By Linda Phan ‘24
As a first-generation, low-income student, I didn’t find the college admissions process to be centered around finding the ultimate academic institution that would best fit my needs as a student and individual. Instead, I was focused on getting into any college, regardless of location, size, or campus culture. I applied to a total of 37 colleges, terrified of being rejected from every single school and disappointing my immigrant parents who sacrificed everything in pursuit of the American Dream. It wasn’t until I started receiving college acceptances that the following realization dawned on me: I needed to make an important decision that would dictate where I would live and learn for the next four years.
My initial method of narrowing down my top choices was oriented around location. I decided I wanted to go to college in Southern California, as Los Angeles seemed like an optimal place for a young adult to grow, and I loved the diverse environments it could offer. I wanted to go to the urban metropolis of downtown Los Angeles, but also enjoy the more intimate setting of suburban Claremont. I loved to snowboard and couldn’t believe Mt. Baldy, Mountain High, and Big Bear were so accessible, but also wanted to be able to hit the beach and enjoy the sun. As I began to eliminate options, I was left with two schools in Southern California, including Pomona College.
The next feature of a college education that I considered was size. Coming from Seattle, where most of my friends went to the University of Washington, I feared lecture halls with hundreds of people and the professor not knowing my name. I heard so many horror stories of college students lacking support and community at big schools. I didn’t want to be a little fish in a vast ocean. I wanted to foster close relationships with the people around me, which made me solidify my need to attend a small school. This last preference ruled out the other Southern California school I was considering, leading me to finally choose the college that was right for me.
When college decision day rolled around, I was ecstatic to commit to Pomona, a premier liberal arts college that prioritized an interdisciplinary approach to the curriculum and prided itself on its average class size of fifteen and eight-to-one student-to-faculty ratio. I had never been to Claremont before, but I trusted my gut and pursued the best option that satisfied my location and size requirements. Yes, I committed to Pomona without visiting!
As a current student, every day I spend at Pomona reminds me that I made the right decision. The tight-knit community makes me feel so seen and loved on campus, and I truly have flourished in my tiny discussion-based classes where both my peers and my professors can get to know me as a person beyond my role as a student. I have fallen in love with Southern California and the resources it has to offer. I am so proud to be a Sagehen, and my leap of faith in picking Pomona caused me to spread my wings, soar, and find my home.