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First-Year Applicants

You can learn a lot about what a college values by what it asks for in its application process. So what matters to HMC?  While our academic rigor has been recognized as one of the best and most challenging by many publications and associations, what matters more to us is whether we are a good fit for you. Our holistic approach to the application process not only allows you to show off your academic merit but also gives you the opportunity to prove how well you would fit in with the HMC community.

Commonly Asked Questions From First-Year Applicants

What kind of student are you seeking?

The best. We want students who have excelled in challenging courses, who demonstrate a real passion for math and science, who have an appreciation for the humanities and social sciences, and who are involved in activities outside the classroom. Prospective students also should have strong standardized test results, enjoy collaboration and want to contribute to our unique community. Learn more about our students.

What courses should I take to prepare for HMC?

We suggest taking the most rigorous courses available to you in all subjects. If you only take rigorous STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses you will be unprepared for the curriculum and workload at HMC. See Eligibility Requirements for information on specific, required classes.

Can I get credit for college courses, IB tests or AP examinations? What about for concurrent enrollment (getting both high school and college credit for a course)?

Credit is not granted for AP or IB results, but you may be able to receive credit for college courses you’ve taken, at the discretion of the department chair. Rather than relying on AP or IB scores for course placement, individual departments administer their own placement examinations during Orientation each fall. Credit is given on a case-by-case basis, usually as a result of the department placement exams. While we discourage students from repeating at HMC academic work they have already completed, we also want new students to succeed in a curriculum that is extremely rigorous. We think placement exams at the start of the school year are the best way to ensure students take the appropriate courses given their preparation.

Is it better to take an advanced class and risk getting a lower grade, or simply keep a high grade average?

It depends. In general, a more demanding course should offer better preparation for HMC, so you’ll benefit from taking more advanced classes. We value strong curriculum when assessing applicants, so students who opt out of taking demanding courses are at a disadvantage in our selection process.

However, we also recognize that high school students applying to very selective colleges face a lot of pressure. By taking too many rigorous courses–say, seven APs–you might not learn as much as you might with a lighter AP load, nor have a very balanced life. The trick is to take as many advanced, AP, IB or enriched courses you can reasonably manage while still pursuing outside activities and maintaining high grades. That balance point will be different for each person.

Do I need to have a major selected before coming to Harvey Mudd?

Mudders are not required to select a major until the end of their sophomore year. An advantage of the Core curriculum HMC students complete is the experience they have with each academic department before they face that major decision. This helps students to make a more informed choice.

Is it easier to get in if I’m from a public or a private school?

It doesn’t matter. We analyze each student’s activities, choices and performance within the context of the high school he or she attended. We never rate high schools or give preference to one school over another. Each applicant comes from different opportunities and experiences.

How important is class rank? What if my school doesn’t rank?

We like to evaluate your performance in the context of your school’s environment.

If your high school does not provide a rank, we’ll still consider your application carefully. Many secondary schools do not report rank, but will often send us a school profile to aid in our evaluation. A school profile usually provides context about the school community and the rigor of the courses. We’ve found grade distribution charts to be especially helpful. Ask your counselor about your school’s profile.

Some of my friends from my school also plan to apply to HMC. Will this hurt my chances of getting in?

Definitely not. We’re not concerned with limiting the number of students from your school. Instead, we pay attention to the opportunities you’ve had. We evaluate your record, activities and accomplishments within that context. We also assess each student as an individual in comparison to the entire applicant pool, not just in a local context.