After spending a week at the Claremont Colleges for a summer training institute I walked away impressed. These schools are a true consortium: the registration system for all five schools is combined; +/- 25% of classes can be taken at consortium schools outside of your own; shared majors spanning schools are prevalent; and dining and recreational facilities are available for use by all schools. But the key to making this work realistically is that all five schools are physically across the street from one another. In reality you have five small campuses with their unique missions and corresponding architectures combined to form a mid-size campus of nearly 6,000 students.
The story of the Claremont Colleges is fascinating. Pomona College, a general liberal arts school, was the first to be founded in 1887. During the 1920’s of women’s suffrage, Scripps College, an all women’s school was formed. Scripps too is a general liberal arts college but focused on the humanities and the arts. At the close of WWII, as GI’s were returning from war needing jobs, Claremont McKenna was founded as a men’s college (currently co-ed). It was a pre-professional school focused on creating leaders of the time. Their motto, “learning for the sake of doing” still holds true in today’s pragmatic approach to education heavily invested in internship programs. In response to Sputnik and the space race of the 1950’s Harvey Mudd was founded to educate engineers and compete in an ever-growing technological world. Harvey Mudd is consistently ranked as the top best value school by PayScale and as the top engineering school (where doctorate degrees are not offered) in the nation. The 1960’s followed with the civil rights and environmental movements and Claremont Colleges responded by founding Pitzer College. A walk through their cactus-laden landscape is a constant reminder of environmental awareness in California’s natural desert.
The variety and breadth of opportunity in a small-school undergraduate environment is astounding. Each school ranges in student body size from 800 to 1,600 students. All are selective with a range from 12%-19% acceptance for all four co-ed schools and Scripps at an expectedly higher 35% acceptance rate. 75th percentile test scores range from a low of 2200 to a high of 2320 for the SAT and 32 to 34 for the ACT with Pitzer being a test optional school. If interested, applying early to these schools tends to make a difference and each school must be applied to individually; the schools do not share application information.