CS Curriculum Policies

This section outlines curricular policies in the Department of Computer Science. These policies are intended to be fair, serve our students well and maintain the department’s academic standards. A student who feels that there are extenuating circumstances that merit special dispensation may petition the department for an exception to a policy. Petitions should be first discussed with the student’s computer science adviser and then submitted in writing to the adviser for consideration by the CS faculty.


Except for first-semester core courses and CS colloquium, CS courses taken towards a major served by the department (CS, CS/math joint major, and mathematical and computational biology) or CS minor (available only to HMC students completing an individual program of studies) must be taken for a letter grade.

Independent Study and Research Credit

The department permits up to 3 units of independent study or research to count as a CS elective. This independent study or research credit can be accrued over several semesters in any quanta (as low as 0.5 units per semester, although we encourage students to take research in quanta of 1, 1.5, 2, or 3 units).


Up to three units of Practicum may be used to satisfy 3 units of CS elective credit.

Core Curriculum

  • A student must complete one of CS 5 (Gold, Black, or Green) or CS 42 to complete the CS core.
  • Incoming HMC students who want to take CS Black or CS 42 must take a placement exam before arriving. Information about the placement exam is included in the information that all students receive about their core courses, which typically is sent in July of the summer before students’ first semester at HMC.
  • A student who receives a “NC” in CS 5 must re-take the course in the fall of their sophomore year.
  • A student who receives a “NC” in CS 42 may request to take the CS 5 Gold final exam. Passing this exam results in maintaining the “NC” for CS 42 on the transcript and the additional note that CS 5 was passed by exam. On the transcript, this shows up as “CS 5” with the grade of “EX” in the grade column and the student receives 3 units of credit for CS 5. The 3 units count towards graduation but not towards the student’s GPA. This fulfills the CS core requirement. If a student wishes to pursue a major that requires CS 42 or CS 60 then they must later take CS 60 but that does not change the original “NC” grade in CS 42.
  • A HMC student who wishes to satisfy the CS core requirement in any way other than by taking CS 5 or CS 42 must submit a petition to the department.

Individual Program of Study

Any IPS (or similarly self-designed major) containing CS courses above CS 70 must have received written approval from the current CS department chair at the time of the creation of the IPS to be included in the CS preplacement process. Departmentally approved IPS majors will be eligible to participate in the preplacement process with the same priority as majors for at most one course specified by their IPS-plan each semester. IPS students wishing to enroll in more CS courses will be given the same priority as all other Mudd non-majors and should utilize the normal pre-registration/PERM system to do so.

Our expectation for IPS (and similar) majors is that they will be constructed to increase breadth beyond what would be possible through an existing major, linking together multiple disciplines. Thus the required classes of an IPS will only be drawn from the required classes of multiple majors, not their electives. Likewise any electives may only be a superset, not a subset, of the electives available to CS majors. The CS department will not approve any IPS (or self-designed) that makes stronger guarantees for access to CS classes than those of the CS major—although the department endeavors to provide a balanced selection of electives every year, because student demand and faculty availability may vary from year to year, the department cannot guarantee in advance that students will be able to take any specific elective classes on any particular schedule. Thus, for example, an approved IPS can say “one CS elective and one psychology elective” but not “AI and Advanced Neurochemistry”.

A departmentally approved IPS (or similar) must also include an appropriately rigorous capstone experience. The only capstone available through the CS department is CS clinic. Students are however free to find other departments willing to commit to other capstone experiences. In this latter case, the department will require evidence that an appropriate commitment has been made before approving the IPS.

Transfer Courses

  • As indicated in the HMC Catalog, students—with permission of the department—may transfer credit from other colleges and universities (e.g., study abroad or summer). Students wishing to take courses at another institution and transfer those courses as CS courses at HMC should consult with the department chair in advance.
  • Students interested in studying abroad must receive permission of their adviser and the department chair prior to registering for courses.
  • While HMC requires transfer course grades of at least a C, the CS Department requires a grade of B or better for courses taken outside of Claremont.

Colloquium Policies

  • Although all students are welcome and encouraged to attend colloquium talks, students may only register for colloquium in their junior and senior years.
  • A CS major, CS/Math Joint major or MCB major who is studying abroad in the junior or senior year is excused from one semester of CS colloquium. The objective of this policy is to facilitate study abroad.
  • A student who has a time conflict with CS colloquium (e.g., another course that meets at the same time, a team practice, etc.) can make up that colloquium requirement by arrangement with the CS Colloquium Director. Students wishing to exercise this option should contact the CS Colloquium Director before the beginning of the semester in which they would normally take colloquium.

Thesis and Clinic

  • The department does not waive the clinic requirement for students wishing to do a thesis.
  • In some special cases, CS majors may petition to replace CS clinic with a clinic project in another department. This requires a petition to the department and approval of the cognizant clinic directors. The petition must include evidence that the requested clinic project has a significant computer science component and is determined to meet the pedagogical objectives of the CS clinic program.

Double Majors

  • No computer science degree requirements will be waived for a double major.
  • The department allows certain non-CS courses to be counted as CS electives (see “Electives” above). However, for double majors, a student is not allowed to take a course in another department as a CS elective if that course is also being counted towards a second major.

The computer science department notes that where a joint major exists, it strongly encourages students to select the joint major rather than attempting to double major in both disciplines already covered by the joint major. For fairness, to avoid advantaging double majors over their joint-major peers, when enforcing department-specific policies (e.g., preplacement), the department reserves the right to treat any student who (against the advice given here) insists on pursuing such a non-recommended double major exactly the same as it treats their corresponding joint major peers. For example, suppose that demand for CS 121 is high and there are insufficient seats to accommodate all who might want to choose this class (i.e, some student demand for the class must go unsatisfied); in such a situation, a CS/Math double major cannot expect that a seat will be given to them in preference to their joint CS/Math major peers.