First Years Weigh in on 5C Stereotypes

Stereotypes are extreme hyperboles of specific groups, but they often sprout from a minute truth. Be it an illusory correlation or an unjust generalization, stereotypes are further perpetuated and fueled by our own outgroup biases. They exist, persist, and thrive ... even in Claremont. Before even applying to Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona or Scripps, one hears of each school's associated stereotypes. 

Despite our understanding of these generalizations and their exaggerated natures, students still often mark these quick judgments on each college other than their own. Words often associated with CMC are “fratty”, “preppy jocks” and “econ bro”, while Harvey Mudd receives “nerdy,” “STEM,” and “socially awkward.” Pitzer, on the other hand, is associated with “tree-hugging,”“hippy” and “quirky activists,” while Scripps predictably acquires the titles of “uptight feminists” or being “overdramatic” in its views. Pomona students are deemed “pretentious know-it-alls,” “snobbish,” and “militant liberals.”

Erin Jung PZ '20 doesn't necessarily agree with the stereotypes of each college due to their inaccuracies but finds them entertaining nonetheless.

"I personally have not met anyone who has been as extreme as (their stereotype has) described."

Jung narrated a day near the beginning of the semester when she was filming a project for her first-year writing seminar.

"I dressed up in winter clothes––this was in September––and threw crumpled up pieces of paper at people as if I was throwing snowballs ... I decided to go really over the top and do something ridiculous," she said. "A group of students walked by and one said to another about how often he sees weird things going on: 'sometimes at Pitzer, you just don’t ask.'"

Salonee Goel CM ’20 too doesn’t agree with them, as having interacted with students across all Claremont Colleges, she has found that many if not most defy the stereotypes they’re subjected to. At the same time, Goel claims that they do encompass facets of truth.

“CMC does have a high number of athletes who naturally have a more “frat-like” party culture. And Scripps [for example], because it’s a women’s college, would subsequently have a higher number of feminists,” she clarifies though despite these minute truths, the stereotypes are nonetheless extreme overgeneralizations and that each college has a variety of students each with unique personalities bringing different perspectives.

Goel also said that people are often surprised when they find out she’s a CMC student because she doesn’t fit the stereotype. She is more inclined towards media studies rather than economics and was the president of the feminist clubs at her high school, which distances her from the stereotype. In fact, she agrees with them, “To their credit, I actually used the stereotypes to an extent to make my decision. I knew I fit the Scripps/Pitzer stereotype more than I fit CMC’s, but I wanted to attend a college where the personalities that surrounded me weren’t very similar to mine.” 

Helen Lan PO ’20 even claimed she “heard from a CMC friend that CMC kids are very practical. They value what they learn in class” as it provides them with the best tools to access in the real world. Yet, this learning style shouldn’t restrict their stereotype to “Econ bro”; there are a plethora of other fields that this type of hands-on education lends itself to. 

Meena Venkatraman HM ’20 shares the same sentiments; almost everyone she has met defies their stereotype in one-way or another. Yet these stereotypes even persist among parents. She recalled during orientation, whenever her mother would meet another parent, “they would usually ask ‘which dorm is your son in?’ or ‘how is your son’ settling in? [They] automatically assumed her child attending Mudd was male.” She also debunked the myth that Mudd students don’t like engaging in activities outside of school as she was surprised to find out “a lot of Mudders participate in Tamasha, which is a Bollywood group in the 5Cs I’m part of!” she said.

Lucy Winokur SC ’20 believes “stereotypes placed on the 5Cs tend to encapsulate only a small amount of people at the college. So I think they tend to create these disagreements and misconceptions that cause people to judge others too quickly.” She concluded, “I feel as through the stereotypes aren’t really created off of specific moments but off of a collection of experiences.” 

It’s true that each college possesses a generalized vibe that tends to unfurl across the Claremont area, often skewing the schools’ representations. Although the schools may contain facets of truth, which their stereotypes tend to unjustly magnify, there’s still a lot more to each college. It is this awareness and understanding we need to acknowledge, disallowing us from making rash, unfair judgments, and assumptions.