Seeking input - Harvey Mudd College

I’m looking for opinions, perspectives, personal stories, links to articles, etc. to help guide us on a decision about HMC. I’ve looked at the school’s website, joined the FB group for admitted families, and read through the recent past threads here on CC. We’ll be going to admitted students day so we’ll learn some then too, but it’s a larger community here on CC and I appreciate any information people can share.

I know that HMC is small and selective which probably is why there’s a paucity of information to find (compared to other schools). But I also have seen comments here that are favorable towards HMC and “how they do things” and I would love to get more background on what leads to that sentiment.

We are full pay, and going in-state to CU Boulder for four years (with merit scholarships, in the engineering honors program) would cost about the same as one year at HMC. We have saved and can pay without loans, but the age-old question is: is it worth it? This is our only child and we have a deep-seated hope that they find “their people” in college.

Wish list when starting the college search:

  • strong engineering program, without having to decide the specific major on Day 1
  • strong liberal arts program, i.e. not a tech-focused school
  • medium size suburban environment with nature spaces nearby
  • collaborative instead of competitive
  • study abroad program
  • theater tech opportunities as a non-theater major
  • gender parity (not lopsided ratios)
  • LGBTQ+ friendly, diverse student population
  • OOS
  • avoid sports and Greek heavy schools
  • low student:faculty ratio

In one ear I keep hearing, “Engineering is egalitarian; it doesn’t really matter where you go, you learn the same material, your state school is fine. What matters most is what the student does with their opportunities.”

In the other ear I hear, “HMC is a top-ranked engineering liberal arts college with a high ROI, great job opportunities after graduation. School fit is important.” The school has been on our radar ever since an accidental visit in 9th grade when we actually went for a Pomona tour, and ended up wandering around the rest of the 5Cs afterwards. On that trip we met a professor who was building an airplane and he invited our 13 yr old kid into his lab and proceeded to hand over a power tool for them to contribute a piece to the airplane. That left an impression!

Sorry for this long post, but if you’ve made it this far, I welcome your thoughts.


Harvey Mudd is equivalent to Caltech in terms of level of difficulty of all of their majors. The classes are going to be harder than at a state public engineering school. An engineering degree from Harvey Mudd is as well respected as one from Caltech.

Harvey Mudd’s engineering program is a general degree, so you won’t be able to get a more specialized degree at that school (i.e., electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, etc.).

Your kiddo should be proud of him/herself that he/she got admitted to Harvey Mudd. If it was my kid and if our family could hack it financially, I absolutely would send him/her to Mudd.

That being said, Mudd is a majority male students and has been trying to improve the % of female students in recent years. Not sure if study abroad will be easy to do at Mudd, though. Since Mudd is a private school, being OOS doesn’t really matter because CA students don’t get a leg up on admission nor do they get cheaper tuition by being CA residents.


Hi. So glad you made this post! My D22 was also accepted and we’ll also be at accepted students day. Same as you, I’m trying to help her research the school more. She loves HMC, but we would love to learn all we can before deciding.


I did not attend Harvey Mudd. I did attend MIT. My understanding is that MIT is much larger but in terms of academic intensity they are similar.

One key issue: You have to want to do it. You or your child (whomever is the student) needs to want to work very hard for a full four years without a break. Just being very smart and a very strong student is not enough. You have to have it in your heart to want to do it.

CU Boulder is a very good university with a very good engineering program. It sounds like four years there plus a year or even two to get a master’s degree at a highly ranked full pay private university might cost the same or less than four years at Harvey Mudd.

A student who is capable of getting accepted to Harvey Mudd (or MIT), but who attends CU Boulder, is likely to be one of the perhaps top 25% of the student body (assuming that they work just as hard as they would have worked at Harvey Mudd). This is going to open up internship and/or research opportunities. Also, they will meet other students “like them” at either school.

My main input is that either choice would be academically very good. You do not HAVE to choose Harvey Mudd just because you can. To this day, I still do not know whether I should have gone to MIT or to my “safety” (which was McGill, still a very good university, and which would have similarly been a tiny fraction of the cost).

Which leads to the question: What does your student want to do? This is something that they themselves might want to think about for a while.


I agree with this advice.

If your kid goes to Harvey Mudd, they won’t have time to do theater stuff.


The easy answer to is it worth it is no, if the question is purely financial. If you take the money that you will save by not paying those three years, and invest it over your student’s full career. It is VERY unlikely they’ll make that much money MORE if they choose HMC. They could, if they were well outside the averages, but they also could if the went to school in Boulder.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It might be “worth it” to you or them to have that different experience. If you do it for that, and not because you expect they’ll make a ton more, AND you can afford it, then it is “worth it.”

Know going in that it’s intense. It’s not necessarily harder per se, but the pace and in particular volume, can be stressful. You often see schools that tout work hard play hard as their motto. It might not be truer anywhere than HMC.


Full disclosure- I am a huge Mudd fan. I didn’t attend, but I have family who did. I am definitely in your second category (roi + fit).

Mudd is routinely identified as one of the best ROI options out there. See, eg

I have heard it put like this: sure you can get great engineering jobs out of any engineering program, but at places like Mudd, the jobs come to you.

It is very hospitable to women (and lgbtq), and is ahead of the curve for engineering schools admitting women. They are much more balanced than they used to be. Last year’s common data set reports 115 men/110 women enrolled.

The community has been strongly influenced by its president Maria Klawe - a fantastic person all around.

They have been reworking their core requirements in response to concerns about the intensity of the workload, and very very mindful of mental health issues - though there is no question the stress is an ongoing concern. The workload is a lot and the standards are high. But the accessibility of the professors is amazing.

I can’t speak to theater tech - but Mudders do enjoy their extracurriculars. It would be a good question to ask - what theater activities are available through the consortium. I don’t doubt that studying abroad is do-able, but probably happens less at Mudd than other schools.

There isn’t a greek system, but Mudd is known in the consortium to throw great parties. It also reportedly has the best food. Note: you can eat at any cafeteria at any of the schools and there truly is lot of cross pollination among the students (eg, I know of a married couple who met singing a cappella - one from CMC and one from Mudd).

At the end of the day, to me it boils down to whether your tribe is there. It is a tiny, quirky school, and the people you are around matter all the more. Go to the admitted student events and see what you think. If your kid is excited by the people, the ROI will be there.

Eta: feel free to DM me - happy to answer specific questions if I can.


Etaa: check out Mudd’s tik tok account. They let their quirk show.


When most students graduate in CS or engineering majors, it is not hard for a school to get a high financial ROI.


HMC has a very prescribed core. Not only are there set STEM classes for the first 2 years, but the humanities requirements are pretty lengthy. Some kids like this, some do not.


Thank you for your thoughts. It is a great feeling of accomplishment just to get that admission to Harvey Mudd for sure!

If the classes are harder than at a state public engineering school (in my gut I believe you), I don’t know why I keep seeing people say that engineers learn the same material no matter what school they go to.

The general engineering degree is one that I don’t quite understand since other schools have more specific engineering degrees. Is it just the private liberal arts colleges that do this (Princeton and Brown also do this I believe)? Is it less marketable? It doesn’t seem to hurt HMC’s reputation.

An attractive thing about HMC is that the overall M:F ratio is much closer to 50:50 than our in-state school. Perhaps it’s lopsided in engineering? CU Boulder Engineering is 71:29 for the class entering Fall 2021, but 55:45 for the entire university overall.

OOS for us is outside of CO. :slight_smile: My kid would like to try living somewhere new.

Well, this would be a bummer. We will ask other students about their experiences when we go to ASD. It will go on the list of questions we’re building.

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Hi, I saw you on the other thread - congrats to your D22! How exciting for your D and good luck to her getting the golden ticket (PSP)! My kid also applied for it, and I was hopeful, but it didn’t happen for us. That would make such a difference!

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What is more accurate to say is that an ABET-accredited engineering program must meet some (fairly high) minimum standards of curricular content, but the program at a given college can go beyond that (particularly in elective offerings within the major). So any ABET-accredited engineering program is good for someone who wants to go into that type of engineering, but some programs may be better, depending on the student’s definition of “better”.

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Harvey Mudd’s HSA (humanities, social sciences, arts) requirement does include a required four course concentration within the 11 HSA courses. Theatre is one possible concentration, although it looks like the theatre courses would need to be taken through cross registration, since they are not offered at Harvey Mudd.


I too am a fan of Harvey Mudd with no direct connection to the school. When I read your “starting” list my thought was that it is such a close fit that it could have been written by whoever does the marketing for HMC admissions. In other words, it seems to check every single box. The gender parity is real, and not only for students. Perfect faculty gender parity does not yet exist, but my understanding is that HMC is much closer than most STEM focused departments or institutions.

As for theater tech, I am not sure I agree with the poster who indicated that your kid won’t have time. The kids at HMC are involved in all sorts of non-class activities, and whether or not HMC offers a tech class and/or tech opportunities, the other CC schools do and those programs are accessible to HMC students. With regard to pretty much everything outside the engineering curriculum, you should also consider the options at the other CC schools as well as HMC.

As for Boulder, I love the town and understand it has a quality engineering program, but HMC seems to be be a much closer fit for your list, on almost every point (Boulder gets the nod on nature spaces, but HMC has some nice places nearby as well.) That said, if affordability is a major concern, then in-state at Boulder is a nice option to have.

Congratulations to your family!


Ah, another response alluding to the grind I’ve heard about at HMC. It does make me worry about there not being enough time to goof off and have fun. My kid is a serious student, not a partier, and is energized when working with other kids that “get it.” But downtime and some kind of release valve is so important for mental health and well being. I wonder if the revised curriculum is working out better for students these days.

You bring up good points, and I feel so fortunate that we even have these choices in this application cycle that has been so tough for so many students. I’m sure we will be mulling over this until the last moment; my kid can see advantages to both schools. We will go to admitted student days at both schools with open minds and a list of questions, and just absorb all we can. Hopefully something will sway us one way or the other.

I’m curious about your comment about not knowing whether you should have gone to MIT vs McGill. Do you feel comfortable sharing what is behind that?

My son was a theater tech (sound), at a school known to be challenging. It isn’t as much of a grind as Mudd in that the volume isn’t as inordinate, but like Mudd they graduate a 4.0 about once a decade. It takes the average student 5 years to graduate with a 2.7. He graduated with a BS Magna Cum Laude (3.74) and a MS With Distinction, while working 12-20 hours a week. What is “doable” is largely related to the individual.

I would not write off being a tech, but like him, I wouldn’t advise starting until second year. Students need to get their footing.

Any other school options? It seems unlikely that these two very different schools are the only ones that got apps.

Yeah, from a financial standpoint it would definitely be smarter to go with Boulder. The main thing though is that we want our kid to be happy (like we all want for our kids) and if one school is more likely to provide the environment that facilitates that happening, then it’s “worth it.” With only one kid, there’s a certain amount of freedom in our decision making process. There’s no fairness issue to worry about, and no other heirs, so whatever is left over when we pass will go to them anyway. Spend it now, or inherit it later. When will it make the most difference? I wish I had my crystal ball back from the shop.

Thank you for responding, I was hoping you would because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen your other posts about Mudd. Your reply gives me hope that it’s not a grind 24/7! I really hope that the ASP day (only one day this year) gives a good sense of the community and attitude there. We went on a self-guided tour last summer and got to speak to an AO, but not much interaction otherwise. And thanks for the offer to answer specific questions! I’m sure I’ll come up with some. :wink:

I tried googling for that but don’t see an obvious one. Do you know the handle or whatever it’s called?

Thanks, this will go on the list of questions! As well as finding out if just casual participation in theater tech as an extra set of hands is something that can be done.

Thank you so much! I do love how the CC classes are open for all CC students and that greatly expands the course catalog to choose from. On paper it really seems like HMC is a great fit. With Boulder, since it’s so much more affordable, my kid could take more time to graduate if desired/needed and do a study abroad program that might be hard to fit in at HMC. So that has a certain appeal too…

Yes, and one of them is one that you would highly approve of! :smile:

Other options are:
Cal Poly SLO, general engineering
UW Seattle, undeclared engineering

Also accepted at Colorado State and UCSD but decided against those two; CSU because it didn’t really resonate and UCSD because the admission was for the alternate major (Data Science) and kiddo really wants engineering.

Still waiting on Stanford, CMU, and Brown but odds are not in our favor.

Sounds like your son did great at Cal Poly! We’re going to visit next month to see what it’s like when students are on campus.

Not tackling too much that first year is sound advice.

Try this:

It is the admissions office who puts it out

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