Claremont McKenna College
BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Public school in California with a graduating class of 300 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Extracurricular Activities: I work in a research center.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
They have been a good way to meet people outside of class and have a resume builder that’s not just academics.
How easy was it for you to get involved in your research?
It was really easy because we have a club fair every year and I just went and signed up for it.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
There isn’t much homework. We do a lot of reading and then there are a couple of essays a semester and a final. For all the humanities majors there is really a lot fewer problem sets, it’s just a lot more reading. I like it because it makes you able to plan your own schedule and choose when to do the readings.
Is there anything you feel the Government department does especially well or poorly?
I think the professors are very strong, but I think it lacks both gender and racial diversity. It’s a lot of older White men, but the tenure system enables that and that’s true at any college. They have been doing a good job of trying to get more people of color in professorship positions, but the Government department, on the whole, is a bit more conservative leaning. They’re also bringing more liberal-leaning professors with different viewpoints, but there is still a representation of how the college used to be, which is a White, conservative, men’s college. It’s becoming more of a liberal arts school over time. [Of all instructional faculty, 22% are not White and 60% are men.]
How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s collaborative. I’ve never felt competition among my classmates because there is no curved grading system. It’s competitive in a positive way where everyone’s trying to get an A. Nobody will not study with you because there’s no incentive to not have your friends do well.
Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I think they are. There are even professors who don’t agree with me, and I think they allow people to express their opinions. I wouldn’t say that anyone gets shut down in particular. I do sometimes see a disconnect between the way the professors think and the way the students think, but that can be a good thing because it allows people to challenge their own ideas, and, if they don’t agree with someone, to ask hard questions.
How accessible have your professors been?
I’ve never had an issue with a professor not being able to see me in office hours or anything like that. They’ve been pretty accessible and have been respectful of my time.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I picked Government because I’m really interested in politics.
On and Around Campus
Can you describe the level safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I think it’s very safe. I walk around at night alone. A weird thing about CMC is that [about 96%] of students live on campus, so everyone’s walking around at night. I’ve heard of incidents happening, but I think campus safety does a good job of taking care of those things.
What are the pros and cons of being located in Claremont, CA?
1) It’s pretty low-key. The city is quiet and safe. [Claremont’s violent crime rate is 55% lower than the California average, but the property crime rate is 4% higher than the California average.]
2) There is a lot of nice nature nearby. You can go to Joshua Tree and there are nice hiking trails.
3) The downtown area is cute, but it is pretty expensive. It’s nice to walk around.
4) There are good restaurants.
1) There is absolutely no bar culture. I don’t care about that because there’s a good on-campus party culture.
2) L.A.’s accessible, but it takes a solid hour to get there on the train.
3) There’s not a lot to do. After you’ve been there for four years it feels like you’ve done everything in the town a million times.
4) Claremont is a bubble. It’s called “the City of Trees and PhDs,” which is so cringe-worthy. It’s so inaccessible to low-income people, but then you drive a mile down the street and you’re in Pomona, CA which is low-income and not as safe. The disparity is kind of shocking. [Median household income in Claremont, CA is about $94,000 and there is a 9.5% poverty rate. The median household income in Pomona, CA is about $50,000 and there is a poverty rate of 21.5%.]
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Claremont McKenna?
Party culture at Claremont is pretty unusual because everything happens on campus. Sometimes people go off campus, but very rarely. All the parties are on campus, and it’s very encouraged by the school, and sometimes sponsored by the school, to drink on campus. I think that’s really good because it’s a lot safer. Nobody’s driving and nobody’s going to get hit by a car while they’re drunk, or something like that, because everything happens on campus. I really like that I can go out with my friends and walk two minutes to get back to my house. I never pay for Uber and I rarely have to pay for drinks. It’s nice in my opinion, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things? Are there certain things you do on certain nights?
Some people go out Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but I usually just go out on Saturday. In North Quad at CMC there are a lot more parties and in South Quad it’s a lot quieter, so you can do what works for you. Most parties are outside, but people will hang out and [have small parties] in their dorms because they have balconies.
How happy are you with the nightlife at CMC? Is there anything you would change about it if you could?
I’m happy with it because I think it allows you to do whatever you want, which I like. There’s no pressure to party, at least I haven’t experienced pressure with my friend group. Sometimes I wish there were more bars so I could have experienced that, but that’s not something I actually care about that much.
I also think there’s a pretty good consent culture on campus, though I’d say that is something that wasn’t so great when I first got here and has since improved. There are a lot of clubs that are devoted to making sure that people are aware of what is consent and what’s not in terms of drinking and sex, so I feel that’s pretty positive.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s party heavy. Of all the 5C’s Claremont McKenna is the “party college”. That being said, I don’t go out too much and I haven’t experienced judgment for that. I don’t think everybody on campus fits that mold, but that was something I was surprised by when I arrived. Even though it’s the more party-focused college, there’s a culture here for everyone.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think they do a lot. There have been improvements in diversity, but more diversity could be had across the Claremont Colleges. It’s a majority White school. I don’t think Claremont McKenna is always sensitive to the feelings of students of color. [Claremont McKenna invited a pro-police speaker, which sparked protests.] I would imagine it could be stressful to be a person of color at CMC, and the same for individuals in the LGBT community. [In the 2018-2019 academic year, Claremont McKenna has a student population of about 41% White students, 16% international students, 15% Hispanic students, 11% Asian students, and 4% Black students.]
How would you describe the student body?
I think people are very career-oriented, and I think that is something people do feel pressure about. It’s not a negative pressure, but adds to the stress to get an internship or job over the summer because it can make people feel bad if they don’t have a job or internship. The student body is also really motivated. It’s a work hard play hard environment.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I haven’t specifically gotten a job from an alum, but I know people who have. Alums have been very, very nice when I’ve reached out to them about a certain position.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I only use them to have them restructure and check my resume. They were super helpful. I should use them more and I know that there is more to them than looking at resumes. They send us a weekly email with internship opportunities, and I look at those. I know other people use them more than I do.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that have been or will be especially helpful professionally?
Given my majors, not really. I’ve definitely become more acquainted with Microsoft Office. My internships have given me more computer experience than my classes have.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating has the office been to your needs?
I’m on financial aid and my family has always felt that they have not quite given us enough. My family’s a pretty middle-ground family, we’re not low-income but we’re also not rich, so in that way we are in a hard position in terms of financial aid. I’m not in need of a full ride, but I also can’t pay full tuition. Every year my family has to do a petition letter and ask for more and every year they raise the tuition a little bit, so it’s been financially stressful. I’ve had to take out loans, but that’s the reality of college in America today.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Claremont McKenna before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I had known that Claremont was considered the party school of the 5C’s because I was just shocked to learn that when I arrived. There’s no pressure to party, so it doesn’t matter that much. It didn’t affect me, but I think it is something everyone else should know. In general, I think CMC does a really good job of telling students all the opportunities it has. I knew right away which research centers and clubs I could join. If you read your emails, you’ll be able to figure it out.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
CMC does an overnight visit program which is really useful. It’s a good way to check out the culture of the school and figure out if it’s a good fit. On the other hand, you can always get paired with someone who’s not representative of the school and that can give you a bad impression. I would also recommend touring the other colleges.
Reasons to attend Claremont McKenna:
1) Academically it’s great. All the professors are very qualified. They’ve all done very great things with their lives and are very inspirational.
2) It’s a pretty prestigious school.
3) The academic culture is not competitive. It’s collaborative for sure. I don’t feel competition with my classmates.
4) The classes are small and you get a lot of one on one time with your professors.
5) I love living on campus all four years in the dorms because you’re close to all your friends and everyone does it.
Reasons to not attend Claremont McKenna:
1) The Claremont Bubble. Claremont’s a really wealthy town and I think you get thrown into the real world and realize that not everywhere is like Claremont.
2) The lack of socioeconomic diversity among students. It seems like people are super rich. Only [43%] of students [apply for need-based financial aid], which blows my mind. The reality of the school is that it attracts that kind of people. [The median family income at Claremont McKenna is $201,300 and 20% of students come from the socioeconomic 1%.]
3) Living on campus for four years is really expensive. I feel slightly pressured to do it because everyone does. It also makes people not prepared to live in their own apartment. [A double room on campus costs $4,495 per semester and a meal plan with 16 meals per week costs $3857.50 per semester.]