After getting out of core…

During my first year and a half at Harvey Mudd, I often questioned the need to take all of the required core classes. I knew that part of the Harvey Mudd mission statement was for students to be “well versed” in multiple scholastic areas, like physics, chemistry, and writing, but I did not see the connection between these class and my major at the time. Little did I know, core is everywhere.


This schedule is somewhat different now for incoming frosh, but still contains classes in the same subject areas. The numbers in the column to the right of each class name indicate the number of credits associated with the corresponding class.

Above is my class list from my first year and a half as a Mudd student. The light purple blocks indicate core requirement classes, which are in the subject areas of computer science, math, physics, writing, chemistry, biology, and engineering. Mudders also have to take three PE classes over four years, but the first one, seen on the left of the picture, must incorporate aerobic workouts.


One of my major classes, E80, uses a lot of techniques from a core class known as Stems, or Systems Engineering. Here, the class went out to a nearby gravel pit to launch model rockets used in a lab that also involved lots of knowledge from core physics classes.

This current semester is my first semester with no core classes, and I use skills from core all the time, which I did not initially expect. In just the past few weeks, I have completed assignments involving Stems (Systems Engineering), Multivariable Calculus, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. And during class, it seems like at least once a week a professor will use the line “Remember {insert technique here} from {insert core class here}?” to teach a new topic or answer a question. But even outside of my engineering major classes, classes for other majors also employ core skills, some of which can be described by the table below.


Aside from the appearance of core skills in major classes, they may also become apparent in research with professors. For example, my research involving high entropy alloys requires knowledge of binary phase diagrams from chemistry, X-ray diffraction from physics, and basic lab techniques from both chem and physics lab.


These cupcakes were brought by Prof Bassman for our last E72, Engineering Mathematics, class. Some of them depict Mathematica code snippets used in our homeworks, which involved understanding basic coding strategies that I learned in CS5.

So, if you are wondering if it is worth your time to go to a school with a common core, just know that though core may be tough, it actually prepares you very well for upper division major classes.