The Best Last-Minute Decision of My Life

By Siena Swift ‘22

My journey to Pomona College seems to be a little different from those around me. A lot of my friends applied early decision or knew that Pomona was one of their top choices. In my case, I applied to Pomona on a whim of sorts. My dad suggested that I check out the Claremont Colleges because he knew of them from attending UCLA. However, I had my heart set on attending a big university because I went to a small high school in Kailua, Hawaiʻi. Luckily, Pitzer College held an info session at my high school, and I was enthralled by their passion for social justice and their location in California. I also realized that with a combined student body population of over 6000, the Claremont Colleges weren’t too small.

I decided to apply to Pitzer, Pomona and Claremont McKenna, but my parents thought I only needed to apply to two. When deciding between Pomona and Claremont McKenna, I honestly didn’t put a lot of research into it. The main reason I applied to Pomona over Claremont McKenna was because it had a bigger student body. It ended up being the best last-minute decision of my life.

Siena with friends on Claremont hike
A Claremont hike

I ended up being waitlisted at Pomona and I committed to University of British Columbia, a large research university in Canada. I kept my Pomona admissions officer updated on my studies and expressed that I was still interested in attending the college. I was a couple days into my International Baccalaureate exams in May 2018 when my phone rang. I was in the middle of playing a video game with my friends, so I didn’t pick up because I didn’t recognize the number. An hour later, the number called again, and I saw that it was coming from Claremont. When I picked up, an admissions officer was on the line. He asked how my senior year was going and if I was still interested in Pomona. I still didn’t know much about Pomona, but I said yes. At that moment, he told me that I was off the waitlist and accepted to Pomona College. I ran out to tell my dad, crying, excited at this new opportunity and possibility.

My parents cautioned me that we probably would not be able to afford attending a private institution in the United States. I had no idea that Pomona met 100% of demonstrated financial need and didn’t package loans into their financial aid. That night, I spent hours researching Pomona and with each web page I read, I fell more and more in love with this school. I knew I was interested in majoring in politics, and reading the course offerings had me filled with curiosity and excitement. I realized how special Pomona was and what a good education I would receive if I went there.

Siena's Orientation Adventure trip to Sequoia
My Orientation Adventure trip to Sequoia

I agonized over whether or not I would be able to attend, but when I got my financial aid package, I was pleasantly shocked. Pomona offered me the most aid of any of the colleges I had been accepted into. I even appealed my decision to update them on my circumstances and was able to receive more aid. However, I was still torn. Should I attend a large research university outside of the United States or a small liberal arts college in the heart of California? I weighed my pros and cons, terrified of making the wrong choice.

Two years later, as a rising junior and politics major, I can confidently say I made the right choice. The fact that Pomona is a small college turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of it. I know now that I could not have thrived in 300-person lectures, taught by a TA, without my professor even knowing my name. I know now that I value the individual attention I receive from my professors, that I can get lunch with them and chat during office hours. I know now that I value the immense resources Pomona offers its students, without having to compete with grad students. I value the small class sizes and knowing all of my classmates’ names.

Siena and her sponsor group after painting Walker Wall
My sponsor group after painting Walker Wall

I wonder how different my life might be if I had attended a larger institution, but I know that after all the rejections and confusion, I made the right choice by attending Pomona College. I had never visited the campus, but I was able to piece together a picture of it through reading student blogs, watching videos and obsessively scrolling through the website. Even the students on our Facebook page helped convince me that Pomona was the better choice. I feel so incredibly blessed to attend a college like Pomona. Even though being waitlisted instilled a worry in me that I wasn’t meant to be here, I know now that Pomona is where I was supposed to end up after all.