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Harvey Mudd College 2019-20 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

Harvey Mudd College 2019-20 Application Essay Question Explanations

If you think you’ve got writing application essays down to a science, think again. Harvey Mudd is asking its STEM-oriented applicants to tap into their creative side. This supplement warms you up with a classic Why essay before launching you into the unknown with a pair of interdisciplinary oddball essays. It’s time to buckle up, because we’re going in.

The Requirements: 2 essays of 500 words each

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Oddball

What influenced you to apply to Harvey Mudd College? What about the HMC curriculum and community appeals to you? Please limit your response to 500 words.

In a marvelous feat of engineering, Harvey Mudd has managed to craft a Why essay prompt without ever actually using the word “why.” The two halves of this question offer you two potential points of entry: (1) The external factors that influenced your decision to apply, like your passion for trigonometry, the Mudder alums in your life, or your craving for vitamin D; and (2) The intrinsic aspects of a Harvey Mudd education that appeal to you, like the faculty in your department, the research opportunities, or access to Claremont consortium. Whether you take approach #1 or approach #2, you’ll want to set aside an hour or so to do your research. Dig through the college website to figure out how it will meet your needs or trawl for cool facts and exciting programs. The more specific and personal the details you include, the more unique and memorable your essay will be.


Please select one of the four prompts to answer. Please limit your response to 500 words


Choice 1: Many students choose HMC because they don’t want to give up their interests in the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts – or HSA as we call it at HMC. Tell us about your dream HSA class. Your answer might (but doesn’t have to) include projects you could do, texts you might want to read, or topics you would want to explore.

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to geek out, then look no further! What are your favorite things and how would you want to learn about them? What’s the most interesting class you can dream up? This is your shot to not only wax poetic on your many passions, but also to show admissions how well-rounded you are. Maybe you’re passionate about environmentalism and looking #fabulous and would jump at the opportunity to take a class called Sustainability in a Fast Fashion World. How do you unite your many interests? And how would you go about drawing those connections for others? Perhaps you love to paint watercolors of the local flora and fauna and would love to take a class in which the final project was a herbology-focused picture book. Once you decide on your topic, commit to the planning process. Craft a comprehensive syllabus and try to come up with a memorable course title. In other words, take this opportunity to build your brand!

Choice 2: ”Scientific research is a human endeavor. The choices of topics that we research are based on our biases, our beliefs, and what we bring: our cultures and our families. The kinds of problems that people put their talents to solving depends on their values.” – Dr. Clifton Poodry – How has your own background influenced the types of problems you want to solve?

If Common App prompt #1 and Common App prompt #4 got together and had a baby, it would probably look a lot like this prompt. But we’d still encourage you to think of it as two distinct, but related questions: (1) How has your background affected the person you are today? And (2) how do your most altruistic motivations prove your answer to question 1? Perhaps you were raised largely by your grandparents, and now you’re interested in the science of aging. Or maybe your childhood on a dairy farm has stoked an interest in sustainable agriculture. People answering this question should have a clear origin story to tell.

Choice 3: Who in your life is depending on you? For what are they depending on you for?

Dependence takes many forms and it’s happening in your daily life. Your story can be as obvious as the kids you babysit or the people experiencing homelessness you feed at a shelter. But it can also be less cut and dry. Remember: Your friends depend on you for compassion and inspiration. Your siblings depend on you to set an example or to cheer them on in their endeavors. One way to think about this is to ask yourself, “who would be disappointed if I didn’t show up?” Walk yourself through your day, week, or the past year and take note of who counts on you. You might surprise yourself with how integral you are in the lives of those around you. In telling this story, show admissions that you don’t take your responsibilities lightly and appreciate the interconnectedness of your community, whatever that may be. If you’re inspired by helping others and have a unique relationship that’s worth sharing, this prompt may be for you.

Choice 4: What is one thing we won’t know about you after reading your application?

If neither of the other prompt’s spoke to you, you’re in luck! This one’s a catch all! But a note of caution: every single essay you write should answer the basic question this prompt poses. If you’re not telling admissions something new about yourself in each piece of writing, you’re doing it wrong. This prompt is a good choice if the other two prompts just reaaaalllly don’t fit your needs (although if that’s the case, you might want to ask yourself why you’re applying to this school at all) or if you have some crucial life story that you think Harvey Mudd admissions needs to hear. It’s also a good option for applicants who are super pressed for time and need to recycle an essay from another application, but keep in mind that this prompt isn’t a total free for all. Whatever you write should tell a story that reveals something brand new. In other words, don’t expand on some aspect of your resume or item on your activity list.

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