Jun 14, 2024  
2020-2021 Catalog 
2020-2021 Catalog [ARCHIVED PUBLICATION] Use the dropdown above to select the current catalog.

HMC Common Core


HMC Common Core

The Common Core presents a coordinated, common foundation essential to the education of all students. It includes three semesters of mathematics, two and one-half semesters of physics and an associated laboratory, one and one-half semesters of chemistry and an associated laboratory, a half-semester of college writing, a course in critical inquiry offered by the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts, one semester of biology and an associated lab, one course in computer science, and one course in engineering.

The Core Curriculum at Harvey Mudd College seeks to nurture students’ intellectual curiosity and joy of learning, provide them with foundational knowledge and skills needed for further study in STEM disciplines, and begin a critical engagement with the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. In keeping with HMC’s liberal-arts approach to STEM education, the Core engages students in thinking critically about consequential problems and complex issues, making connections across disciplinary boundaries, communicating and collaborating effectively, and understanding how their personal and professional actions impact the world around them.

All Core courses must be attempted by the end of the fifth semester*.

Students may petition to  graduate under the curriculum spelled out in any catalog (that is, fulfilling the set of Core, major, HSA, and overall credit requirements represented by any catalog) that is in effect during their continuous enrollment at the College. For example, students who entered the College in the Fall of 2018 would be able to graduate under the 2019–2020 catalog, if they successfully petition the registrar with their request to do so. However, the student selecting a later catalog is bound by that catalog’s entire curriculum and may not cherry-pick components of the curriculum.

Core courses are listed below. Course descriptions are also given in the course listings for the departments.

Biology (BIOL)

BIOL052 HM - Introduction to Biology (3 credits)           

Chemistry (CHEM)

CHEM023A HM - Chemistry in the Modern World I (3 credits)    

CHEM023B HM - Chemistry in the Modern World II (1.5 credits)       

Computer Science (CSCI)

CSCI005 HM - Introduction to Computer Science (3 credits)    

Engineering (ENGR)

ENGR079 HM - Introduction to Engineering Systems (3 credits)    

Humanities, Social Sciences, And The Arts (HSA)

HSA010 HM - Critical Inquiry (3 credits)     

First Year Lab

BIOL023 HM - Biology Laboratory (1 credits)  


CHEM024 HM - Chemistry Laboratory (1 credits)  

Mathematics (MATH)

MATH019 HM - Single and Multivariable Calculus (3 credits)  

MATH073 HM - Linear Algebra (3 credits)  

MATH082 HM - Differential Equations (3 credits)  

Physics (PHYS)

PHYS023 HM - Special Relativity (1.5 credits)  

PHYS024 HM - Mechanics and Wave Motion (3 credits)  

PHYS050 HM - Physics Laboratory (1 credits)  

PHYS051 HM - Electromagnetic Theory and Optics (3 credits)  

Writing (WRIT)

WRIT001 HM - Introduction to Academic Writing (1.5 credits)    

Completing The Common Core

Most Core courses are offered once annually. Most students complete the Common Core by the end of the sophomore year. First-year Core courses—BIOL052 HM CHEM023A HM , CHEM023B HM , BIOL023 HM  or CHEM024 HM ; CSCI005 HM ; HSA 010 HM ; MATH019 HM , MATH073 HM PHYS023 HM , PHYS024 HM ; and WRIT001 HM  —must be attempted in the first year and passed before the beginning of the junior year. MATH082 HM , PHYS050 HM , and PHYS051 HM  must be attempted in the sophomore year. ENGR079 HM  must be attempted by the fifth semester. The Scholarly Standing Committee tracks student progress through the Core and notifies students of Core deficiencies (e.g., courses that are dropped, withdrawn, failed, or not appropriately attempted). Students must register for all deficient Core courses each time they are offered. Sample programs for the first three semesters appear below.

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, students graduating under the curriculum spelled out in the 2020-2021 catalog do not have to complete both BIOL023  HM and CHEM024  HM. They only have to complete one of the two courses.

Sample First-Year Program


The instructors in the first-year program meet regularly with the Associate/Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs to ensure that course material, major assignments, and examinations are coordinated throughout the year.

Sample Sophomore Fall Program