Going through the college admissions process, we get a lot of advertising and a fairly limited perspective. I know that’s a bit ironic to hear, coming from a Pomona student blog, but really! Receiving mail from Pomona, I remember seeing a lot about great academics, great faculty, nice weather, etc. Don’t get me wrong, these things are true, but the other four Claremont Colleges (together, we’re known as the 5Cs) are a big part of campus life that gets considerably downplayed. It makes sense that Pomona wouldn’t rave about Scripps’s gorgeous rose garden or Mudd’s unlimited student print quota while trying to catch your attention, but it’s impossible to be a Pomona student without also being a student of the 5Cs. Chances are — unless you actively avoid it — you’ll take classes, make friends, and attend events on other campuses, too.
For those of you who don’t already know, Pomona is part of an awesome and pretty distinctive consortium of five small liberal arts colleges, each of which has different goals, dining halls, and students. Don’t picture having to get on a bus or drive or anything: The colleges are adjacent, and it’s pretty easy to get lost and end up on one of the other campuses when you first arrive. As a 5C student, you can eat at any of the seven dining halls on your meal plan, with the farthest away being about a 20-minute walk. Personally, I tend to eat at the closer dining halls (Frank, Oldenborg, and Frary at Pomona, Collins at CMC) during the week and walk to the farther ones (Malott at Scripps, Hoch-Shanahan at Mudd, McConnell at Pitzer) on weekends. Besides dining halls, the 5Cs also share the Honnold-Mudd Library, student health resources, and the infamous Humans vs. Zombies.
One meal plan? Cross-enrolled courses? One giant campus conglomerate? A lot of people at home tend to ask me why the 5Cs aren’t a university. The short answer is that the schools are, well, different. Mudd is a lot more STEM-oriented, Pitzer tends to lead the others in environmental initiatives and social sciences, Scripps has a strong core in the humanities (and is also a women’s college), and CMC tends to be more political and career-driven, among other differences. The faculty and student bodies also have different personalities, the campuses look different, and each school offers different opportunities. Nonetheless, the lines between them are blurry at times. This semester I’m taking two courses off campus: “Women in Music” at Scripps and “Knowledge, Mind, and Existence,” a Pitzer class that’s on Harvey Mudd’s campus for some reason. It’s hard to describe, but these classes do have a different feel from my Pomona classes (Music in Theory and Practice, Intermediate Chinese B, and my independent study, “Tension in 19th-century Music,” in case you were wondering). For example, my Women in Music class offers me the new experience of being in a female-only learning space. Down with the patriarchy! Ahem.
Obviously, the social life bleeds over a lot as well. Many of the parties, talks, and festivals hosted are attended by students and faculty from all 5Cs — okay, the faculty don’t come to the parties, but you get what I mean. You’ll meet people from the other colleges in student organizations, in classes, at events, and even through mutual friends. I’m writing this blog post sitting on a couch next to my good friend from Scripps!
During orientation, the 5C stereotypes can get pretty heavy. Everyone is new, no one knows much yet about what it’s like to be here, and we resort to the few superficial details we’ve heard about what “students are like” at Mudd, Scripps, Pitzer, and CMC. It’s pretty cringeworthy (and doesn’t help Pomona students’ own 5C stereotype as awkward elitists). Before you make a generalization or a crack at the other schools, give yourself time to take classes and make friends on the other campuses. Here, you might sometimes feel like Pomona has nothing in common with the other colleges, but outside the Claremont bubble you’ll be surprised how much solidarity you feel seeing a Pitzer bumper sticker or meeting a Harvey Mudd alum. Pomona is home, but who doesn’t like having good neighbors?