Claremont McKenna vs Occidental: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A student studying

Claremont McKenna vs Occidental: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing the right college is a critical decision that can significantly impact your future. With so many great institutions to pick from, it can be challenging to choose one that best suits your unique needs and preferences. This comprehensive guide compares Claremont McKenna vs Occidental to help you make a well-informed choice.


If you’re looking for a liberal arts college in California, Occidental is an excellent option. Founded in 1887, this college, located in the charming neighborhood of Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, has a rich history of academic excellence. Occidental offers a broad range of majors, including popular programs in biology, politics, and economics. The average class size is small, with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 9:1, ensuring students receive personalized attention from faculty and staff.

Occidental is also known for its commitment to sustainability and environmentalism. The college has implemented numerous initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint, including a comprehensive recycling program, energy-efficient buildings, and a campus garden that provides fresh produce for the dining hall. Additionally, Occidental offers a variety of courses and programs focused on environmental studies and sustainability, allowing students to explore these important issues in depth.

Campus Life: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

Both Claremont McKenna and Occidental offer robust campus life experiences. At Claremont McKenna, there are over 200 clubs and organizations to choose from, giving students endless opportunities to pursue their interests and passions. Additionally, the college is part of the Claremont Consortium, which means students can participate in activities and events at other colleges like Pomona and Scripps. Occidental also has a vibrant campus life, with over 130 student organizations, including a thriving student government, several performance groups, and a radio station.

One of the unique aspects of campus life at Claremont McKenna is the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, which hosts a variety of events including lectures, performances, and dinners with guest speakers. The Athenaeum provides students with the opportunity to engage with prominent figures in various fields and expand their knowledge beyond the classroom. Additionally, Claremont McKenna has a strong emphasis on community service, with many clubs and organizations dedicated to volunteering and making a positive impact on the surrounding area.

Students volunteering program

Occidental also offers a range of opportunities for students to get involved in the local community, with programs like the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute and the Center for Community-Based Learning. The college also has a strong focus on sustainability, with initiatives like the Green Bike Program and the student-run organic garden. In terms of campus events, Occidental hosts an annual Springfest celebration, which includes live music, food trucks, and carnival games, as well as a popular weekly farmer’s market.

Academics: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

Both colleges have strong academic programs with distinguished faculty members. At Claremont McKenna, you’ll have the chance to pursue a variety of majors, including economics, government, and international relations. The curriculum emphasizes both theoretical and quantitative skills, ensuring students have a well-rounded education. Occidental also has many strong majors in subjects such as biology, economics, and psychology. However, it is known for its strong programs in the arts and humanities, including music, theater, and dance.

Additionally, both colleges offer opportunities for undergraduate research and internships. Claremont McKenna has a strong emphasis on experiential learning, with many students participating in internships in government, finance, and non-profit organizations. Occidental also offers research opportunities in various fields, including environmental studies and neuroscience. Students can work closely with faculty members on research projects and gain valuable hands-on experience in their chosen field.

Student Body: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

Both colleges are highly selective and attract motivated and talented students. The average SAT score for admitted students at Claremont McKenna is 1440, and the acceptance rate is below 11%. Occidental is equally selective, with an acceptance rate also below 39% and an average SAT score is 1360. Both colleges are also committed to diversity and inclusion and strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.

SAT score results

Despite their similarities, there are some differences in the student bodies at Claremont McKenna and Occidental. Claremont McKenna has a slightly larger undergraduate population, with around 1,400 students compared to Occidental’s 2,000. Additionally, Claremont McKenna has a higher percentage of students majoring in economics, while Occidental has a larger percentage of students majoring in the social sciences and humanities.

Another notable difference is the geographic diversity of the student bodies. While both colleges attract students from across the United States and around the world, Claremont McKenna has a higher percentage of students from California, while Occidental has a higher percentage of students from the East Coast.

Cost of Attendance: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

Attending either Claremont McKenna or Occidental is an investment in your future, but it’s essential to consider the cost of attendance when making your decision. The estimated annual cost of attendance at Claremont McKenna for the academic year is approximately $79,000. At Occidental, the estimated cost of attendance is around $81,000. Both colleges offer scholarships and financial aid to help offset the cost of attendance, so be sure to complete the FAFSA application to determine your eligibility for aid.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance may vary depending on your individual circumstances, such as your residency status, major, and housing choices. Additionally, both Claremont McKenna and Occidental have resources available to help students manage their finances, such as budgeting workshops and job placement programs.

When considering the cost of attendance, it’s also important to think about the potential return on investment. Both Claremont McKenna and Occidental have strong alumni networks and high job placement rates, which can lead to lucrative career opportunities after graduation. Ultimately, the decision of which college to attend should be based on a variety of factors, including academic programs, campus culture, and personal preferences, in addition to the cost of attendance.

Admissions Process: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

As previously mentioned, both colleges are highly selective and require a competitive application to be admitted. Claremont McKenna has an application deadline of January 5th, while Occidental has a regular decision deadline of January 15th. Both colleges require standardized test scores, transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation. Additionally, Claremont McKenna requires the completion of two SAT subject tests.

It is important to note that while both colleges have similar admissions requirements, they have different acceptance rates. In recent years, Claremont McKenna has had an acceptance rate of 11%, while Occidental’s acceptance rate is 39%. This means that while both colleges are highly selective, it may be slightly easier to get into Occidental.

Another factor to consider is the availability of financial aid. Both colleges offer need-based financial aid, but Claremont McKenna also offers merit-based scholarships. These scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, leadership, and other factors. Occidental also offers some merit-based scholarships, but they are not as extensive as those offered by Claremont McKenna.

Internship Opportunities: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

Real-world experience is crucial in preparing for a successful career after college. Both Claremont McKenna and Occidental offer a robust network of internships and experiential learning opportunities. Claremont McKenna’s location in Southern California provides many opportunities for internships in fields like entertainment, media, and politics. Occidental’s location in Los Angeles also offers many internship opportunities in fields ranging from film to finance.

Internship Concept

Additionally, Claremont McKenna has a strong partnership with local businesses and organizations, providing students with exclusive internship opportunities. Students have the chance to work with companies like Disney, Warner Bros., and the Los Angeles Times. These partnerships not only offer valuable work experience but also provide networking opportunities for students.

Occidental also offers unique internship opportunities through its partnerships with non-profit organizations. Students can work with organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Children’s Defense Fund. These internships allow students to gain experience in fields like environmental advocacy and social justice.

Alumni Network: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

One of the perks of attending a top college is the opportunity to network with successful alumni. Both Claremont McKenna and Occidental have well-established alumni networks. Claremont McKenna has an extensive network of over 11,000 alumni, with many holding leadership positions in fields such as finance, politics, and law. Occidental’s alumni network is similarly impressive, with over 22,000 alumni. Many of Occidental’s alumni go on to pursue careers in the arts and entertainment industries.

However, the two colleges differ in the way they approach alumni engagement. Claremont McKenna has a strong focus on mentorship programs, where alumni are paired with current students to provide guidance and support. This allows students to gain valuable insights into their chosen fields and make connections that can help them in their future careers. On the other hand, Occidental places a greater emphasis on alumni events and reunions, providing opportunities for alumni to reconnect with each other and with the college.

Despite these differences, both Claremont McKenna and Occidental have alumni who are passionate about giving back to their alma maters. Many alumni donate generously to support scholarships, research, and other initiatives that benefit current and future students. This generosity is a testament to the strong sense of community and pride that both colleges instill in their graduates.

Extracurricular Activities: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

Both colleges offer a wide range of extracurricular activities to complement their academic programs. At Claremont McKenna, many students participate in club sports, including rugby and ultimate frisbee. There are also many opportunities to participate in community service and volunteer projects. Occidental also offers a wide range of extracurricular programs, including intramural sports and student groups like the Black Student Association and Queer Student Alliance.

Additionally, Claremont McKenna has a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, with many students involved in the school’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This center offers resources and support for students interested in starting their own businesses or pursuing careers in the tech industry.

On the other hand, Occidental has a strong focus on the arts, with many students involved in theater productions, music ensembles, and visual arts clubs. The college also has its own art museum, the Oxy Arts Museum, which showcases the work of both students and professional artists.

Athletics: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

Claremont McKenna and Occidental both offer competitive NCAA Division III athletics programs. At Claremont McKenna, sports are an integral part of campus life, with many students participating in intercollegiate athletics. The college competes in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and fields teams in many sports, including basketball, football, and soccer. Occidental also fields teams in many sports, including basketball, football, and soccer. The college competes in the SCIAC and has a long history of athletic success.

A man tries to kick a football ball.

Aside from the traditional sports, both Claremont McKenna and Occidental offer unique athletic opportunities. Claremont McKenna has a strong fencing program, with both men’s and women’s teams competing at the national level. Occidental has a highly regarded track and field program, with many athletes competing at the NCAA Division III championships.

Both colleges also prioritize the academic success of their student-athletes. Claremont McKenna has a high graduation rate for its athletes, and many have gone on to successful careers in their respective fields. Occidental has a strong emphasis on academic excellence, with many of its athletes receiving academic honors and awards.

Diversity and Inclusion: Claremont McKenna vs. Occidental

Both Claremont McKenna and Occidental are committed to diversity and inclusion and strive to create a college experience that is welcoming and inclusive for all students. Claremont McKenna has many diversity and inclusion initiatives, including a center for multicultural affairs, a queer resource center, and a women’s forum. Occidental also has many programs and resources for diversity and inclusion, including a center for gender equity, a center for community-based learning, and a first-gen program.

Overall, both Claremont McKenna and Occidental are excellent liberal arts colleges that offer many opportunities for academic and personal growth. When it comes to deciding between the two, it ultimately boils down to your unique needs and preferences. Take the time to research both colleges thoroughly, visit the campuses, and talk to current students and faculty. With careful consideration, you’re sure to find the college that’s right for you.

It’s important to note that while both colleges have made strides in promoting diversity and inclusion, there is still work to be done. Students at both Claremont McKenna and Occidental have voiced concerns about the lack of representation and support for certain marginalized groups on campus. It’s crucial for colleges to continue listening to and addressing the needs of all students, and to actively work towards creating a truly inclusive environment.


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