How to Write the Claremont McKenna Supplement 2019-2020

Claremont McKenna is a private liberal arts school in Claremont, California. It is a very small school of only 1,318 students, but don’t let that put you off if you’re not enthusiastic about a tiny collegiate environment. Claremont McKenna is one of the five undergraduate schools that make up the Claremont Colleges, or the 5C’s. The other schools are Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, and Scripps. Instead of being limited to one school, students at the Claremont Colleges can take courses at any of the schools. Each of the schools has subjects that they are best known for, and Claremont McKenna is hugely respected for their emphasis on economics, finance, government, and international relations. So respected, that their acceptance rate has plummeted over the past few years. Today, it is 9%, making Claremont McKenna Ivy-adjacent when it comes to exclusivity. 

This year, Claremont McKenna overhauled their supplement and added a second question.   

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

This is a classic supplement question that you will see in applications for schools of all sizes and types. The method of answering it is similar across the board, but it still needs to be tailored to fit the school it’s directed toward. For the Claremont McKenna ‘why us?’ question, you should start by telling a story that will link what you are interested in pursuing academically to what you have taken part in inside of school or extracurricular-ly in the past. The purpose is to build a cohesive narrative. If you write about how you love physics and then say you want to be an archaeologist, that doesn’t make sense. If you write about how you have taken every science class available at your school and hope to apply the precision that you’ve learned through lab work to archaeology, that makes sense.

After you pinpoint an area of interest, specify your major. You are not tied to it. The school will not hunt you down the second semester of Sophomore year and demand that you declare that precise major. It is just for the application. From unofficially declaring a major, you should transition to specifying one or two professors in the major department that you are interested in working with. Alternatively, one professor in the major department and one in the department of a minor you are interested in pursuing as well. You should also specify a class that you would like to take in pursuit of your major and say, briefly, why you are excited about it.

Finally, remember that you are applying to Claremont McKenna, so your response should be tailored towards Claremont McKenna. If you visited and loved something (specific, please!) in particular, or if there is a program you are dying to be a part of, say that.

What is intellectual courage? (250 words)

This question is very interesting. We wouldn’t go so far as to say that we love it, but we are interested in it. Specifically, we’re interested in how students who don’t have guidance will interpret the prompt. CMC is obviously trying to learn how you think and what some of your core values are, and we think there are better ways to answer this question. Students reading this: please do not flood our inbox to ask if your answer is “right.”

Intellectual courage isn’t a phrase that most people hear very often, especially high school students. We hear about moral courage, and we hear about physical courage, but intellectual courage hasn’t cracked as many conversations. As a result, there are a lot of people will answer the prompt without really understanding what intellectual courage is.

Intellectual courage isn’t about something you’re stood up for or something you’ve fought against, as is seen in moral courage. Isn’t about bodily action, which is seen as physical courage. It isn’t even about something you believe strongly in. Intellectual courage is about being able to listen and allowing yourself to question your assumptions and suspend your judgments long enough to hear someone clearly — not just what they are saying, but what they mean.  

We like to answer this question by telling a story of a time that you listened, questioned, and suspended judgment in the pursuit of understanding. This should not be surprising; we love stories. For this supplement, you should not spend more than 100 words (50 words, preferably) speaking explicitly about what intellectual courage is. The rest should be storytelling that shows that you know what intellectual courage is. You didn’t just look a definition up online and regurgitate it onto ‘paper,’ you actually understand.

 At TKG, we work with students and families to create realistic school lists and help kids through every step of the process. Contact us here if you want to work with someone directly.