Picking Pomona

By Oluyemisi Bolonduro ’23

The following post includes four core reasons why I picked Pomona. After writing my last blog, Pomona, Progress, and the Pandemic, you may be wondering, “why this specific topic after you just expressed your hate for Pomona??” Well, if you read the post then you know I don’t hate a lot of things, Pomona included! Though I will admit, this post is awkwardly placed… anywhooooooo, let’s get to what I came to do 🙂

  1. Perspectives on Pomona (POP)
Friends lying on grass drinking from plastic cup
POP Pals who became Pomona Pals (we cleaned up the plastic)!

I had the honor of attending Pomona’s fall fly-in program, Perspectives on Pomona. This was when I was most exposed to Pomona’s campus and culture as I got to see the people of Pomona up close. I was sitting with two friends (who wound up applying like I did!) in Lyon Lounge. We were chillin on the piano, unknowingly disrupting the productivity in the room. We saw what looked like a couple of students with their homework out, taking a break to chat. We soon found out that they were studying for midterms … together?!

I was the kid in high school who prayed with anyone before a test while on the verge of tears (I wish I was exaggerating, but the prayers where one of us had already started crying hit different. Trust me, I know it was unhealthy). To see college students (of all people!!) laughing, chatting, and having a good time while studying instead of breaking down was minnddd bloooowwinnnggg. It was then I realized, if I went to Pomona, I could smile during midterms, and my peers would be there supporting instead of competing with me. I can confirm that, during finals week, while one of my friends was writing allele combinations on the whiteboard, I was watching Jiraiya fight Pain and was crying because of that, not my exams.

  1. The Application Process

I first met my admissions officer, Tom Campbell, the summer before my senior year at a 5C (5-College, as in The Claremont Colleges) info session. At the time I had no idea who he was, but he smiled at me. Then I thought, “I really hope that’s my admissions officer at Pomona!” As we both know, he was! I saw him again two more times before coming to Pomona, once at POP and the other time at my high school. There he complimented the Princess Pack (first edition!!!) and recalled other lil’ quickie facts about me. As a result of our three interactions, I felt like Tom saw me as a person instead of a statistic, and that this perspective probably extended to the rest of the office too (I can now confirm that past me was correct).

I decided to look at both the Coalition and Common Applications to see which prompts made me feel like I could continue sharing my human side with admissions. When writing my essays/supplements, I found myself being more creative, expressive, and personal because I could put a face to the person on the receiving end. Pomona never got to see my personal statement because the prompt on the Coalition Application didn’t need it. Instead, that piece of writing went to the other colleges I applied to. I emailed Pomona admissions asking if I missed the section where I’d upload my statement. I was told it wasn’t needed, and the first thing that came to mind was, “WAIT ACTUALLY?! I CRAFTED THIS MASTERPIECE AND YOU WON’T EVEN SEE IT?!” Looking back now, I know Pomona changed my approach to the whole application process. Even though they didn’t see my personal statement in the end, I wrote with them in mind, and that excitement was reflected in my other applications. Had I not applied, I wouldn’t have been as comfortable showing myself in writing.

  1. Melanated & Educated!
Pomona College motto on gates with new message
Inside joke between friends (s/o Natalie)

I only applied to schools on the West Coast, and many of the demographics for these colleges hinted that I’d barely see ten Black people per day. One of them being myself in the mirror. It took until senior year of high school to experience having even five Black students in one of my classes (including me). Looking at Pomona’s diversity stats in terms of race/ethnicity, I knew I’d have the best chance of seeing people who looked like me in Claremont over anywhere else. And I was right! I even had a Queen from the same Nigerian tribe as me in my Chemistry class, and she helped me grow my cultural roots like a sequoia tree (Nigerians are everywhere in Claremont, even at the grad schools).

  1. My Personal Development

I knew that, above everything else, the college I wanted to go to would have to be a place where I could thrive. I describe thriving as physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being and development. On campus, I feel like I’ve been allowed to be a free spirit (s/o Khalid) in a way that I wasn’t able to before. As I mentioned in Icky Introductions, I started playing around with color combinations and used my clothing to reflect my internal self-perceptions. I’ve been learning to lean into what I’m feeling and confront internal conflicts. As a result, I don’t feel as pressured to maintain a façade when I’m in public (this one’s still a work in progress, but, like I said, thriving includes development!). Also, the religious and cultural groups on campus or in the area have helped me stay connected to aspects of my identity. Overall, Pomona’s a place that stimulates character development, and it’s been an enriching experience getting to know myself in a new environment.