“Which way to Pomona?”: One Admitted Student’s Experience

The gates I would eventually run through as a student in the class of 2019 were nowhere to be seen when I was looking for the campus
The gates I would eventually run through as a student in the class of 2019 were nowhere to be seen when I was lost around Claremont on Admitted Students Weekend

I was excited. I was going to be touring, for the first time, the place I would be spending my next four years at. After months of touring schools, writing endless supplemental essays, pouring over those massive I-dare-you-to-lift-me-with-one-hand college information textbooks, and interviewing with alumni and current students, my search was over. Pomona College had accepted me ED2. Now, I was ready to explore my paradise. If only I could find it.

Let me back up about two months, so you understand how I ended up wandering aimlessly around Claremont, Calif., no Pomona College in sight. After a tough round of Early Admissions deferrals, as well as outright rejection from my ED1 school, I began to panic. Would I get in anywhere? What if I didn’t? Was that possible? Why had my safety school deferred me? Had I completely misconstrued my relationship with the teacher who wrote my recommendation and she had actually submitted a scathing expose on me? So I made a bad decision. Kids, don’t try this at home.

I applied ED2 to Pomona College. Which, in any other circumstances, would be awesome. But here’s what I knew about Pomona College when I submitted a potentially binding application:

  1. It’s in California. (LA? Is it in the city? Where even *IS* LA? — if you can’t tell, I’m from the East Coast)
  2. It’s a liberal arts school (so everyone’s majors are undecided?)
  3. It’s small
  4. It’s part of a consortium with other schools (what other schools? what’s a consortium??)

That’s pretty much it. I can’t stress enough how much of a non-exaggeration this list is. And I decided to apply binding.

So first thing to learn from my experience: If you know the location and student body population of Pomona, you already know more about the school than I did when I was accepted.

Wait, there’s one more thing I knew about Pomona: It was crazy hard to get accepted. Which is the root of why I applied ED2, and here was my (completely panic-driven) reasoning: Schools that accept two rounds of early decision often fill up most of the spots in their classes with students they know they really want, making the regular decision round extra-competitive. Knowing how difficult acceptance into Pomona was, I figured my best chance of getting accepted would be an early decision round. And here are the mistakes I made:

  1. Schools do fill up a lot of spots with ED students, but how many spots really depends on the school. And anyway, this idea I got into my head was, at best, an urban myth.
  2. In my blind panic, I was just trying to figure out how to get accepted to any school, never mind one I really wanted to go to
  3. Why would I want to go to a school I knew nothing about, anyway??

These are all things you SHOULD NOT do. But I did them anyway, and that’s how I ended up in Claremont on admitted students weekend, sweaty and nervous and trying to mask my sweaty nervousness with excitement. My mom and I got lost on our way to Pomona and ended up wandering for blocks — first up north where Harvey Mudd College is located, and then out west in the neighborhoods around the Village. When we finally made it to Little Bridges, I was flustered.

This isn’t a post about how I fell in love with Pomona, how I began to realize it was my perfect fit, how lucky I got, because all that came later once I started school in the fall. But I remember feeling oddly settled when I approached the table at the admitted students event to get my name tag.

“Natasha? Oh, I read your application! We’re so happy to have you here.”

I looked up at the guy who handed me my name tag. He remembered me? He remembered my application? Pomona was not going to be like other schools.

So the takeaway from this post is to NOT do what I did. Don’t underestimate yourself. Don’t freak out. Don’t resort to misguided reasoning. Do your research, try to visit some schools. And when you do visit schools, Google Maps is a great resource.