High Academic Recruited Athlete- MIT vs HMC..now what?

Looking for suggestion and advice on my daughters upcoming decisions…so partial advice on recruited athlete aspect and partial MIT vs HMC question. Recruited athlete in team sport (would rather not say which) and has been offered support for both HMC and MIT. I know this means different things and its a 50/50 (maybe a little better with her strong academics?) shot at MIT and with coach support we think 80%+ at HMC. After tour and prospect camp at CMS she LOVED HMC and it feels like a very, very good fit for her. Of course the CMS/HMC will expect her to apply ED1 so the decision is what to do about that. She loves all things about HMC except the somewhat understandable “prestige” factor with MIT and having to explain to most where she goes to school if she chooses HMC. Other option would be to apply EA to MIT and take our chances applying ED2 (likely without coach support) at HMC and hope there is a spot. Obviously worst case scenario is decline at MIT and decline at HMC through that option. Thoughts?

Quick Stats:
US Resident, Large public high School in Texas
Intended Major: Math/CS/Neuroscience
UW GPA- 4.0
Rank- 12/856
SAT- 1560
Coursework- AP HUG, AP CS Principles, AP Stats, AP ENG, AP Calc BC, AP Physics, AP CS A. Taking AP Chem, AP ENG, AP Psych, AP Seminar and Multivariable calc and Linear algebra in 12th grade.
Awards: Likely National Merit Scholar finalist, Academic All American, All District
Extracurriculars: Captain of high school sports team. With select sports team and travel that takes most of time but other big EC is marching band. Daughter is head drum major of 200+ member band, InspiritAI scholar, NHS, Mu Alpha Theta. Also coaches her sport for youth.

HMC seems like the right choice for her–there’s always MIT for grad school if she chooses to go that route. MIT is so so crazy for athletes, I don’t think it’s worth it to lose a high-probability option at a school she loves just at a chance for MIT. HMC is still super prestigious, especially in mathy/sciency areas, so really the only factor that seems like a problem is having to explain where she went to school, which is a pretty small thing in the grand scheme.

If she doesn’t get into HMC ED, maybe see if there’s some coach support available in RD? I know one person (individual sport) who was supposedly able to get some at after choosing to REA elsewhere, and he got in. Probably super unlikely, but not impossible for the right candidate.


Two very different schools, and experiences. One must appeal to her more, no? It does sound like she’s leaning HMC based on your post. I wouldn’t worry so much about the relatively lower name recognition of HMC (but I know you are dealing with a teen!).

More questions: Which has the edge academically? Location wise? Sports team/coach? What’s the intended major? Has she visited MIT? Where does she want to live after graduation?

Has your D directly asked the HMC coach if they would support her ED2, should she choose MIT, and get deferred or have admission declined in their EA round? Does the MIT coach say support will only be given in EA and not in RD?

I would also have her directly ask the coaches what proportion of similar recruits have been accepted, trying to get them to estimate the odds. Sounds like you are guessing at the MIT 50/50, and HMC 80% numbers.

Tough decision for sure, but if her heart is with HMC, that’s probably the easier/more straightforward choice.


Has she visited MIT? It’s not everyone’s cup of tea for undergrad. In a battle between fit and prestige I think fit should always win. They’re both beyond excellent schools but they are very different. Have you also considered the costs involved? Financial fit is THE most important factor in college decisions.


I mean, what else is there to know. It’s a top notch school, and she loves it.

My kid attends Middlebury, and the most common question she gets when she tells people in in Chicagoland is “what’s a Middlebury?” Doesn’t make any difference to her, because she loves it, and she knows that it’s a great college, and it provides her with all the resources she needs to succeed. Same with your daughter.

As for prestige? The people who matter know how good HMC is, and will hire HMC graduates in an instant. Also, HMC is very woman friendly.

As @CiaraFin wrote - if she wants, she can attend MIT for grad school, or anywhere else, for that matter.


She is leaning HMC. Location wise I think she is leaning toward the monotonous “perfect weather every day” at Claremont:) She has visited MIT but has been years ago and she didn’t get to visit in context of athletics. CMS/HMC seems more enthusiastic. She has not yet asked about ED2 but if we go that route we will need to. Odds at MIT are 50/50 direct from coach. She submits 16 names and roughly expects 8. My guess of 75% is thinking she might be in top half of that list of 16 academically. CMS/HMC college indicates if she keeps her grades/stats consistent she is in. My guess of 80% is if she goes in without coach support

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Good point. Cost is fortunately not a factor. expecting full pay at MIT and near full pay at HMC.

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I would choose HMC in a heartbeat. First off, the prestige gap, at least in most of the west and definitely in the academic areas she’d be studying, isn’t all that great. She will not have to explain to anyone in CA or on the west coast what HMC is. It has a great reputation. Second, if HMC feels like the right fit, that’s enough info (MIT has a different feel and, as you know, very different weather). Finally, as I think you’re saying, the odds are 95%+ at HMC with coach support. I don’t think you can parse out the 50% at MIT based on academic stats. I think you have to treat it as 50%. So you’re talking about a layup vs. a jumper from the top of the key. And the layup gets her what is likely the best fit anyway. I’d take the layup, and I’m pretty confident in my outside shot.


I would not assume higher than 50% at MIT. I would also not assume 80% at HMC without coach support. She is at the higher end of the stats, and females have a higher admit rate, but hard to assume an 80% probability of even the strongest students without a major hook at a school like HMC. If HMC feels right and is a fit, hard to turn down the sure thing that is a great school that your D feels great about.


If it is an outside sport, does she want to play in the California sun or in the heat/slush/rain/snow/perfect fall day/sleet weather of New England?

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It is an outside field sport and that’s a great point!

Look at the schedule for the two schools. How often do they travel, how far, by what method (bus, flight, cars)? It really makes a difference.

My daughter played in sunny Florida. The first year the team was new and the coach was new (and had always played in Mass). She made the scheduled and had 3 out of state travel weekends in April, all 10+ hour bus rides. That school ended fairly early so April was getting close to finals. My daughter gets car sick so studying on the bus was hard for her. She was exhausted by the end of the season and right into finals.

The next year the coach wised up and realized “Hey, we’re in Florida. They can come to us” and she scheduled one OOS weekend in Feb and the rest of the games were played in Florida. They played 11 of 16 games at home and the other 5 were usually conference games at other Florida schools so just day trips.

Made a huge difference to their health and academics to be well rested all spring.

If the schools are really tied (but it doesn’t sound like they are), look at the little things that will make her experience better. Weather, food, athletic schedule, academic schedule, if the games are streamed, whether you can travel to see them.


Thank you to all for the feedback. Great insight and advice all around. I will report back with how she chooses to proceed and hopefully it all has a happy ending:) Thanks again!


I love Harvey Mudd and what they do, but I don’t see Neuroscience listed as one of their majors. It is available at MIT (Dept. of Brain & Cognitive Sciences). There are 2 Neuroscience majors available at the Claremont colleges - one at Pomona and the other at Keck (CMC/Pitzer/Scripps).

College is a time for exploring and deciding on your major area of interest, so I think that it would be a shame to take one of her 3 stated areas of interest off the table before she’s even begun. Can either of the Neuroscience majors on other Claremont campuses be pursued by HMC students? I think that’s an important question to have answered before you finalize your decision.

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HMC students can do an off campus major (OCM) at other consortium schools, or design an interdisciplinary type major (IPS). But it can get complicated, and the HMC core has to be completed no matter what.


@Txfamily1968, since you and your daughter are the ones best able to judge fit, here’s my two cents on athletic considerations. You don’t say what sport, but the notion that the coach will submit a list of 16 names (hoping for 8) seems to be quite a long recruiting list. Even adding 8 recruits seems like a lot, unless the team quite sizable or has a lot of attrition. Attrition something you may want to look into on the MIT Athletic site for the sport, i.e., how many athletes make (or want) the team for more than one year .

What would be of interest to me would be asking the precise same questions of the HMC Coach: 1) how long is your recruiting list; 2) how many of those do you expect to be admitted; 3) what are the odds of the daughter being admitted on ED and RD.

Of course, this is not precisely an apples to apples assessment. There is more than one college to draw from for the team at HMC. Additionally, variations in the size of the list could be due to there number of graduating seniors. Still, I would like to get a sense of the attrition issue. Not saying that HMC doesn’t, but MIT does have the pressure cooker reputation.


In this situation, all signs point toward HMC. If your daughter loves HMC, there is no downside - as others have said, MIT will be there for grad school! HMC had led the way in gender parity in CS; the math department is not only superb but also exceptionally caring and humane (see Prof. Su’s recent book, Mathematics for Human Flourishing) and there’s excellent coursework available in neuroscience across the consortium.

The one thing to be prepared for is that, in a women’s sport, the majority of athletes on her team are likely to be from the other two colleges, Claremont McKenna and Scripps. While there’s no reason that these other athletes shouldn’t make wonderful teammates and friends, and while all 5C’s students work hard, the HMC Core in the first two years is particularly intense, and balancing that with her sport will be a challenge that not all of her teammates will share. It could be worth asking the coach what his/her experience with HMC students has been in the past, vis-a-vis balancing athletic and academic demands… and perhaps checking the roster for HMC students and asking them about their experiences as well.


This is the main point I think. I have had this conversation with my kids and with others too. If you want the guy bagging your groceries at the store to be impressed, go to MIT. If you want to impress the people who hire MIT grads, either school is fine and probably seen as equal.

There are plusses and minuses, but the big plus for MIT is name recognition, and I think that is a red herring in this case.

I have done this both ways, I have a high academic recruited athlete, and another at a high academic school who got in the regular way. FAR less stressful to be recruited. For him, the decision on ED day was a formality. He had already been told he was safe, just don’t blow off the essay and you are fine. As has been pointed out, MIT admissions is quirky, even for an athletic recruit. I don’t know HMC specifically, but generally there are a lot of coaches who know with almost certainty they can get certain kids in. I had one coach at a similar school tell me he wouldn’t ask my son to apply ED unless he was 100% sure, and in his 5 years had gotten in every single athlete he told to apply ED. I am sure there are others he had to let go, or tell that they were not guaranteed. But if most coaches tell you that she is getting in, she is almost certainly getting in. That is huge. Plus HMC is a great school, it isn’t like she is comparing MIT to southwest Kansas Teacher’s college (no disrespect meant if such college actually exists).

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I think you’re oversimplifying this. The problem isn’t the availability of neuroscience courses across the consortium, it’s that HMC doesn’t offer a major in neuroscience, which is one of her 3 main areas of interest.

As Mwfan1921 said, a major outside of the standard HMC offerings is theoretically possible, but it’s complicated. So, there are hurdles to clear at a college which already has a demanding core curriculum and heavy requirements for majors. There’s not a lot of room for exploring - especially for taking courses and exploring a field that HMC doesn’t even offer.

HMC does not have an open curriculum. They have 10 courses of core curriculum requirements. And their majors have lots of course requirements - 18 courses in CS, for example. Math is similar. So, if she chooses either CS or Math for her major, it’s not like she’s going to have lots of room to avail herself of that excellent neuroscience coursework on other campuses.

I’m not saying that she shouldn’t go to HMC. As I said earlier in the thread, I love what they do there. What I think is important is that she go in with her eyes wide open. If she takes a course or two in neuroscience early on and falls in love with it, there are going to be challenges to arranging a major - if it can be done at all. These challenges should not be minimized. It’s important that she and her parents have an honest conversation with the people at HMC about what the realities of neuroscience are for an HMC student.

BTW, MIT has also been a leader in gender parity. Look at their gender ratios in their engineering majors - some of the best in the country. Last I looked, Mechanical Engineering was 50:50, and according to an article in an MIT publication, it’s because that department actively recruited women students. I don’t think that MIT takes a back seat to anyone in gender parity.


I mean, it really depends what OP means in terms of an interest in neuroscience. If she just means it in terms of the intersection of those three areas, that could be very well accommodated at HMC. There’s even a track in the Computational Biology major that focuses the electives on computational neuroscience. A student could definitely combine math+CS+neuroscience in that major, or just do the math/CS joint major (not a double-major, but an established blended one) and add neuroscience electives. On the other hand, some students with these interests would be much happier in, for example, the Cognitive Science department at Pomona, which offers a computational track and plenty of access to HMC math/CS classes without the whole HMC Core. (Of course, this student isn’t in the recruiting process with the Pomona/Pitzer team, but just comparing/contrasting. Hypothetically one could do this as a Scripps student too, which would work with the CMS team, but I don’t get the impression that OP has that option on radar, probably because she truly does like the HMC vibe and educational model.)

Granted, my personal experience with MIT is a little dated (gender parity wasn’t a thing when I attended, lol, although I can’t say I felt marginalized there in any way in terms of gender, even back then)… but I do think the close-knit, undergrad-focused experience at HMC is quite different from what MIT offers. It depends on the student, which would be a better fit. But for a student who loves HMC to pass up a sure-bet athletic spot there for a coin-toss chance at MIT, without even being sure that they’d love the experience as much, seems to me like it doesn’t add up… unless further investigation adds more information and insight that could shift the pros and cons.