Decoding the Claremont Consortium

By Chloe Mandel ’23

When I first began researching the Claremont Colleges, the word “consortium” didn’t really register. I spent way too much time stalking’s description of each individual college (while keeping an eye out for one of the most important factors in my college search process, the letter grade used to denote the quality of every school’s food) without realizing how interconnected the 5C’s are, both physically and otherwise.

It wasn’t until I visited Claremont in the spring of my junior year that I understood the unique advantages of the mosaic of landscapes, people and opportunities offered by the consortium. Because I had basically no idea what type of college I wanted to attend at that point, I was considering multiple Claremont schools, which allowed me to explore each (in my opinion) drastically different campus. I remember driving with my mom down Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth Avenues, frantically looking for the parking lot near Claremont McKenna’s admissions office for my first Claremont College tour and catching enticing glimpses of the  other schools along the way.

CMC's glass cube
Glass cube at CMC

CMC’s modern glass cube and bright, airy athletic center were such a contrast to Scripps’s Mediterranean-style architecture and romantic fruit tree-lined paths that I could hardly believe the two lay right next to each other. Meanwhile, Pomona’s Marston Quad somewhat reminded me of the East Coast liberal arts colleges I’d already visited (though those campuses would’ve been chilly and perhaps rainy on the early April day I arrived in Claremont). Pitzer’s many cacti and open spaces, on the other hand, gave it a distinct desert feel, while Harvey Mudd’s modernist buildings reflected the school’s STEM focus. The students on each campus, moreover, seemed to exude the vibe of the individual college to which they belonged.

Honnold-Mudd Library
Honnold-Mudd Library

When my CMC tour guide explained how CMC, Scripps and Mudd formed a sports team against Pomona and Pitzer and how all five colleges shared the Honnold-Mudd Library, I began to realize how cohesively the 5C’s functioned. It took an in-person visit for me to discover that these schools were literally steps apart from each other, not a shuttle ride away as I’d initially assumed. The prospect of being able to eat at any of the colleges’ dining halls piqued my interest; months of hearing my older sister complain about the lack of variety at her college’s lone cafeteria made diversity of food options a priority for me. But what remained the most intriguing aspect of this huge package deal was the diversity of the campuses and the students living on them.

Balch Hall courtyard at Scripps
Courtyard at Scripps

It seemed that by attending one of these colleges, I’d be able to successfully combine the different college experiences I imagined rather than struggling to choose between them. My vision of studying at a traditional campus like the northeastern schools my parents attended could coincide with my more recent inclination to travel west for college. The patchwork quilt of the Claremont Consortium, stitched together by the common philosophy of a liberal arts education, told me that I probably wouldn’t get bored in Claremont, even at one of these very small schools.


Pomona College gates
Pomona gates

Of course, with its broad range of possible majors, peaceful campus and welcoming students, Pomona drew me in. But the other Claremont colleges are essential to my Pomona experience. The opportunity to take classes, eat meals and simply hang out on the four other campuses means I’m not missing out on any resources or social opportunities a mid-sized or large university would offer me. At Pomona, I get to enjoy the tight-knit small college community I’d fretted about giving up when I considered bigger schools, but I can figuratively expand the size of my college whenever I want to just by attending a 5C club meeting or grabbing brunch at Scripps. When I return to Claremont after the summer, I can’t wait to rediscover the five campuses, exploring spots I haven’t seen before and meeting lots of new people along the way.