How to Get into Claremont McKenna College: Ultimate Guide (2024 Undergrad)

We are not surprised Claremont McKenna College is one of your top choice schools! 

With strong programs in a wide range of sectors, CMC attracts a diverse student body and prepares individuals to thrive in their chosen careers.

This guide aims to clarify the admissions process and offer actionable strategies to enhance your application and likelihood of acceptance into CMC.

How Hard Is It To Get Into Claremont McKenna?

CMC is very hard to get into. Admission to CMC is wildly competitive with thousands of students applying for a spot annually

Claremont McKenna College stands out for its commitment to leadership, public affairs, personalized education, and numerous experiential opportunities.

Claremont McKenna Acceptance Rate

The CMC acceptance rate is 6%

5,709 first-year students submitted applications last year.

Out of those applicants, 591 were offered acceptance, and 322 students enrolled.

What is Claremont McKenna Admissions Looking For?

Admission to Claremont McKenna is based on a holistic review process that considers a broad range of factors.

Prospective students should aim to have a well-rounded balance of academic and leadership achievements, a commitment to Claremont McKenna’s values, and the potential to benefit from and contribute to CMC’s mission.

According to the data published by Claremont McKenna, certain things matter more than others. 

Take a look at the Common Data Set below and we will dive into each category.

‘Very Important’ Criteria

School Rigor

School Rigor helps the admissions committees understand how well you’ve performed in comparison to what’s offered at your school.

They examine factors like the difficulty of your school’s curriculum (such as AP, IB, and honors courses), the distribution of GPAs among students, the number of students heading to college, the kinds of colleges recent graduates attend, and the demographics of your school.

The applicant’s full record of achievement in college preparatory work in high school, including the number and rigor of courses taken and grades earned in those courses. 

We strongly recommend taking advantage of honors and advanced placement coursework when available.

Class Rank

Class rank is very important to the admissions team at Claremont McKenna. Here are some stats from last year’s incoming class:

  • 68% of students were in the top 10% of their class
  • 89% of students were in the top 25% of their class
  • 100% of students were in the top 50% of their class

Academic GPA

While there is no minimum GPA requirement, competitive candidates for admission pursue the most demanding coursework possible and receive strong grades. 

Many competitive applicants often go beyond the minimum recommended program listed below.

Minimum Recommended High School Program

  • Four years of English
  • Three (preferably four) years of mathematics at least through precalculus (Calculus is recommended)
  • At least three years of a foreign language (this can be three total years or up to the third level)
  • At least one year of history
  • At least two years of science

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Reccomendation Letters

Claremont McKenna requires one teacher recommendation.

Your recommendation should be completed by a teacher who taught you in a core academic area (English, mathematics, foreign language, science, or social sciences).

We’ve included some tips below on how you can get a good recommendation letter from your teacher.

how to get into claremont mckenna

Extracurricular Activities

CMC takes a holistic approach to assessing applications.

While academics are important, CMC emphasizes extracurricular activities and leadership experience. 

CMC seeks students who are not only high achievers academically but are also active and engaged members of their communities.

When completing the application, you will have 2 different opportunities to speak to your extracurriculars:

  1. When completing the Common app
  2. When completing your supplemental essay prompts

Character/Personal Qualities

Successful CMC applicants embody the college’s values: intellectual curiosity, passion for learning, and a dedication to positive impact. 

Diversity is embraced, with applicants bringing unique perspectives. 

They’re also adaptable, resilient, and unafraid of taking risks. 

Open-mindedness and effective collaboration with diverse groups are essential. 

Self-awareness and reflection, along with a commitment to personal and professional growth, round out their qualities.

‘Important’ Criteria

Application Essay

CMC requires both the Common App and college-specific essays. 

Common App – Submit only one response out of the given prompts. 

CMC Essays – There are two essay prompts that you are required to complete as a supplemental component.

As a selective college, they are interested in knowing who you are, what is important to you, and what you have accomplished outside of the classroom. 

Your essays should reflect this.

CMC Supplemental Essay Prompts

  1. CMC’s mission is to prepare students for thoughtful and productive lives and responsible leadership in business, government, and the professions. With this mission in mind, please explain why you want to attend Claremont McKenna College. 
  2. A critical part of fulfilling our mission is living out the commitments of CMC’s Open Academy: Freedom of Expression, Viewpoint Diversity, and Constructive Dialogue. We want to learn more about your commitment to listening and learning from others with different viewpoints, perspectives, and life experiences from your own. Describe a time when engaging with someone about a specific topic resulted in you changing your attitude, belief, or behavior, or you changed the belief or behavior of someone else. What was the change that occurred for you, and what facilitated that change? What did you learn from that experience, and how has it informed how you engage with others?


CMC interviews are part of your application and are evaluative. 

They offer a chance to discuss your background, accomplishments, talents, and goals. Conducted by an Admission Officer, Senior Interviewer, or Alumni Interviewer, they provide insight into the CMC experience. 

Interviews for first-year applicants are available from May to mid-December and should be completed before submitting your application.

 If you’re unable to schedule one by mid-December, consider submitting an optional two-minute video response. 

Instructions will be sent by email after application submission. Similar to interviews, the video response allows you to share more about yourself beyond what’s in your application.


Special consideration is given to students with demonstrated talent/abilities in areas of interest to the institution (e.g., sports, the arts, languages, etc.)

If you have it, they wanna hear about it!

‘Considered’ Criteria

Alumni/AE Relations

If two acceptable applicants have similar qualifications and one is the son or daughter of an alumnus, preference is given to the son or daughter of the alum.


CMC takes into consideration first-generation college applicants.

18% of all accepted students last year were first-gen.

Racial/Ethnic Status

CMC takes into consideration minority racial/ethnic backgrounds to ensure a diverse and equitable student body.

Only 33% of students identify as ‘White, non-Hispanic’.

Geographic Residence

Geographic residence is considered but not detailed as to what is important to the college.

Volunteer Work & Work Experience

CMC highly values community involvement and seeks students dedicated to making a positive impact. 

This can be shown through volunteer work, community service projects, or leadership in service organizations. 

Additionally, CMC values applicants committed to social justice and equity, addressing societal inequalities

Standardized Test Scores

CMC is Test-Optional. This means that first-year applicants will not be required to submit ACT or SAT scores with their application to be considered for admission. 

Submitting test scores is considered a value add.

28% of CMC applicants submitted test scores. The median SAT score is 1500 and the median ACT score is 34.

First-year applicants must indicate on their application whether or not they choose to include standardized test scores.  

Students may submit test scores in one of the following ways:

  1. Send scores directly from the College Board or the ACT.
  2. Self-reported — Enter your test scores in the testing section of the Common Application or Coalition Application.

CMC has a Superscore Policy which means they will accept the highest scores from each section of the ACT or SAT, regardless of the test date. 

‘Not Considered’ Criteria


This is not important to the admissions team at CMC

Religious Affiliation

Religious affiliation does not impact your chances of being accepted into CMC

Level of Applicant’s Interest

CMC does not consider your level of interest.

How to Improve Chances of Getting Into CMC

We have three BIG suggestions for improving your chances of getting into CMC.

Do the optional video response:

Participating in the optional video response allows applicants to showcase their personality and accomplishments in more depth. 

The most effective video responses are genuine and reflect your thoughtfulness and authenticity.

While the video response isn’t mandatory, it’s a great opportunity to provide additional insights about yourself if you can’t schedule an interview. 

Here are the prompts for first-year applicants:

How do you envision contributing to the CMC community, known for its talented individuals who collectively enhance the college’s life?

The Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum fosters intellectual exchange and diversity of thought. Whose perspective would you like to hear there to broaden your understanding?

Personal adversity often shapes character and resilience. Share a recent experience that deeply moved you and how you responded positively.

Supporting others and communities shapes unique perspectives. How do you support those around you, and how has this influenced your outlook?

Here are a few quick tips to help:

  • Be sure to answer the question in its entirety.
  • Have bullet points prepared for what you want to say – but don’t script your answer. You will come off as ingenuine.
  • Work with someone who can give you feedback before you submit the response.
  • Be sure to present yourself with confidence and professionalism. 
  • Be mindful of your tone, body language and how your background.

Establish good rapport with your teachers

CMC requires one teacher recommendation as part of the application process, providing insight into your academic engagement, collaboration, and ability to handle challenging coursework.

To ensure a strong recommendation letter, students should:

  • Actively participate in class discussions and activities.
  • Show initiative by asking insightful questions and demonstrating genuine curiosity.
  • Consistently submit high-quality assignments, displaying strong critical thinking skills.
  • Build a positive relationship with the teacher through respect and cooperation.
  • Seek feedback and incorporate constructive criticism.
  • Collaborate effectively with classmates and demonstrate leadership.
  • Attend office hours for further engagement with the material.
  • Demonstrate responsibility and professionalism in all interactions.

Be sure to give your teacher ample notice so the letter is not rushed or late.

Develop a meaningful project that adds to your narrative

CMC values students with a genuine passion for learning, demonstrated through curiosity, open-mindedness, and eagerness to explore new ideas. 

Engaging in independent projects illustrates this dedication to learning and willingness to tackle challenging endeavors.

Here are a few examples of ‘Large Impact’ projects you could tackle:

  • Publishing a research paper
  • Patenting a device
  • Starting a business (and scaling it!)
  • Participating in a prestigious internship
  • Developing an app that solves a common pain point
  • Win a State Championship
  • Earn government funding for a significant project

If this list seems overwhelming or you’re not sure exactly where to get started. Consider enrolling in Youthfully’s Extracurricular program.

Your application materials—essays, extracurriculars, short answers, interviews, or video responses—are opportunities to emphasize your extracurricular experience and connect your accomplishments to CMC’s admission criteria.

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Does CMC do Early Admission?

Early Decision is a great option for students who have CMC as their first choice. Last year, out of 591 total applicants, 219 were admitted by early decision.

That’s 37%.

Candidates who are admitted under Early Decision are expected to enroll at CMC,  withdraw all other college applications, and not initiate new ones. 

The admission decision is binding. 

Students for whom CMC is not a clear first choice should apply under the Regular Decision option.

Early Decision dates:

  • EA 1 – Application due Nov 1
  • EA 1 – Decision notification by Dec 15 (must decide by early Jan)
  • EA 2 – Application due Jan 10
  • EA 2 – Decision notification by Feb 15 (must decide by early March)

CMC Admissions Application & Criteria

CMC accepts the Common Application and the Coalition Application for first-year admission, without preference for one over the other. 

Applications can be submitted online at or  

CMC is Questbridge eligible.

Regular Decision:

  • Application due Jan. 10
  • Decision notification by April 1
  • Decide by May 1



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