Harvey Mudd College


Harvey Mudd College is a highly selective private coeducational undergraduate college of engineering, mathematics, and science that could well be billed as “one of the best colleges in America that most people have never heard of.” However, it does attract some of the nation’s brightest students and offers them a unique, rigorous, and liberal technical education that is as good as or better than the nation’s more famous colleges. There are three key aspects of HMC that set it apart from other top colleges and give the school its reputation as a leader in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields: it is an intensely small college; it offers majors only in engineering, science, and mathematics, and it prides itself on having humanities and social sciences requirements that it hopes will produce “leaders with an understanding of the impact of their work on humanity.”

With no graduate students, no TAs, and a faculty dedicated to a high level of student interaction, few students fall through the cracks or blend into the woodwork. The administration and staff take an active role in campus life. The technical curriculum is broad with an emphasis on the humanities and social sciences as well as core science, math, and engineering principals. The residential campus is vibrant with a student body that is widely talented, dynamic, and quirky in addition to being academically gifted. HMC is bolstered by its participation in The Claremont Colleges Consortium, which gives students access to academic resources, course offerings, athletics, and other opportunities that could not otherwise be supported by a small technical college. The student-run Honor Code demands integrity and honesty from every student. In addition, the general pace and atmosphere of the college demands a healthy sense of humor in addition to a healthy work ethic and a strong affinity for engineering, science, and math.

Information Summary

Ranks 4th in California and 21st overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 98.6
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $76,947
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 35 / 1560
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 8 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 97% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 902


Everyone’s course load revolves around a heap of rigorous classes in engineering, science, and math. The core curriculum demands that every student take courses in physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, engineering, and a lot of math. Coincidentally, these are the same six fields that you can choose to major in. Students will find themselves sitting in tough classes with high expectations, a motivated professor, a steep grading curve, and a room full of classmates who are engrossed in the subject matter. Almost everyone will be surprised by the level of challenge in at least one such course during the freshman or sophomore year before settling into classes of individual interest or which are required for their chosen major.

Humanities and Social Sciences

The significant humanities and social sciences requirement (around one-third of the total graduation requirements) makes the curriculum far more interesting and challenging than the typical tech school. Mudd has been described as “a liberal arts college of science and engineering.” Indeed, the educational approach is to provide young scientists and engineers with a broad, liberal education including courses in a variety of technical and nontechnical fields. Although no one without a strong affinity for the sciences and engineering should enroll, those who have little appreciation for fields outside of math and science would be frustrated here.

It is common for students to take advantage of the vast course offerings in the humanities and social sciences at the other four undergraduate colleges in Claremont. The Claremont Colleges Consortium provides students with a wide array of course offerings including music, fine arts, and foreign languages. The strong academic programs at the other colleges in Claremont allow Mudders to study nontechnical fields in depth and even double major if they so desire.


After three well-regimented semesters of the core curriculum, students complete their career by taking classes in their major and completing the humanities requirements. The six majors are all academically broad in their own right. The most popular major, engineering, shuns the specialization seen in other top engineering programs for an emphasis on core design principals, mathematical modeling, and a cross-disciplinary “systems” approach to the ever-broadening field of engineering. The chemistry, physics, and biology majors are largely focused on producing top-caliber graduate students who will go on to become career scientists, although in recent years more and more science majors are studying and pursuing applied fields. A math and computer science joint major and a chemistry and biology joint major lead students into an exciting and evolving new area of study. A mathematical biology joint major opens the door of opportunity to an emerging and critical area of future endeavor.

All students must have a concentration in a humanities or social sciences field in addition to their technical major. This concentration (which may as well be termed a mini-minor) may be in any nontechnical field from dance to political science to religious history. The vast array of course offerings in Claremont gives students a lot of options in choosing their HSS course of studies, although students must take about half of their nontechnical courses from HMC faculty members.


As students enter their senior year, they are required to undertake a year-long project to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities to the faculty, while learning how to budget and develop a lengthy project. For the majority of science and math majors, this involves a theses research project where students design and formally propose projects under the guidance of a chosen professor. Many students choose to begin research as early as their freshman year, and often these students continue this research for their theses. The facilities are first class, from the high tech NMR machine in the chemistry department to the laser scanning confocal microscope in the biology department to the magnetism lab in the physics department. (Even more, students have access to these facilities around the clock thanks to the college’s Honor Code.) Both professors and students alike consistently win awards for undergraduate research and publish in the top scientific journals in their fields. Engineering and Computer Science majors, as well as those who prefer applied areas of study to theoretical endeavors, will take part in Clinic projects as their Capstone research experience.

The Clinic Program (pioneered by HMC more than forty years ago) brings blue-chip corporate sponsors to campus to “hire” teams of four to six engineering, math, physics, and computer science majors for one-year projects that solve a problem or fill a need for the company. The Clinic projects, both domestic and international, give students the opportunity to deal with the real-world issues of working with a client, facing deadlines, writing reports, presenting and defending their work, and finding solutions to problems that do not appear in a textbook. The nature of the Clinic projects varies widely both in scope and in subject matter. Numerous patents have come out of work done by Clinic teams over the years, and many companies return to sponsor Clinic projects year after year, in part to recruit HMC undergrads for future employment.

The Honor Code

Every student commits to a robust, student-administered Honor Code. The Honor Code is a statement of integrity and honesty and is taken very seriously by all members of the community. It engenders a high level of trust between faculty and students. Openbook, un-proctored, and take-home exams are all common, and cheating of any kind is simply not tolerated. Students are encouraged to study and work in groups, but are also instructed to acknowledge their classmates who help them on homework assignments.

Course Load

A typical course load is five courses per semester. At least one lab per semester and one or two HSS classes per semester is the norm. Those who choose to double major often enroll in six classes each semester. Those who can get away with taking four classes (through summer school, advanced placement, or sheer luck) are teased by their friends for slacking off. At the other four undergraduate colleges in Claremont, and many other private colleges, four classes per semester is the accepted norm.


GPAs average around 3.3 at graduation, although many freshmen and sophomores suffer through much lower GPAs in the core curriculum before pulling them up during their junior and senior years. HMC does not inflate grades, but neither does the college wish to weed anyone out. Students who do not perform well in classes are given several notices with ample time to correct their behaviors. They can seek counsel from faculty who are readily available and who want them to succeed, and can always lean on a classmate or upper-class student for help.

Midterms and finals, almost always administered without a proctor, can be very tough. The freedom a student has to take an exam “home” gives license to the faculty to provide some extremely challenging problems, intended to determine what a student has mastered and perhaps what they can deduce on their own. Class average scores of fifty to sixty percent on an exam are common with some students who had 4.0s in high school scoring in the twenty to thirty percent range. Fortunately, most of the faculty grades on a sliding scale and there is an abundance of Academic Excellence seminars available for students who fall behind in their studies or wish to go beyond the course material.

Most Popular Fields of Study


College Building :: Harvey Mudd College College Campus :: Harvey Mudd College
College Entrance :: Harvey Mudd College


Harvey Mudd College is a highly selective college and the applicant pool is dominated by students in the top ten percent of their high school class. Each year around one-fourth of the incoming class is made up students who were National Merit finalists or who were #1 or #2 in their high school class. As opposed to some larger schools, the Office of Admissions avoids hard-and-fast admission minimums or formulas. Instead, the staff favors reading each application and determining if the individual applicant is the sort of student who will thrive here. The staff does, however, insist that every incoming freshman at has had chemistry, physics, and calculus as part of a rigorous and successful high school career.

SAT scores among applicants tend to be extremely high. Aptitude in math and science, as measured by curriculum and grades, but also scores, is considered very carefully in the selection process. A very heavy emphasis is also placed on communication skills. The ability to move easily between different disciplines and ways of thinking is also valued. The school produces excellent problem solvers who can think, write, and express themselves, as well as perform laboratory research and engineering calculations.

Extracurricular activities, unique talents, interests, hobbies, and a diversity of geographic and cultural backgrounds are all taken into consideration in the admission process, although academic aptitude remains the essential component in each admission decision. Interviews are encouraged, although visiting the campus and experiencing its unique atmosphere is highly recommended for prospective students.

Financial Aid

The college is, unfortunately, an expensive place to attend. The school is young (founded in 1955) and has an impressive endowment for its age, but does not bathe in the financial resources that much older institutions enjoy. However, most of the students (around eighty percent) receive financial aid of some form. As at other prestigious private institutions, students and parents alike can accrue a sizable debt over their four years at HMC. The consistency of graduates being placed in high-paying jobs and prestigious graduate school programs, however, makes all of this debt much easier to stomach and faster to pay off.

Fortunately, this is the type of small institution that can give students personal attention, even in financial aid matters. It’s common for parents to call and discuss their child’s financial aid package with the college’s Office of Financial Aid or with the college vice president overseeing the financial aid office. The school will work with parents and students to adjust financial aid awards and to establish payment plans that help ensure that any student who has been admitted has every opportunity to attend the college.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 3302nd for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in California.



Each dormitory has a distinct personality and set of traditions. The dorms are all coed and include a mix of students from all classes. Freshmen are required to live on campus with a roommate and are placed in all eight dorms. The quad dorms, the four older dorms on campus, are named for the four points of the compass although in a Mudd-esque twist of logic, South Dorm is north of West Dorm and west of North Dorm. The quad dorms are each constructed in the early 1960’s vintage cinderblock style that dominates the architecture on the campus. The atmosphere tends to be more social in the quad dorms, even if less aesthetic than the newer dorms, where suite arrangements are typical and students are more likely to stick with their closest friends. All of the dorms have central lounges with TVs and DVDs (perfect for weekend movie festivals). On any Friday or Saturday evening, you are likely to see residents of any dorm banding together for a giant picnic on large hibachi-style barbecues in the dorm courtyard. A wireless network covers the entire campus.

The Linde Activities Center (LAC), located amidst the dorms, is also a staple of fun and work. The center includes a weight room, a movement room for martial arts, pilates, dance, yoga, etc., a competition court for volleyball, basketball, etc., a room for table games like Foosball, air hockey, pool, a TV room with satellite and DVDs for smaller gatherings. Two meeting rooms and a large computer room reside upstairs.

Parties and Competitions

Parties of all sizes, from small spontaneous gatherings to well-hyped five-college extravaganzas, take place at frequent intervals in the dorms on campus. Mudd parties are reputed throughout The Claremont Colleges to be the biggest, most creative, and most fun. The rigorous academic curriculum ensures that students who do not understand when to stop partying and start studying will not last very long on the campus. There is a sizable portion of the student body that does not drink at all and there are always a myriad of nonalcoholic events including regular movies, concerts, and off-campus trips. “Jay’s place,” an on-campus pizza parlor and pool hall, is a popular hangout seven nights a week, occasionally offering up live music and other events. Students are as good at coming up with creative and unique extracurricular activities for themselves as they are at throwing parties. The Etc. (extremely theatrically confused) Players produce original plays as well as old standards as often as they can get a willing cast together (three or four times a year). Other clubs plan outdoor events like the Delta-H (which means “change in height”) club, race the school yacht Mildred (a nineteen-foot class boat named for Mrs. Harvey Mudd), and coordinate volunteer opportunities for others looking to use up the last remaining ounce of their valuable spare time.

The annual class competition event is a giant relay race that crisscrosses the campus with representatives from each class performing in such events as whistling with peanut butter in one’s mouth, computer programming under pressure, running a seven-legged race, and stuffing a textbook into a milk bottle. Faculty and staff serve as judges for the events, although stretching the rules is a time-honored tradition. After the race is over (it takes about thirty minutes), the entire campus settles in for a picnic and celebration.


Claremont is well located for weekend and spring break road trips. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, the Joshua Tree National Monument, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Tijuana are all within three hours by car. San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, and resort towns in Baja are all popular locations, well within the reach of road-tripping students with a few days break.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


Despite the emphasis on academics, this is a very athletic campus. Many students compete in varsity sports, although for some students it is difficult to find time to participate in the NCAA Division III athletic program HMC shares with Claremont McKenna and Scripps Colleges. Intramural sports are popular, with inner-tube water-polo as the clear favorite. Intramurals help promote dorm rivalries. They rarely require a great deal of skill, and always provide fun stress relief. There are plenty of club sports to go around like the fencing club or cycling or badminton, and several are extremely successful: the Ultimate Frisbee team is well regarded regionally, while the ballroom dance team and rugby teams (one each for men and for women) enjoy national reputations.

Pick-up games of volleyball, basketball, soccer, and Frisbee are daily occurrences, as most students are looking for any chance to put aside their homework, soak up some sun, and release some stress. The school is near Mt. Baldy, one of Southern California’s highest peaks, which means that quality mountain biking, hiking, and skiing are less than a half hour away.


Perhaps the greatest testament to the college is the success of its alumni body. Mudd has produced a greater percentage of graduates who go on to receive Ph.D.s (nearly forty percent) than any other undergraduate institution over the last several years. Alumni are in such demand that those who decide to enter Ph.D. programs usually are completely funded for their graduate studies. And many Clinic sponsors offer jobs to students before they have even graduated. A respectable percentage of alumni own their own businesses and alums litter the faculty ranks at top colleges across the country (including five who teach at HMC).

About forty percent of the students here step directly into the top graduate programs in the country. Students from all majors regularly make the choice to go immediately to graduate school out of Mudd, but the chemistry and biology majors are especially valuable commodities and generally can write their own ticket into the graduate program of their choice. In the past several years, numerous highly prized NSF fellowships, Churchill scholarships, Hertz Fellowships, Thomas Watson Fellowships, and two Rhodes Scholarships have been handed out to graduates.

Prominent Grads

  • Richard Jones, Ambassador
  • Stan Love, Astronaut
  • Michael Wilson, Film Producer

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