Seeking input - Harvey Mudd College

Thank you!

It worked well for him, but he’s said “I would have been fine no matter where I went.”

He had less than zero interest in Mudd even though he would have almost certainly gotten in. He hit all their litmus tests. He wanted a “typical college experience” which Mudd is anything but. Plus, it was smaller than he wanted, and he hated the look of the campus. It may seem petty, but anything is valid when narrowing a list as there are simply too many good choices out there.

His roommate is a Mudder. He said it was stressful, but there was a “we’re all in this together” mentality. He’s proud to be an alum.

They get a very solid education at Mudd, but the course catalog will lag behind that of CU-Boulder and Cal Poly. Whether or not that matter is another story.

He would be able to work as a theater tech at CP if he is organized and can keep up with his studies. There are big time companies that heavily recruit at CP for engineers to do this if he’s interested. Feel free to PM me if you want to know more about that or the job at CP

It’s clear you can afford Mudd. Now it’s really a matter of deciding if it’s the best fit. Every school has strengths. Every school has weakness. No matter where he goes, he’ll end up fine. The differences will be at the margins.

Congrats and best of luck!


Harvey Mudd does seem to fit your criteria well. (It’s a good thing having a funny name or “modern” architecture was not part of your criteria :wink:).
My S went a few years ago. His humanities concentration was in music, where he took classical guitar lessons and played in a quartet with music majors from the other 4Cs. Many students manage to participate in intercollegiate team sports, play in the joint symphony orchestras, participate in a capella groups, etc. Outside activities and interests are highly encouraged.
My S also was part of a rock band that regularly played at campus parties, and this also took time and effort for practice, etc, but it was good for his stress relief. BTW, two of the band members got their PhDs and one is teaching in the UC system. He now works for an aerospace company. Hope this is useful.


Felt the same way when I read the OP! Congrats @AgeofAquarius to your kiddo (and you for guiding them)! If it were my kid, I think I’d know after Admitted Students’ Day if this is where they need to be. My guess is it will be. :slight_smile:


I know very little about Mudd other than I’ve worked with a couple of people who graduated from there and they were both top-notch.

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At this point, you really really need to back waaaaaayy up and watch / listen as your student processes the visit. Tell yourself, and tell your student that this is 100% a ‘trust your gut’ situation.

ps- remember that 1 person’s ‘grind’ is another person’s happy place


I think @collegemom3717 is absolutely right. You have two great choices and I think it comes down to whether he thinks HM would be a stressful grind or not.

My daughter had different schools on her list, but had a choice between higher ranked/more of a grind reputation and lower ranked/traditional college experience.

Once we made it clear that we were happy with any choice and she would not disappoint us either way, it became clear that she was not up for the “grind.” She isn’t the student who enjoys academic projects to the point that she doesn’t mind them eating into time for ECs and relaxing; an environment without sufficient balance amps up her anxiety.

But as noted above, some students find it fun and exhilarating. You know your child best and can assess after visiting whether he thinks HM is their place, filled with their people, or whether they are more dispassionately focused on its reputation and/or the expectations of family or friends (and maybe apprehensive about the workload, etc.).

That said, I think there is a reason they were accepted by both schools and, even if they made the choice by throwing a dart at the wall, I think they will do well at whichever school they select.


I know that you asked this a couple of days ago, but it is a good question and I think that it deserves an answer.

To me part of the time MIT was interesting and appropriate, and part of the time it was a drudge. Part of the time I just did not want to do it anymore. There were ECs that I would have wanted to do that I just did not get time or energy to do. Perhaps the “energy” part was more of an issue than the “time” part.

After graduating from MIT I worked for a couple of years and then went back to university to get a master’s degree from a similarly challenging university (Stanford). There were two huge differences. One was that I was older and more mature. The other was that I knew why I was there and I knew why I was doing it. I worked very hard at Stanford. It might have looked to someone else as if it was just as much of a drudge. However, I wanted to do it. To me it was never a drudge at all, but instead I loved it (and my grades did reflect this difference). I still for example remember one Saturday spending six hours on one very tough problem on one homework assignment, and being very happy that I could solve it. It was fun spending six hours on that one problem, but that was largely because I wanted to do it.

So, does your son want to spend six hours on a Saturday solving a very tough problem that the majority of the class just cannot handle even at Harvey Mudd?

To me the biggest difference between the two was that for my master’s I knew why I was doing it, and I wanted to do it. That made a big difference.

My general sense is that I could have gone to McGill and it would still be a challenge but would not have been quite as tough. I would have had a bit more time and energy to have a life. Then after graduating I would have wanted to do everything else in my life the same (including going to Stanford for my master’s). Of course, none of us can know whether everything else would have been the same, or whether the same opportunities would have presented themselves.


That’s the big question, are you, or anyone else in the same boat, better off for enduring the grind? In other words, is the grind worth it?

The other thing that needs to be clear, not directed at you @DadTwoGirls, but to the OP, is that engineering is challenging everywhere. There are gradations for sure based on volume, pace and to a degree, complexity, but even the easiest engineering program in the nation, where ever that is, will be challenging. No matter where one studies engineering there will be somewhat of that feeling. There’s only so much softening a school can do to Fluid Mechanics, Thermodynamics, etc.


Thank you for sharing your experience; now I understand better what you meant by “you have to want to do it.” Similar to what @collegemom3717 said about one person’s grind is another person’s happy place. It sounds like your experience at MIT was that it was a non-stop grind, rather than a one-off story you can look back on with humor.

My kid is an IB Diploma candidate and has definitely felt the drain of the workload (especially this semester), but I think there’s a certain level of satisfaction from tackling the rigor and working - sometimes alone, sometimes with other classmates - to figure out problems (even while complaining loudly about it). It’s no MIT or HMC, but it is the most rigorous program available in our public high school, and I think it’s been a pretty good fit for my kid’s personality. For a bit of background info, as a 14 yr old they scored a 35 ACT and that was with a 31 in the math section which dragged down the composite score (they were in AP Stats at the time and did no test prep).

They have spent probably 20-30 hours a week for the past few weeks for the spring musical theater production, which is a crazy amount of time on top of schoolwork. But it brings them joy and zest that academics alone don’t, so it’s important to me that it remains a possibility in college.

I think we, as adults, all have experienced events in life that leave us wondering “what if…” I’m on the flip side from you, in that for college I had the choice between UChicago and my in-state public school. Due to financial constraints, even with a full-tuition scholarship to UChicago, I ended up going to my in-state school on a full-ride. It wasn’t a great fit for me (too big and impersonal - which I freely admit colors my view of Boulder) although I did ok and it set me up well for my future endeavors. So I’ve always wondered about that decision, but as you say, we don’t know if the other events in life would have fallen into place the way they have. It was liberating to not have debt from undergrad for sure, which made my further education more feasible. I think if we do end up choosing HMC, that will be the cap that we’ll pay for school, and any further education will be up to them. Seems fair to me.

On your visit to HMC, your student experienced the commitment to education that HMC professors are known for. Does your student buy into the HMC mission of broadly educating scientists and engineers in all areas, including the humanities and arts? If so, then HMC would be a great fit, especially if finances aren’t an overriding factor. My S1 chose Mudd because he was totally uninterested in the large college experience including the intercollegiate sports atmosphere. On the other hand, S2 went to a big Tech school and drank in the excitement of big time football and basketball. S1 has been out a few years, and his closest friends are still the ones he met at Mudd. My own personal opinion is that Mudd is an extraordinary school, and I hope is that your student goes to admitted student’s day and finds Mudd even more exciting than before.


No HS experience will compare to engineering in college no matter how rigorous. I remember my son telling me about a weekly problem assignment solution key for Fluids II. It was 96 pages…all heavy math…one assignment. He was in an honors Calc III section his first term. Every student had a 5 on the BC exam. He said there were scores in the 30s on the first exam…no curve. It’s an adjustment for almost everyone no matter where they go.

When we visited my DD did NOT care for the dorms at all, and it was difficult for her to imagine living like that. Bummer, because the program is so well respected and I love the 5Cs.

I wasn’t saying the high school rigor is the same as college engineering. Only saying that having picked the most rigorous pathway available in our high school has been a fine decision even with the workload involved (which also included ECs, volunteering, and a part-time job). As your son’s roommate says, HMC students have a “we’re all in this together” mentality. I can only assume that helps them bond with each other and be supports for each other, and they can laugh (or cry) about it together.

HMC doesn’t accept AP or IB credits as substitutions for any classes, so math will be whatever it will be. According to this thread on CC, HMC does diagnostic placement tests to put the student where they should be.
Harvey Mudd Placement Exams - Colleges and Universities A-Z / Harvey Mudd College - College Confidential Forums

An attractive aspect of HMC to me is that you don’t have to declare your major from the get go. CS hasn’t been an interest so far, but at least at HMC, if that became an interest then majoring in it is possible; students aren’t locked out based on what major was written on the application (which in my kid’s case was filled out at 16 yrs old).

I hope we get to see them on ASP day because the best we could do on our self-guided tour over the summer was to peer into the main lobby area of the dorms. We visited CalPoly SLO over the summer too, and did a housing tour there and the “red bricks” dorms were seriously grim. So I can understand how the dorms could turn you off to a school!

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@AgeofAquarius You’re asking all the right questions. HMC has a great reputation and It has a distinct culture. I think that fit and culture are particularly important for academically driven students so admitted student days should be a great opportunity for you to learn more.

I have always been a sidelines fan of HMC, but in full disclosure HMC was one of the schools our S16 removed from his list after his visit. Fit matters. Best wishes, seems like you have (will have) great options.


I’d echo this, and add a caveat. The fit doesn’t have to be perfect. It almost always never is. Everyone ultimately finds something objectionable about their school. Freely overlook little things. The key is don’t overlook big red flags because everything else seems to fit.

My son lives with a Mudd grad. They’ve compared notes. Each was happy with their institution of choice, but found things they found attractive about the other person’s school too. I can’t remember the particulars, but the TL;DR is don’t let perfect be the enemy of really good.


Love this.


Yes, it really stood out as a memorable experience. The professor was so genuine and earnest, and his enthusiasm was authentic. My kid loves humanities, the arts, and STEM and wants rich exposure to all of it in school.

Thank you, I hope we learn a lot at admitted student’s day. We have a couple other school visits before HMC’s visit, so there will be lots of comparisons to be made. I hope the decision is easier after these visits are done.


The architecture and dorms often give the worst first impressions to visitors of Harvey Mudd. Being founded in the mid-1950s, the campus was initially built with a modernist architectural theme. The most distinguishing features are concrete blocks festooned with square projections, known to the students as warts. The oldest buildings all have columns and roof edges covered with the warts. Newer buildings have tried to reduce the monotonous use of the warts. One of the newest dorms features an irregular pattern of warts and indentations that spell out, in Braille, MUDDWART. So, recent designs have tried to maintain the modernist theme with the warts, while moderating the visual effects. I think students at Mudd don’t necessarily love the architecture, but they have adapted to it. The wart is the unofficial mascot of HMC.

The dorms that most visitors first see are the “inner dorms” which were the first ones built. They have the same basic U-shape with the rooms opening up to the courtyard. My own first impression was call it Motel-6 style. These dorms have mostly pairs of double rooms that share a bathroom. The newer dorms have some combination of singles, double, and triples arranged in suites. These dorms are on one edge of the campus and are not always seen on a tour of the central campus and academic buildings.

Student social life generally centers around the dorm. Dorm residential life is student-run and as may be expected, each dorm has developed unique personalities, customs and activities. Unique characteristics of each dorm are strengthened by the room draw process when each student selects their room for the next year and continues the traditions of their dorm personalities. If a Mudd student meets another, one of the first questions will likely be “Which dorm did you live in?”

I can’t change first impressions of the architecture or dorms, but will say that both contribute to the unique qualities of Harvey Mudd.


@AgeofAquarius In addition to seeing Mudd, it may also be worthwhile poking around the other campuses, especially since HMC students have access to he other dining halls and classes on the other campuses.

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