School Profile: Why Students Are so Happy at Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College, a young private liberal arts school founded in 1946, is part of the Claremont University Consortium that also includes Pomona College, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Harvey Mudd College, and two graduate schools. It is ranked #18 on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. Claremont College takes a pragmatic pre-professional approach to academics, preparing students for global leadership roles.

The most popular majors by student enrollment at Claremont College are economics, government, and psychology; although the college offers thirty-three majors, it specializes in economics and government. The international relations program stresses diplomacy and government action. The study abroad program is unique in that students are frequently immersed in a culture by participating in an international NGO.

Several professors at Claremont McKenna are recognized as experts in their fields. One professor was on the Bush Economic Advisory Committee, one is a frequently quoted expert on primary election politics, and another was a government advisor during both the Nixon and Reagan administrations. The academic tone of the college is decidedly conservative. Students with a more liberal mindset may be more comfortable at Pomona than Claremont McKenna. This is a hands-on career prep college.

According to rankings for educational institutions’ student return on investments, Claremont ranks #13 overall in getting a great return on tuition investment, #4 among West Coast schools, and #2 among liberal arts colleges. A degree from Claremont McKenna College is highly valued among large corporations and government agencies. CMC students can enjoy paid internships during their college studies, and those in the Washington Scholars program receive assignments on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, or international NGOs, among others. The Athenaeum, a social and intellectual center for the exchange of ideas, hosts world renowned speakers who interact with the students four nights a week.

Beyond the academics, Claremont McKenna College has a reputation among the consortium as a party school. Some students say this is an unfair characterization that springs from the college’s more lax campus drinking rules than the other four schools. There is the opportunity on campus to play on the weekends as hard as you study during the week, however, there are plenty of weekend activities for non-drinkers and occasional drinkers. It isn’t so prevalent that non-drinking students feel it’s unavoidable. In fact, Stark Hall in the Towers is a substance free dorm.

Claremont McKenna is part of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps NCAA Division III athletic program. The athletic program boasts a long history of winning. Of the twenty-one men’s and women’s sports teams, fourteen have finished in the top ten in the country since beginning in 1958. Student-athletes are held to high academic standards in and out of their seasons. Coaches may write letters of support to help sway admissions in your favor, but otherwise have little influence over the selection process. Claremont is one of the top athletics programs in the SCIAC Division. The school also has a strong commitment to intramurals.

Claremont McKenna, perhaps because it is so young, is short on traditions. One of the school’s traditions is for incoming freshmen to go on wilderness orientation adventures with upperclassmen and faculty prior to the beginning of school. Destinations include beach camping on Catalina Island, rock-climbing in Yosemite, or canoeing on the Colorado River. Other traditions are ponding, where students are thrown into a campus fountain on their birthdays, and champagne theses day, where students exchange their last paper for a personal bottle of champagne and hang out drinking and talking in the fountains the rest of the day.

There is a constant flow of social and academic opportunities on campus. Claremont students are confident and assertive; they’re politically and fiscally conservative and welcome a lively debate on nearly any issue. With the great weather of Southern California, intimate small campus atmosphere, and proximity to Los Angeles, it’s no wonder Claremont students are consistently among the happiest and most satisfied in the nation.

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By Colleen Hill