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How to Write the Claremont McKenna Supplemental Essay

Why do you want to attend CMC?* (250 words)

As with any “why this school” essay, you’ll want to give specific, concrete, and compelling reasons about why this is the right school for you. Claremont Mckenna is a fantastic liberal arts college located in sunny southern California—fantastic, but both CMC and every other applicant already know that. Take some time to research unique opportunities, interesting courses, or faculty members you are eager to work with. Try to mention a few specific aspects of CMC that make you want to attend CMC over other high ranking liberal arts colleges. In addition to the academic and career draws of CMC, you can also write about cultural aspects of the college and its student body. For instance, perhaps you are someone with very diverse interests, and you appreciate that ⅓ of CMC students double major. Perhaps you come from a large high school where you don’t know your teachers well, and you’re looking forward to the tight knit relationships CMC fosters between students and faculty. If you relate to CMC’s applied liberal arts philosophy of “learning to do and doing to learn” show your reader what that looks like in your life. Did your love of finance lead you to start a podcast about financial literacy? Or maybe your passion for baking led you to take an online class about the chemistry of cooking. If you haven’t seen this philosophy play out in your life thus far, think about how it would shape your college experience into one that is both intellectually stimulating and practical.

One of the hallmarks of a CMC education is the first-year humanities program that all students take in their first year at the College. The program has two components: the Freshman Humanities Seminar (FHS) and the Freshman Writing Seminar (FWS). While each FHS and FWS seminar has a distinctive approach in terms of texts and topics, their pairing gives first-year students a shared academic experience in small, writing-intensive courses that foster critical thinking about a wide range of important issues.

FHS introduces first-year students to some of the crucial questions that human beings face with relation to society and the world. Individual sections are taught by faculty from a range of departments. Past and current topics include:

  1. Democracy and Leadership
  2. Women in Science
  3. Unconventional Thinking

FWS, taught by faculty from the literature department, develops students’ abilities in written and oral communication at the college level. Past and current topics include:

  1. Art of the Personal Essay
  2. Blackness in American Cinema
  3. Post-Apocalyptic Humanity

For the purpose of this essay prompt, pick one FHS or FWS seminar topic to study at CMC. What part of your personal experience—or your desire to know more about an area outside of your experience—best explains your seminar choice? View the full list of FHS and FWS seminar topics here.* (250 words)

The main purpose of this question is to give CMC a clearer picture of the kind of student you will be on campus. This is a great opportunity to elaborate on your academic interests as well as to demonstrate that you have the intellectual maturity to engage with complicated topics at the collegiate level. CMC is an “applied liberal arts” college, so many of these seminars tackle real-world problems and will aim to relate classroom learning to concrete solutions. As such, it’s a good idea to choose a seminar topic with which you really connect and have some familiarity. Your answer to this essay prompt should be brimming with enthusiasm and passion for the course you’ve chosen. You do not have to be an expert, but you should show that you care deeply about the content of the course and will bring a high level of excitement to the seminar.

At the same time, CMC wants to know if you have any past experiences that inform why you’ve chosen the particular seminar you are writing about. This would be an excellent place to elaborate on any research or self-led projects you’ve conducted in high school, books you’ve read that touch on the topic of the seminar that interests you, or documentaries and podcasts that have ignited a greater curiosity about their subject matter. Let’s hear all about the various ways you may have engaged with the area of study. What did you learn? What are you still curious to know and why is it important to you?

Your reasons for choosing a particular seminar do not solely have to be academic. If you have a compelling personal story that shows your connection to the subject material, that is a great thing to share with the admissions committee. Students decide what they want to study for a wide variety of reasons. There is no one way to be inspired–just focus on making sure that your inspiration translates vividly onto the page.