pros•pie |ˈprôspē| *
a high school student visiting a college campus in order to gain additional knowledge and experience regarding the school, often staying overnight to really get the best sense of the whole “college experience” and most comprehensively assess as many aspects of the college or university as possible : the prospie feigned satisfaction with the skimpy mattress provided by the college for his weekend visit.
Just prior to my departure from campus this Thanksgiving break, an otherwise significant evening with friends in my dorm room was punctuated by a surprise visit from a dear friend… and a prospie! The next hour was spent answering questions (and suggesting other questions he should ask when visiting schools in the future) and exploring conversational tangents with someone we had just met, but related so well to.
At the time, I was too caught up in the thrill of advice-giving to realize that his questions were actually prompting us to recall all the great things about our school. Now, the more I think back, the more I realize that the visit was aptly prescient of the warmth and thanksgiving to come this weekend! It’s easy, regardless of year, workload, and outlook, to get wrapped up in a routine at Pomona, as with many other academic environments. Only when asked to take a step back and objectively speak about our experiences did I take the time to articulate and appreciate each blessing I’ve encountered at Pomona College. Considering that there were many remembered, I will choose just three of the most relevant nuggets of gratefulness I mined from that artfully-timed evening of Q & A:
- Academic competitiveness is undetectable, if not absent.
When asked about competition amongst students, there was an overwhelming and immediate consensus voiced in the room that, no, there was absolutely no sign of academic competitiveness, at least around us! Coming from what I very subjectively view as an average high school of average difficulty, merit, and general competitiveness, the difference has been apparent. I had little to complain about in the slightly tense and intellectually stale environment I hail from, but at Pomona, I might liken my classmates to extremely talented and enthusiastic mentors, wearing fuzzy holiday sweaters and ushering me towards my aspirations. (Oh- with the exception of that one time I was peer-pressured to ditch my readings and get boba at 12:29 A.M.) It’s not likely everyone feels the same way, but then again, maybe most do.
- “There are issues… but these same issues probably exist at most other colleges, just to a greater degree”
Okay. I recognize that this is a lofty statement, and I’m not sure that I personally have the data to back it up. That’s why I added the ambiguous quotation marks. But seriously! Every college has issues, and it’s our job as students to be as honest as possible with propsies** to help them make the best decision. This means talking openly about our “least favorite thing about the college”. But even this led me to thoughts of thanks. With each issue we brought up, it was mentioned that the same problems would likely be found at many other academic institutions in the country, but perhaps to a more pressing degree. Examples of prevalent college-y issues that come to mind? Ignorance regarding syntactic and ideological problems surrounding race, class, and gender. Presence of social institutions that make it hard for some students to feel welcome. These things exist at Pomona, and they are real problems affecting real students. However, it makes a huge difference that both the school and students make an effort to bring these problems to light, so that they can be discussed and addressed in a direct manner, instead of being glossed over and ignored. Of course, the effectiveness and consistency of this very system of addressing said problems isn’t perfect, either. But even this meta-problem is acknowledged in conversations across campus.
- The food is actually pretty good, thanks to the 5C’s
This surely isn’t the most significant of the “awesome things about Pomona” I discovered that night, but I do think it’s something we often take for granted. The fact that we can attend a very small liberal arts college while enjoying the company of 4 additional campuses and more dining options than would be seen as necessary by anyone else is, indeed, something to be thankful for this fall. Shout-out to the fantastic smoothie bar at Harvey Mudd weekday breakfast!
* Some folks prefer to spell it “prospy.” If you’re anxious about the variation, go with “prospective student.”
** Disclaimer: Endearing and useful as the term is, I don’t love that it gives way to a slight and innocuous objectification of the student. We should really call any visitors by their name, when possible…