Sage Advice for First Years

By Geraldine Castaneda ’21

Since I’ll be an RA (Resident Advisor) this year, I don’t have a sponsor group or 20 first years with whom to share all this golden knowledge, so it’s just going to have to go out to everyone.

I know at this point you’re hearing a million different things about how to survive college, but Pomona really is a unique place, and your college experience here is going to be very different from a “typical” college experience. This is just a small compilation of advice and suggestions from my friends and me to help you win your first year of college at Pomonaaa!



1. Hang out with the people who are dear to your heart. Spend as much time with your friends as you can, because realistically you are not going to stay in contact with all of them unless you have a Snapchat streak. Do all the crazy summer stuff you’ve always wanted to do. (But be safe.)

2. In the same vein, hang out with your parents, or whoever raised you or is that figure in your life. Spend time with them because you are going to be having the busiest time of your life the first month of college, and there will be weeks when you don’t call home.

3. If you don’t already have a Facebook account, make one. If you do, hype it up. With a student body this small, all clubs, affinity groups, cohorts, halls, schools, will have a Facebook page, and it’s going to be your main source of communication for meetings or social events going on around campus. Make yourself presentable there because you already know everyone is stalking everyone through Facebook. If you’re not already in it, join the Pomona College Class Facebook page.

4. You don’t need all the clothes you think you need. Be realistic about what you actually wear, and if you don’t wear it regularly right now, don’t think that you’re going to start wearing it regularly here! You also don’t need a million sweaters. (If your dorm room doesn’t have AC—like Wig, Harwood, Lyon—invest in a fan). Your sponsors can tell you more about move-in, so reach out to them with any questions.

1. Don’t stress too much about registration. You’ll be forced to have lunch with your academic advisor before you pick your classes, and they can help you navigate the process. Everyone is going to encourage you to just take classes that interest you during your first year, but if you are 100% set on a major with a lot of requirements (you can check by just googling “Pomona College majors”) it wouldn’t hurt to take one or two of those classes your first year. You do course registration with your whole sponsor group, so you’ll have people around to help with anything. You can start planning potential classes and times on a virtual planner. You’ll get more information once on campus, so don’t stress too much about it.

2. Keep a calendar and block out all the times for classes, big deadlines, club meetings, work schedule—everything. You’re going to find that, even though you have more “free time” in college because you’re not in class from 9-3, you will feel busy All. The. Time.

3. There is always some event happening on campus, and that can be both exciting and overwhelming. Make sure to have all your important things blocked off in your calendar, and also make time to just hang out with your friends without making it a study date.

4. Keep your school email a school email. Use your .edu email address for all your college- related things like emailing professors, clubs, list serves, emailing offices, etc. You’re going to be flooded with emails from different offices around campus, and it’s so much easier to have all your college-related stuff separate from your Twitter and Target emails. More importantly, keep up with your emails: check them regularly and respond to people on time!

5. If there is a class you want to take but it’s already full, send in a PERM (PERMission) on the Pomona portal during registration, and write a couple sentences about why you want to take the class. After the PERM, follow up with an email to the professor introducing yourself and letting them know why you want to take this class (for your major, a specific interest, etc.)

6. If there is a class you love, whether you are officially enrolled in it or not, show up to the class, stay and talk to the professor after class for a couple minutes, and show interest! There’s a lot of movement during the first weeks of classes because most people are dropping and adding other classes, so if you just sit in on a class that is “full,” most of the time the professor will let you enroll in it.

7. Introduce yourself to your professor in-person during the first week of class.

8. Learn how you learn. The way you studied or worked in high school is probably going to be very different from the way you study and work in college. Flashcards aren’t going to work the same; no one’s going to ask you to turn in outlines of the chapters you read; you’re not going to get by with memorization. Learn how long it realistically takes you to write a GOOD paper, if you understand concepts better when you write them out vs. when you type them, if you process material better when you talk it over with other people, etc. Understand what works best for you and organize your academics around that.

9. Form study groups with people in your class and grind it out together.

10. It’s SO okay to ask for help here. If you don’t understand something or need clarification, don’t be afraid to ask your professors, mentors, or classmates. It’s okay for you to not know.

11. The Writing Center and the Quantitative Skills Center are both open in the Smith Campus Center for writing and STEM help. And they also both always have candy.

12. Go to office hours! And review before you go to office hours so that you have things to ask your professor. The dynamic with professors here is super unique and welcoming so you can ask to have a meal with them in either the dining hall, Coop Fountain, Sagehen Café, OR the Village (downtown Claremont). I know it sounds intimidating to ask a professor out on what essentially is a date, but once you do it the first time you’ll realize professors are super chill and really love to hear about you and everything else going on in your life. It’s a really nice way to start getting mentors or even advisors in specific departments.


Dining at CMC

1. As a Pomona student, you have access to the dining halls at the other Claremont Colleges for every meal. All the other schools have one dining hall, while Pomona has two and a half (Oldenborg is only open for lunch). The food is awesome everywhere, but there are some special days for each dining hall. For example, Frank has fresh berries every Thursday and THE best omelettes for brunch on the weekends. Scripps has steak and salmon night on Thursdays and sushi on Fridays. CMC has poke bowls some Wednesday nights and bomb smoothies for brunch. Mudd has personal pizzas on Fridays and Indian food on Saturdays. Pitzer has pad thai on Friday and a pasta bar on Saturdays. Frary burritos on Tuesday! You can always go out to eat in the Village right by the first-year dorms if, for whatever reason, you don’t want to go to a dining hall.

Catching the train into LA for the Women’s March

2. If you feel like getting off campus, the train station is conveniently located two blocks from the freshman dorms. A round-trip ticket to LA is about $10, if you want to explore downtown LA (DTLA) or Little Tokyo, go to a concert, etc (again your sponsors can help with recommendations). We also have a club on campus called On the Loose (OTL) that organizes and sponsors trips (camping, hiking, surfing, etc.) all around California and sometimes outside the state, so stay on the lookout for their postings.

3. Some cool spots to study or chill on campus: the tables by the Sontag Greek theater, the tables by Pendleton, Skyspace, the neuroscience lounge in Lincoln, the linguistics lounge in Lincoln, anywhere on Marston Quad, the tables outside the SCC, the courtyard between Sumner and Little Bridges, and on and on.

4. Make friends with everyone! You’re going to meet people from all over the world with such different and interesting lifestyles and experiences that you can learn just as much by talking to the people around you as you can in class. Especially the first days, don’t be afraid to ask people to go and get a meal with you because chances are they’re also looking for someone to eat with.

5. It’s also okay to eat alone!

Laguna Beach with friends

6. Drop all expectations of making or losing friends. You’re going to introduce yourself to so many people the first week and you’re going to hang out with so many different groups at the beginning of the year maybe because they’re in your sponsor group, or on your Orientation Adventure, or from the same city, but know that it’s okay if these people don’t immediately become your best friends. Your friend group may be tight from the start or build as the year goes on, and either is fine!

7. Hang out with people the first days! Don’t worry about making your room perfect, and don’t stress too much about classes. Go out and invest in experiences. Go eat pizza at 11 and walk around campus with this group of people you’ve never met before.

Live your best life! Freshman year is going to be both the hardest and the most fun time of your life.