College Spotlight: Pomona College

If you’re the type of student who gravitates toward people who are deep thinkers with a lot of drive, you may want to consider Pomona College, the “intellectual playground” of small liberal arts colleges in California. Here, outdoor spaces are also “physics playrooms” and students are encouraged to eat meals with faculty members (who get “meal swipes” for this purpose) to continue or expand on class discussions.  At Pomona, curiosity is the campus creed, which is why the 1,700 students here are excited to take advantage of its breadth of courses and campus speakers, as well as those at the four other colleges that, along with Pomona, make up the Claremont Colleges: Pitzer, Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, and Scripps. It’s not surprising that nearly 30 percent of the class of 2022 is made up of high school valedictorians and that the admission rate is about 7.6 percent overall.

On a recent visit, the school’s liberal bent was evident from the political murals surrounding the main green, including those reading: “Go Vegan,” and “We Believe Dr. Christine Ford.” My tour guide, a junior music major, touted the small, discussion based classes at Pomona as a major draw for him. Every student takes ID1 (Interdisciplinary 1) their freshman year, and the topic he chose was “The Russian Soul.” Reading and writing intensive, the seminar-style class taught him a lot about conducting research and writing, but did so in manageable chunks. For example, one of his first assignments in the class was to emphasize the importance of details in research. He had to choose a work of Russian art, pick out three details and write about why they were there.

He raved about paid research opportunities Pomona offers, including a summer research stipend for individual research, which he took advantage of last summer to study the evolving role of the choral conductor.  To be approved for the program, he had to write a proposal and apply in February. He then had to present his findings to a panel upon return to school. With its $2 billion endowment, Pomona has a lot to spend on its students – for both need-based financial aid (it has a need-blind admission policy) and research and internship opportunities. Merit aid is limited to six National Merit scholarships.

Collaboration is emphasized at Pomona – it’s not one of those competitive, cutthroat schools where learning can seem almost secondary to grades. Here, students are expected to support one another and collaborate – in fact, many classes require it, and professors expect students to write the name of who they collaborated with on each assignment or project.

If you’re waffling about applying to a liberal arts college, Pomona Assistant Dean of Admission Carolyn Starks has some statistics for you to consider: “While 65 percent of high school students go to college, only 1 percent go to a liberal arts college. But 20 percent of the presidents and CEOs of companies graduated from small liberal arts colleges. Liberal arts colleges produce leaders!”