester venture is usually on a topic of interest within the student’s major field of study. Social science and humanities students usually write thesis papers ranging from thirty to hundreds of pages, science students design and carry out experimental research, and often students choose to do a creative project such as a short film or a novel.

Research and Other Programs

Students have more opportunities to participate hands-on in original research than at any other liberal arts college nationwide. While a number of American universities house research centers, work at these centers is usually reserved for professors and graduate students. Undergrads are able to gain valuable experience in their chosen field by initiating research projects, supervising fellow student researchers, publishing in academic journals, organizing and participating in conferences, and attending group study trips organized by the research institutes.

Off-Campus Experiences

Students may exchange at one of the following liberal arts colleges in the United States: Colby, Haverford, Morehouse, or Spelman Colleges. The Washington, D.C. semester includes a full-time internship with an elected official, government agency, or public interest group, courses with CMC faculty, and a major research paper requirement. This experience infects many students with the “DC bug” and has led to the start of many students’ future careers in Washington.

Study abroad programs are offered in more than fifty cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia, and the Middle East. The school also offers students many opportunities to complete internships in cities around the world, in Washington, D.C., and in locations closer to home through opportunities such as the McKenna International Internship program, the Community Service Internship program, and other internship opportunities offered through the various research institutes.

Special Degree Programs

The school offers many special degree programs that allow students to combine fields of study or to accelerate the completion of their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees through various partnership programs. Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) is an interdisciplinary major modeled after an Oxford University program in which students participate in small seminars and tutorials with faculty. The Environment, Economics, and Politics (EEP) major is a unique interdisciplinary program that trains students to analyze and develop policy solutions for environmental issues.

Most Popular Fields of Study


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This is a highly selective school and traditionally approximately twenty percent of applicants are accepted. What is this selectivity based on? There are the usual traits—each entering class includes its fair share of valedictorians and National Merit Finalists, and the median combined SAT score is around 2100. In addition, though, the school seeks students who will be engaged learners and active members of the college community. Admissions officers look for students who have shown leadership potential, self-motivation, and interpersonal skills, and emphasis is placed on extracurricular involvement and how these activities could translate into success in the classroom.

The Admission Office regularly offers tours of the campus and it is also possible to arrange an overnight stay in a dorm. Those who may be unable to visit the campus can write directly to current students with any questions that they may have by using the “Ask a Student” section of the Admission Office Web site.

Curriculum and Standardized Tests

An applicant’s high school education must have included four years of English, three to four years of math, at least three years of a foreign language, at least two years of science, and one year of history. All high schools are different however, and the availability of advanced, honors, or AP classes at your school will be taken into account.

The SAT is required and the Admission Office requests that applicants submit all scores earned for each and every time that an applicant has taken the SAT. Interested students should plan to take the exam during their junior year, or between October and January of their senior year.

Recommendations and Essays

It is also necessary to include three recommendations, one from a high school guidance counselor and two from teachers. Two essays must also be included. These essays include a personal statement and an analytical essay, and are one of the most important components of your application. The personal essay is an opportunity to show your personality and highlight your special achievements or personal experiences. The analytical essay should identify a person who has shaped current events and culture.

It is also highly recommended that all applicants complete an interview with either an admission officer or with an alumnus of the college in their city. This interview is another opportunity for applicants to demonstrate the qualities that can set them apart from other candidates.

Admission Plans

There is a binding Early Decision plan for students who view this school as their top choice; it should be filed by November 15th. Regular fall semester applicants should submit their applications by January 2.

Financial Aid

The school has a need-blind, meet-all-need admission policy, a practice shared by only thirty-five colleges and universities nationwide. Your application for admission will be reviewed without regard for your ability to pay, and all admitted students’ determined financial need will be accommodated.

Financial aid supports sixty percent of students who are enrolled at the college. While most student aid is need-based there are also merit scholarship programs. One exciting scholarship is the McKenna Achievement Award, a $10,000 scholarship renewable for all four years, which is awarded to thirty incoming first-year students who have demonstrated outstanding academic and personal achievements during their high school careers.

All students who wish to apply for financial aid must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Financial Aid PROFILE form that is processed by the College Scholarship Service (CSS) in order to be considered eligible. The deadline for these forms usually occurs soon after the admission application is due.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 5289th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in California.


Extracurricular activities and social life here are part of the experience. They are a way to meet new people, develop friendships, take a break from studying, follow hobbies, and develop a support system.

Clubs and Organizations

There are a wide variety of clubs, sports teams, and other organizations for students to choose from. Everything from orchestra, to Debate Club, to religious and ethnic organizations, to the student newspaper, to karate, is available.

It is also always possible for students to develop new clubs themselves if they find that a niche is lacking. Students can apply for money from the student activity fund and charter a new organization. In recent years, students have founded clubs and organizations focused on everything from human rights to vegetarian cooking to boxing.

The school also hosts International Place (I-Place), the heart of the international program at The Claremont Colleges, which provides support to international students and hosts weekly luncheons with presentations on international politics and culture.

Community Service

Many students take part in community service, ranging from tutoring to working on Habitat for Humanity projects. Clubs and sports teams are also active in service projects. An annual community service project is also part of the freshman orientation. Every year two students serve as community service coordinators organizing service projects in the local community.


The school does not have fraternities or sororities and the vast majority of students (over ninety-five percent) choose to live on campus. As a primarily residential campus, the heart of the social life is the college’s twelve dorms. Divided into North Quad, Mid Quad, and South Quad, each grouping of dorms has a different feeling and most students develop an allegiance to one residential area. In their fourth year, students can choose to live in on campus student apartments located on the eastern edge of the campus.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


Graduates leave the school with a sense of direction as they move into the workforce or on to graduate or professional degree programs. On-campus recruiting by firms, graduate schools, and the local and national government takes place throughout the senior year and the majority of students have a job lined up by the spring.

Students are also competitive in the field of postcollege scholarships and fellowships such as the Fulbright, Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman. The college has been ranked third, nationally, among undergraduate colleges for the number of Fulbright Scholars it produces.

The Career Center is a helpful resource throughout the process. Professional career counselors and student assistants are on hand to help fine-tune resumes, practice interviewing skills, search for internships, and also keep alumni informed about career development opportunities. Alumni stay in close touch through the Alumni Office, which organizes nationwide events, publishes a newsletter, and sponsors class reunions.

Prominent Grads

  • Betsy Berns, President, Bvision Sportsmedia
  • Robert Day, Chairman of the Board,Trust Company of the West
  • David Dreier, U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the House Rules Committee
  • Ray Drummond, Acclaimed Jazz Bassist
  • Donald Hall, Chairman and CEO, Hallmark Cards, Inc.
  • Mike Jeffries, Chairman and CEO, Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Henry Kravis, Founding Partner, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
  • Robert Lowe Chairman and CEO, Lowe Enterprises
  • Nancy McCallin, President, Colorado Community College System
  • Harry McMahon, VIce Chairman, Merrill Lynch & Co.
  • Thomas Pritzker, Chairman and CEO, The Pritzker Organization
  • George Roberts, Founding Partner, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
  • Karen Rosenfelt, President of Production, Paramount Pictures
  • Tasia Scollinos, Director of Communications, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Julie Spellman Sweet, Partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore
  • Julie Wong, Deputy Mayor for Communications, City of Los Angeles

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