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Differences between Harvey Mudd College and Cal Tech?

Anne/PAAnne/PA Registered User Posts: 95 Junior Member
edited December 2009 in Harvey Mudd College
I understand that Harvey Mudd College is only undergraduate, and Cal Tech has important graduate schools, but what are other things to know about these two schools (how they are different). Is Cal Tech much harder to get into? Does Harvey Mudd have much more of an inter-disciplinary atmosphere?

What about the student life at the two schools? Similarities/differences?

Post edited by Anne/PA on

Replies to: Differences between Harvey Mudd College and Cal Tech?

  • CiderCider Registered User Posts: 327 Member
    Well, one major difference is the core. While they both have a science-oriented part of their core, Harvey Mudd includes a humanities portion to its core, which makes up roughly a third of your classes. Harvey Mudd also has the advantage of giving students the chance to take classes at the other Claremont Colleges, which are literally right next to it. Harvey Mudd is also a lot more geared towards teaching. Caltech has more research funding, though, but in both situations the undergrads have good chances of doing research. Caltech also has more facilities like the JPL. Those are the main things that I can think of off the top of my head.
  • molliegymmolliegym Registered User Posts: 748 Member
    Caltech is more selective than Harvey Mudd (although both are very selective, Caltech is just more so).

    Caltech is also more well-known than Harvey Mudd, I'd say.

    At Harvey Mudd, the focus is purely on the undergrads. At Caltech, there are more grad students than undergrads.

    The undergrad student bodies are of similar size (both <1000 undergrads), though Caltech has about 1200 grad students, and Harvey Mudd has the other 4 Claremont Colleges (the 5 Claremonts have something like 5,000 undergrads total).

    Having visited both, I personally think Caltech's campus is much nicer. Harvey Mudd just had really ugly architecture, I think.

    Neither of these schools are known for their great social life. They're not party schools. But students DO have social lives. They do have fun. They do things on the weekends (not just math and physics). They have parties.

    Caltech has no Greek life, but they do have the undergraduate Houses (if you're not familiar with them, you could liken them to the Houses in Harry Potter).

    Both schools have excellent research opportunities.

    Both schools are in suburban towns, not too far from Los Angeles.

    Although I don't know anyone at Caltech, my cousin is a senior EE major at Harvey Mudd. He loves it. He got asked to teach a course when he was only a sophomore. He's had some really nice job offers already, but plans to go to grad school instead (applying to Stanford, Harvard, Caltech).

    At Harvey Mudd, you are allowed to take classes at the other 4 Claremonts, which are all primarily liberal arts schools. This allows you to take some classes with students . Harvey Mudd students also have a requirement for a concentration within the humanities.

    At Caltech, I think you can take classes at Pasadena Art School.

    Both of these schools are really focused on math, science, and engineering.

    Neither school is known for their excellence in sports.

    When I toured Harvey Mudd, my tour guide (a freshman, who seemed a little nerdy) described the different dorms: "This is the jock dorm, this is the party dorm, this is the NERD DORM"... hello, everyone there is a nerd. But same goes for Caltech, really (or any other tech school, I guess). When I toured Caltech, my tour guide said he left high school early. Everyone at both schools seemed extremely intelligent. I actually met one guy on the tour at Harvey Mudd that was also on my tour at Caltech the next day (he loved Harvey Mudd, hated Caltech).

    Personally, I tried really hard to like Harvey Mudd. I just didn't. But, my cousin LOVES it (coincidentally, when, as a highschooler, he toured Caltech for undergrad, apparently he hated it). The students there seem to love it, but it's not for everyone. Harvey Mudd almost turned me off of tech schools completely, and I almost didn't want to visit Caltech. But I'm glad I did, because I liked Caltech. It seems like I'm not the only one who likes one school but not the other (see above).

    Both are excellent schools. They are both very strong academically. They both offer excellent educations.

    If you can, I would definitely recommend visiting one or both schools (they're not too far from each other, so if you visit one, it's definitely worth trying to visit both).
  • mother_of_perlmother_of_perl Registered User Posts: 197 Junior Member
    My DD was accepted to both CalTech and HMC and decided to attend Mudd. CalTech had been her dream school for years, but when she visited both after acceptance, she loved Mudd. I wasn't with her on the trip, but she told me she loved the people, the classes, and even the food! She felt at home at Mudd. Something at CalTech rubbed her the wrong way. She is now a sophomore and she has in fact been very happy at Mudd. On the other hand, a good friend of hers went to CalTech, and she is very happy there. It is easy to make the comparison on paper (undergrad vs undergrad & grad, what's in the core, male/female ratio etc), but in the end, you need to spend time at both places and figure out where you feel most comfortable. You would get a fabulous education at either place. It would make sense to apply to both schools and see what your options are.
  • PajkajPajkaj Registered User Posts: 195 Junior Member

    I loved HMC, hated Caltech. You're not the only one who only liked one. [:

    I agree with the notion that HMC is just not right for some people, but I would say that goes for Caltech also. I don't think there was anything specific about Caltech that turned me off, like that I could name or list. I could talk for quite a while about what I liked about HMC, but I'm biased. I just didn't like the atmosphere of Caltech and didn't think I'd enjoy myself there.
  • mia305mia305 Registered User Posts: 350 Member
    CalTech is more selective, but Mudd is only slightly less selective. Mudd has a "generalist" approach when it comes to engineering and maintains a substantial "liberal arts" emphasis. If those are your 2 choices, you will be tempted to choose CalTech because it is more well known and more prestigious [especially to those outside the realm of science and engineering, much less of an issue within those fields]. And IMO that's a perfectly valid factor. The JPL and research ops also make CalTech tempting. BUT personally, when I visited CalTech the place IMO was depressing, ... bordering on suicidal. The campus was dead; the undergrads I met seemed a bit unhappy even bitter; and several came off as arrogant, without a discernable basis for the attitude. Mudd on the other hand seemed to me to have a friendlier, more cooperative vibe. The other Claremont colleges seemed to improve the people/activities factor too. But Mudders tended to try a little too hard on the subject of comparisons to CalTech. CalTech, even in admissions, was totally dismissive when it came to Mudd (which I thought was not particularly classy). But, You really need to visit and form your own opinions. Both of these schools are very small and 4 years is a long time to be in a small college community you dont like. BTW, the housing options at both colleges arent wonderful.
  • centimeterscentimeters Registered User Posts: 90 Junior Member
    I visited both of these places within two days of each other, and I liked HMC so much more. At Caltech, my tour guide said outright that undergrads get a lot less attention than graduate students, and that turned me off completely. Why would I want to go to a place where they don't even care about me?

    I'm not even applying to Caltech anymore. The campus was beautiful, facilities nice, etc, but in the end it really comes down to quality of education. I will definitely consider Caltech for grad school, but not undergrad.
  • apathyapathy Registered User Posts: 590 Member
    But Mudders tended to try a little too hard on the subject of comparisons to CalTech. CalTech, even in admissions, was totally dismissive when it came to Mudd (which I thought was not particularly classy). But, You really need to visit and form your own opinions. Both of these schools are very small and 4 years is a long time to be in a small college community you dont like. BTW, the housing options at both colleges arent wonderful.

    I was not aware of this. I'll try to make a lot of comparisons to CalTech the next time I host a prefrosh. ;)
  • Daniel12Daniel12 Registered User Posts: 147 Junior Member
    What made me decide on HMC most of all was the professors. My impression is that the instructors at HMC tend to devote more attention to the students, or at least undergrads, than those at Caltech. It's not just about time spent in office hours -- the profs at HMC seem to put a lot of effort into preparing good lectures and assignments.

    Both colleges claim to place a significant emphasis on humanities and core sciences, but Mudd's requirements are somewhat more expansive. Numeric comparisons are a bit tricky since Caltech uses trimesters while Mudd uses (mostly) semesters, but I'll give it a try:
    Caltech  Mudd
    Math         1.66     2
    Physics      1.66     1.5
    Chemistry    1        2
    Biology      0.33     0.5
    Engineering  0        0.5
    Comp sci     0        0.5
    Humanities   4        6
    (numbers correspond to work-years; labs counted as separate courses)
    The differences will be smaller after HMC institutes the new core program, though. I'm not sure if it will affect the class of 2013.

    HMC is able to offer a much broader selection, since students can (generally) take classes at the other 5Cs (and frequently do, particularly in humanities).

    The subject of aesthetics tends to be rather divisive. Personally I think HMC is very pretty after it's been cleaned, but often the courtyards are messy and the grass is littered with leaves. Caltech has some nice buildings, but (IMO) some slightly ugly areas as well.

    Of course, Caltech is a bit more prestigious in academia, and considerably more renown in popular opinion.
  • CiderCider Registered User Posts: 327 Member
    Do you have any extra information on what the new core is supposed to be? I'm curious.
  • Daniel12Daniel12 Registered User Posts: 147 Junior Member
    Sure -- this proposal describes the new core in detail, just skip the first three pages (unless you're really curious). There's also a comparison table here, though I don't really understand the color codes.
  • geek_momgeek_mom Registered User Posts: 2,106 Senior Member
    Many thanks for these links, Daniel -- very helpful for an entering student! As to the color coding, looking at the rightmost column of any row gives it away. They're just categorizing courses: Core, major, electives, etc.
  • mathboy98mathboy98 Registered User Posts: 3,752 Senior Member
    I was considering these schools once (now am at Cal) - the main thing I'd like about Caltech is that it has a graduate school, as at Cal the math professors and grad students are great to interact with, and very, very smart people. However, I don't think I would have chosen to go to Caltech OR Harvey Mudd based on this factor, because if I chose one of them, I'd do so based on the undergrad atmosphere. These are schools with gruelingly hard curricula, where undergrads bond while toasting in the oven! I almost went to Mudd, actually.

    Probably would've liked Mudd better if the students are friendlier....but anyway, I ended up at a big school with a large grad department, for what it's worth =] g'luck everyone.
  • UnleashedFuryUnleashedFury Registered User Posts: 1,784 Member
    Is it certain that the new core will be implemented fall '09?
  • water boywater boy Registered User Posts: 55 Junior Member
    This is anecdotal, but I think it is worth mentioning. I knew a number of high school classmates to go to CalTech. Not the happiest people. I'm sure this has to do with the grueling work load, though.

    The Mudders I met were eccentric, but fairly happy people, despite their also miserable workload. It MUST help to have 4 other colleges nearby. Not to mention Scripps, an all-women's college. There's something to be said about the social aspect of things.

    You spend about 4 yrs in college. Make it happy.
  • geek_momgeek_mom Registered User Posts: 2,106 Senior Member
    ... Caltech seems to have a lot more CC activity than Mudd. Do Techers have too much time on their hands, or do Mudders have fuller lives? :p Or does the stereotypical CC personality (chance me, I'm a 17-year-old god among mere mortals!) "fit" Caltech better?
This discussion has been closed.