A Pitch for the Liberal Arts

By Chris Meng ‘23

“Why would you choose Pomona over a more well-known school?”

As a tour guide and summer fellow for the admissions office, my peers and I discuss the most common questions we get during tours and other interactions with prospective students, and this is one of them. While my neighbors in Pennsylvania may not know Pomona, graduate schools and employers certainly do. Growing up on the East Coast, the Ivy League rage was very real. I could go on about my opinions regarding our culture’s obsession with prestige, but I’m going to focus on my experience at one of the best liberal arts colleges in the world. Here are three general points why I chose to go to a liberal arts college, specifically Pomona!

Relationships with peers, professors, and the rest of the community. This point is harped upon at probably every information session for a liberal arts college, and that’s because it is true and has a significant impact on your college experience. While you can develop meaningful relationships at any size institution, the culture is different when your student population is 1,600 compared to 30,000 or even 7,000. Liberal arts colleges are to large universities as small towns are to big cities. You will see peers that you personally know from your classes, clubs, and other activities every time that you leave your dorm room, just as I see people that I know when I go on a run in my tiny township.

students having dinner at a professor's houseProfessors at liberal arts colleges could teach and do research at larger institutions, but they choose to come to or stay at Pomona because they want to develop these close relationships with students and work with undergraduates on their research. 80% of professors live within 5 miles of campus, so, like my township, it’s not uncommon to see your professor walking their dog down College Avenue or to be invited to their house for dinner (as I documented in this photo!). Do you want to recognize and know most of your peers and professors, or would you rather have a stronger degree of anonymity that would come with a larger-sized institution?

The flexibility to tailor your academic experience. I wrote about this more in-depth in my first blog post. Some colleges have completely open curriculums, while others might require specific classes to graduate. Pomona falls somewhere in between, where you are required to take classes in six different categories, roughly covering the study of the arts, human behavior, history and cultural studies, natural sciences, quantitative reasoning, and the creative or performing arts. There are well over 100 different classes offered across the Claremont Colleges that fulfill each requirement.

Chris's weekly schedule Beyond those 6 general requirements and the foreign language requirement (which can also be fulfilled in many ways), at least 20, if not more, of your college classes will be entirely of your own choosing. The only stipulation is that you complete one of our 48 majors (which require anywhere from 8 to 16 classes). If you want to take all 20 of those classes in mathematics, you can. However, if you want to explore many different disciplines, you can also do that. It’s important to consider the curriculum requirements when exploring colleges and how much flexibility you would like in shaping your class schedule.

The best of both worlds with the Claremont Consortium. While most liberal arts colleges are not part of consortia, some are, and the most cohesive of these collections of colleges is found in Claremont. The existence of five undergraduate colleges, endearingly termed the 5Cs, within the same square mile is truly unique to the Pomona experience. Many of our 200+ clubs are shared among the colleges, and cross-registration allows 5C students access to over 2700 courses. The longest walk that you will have to take is the 20-minute “hike” from South Campus at Pomona to Harvey Mudd or Pitzer.

We also have a relationship with two graduate institutions, Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) and Claremont Graduate University (CGU), that are close to campus. Sometimes, graduate students come to the 5Cs because we offer several graduate-level courses, and we share some resources like the library, religious life center, and identity-based centers like the Queer Resource Center, Office of Black Student Affairs, or Chicano Latino Student Affairs. Similarly, 5C students can take classes at the two graduate institutions, though this is less common compared to 5C cross-registration. I’m currently taking a summer class at a college outside of the 5Cs, and I mentioned to my professor that, for some majors, you would take classes at the other Claremont Colleges and got a response of pity, as if taking classes at another institution was highly unfortunate.

That is absolutely not the case! The relationship between the Claremont Colleges is symbiotic, and we take advantage of each of our individual strengths. Because of the consortium, I don’t worry about being limited in class selection, feeling confined by the smaller student population, or getting sick of the dining hall food. Pomona has three dining halls, and a little more than 1,600 students; the 5Cs have seven dining halls in total and around 6,000 students, giving all of us more options for food and friends.

These are the three main reasons that I chose to come to a liberal arts college, specifically Pomona. I encourage you to think about what you value and what you would like to get out of your college experience. After all, college is a time in your life quite unlike any other. What do you want this time to look like?