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Cindy Zhang, Claremont McKenna College: “I chose CMC because of the unparalleled flexibility”

interstride logo by Interstride
October 18, 2023

Xinyue (Cindy) Zhang is a junior at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) and international admissions ambassador. Hailing from Shenzhen, China, she’s a hungry learner and passionate about leveraging the power of communities. Hear about why she chose CMC, her experience on campus, and what you should ask her about.

Meet Cindy Zhang

Hometown: Shenzhen, China

High school: Shenzhen Foreign Languages School

College: Claremont McKenna College

Year: Junior, Class of 2025

Degree: BA in Economics with a minor in Data Science Sequence

Campus involvements:

  • Outreach Team Member, Claremont Colleges Debate Union (CCDU)
  • Vice President, TEDxClaremont McKenna College
  • Co-President, International Connect (I-Connect)
  • Co-President, Sparkathon

Favorite CMC classes: Accounting For Decision Making, and Contemporary Women Writers

Why did you choose to study at CMC? 

The main reason I chose CMC was the unparalleled level of flexibility. I switched majors this semester as a junior, which is almost impossible at a lot of universities where you have to lock in your major by the end of sophomore year.

Beyond that, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career first before I went to grad school or pursued more education after I finished my bachelor’s degree. CMC has an amazing amount of resources in the corporate world that help connect undergraduate students to work opportunities after college.

I really appreciate CMC’s academic system, it has a good balance of major courses versus their general requirements. I love that I am able to dive deep into subjects, but also be pushed to explore things and step out of my comfort zone.

CMC students really have a strong connection with other fellow CMC alums. That’s one of the things that has exceeded my expectations

Lastly, the community. CMC students really have a strong connection with other fellow CMC alums. That’s one of the things that has exceeded my expectations. Almost every single alum that I reached out to replied yes to my connection requests on LinkedIn.

How important was the international community to you when researching schools?

I did not care as much about the percentage of international students at the school, but I did look at the dedication and the resources the school specifically sets aside for international students.

What are some of the student organizations you are involved in at CMC?

I’m the Co-President and a peer mentor at International Connect (I-Connect). We’re a student-run affinity group for international students at CMC. My co-mentor and I are mentoring four freshmen this year – taking them out to dinners, holding boba study sessions, and providing guidance anytime needed. We also hold campus-wide events, such as the Thursday Night Club (TNC) parties every semester with international music and food to promote our cultures.

Sparkathon is another organization I’m heavily involved in. My friend at Pomona and I are co-leading this organization and held the first post-pandemic Sparkathon last semester. It is a one-day sprint competition where students use innovative solutions to address a real-world challenge.

If I were to apply to CMC again, I would try harder to connect with a current student!

What are some memorable on-campus jobs or internship experiences you’ve had?

I’ve had five on-campus jobs in the past two years! I’ve been working with the Dean of Students Office as an International Student Service Intern for the past two years. The most memorable experience has to be preparing for international student orientation each year. We interview students after orientation and adjust our programming accordingly to facilitate a smoother transition into college life for the next cohort. Another highlight of working this job was taking a group of international students to Disneyland (paid by CMC)!

I also enjoyed working at the Randall Lewis Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship as an Associate Events Manager. My highlight is a Human-centered Design Thinking workshop in collaboration with the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (also known as the Hive). We introduced design thinking principles and how you can implement them in real-life scenarios. From designing your life to your career, there’s so much room for creativity.

Why did you join as an admissions ambassador? 

When I applied to CMC, I did not have someone that I could call to talk about the application process or the opportunities available. It was just me going through website links and looking at blogs, trying to gauge what actual life is like being a CMC student. I understand and appreciate the value of having someone there to talk to you. If I were to apply to CMC again, I would try harder to connect with a current student!

I think it’s amazing that CMC is proactively serving its international student community.

I think it’s amazing that CMC is proactively serving its international student community. As someone on the F-1 visa, supporting this program lets the school know that students care about and appreciate their effort in serving international students.

What should prospective international students ask you about? 

It’s helpful to envision yourself at CMC, and the first step is figuring out what is being a CMCer really like. What is a day in the life of a CMC student? What are your usual commitments? What’s the academic workload? Is there any support that you can get outside the classroom?

The next thing that I would encourage you to ask is, are there any specific resource clubs or people on campus that could help you further your specific interests? For example, I was a debate kid in high school, and I wanted to learn more about the debate club at CMC. If you’re interested in exploring finance/robotics/music/dance, is there a corresponding resource that’s offered at CMC?