By Chris Meng ’23
It’s hard to believe that I am starting my second semester of my sophomore year. At the end of May, I will be halfway done with college, and I will have somehow reached the age of 21. Over my nearly two-month winter break, I spent a lot of time with family and friends (mostly virtually), having conversations with them and myself that gave me a chance to reflect upon my Pomona experience so far. Since starting as a rosy-eyed first-year, my perspective has matured after three semesters.
While I still love Pomona for many of the same reasons that informed why I came here, I had four critical realizations about Pomona that I didn’t know coming in.
- The consortium is great, but we don’t have everything. For example, I’ve recently become more interested in exploring educational studies. Despite the five undergraduate colleges, there aren’t many education classes, and there is little to no structural support outside of the Teacher Education Program in partnership with Claremont Graduate University. If you have a niche interest, consider if your college can satisfy it.
- Going far away from home for college is both a blessing and a curse. So much traveling. I didn’t think carefully about that when I chose Pomona.
- Most of my college friends are outside of my major, while I’m noticing that my friends at larger schools tend to make most of their friends inside of their departments. I like learning from different perspectives, but sometimes I do wish there was a larger academic community in my major.
- Majors at Pomona require a relatively small number of courses. When I heard that my friend’s intended degree required 20 classes, I was blown away. Some colleges offer a more specialized education, and they have the resources to do so. Pomona’s curriculum is more geared towards liberal arts exploration, and, even within the consortium, it would be difficult for students to find the same depth of study in one area at the Claremont Colleges.
However, hearing about other college experiences has also created a greater appreciation for many aspects of Pomona as well. Here are seven realizations that reaffirmed why I came to the college:
- The food is amazing, and the campus is beautiful. Recently, I have heard our accommodations described as “resort-like.” I will admit — it was quite nice to have seven dining halls, fountains at every turn, and a single room as a first-year student.
- Peer mentorship is important, and Pomona does it well. From sponsors to department liaisons to affinity groups, there are so many structures in place for new students to connect to students who have done it all before. It helps the transition to college so much.
- The liberal arts extend beyond academics to the ability to pursue experiential learning opportunities. The flexibility of the curriculum allows students to spend an entire academic year abroad if they wish. That’s right — a whole year! You can even spend a semester at certain other liberal arts colleges, Silicon Valley, or Washington, Washington, D.C.
- Professors are accessible. It helps that none of my classes, even the intro sections, are 500-person lectures. I cannot understate the value of the ability to interact closely with professors.
- The weather is so nice! I didn’t think of weather as an important factor in my college search, considering I almost went to Carleton College in snowy Minnesota. Now that I’ve been home on the East Coast for almost a year taking virtual classes, I have to admit that the sunshine does noticeably uplift my mood. Of course, climate change impacts all environments, and recurring wildfires in California remind us of this each fall.
- Los Angeles is an incredible resource, academically, socially, and professionally. Students find internships in nearby Los Angeles during the semester and over the summer. Research projects and senior theses can be conducted in partnership with community organizations. It seems like every other month I hear about a celebrity encounter. Did I mention that I saw Jimmy Kimmel Live?
- Pomona can fund many opportunities. I take free guitar lessons. I’m paid to work for the admissions office, even though I’d be happy to volunteer for them. The college financially supports unpaid internships and summer research through PCIP and SURP, respectively. These are just a few examples of funding opportunities offered by Pomona.
This is all to say that there are pros and cons to every college, and ultimately the decision about which school is right for you depends on what you value. Would you rather dive deep into one subject or have the flexibility to explore multiple subjects? Would you rather be a more anonymous face on campus or see a familiar friend at every turn? Would you rather have the ability to go home on the weekends or explore a new area of the country (or even the world)? Pomona is not perfect, but I love the liberal arts, the small community, and the Southern California ethos. It’s been a wonderful place for me — chirp, chirp!