Choosing a college can be an overwhelming process, particularly when there is so much information coming at you from all sides. Yet despite the massive amount of information you may have about a college, it can still feel like you don’t have anywhere close to enough.
Here is a collection of Voices blog excerpts that answer some of the less-frequently-addressed questions about life at Pomona College, all of which can be condensed in one: What is the experience actually like?
There’s a big differnece between what you see in a brochure and what you hear from students themselves. In our own words, here’s a glimpse into what choosing to be a Sagehen means.
- How is a liberal arts college different from a university?
- What is it like to be a member of the Claremont Colleges?
- What is it like to live in Southern California?
- What are the classes and professors like?
- How easy is it to get jobs/internships?
- What are the study abroad programs like?
- What kind of activities, extracurriculars, and events are there?
- Are there opportunities to learn about other languages and cultures?
- How can I engage in real dialogue or volunteer service at Pomona?
- What is it like to live in a sponsor group?
- Is it hard to adjust?
Bryan Gee ’16 – When I was considering colleges as a rising high school senior, this was one of my biggest fears: When I got to college, would I be forced to pick between sciences, my intended area of study and future career, and the humanities, which are more intellectually appetizing but largely irrelevant for my career development? …It’s true that many people, especially those on rigorous science tracks, are eventually forced to choose one at the expense of the other. I refused to let that be the case for me, and that’s why I’m at Pomona…
I’m not at Pomona just to be a science major, and in fact, I’m not even here just to be a student. I’m here to be a person, a community member, a leader, a participant, and a component of the living, breathing organism that is the 5Cs. That’s why I value humanities.
On one hand, my education in science will teach me more about the natural world…It can teach me how to quantify, how to calculate, how to evaluate, and how to examine. My education in science will help me to achieve my dream of being a paleontologist. It can help me to get into graduate school. It can help me to get into a doctoral program. It can help me to get a job. These things are all very important to me. But that’s only one side of the coin.
The other side is my education in the humanities. This education will teach me about the human world…It can tell me how to understand and how to express myself. It can teach me how to reflect, how to question, how to think, and how to understand. My education in the humanities will probably not (directly) help me to get into graduate school. It probably will not (directly) help me to get into a doctoral program. It probably will not (directly) help me to get a job. But in countless indirect and intangible ways, it will help me to do all of these things.
It will help me to be a a better student, a better teacher, and a better scientist. And most importantly, it will help me be a better person. This is the other side of the coin. [READ MORE]
Eron Smith ’16 – Going through the college admissions process, we get a lot of advertising and a fairly limited perspective. I know that’s a bit ironic to hear, coming from a Pomona student blog, but really! Receiving mail from Pomona, I remember seeing a lot about great academics, great faculty, nice weather, etc. Don’t get me wrong, these things are true, but the other four Claremont Colleges (together, we’re known as the 5Cs) are a big part of campus life that gets considerably downplayed. It makes sense that Pomona wouldn’t rave about Scripps’s gorgeous rose garden or Mudd’s unlimited student print quota while trying to catch your attention, but it’s impossible to be a Pomona student without also being a student of the 5Cs. Chances are — unless you actively avoid it — you’ll take classes, make friends, and attend events on other campuses, too. [READ MORE]
Kyra Sanborn ’17 – We are in beautiful Southern California! Land of sunsets, year-round flip-flops, and, if you’re like me, the unfortunate but inconsequential year-round sunburn.
Here, beach life is pretty much a… shore thing (did you sea what I did there?) Moving on: in the last two weeks, I’ve visited Laguna Beach, seen a play in LA, and tried the finest dim sum Claremont has to offer. Plus, Pomona always has Zipcars available to drive anywhere, which is really convenient for trips like these. [READ MORE]
Yttrium Sua ’15 – The advantage of being near Los Angeles soon became more evident as I found myself going regularly to the city for concerts and musicals. I sang along with thousands of others to Mumford & Sons at Hollywood Bowl, caught a few Korean and Japanese pop acts that I would never have been able to afford back home, and attended musicals like the Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys, courtesy of ASPC…
But aside from that, I realized that Los Angeles is an excellent classroom, and Pomona College professors love taking advantage of that.
In Introduction to Geology with Professor Jade Star Lackey, we hiked the hills of Rancho Palos Verdes to observe the winding roads near the Portuguese Bend Slide, a result of ongoing geological activities.
As part of our Community Mapping class with Visiting Professor Anna Joo Kim, we used GIS to map out inequalities in Koreatown before using our information to help the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance in their advocacy work. We paid a visit to their headquarters, and the people at KIWA led us on a walking tour around Koreatown, pointing out signs of gentrification and underdevelopment in this racially segregated neighborhood…
Proximity to Los Angeles was definitely a factor when I chose to come to Pomona College, but I had not foreseen what an important part of my learning experience it would eventually become. Underneath the glamor of Hollywood was a city bustling with culture, history, and its very own quirks and idiosyncrasies. Amidst the sprawl and urban decay, Angelinos are still proud of this city they call home, and I was beginning to see why.
With Metrolink connecting Claremont to Los Angeles, and the $10 Weekend Day Pass that gives you unlimited ride on any public transport in the city on Saturday or Sunday, students really don’t require a car to explore the nooks and crannies of the city. [READ MORE]
Eron Smith ’16 – My first semester, I went through a really brutal breakup. One professor gave me chocolate — and offered to go find my new ex and punch him, if I recall correctly — and another gave me another try at a major presentation I was supposed to do that morning.
My third semester, I misremembered the time of a final exam, showed up on time but frazzled, and the professor gave me an extra hour to work so that I could turn in a project that better represented my intentions.
The list goes on:
- I had an emotional breakdown in a private music lesson and my teacher responded with reassurance, a really helpful array of possible options, tissues, and a much-needed hug.
- A professor gave me the class lecture when I was the only one who showed up for the first 30 minutes of class. (To my peers’ defense, it was a class of three.)
- I’d had a really awful day when one of my professors walked by and casually remarked that my recent paper revision was much better and quite promising for future possibilities. [READ MORE]
Sophia Sun ’18 – A little about the course selection process: At the Claremont Colleges, we choose classes around week 11 of the previous semester, and each person is randomly assigned a registration time. Usually, if a student has a great registration time one semester, he or she may have a less ideal time the next semester. Students are able to consult ASPC course reviews for former students’ comments on courses, and many students spend hours mapping different possible schedules in case one of their courses is full by the time they are able to register.
During registration week, seniors get first priority, while first-years register three days after seniors do. At first, I was really frustrated with my inconvenient registration time; after realizing my top choice classes had filled up hours ago, I spent a frenzied 30 minutes seeking out new classes around the ASPC website as PERM lists (i.e., requests to join filled classes) grew longer and longer. I sighed as an unwieldy schedule, filled with classes I never initially considered, stared back at me.
However, after a day of trying out classes, I’ve come to really appreciate the conflicts that encouraged me to consult upperclassmen and consider other options such as courses in politics, philosophy, and absolutely legendary courses in our Religious Studies Department such as “The Holy Fool:Comic/Ugly/Madness” and “Experience of God.” [READ MORE]
Bryan Gee ’16 – Food made its way into my classes on a few occasions this week, prompting me to think back on some other memorable moments at Pomona where tasty morsels and the wonders of science walked hand-in-hand… It started in tectonics lab when my professor, Linda Reinen, walked into the room with a tote bag and tossed a Cara Cara orange to each of us. A bit confused, I rolled it around in my hand and noticed some markings on it.
If you examine the picture on the right, it probably doesn’t make much sense, but the orange is a mini representation of the earth, and the enclosed section (A) is representing a tectonic plate. B is also a tectonic plate, but it’s really just the rest of the planet in this little scenario. If you can see the line curving around on top of A with the little triangles, that represents a subduction zone where one plate is being pulled under another. The one way arrows on the margin between A and B represent a transform fault, an area where plates are in contact with each other, but crust is not destroyed (as in subduction) or created. The whole point of Linda spending her lunch drawing on eight oranges was to help illustrate how plates move on a spherical body and the concept relative rates of movement. Also, this type of orange (which I’d never heard of prior to Tuesday) is really good compared to your average orange, so I recommend people try it out, even if you don’t plan to draw on it. [READ MORE]
Teofanny Saragi ’18 – One of the things that scared me the most as I entered college was the prospect of reality. Words like “decisions,” “long-term plans,” and “responsibilities” loomed over me, but I soon encountered multiple valuable resources for developing professional skills.
Over winter break, I participated in the Career Development Office’s (CDO) Shadow a Sagehen program. Through this program, I learned how to build a LinkedIn profile and navigate the Pomona College alumni page in order to connect with alumni in the fields I am interested in. The CDO helped me craft a respectful, genuine, and enthusiastic message that conveyed my desire to learn more about alumni experiences and hear their words of wisdom. After sharing my message with several alumni, I was able to set up both informational interviews and job shadows. [READ MORE]
Kyra Sanborn ’17 – It seems like in order to get ahead in the real world, every college student is expected to have several jobs, some incredibly valuable internship experience, leadership positions in at least five different clubs or activities, a Nobel Prize in two of the six categories, over a million followers on Twitter/over a million subscribers on YouTube, and bonus points for a letter of recommendation from the President.
I figured those leadership positions might be difficult to acquire and maintain, so early this semester I took a swing at getting an internship for the spring. Pomona College Internship Program (PCIP) is specially designed to guide students through this intimidating internship process.
You begin with a couple informative meetings in the beginning of the semester that explain PCIP in its entirety, then are asked to demonstrate your aptitude and enthusiasm via your application. Once accepted, the program has an extensive list of opportunities offered via ClaremontConnect that are specifically for PCIP students. Most, if not all, request your resume and a cover letter in an application, and, if they are interested in you, will later request an interview (in person, via Skype, or via phone) to finalize their decision. Once they realize how amazingly awkward or endearing you are, the companies send out offers! Smooth sailing, right? [READ MORE]
Madeleine Colvin ’16 – A pretty large number of my Pomona friends are studying abroad this semester, and if not this semester, they plan to go abroad in the spring. We are in places as far-flung as Cameroon, Germany, Australia, Hungary, China, Greece — the list goes on.
We all made the decision to forfeit a semester at Pomona, giving up loads of interesting classes, on-campus involvement and opportunities, Taco Tuesdays, perfect weather, all manner of Claremont traditions and shenanigans, and time together with friends, professors, classmates, and teammates. Why leave behind all these opportunities to go halfway around the globe?
Here are a few of the reasons I chose to study abroad:
A unique, well-timed opportunity. Sure I could study abroad over the summer or after graduation, but more than likely the money for that would come out of my own pocket. At Pomona, a semester abroad costs the same amount as a semester on campus and financial aid carries over, making it affordable. It’s also a nice long four-month-plus (or year-long, as some people choose) chunk of time, meaning more time for cultural immersion, language acquisition, travel, academic classes, and just having a meaningful experience. [READ MORE]
Yttrium Sua ’15 – I studied abroad in Kyoto, Japan, and while many students choose to study abroad for a semester, I chose to spend my entire year abroad with the Associated Kyoto Program, a Pomona-approved program. I am not exaggerating when I say it was a life-changing experience, and even now, I look back on my junior year as a year filled with fun, joy and wonder…
Studying abroad made me realize I can still lead a life without Pomona College. Right from the moment I entered the college, the school automatically became the biggest part of my life. I lived in the college, I went to classes in the college, I hung out with people in the college, I went to social events in the college – it was almost as if my life was Pomona College. Studying abroad not only allowed me to get out of the bubble, but it gave me confidence that I am not dependent on the school and its people – that I could meet new friends and lead a life beyond the comfort zone of the school. For a junior preparing for life after graduation, it was a valuable experience.
At the same time, it also made me appreciate some things in Pomona College that I took for granted – such as free access to a well-equipped gym. And the five minutes’ walking distance to class. And hanging out with friends late into the night. And minimal rain…
I chose to study abroad for a year hoping to travel and learn a language but I returned with so much more – a family in another country, beautiful memories, a new outlook on life… and given the chance, I’ll do it all over again. [READ MORE]
Sergio Rodriguez ’16 – It is no surprise that socioeconomic diversity diminishes while being abroad. Study abroad programs usually lack the financial aid that many institutions, like Pomona College, use to bring more students from different socioeconomic backgrounds on campus….
Usually, it was not physical wealth that my peers exuded — it was more the statements they made. Things that seemed so normal to them were very distant to me. I used this opportunity to spur dialogue on the basis of class, especially with another fellow Questie and, luckily, my flatmate, too (shout-out to David Baxter). This became an opportunity for me to understand a culture so different than my own. I learned so much from the discussions I had with my peers. [READ MORE]
Sophia Sun ’18 – The hardest part about finals isn’t really those impending exams and assignments – it’s all the beautiful creative performances and events that I’m missing out on when I stay in to finish a Computer Science test program (essentially a take-home midterm to program Space Invaders) and feebly attempt my final papers.
Meanwhile, Chirps and Facebook notifications are exploding with events – for which the only con is that I have even less time to devote to yet another worthwhile event. What to do, what to do?! Here are just a few of the events that I’m trying to choose from, along with a few lines from their event pages:
Pomona College Orchestra Concert — The Orchestra performed Fauré: Suite from Pelléas et Mélisande; Fauré: “Mélisande’s Song”; and Mahler: Symphony No. 4.
Dis/orient/ed Comedy: a night of laughs, diversity, and identity — “Join us for a free & live comedy showcase return of Jenny Yang and D’Lo, two amazing performers from LA. ‘Disoriented Comedy is the first-ever nationally-touring stand-up comedy showcase that features the fresh and diverse voices of Asian American female-identified comics and the diverse friends who love us.'”
Claremont 5C Splash Class Brainstorming Event — “Join us for inspiration and guidance on turning your interests, favorite classes, passions, and quirky hobbies into cool classes that high school students will be lining up to take!”
PEC + RHS: Bounce it All Out! — “Come join RHS [Residence Hall Staff] and PEC [Pomona Events Commimttee] for a wonderful saturday afternoon of jumping around in a bouncy house and eating tacos while dancing around.” [READ MORE]
Bryan Gee ’16 – Humans vs. Zombies, colloquially referred to as “HvZ,” is an intense, paranoia-filled, stress-inducing, community-building, five-day game that just concluded this past Saturday night. The premise is simple: zombies are trying to eat humans; humans are trying to survive. Of course, there are many more rules (the rulebook is several pages deep), but the basic framework is this: Everyone who volunteered to play wears bright yellow bandanas; if you’re a human, you wear it on your arm, and if you’re a zombie, you wear it on your head. Zombies tag humans to “eat” them, and to defend themselves, humans are allowed to use Nerf guns and socks (clean socks only!) to stun zombies. If you’re interested in the graphic details, the rulebook can be found online. [READ MORE]
Yttrium Sua ’15 – If you come from a culture or a country where the partying isn’t your definition of your social life, do not feel pressured to change just to fit in. In fact, there are many others like you on campus.
There are organizations on campus that provide substance-free events and activities. That Saturday Group is a wonderful gem that holds substance-free activities on Saturday night. The OEC organizes hiking and camping trips, while organizations like SOCA provide substance-free alternatives during events, like Halloween, that have become defined by drinking and partying. The gym is open on weekday nights for people to work out and play badminton, racquetball, squash and basketball. Pomona Vino promotes a healthy drinking culture through wine-tasting events, allowing students over age 21 to appreciate the finer points of alcohol. [READ MORE]
Sophia Sun ’18 – Have you ever wanted to sample cultural foods from around the world (fasnetsscherben, okonomiyaki salmorejo, bhajia za dengu, 烧卖(燒賣)… mmmm!), learn simple phrases in 10 different languages from native speakers, find out which German city suits you the best, receive a hand-written card in Spanish, and meet King Cyrus, all without worrying about travel expenses and taking too much away from other responsibilies?! If you find yourself at Pomona College next spring, these experiences can all be conveniently found at one of Pomona’s South Campus dorms, Oldenborg!
Every Oldenborg language lounge brought my friends and I delicious treats, festive activities, and more love for the wonderful Oldenborg Center. It was so delightful to listen to friends dazzle me with their fluent Japanese or explain how to brew the delicious Swahili coffee that I had too many cups of. Pomona genuinely strives to provide its students with an intellectually stimulating environment in any discipline, but its support for the study of and immersion in foreign languages is unsurpassable. [READ MORE]
Hong Gao ’15 – During this past spring break, my co-coordinator, Diana Ortiz ’14, and I led a group of 14 Pomona students on a seven-day community engagement trip to Los Angeles. We worked with organizations that addressed a variety of issues affecting the communities in Los Angeles:
- Student Run LA (SRLA)– LA Alternabreak volunteered at the LA Marathon, cheering for and assisting more than 3,500 at-risk secondary students and their adult mentors, who had guided them in the training process, getting back to the SRLA meeting location.
- Inner City Law Center –Adam Murray ’93 gave an introduction and tour of Skid Row, which provided a historical and legal context for the work LA Alternabreakers later did with the Midnight Mission and the homeless population in the area
- The Midnight Mission – received a tour of the Midnight Mission facility, which offers services such as safe sleeping spaces for any guests and drug and alcohol recovery counseling. Alternabreakers also helped to prepare and to serve meals for two shifts to more than 1,500 people [READ MORE]
Madeleine Colvin ’16 – I learned so much from my two weeks living and working at a farm in rural Thailand, where I spent a lot of time thinking about consumption as well. On the farm, we grew everything we ate, and ate everything we grew — an incredible (and delicious) experience. Luckily, there are a few farms/gardens around Claremont that try to do just this. There are great opportunities to volunteer at Pomona’s Organic Farm, as well as participate in cool cooking workshops, and these have been great ways for me to reconnect with farm life and use what I learned abroad.
In addition, I plan to get involved helping with a friend’s after-school gardening and cooking program at Vista del Valle Elementary’s organic garden…While on the farm I learned how to bake bread from an Italian friend, and I plan to continue baking bread with friends and with Challah for Hunger…
Being abroad wasn’t perfect. The academics were hard and Chinese college campuses are not the bustling hubs of student life that we’re spoiled by here at Pomona. I cared about my classes, for sure, but beyond that, there were not nearly as many extracurricular activities or cool lectures or community engagement opportunities or social activities as exist at the Claremont Colleges. I realized that I really care about the engaging in student life at Pomona College. I work with the local community by leading a Weekly Writing Workshop for elementary and middle school students. I lead tours for the Admissions Office to introduce people to the Pomona community…. [READ MORE]
Ashley Land ’16 – Last week I got the chance to participate in the 3rd annual Black Hair Conference here at Pomona College. The event, sponsored by the Pan African Student Association (PASA), started as a space to start dialogue about the politics of Black hair amongst the Black community from the Claremont Colleges and beyond. This year, the dinner/conference was at full capacity as hosts Chinasa Okolo ’18 and OBSA Staff member Jamaal Tolbert (CGU ’14) guided several discussions about the natural hair movement, the conclusions drawn by society about black people who have natural vs. relaxed hair or weaves, and the overall importance of black hair to the black identity. [READ MORE]
Bryan Gee ’16 – Despite being an ED (early decision) admit, I admit I knew very little about the sponsor group program, and unlike some of my good friends, it wasn’t a tipping factor in my decision to apply ED to Pomona. Even in the days leading up to move-in day, I was more anxious to figure out the chemistry with my roommate than that of the people in my immediate vicinity; after all, how compatible could a group of 10 first-years and two sophomores be just based on a bunch of electronic housing forms?
Very compatible as it so turned out. My sponsor group was arguably one of the tightest-knit in our class (agreed upon by both us and first-years outside of our sponsor group). We frequently ate together, partied together, griped about having to declare majors together, and when the time came for the sponsor selection process, seven of the 10 of us applied. All seven became sponsors this year, a solid 10% of the entire sponsor team…
Everyone comes into Pomona with a different idea of the sponsor group. Some have immensely high expectations for it and have wanted to be sponsors from the day they stepped onto campus. For others, it is simply part of the package that they signed up for in coming to Pomona that they must bear with. For some, the people they meet in their sponsor group will be lifelong friends. For others, those people are just passing acquaintances. “Better” and “worse” are simply terms that change depending on each person’s own perception of what they want in and from a sponsor group. [READ MORE]
Feather Flores ’17 – Part of what made Pomona so alluring to me was the idea of having a sponsor group. Your sponsor group is what you make it: a core group of friends; a surrogate family; a loose collection of peers with whom you make small talk and share bathrooms; possibly nothing more than a band of strangers who live in close proximity to you. As with most things, everyone’s expectations and experiences are guaranteed to be slightly different. For me, my sponsor group both is and isn’t my “sponsor group.”
I live in Harwood 1 West, which is exactly what it sounds like it is: the hall on the first floor on the West side of the Harwood residence hall. Besides me, inhabitants include 10 other first-years (my “spiblings”), three sophomore sponsors each occupying a single in our hall (the exception being four of my spiblings who live paired in two doubles). This, technically speaking, is my sponsor group. But it also isn’t. [READ MORE]
William Schumacher ’18 – When I first came to Pomona, I was very concerned with how much I would have to learn. I imagined that I would have to cram in order to be academically prepared for my first semester, because I hadn’t learned enough in high school…However, how much I had to learn paled in comparison to how much I had to unlearn…
My classes here have made feel more stupid than I have felt in years, in the best way possible. In just the first semester, I’ve stared at a physics or math problem set feeling completely lost more times than I can count. For the first time in my academic career, my teachers can tell the difference between a paper I’ve written on no sleep the night before it was due and a paper that received my full attention and effort…
90% of the work in high school was showing up. Doing quality, interesting work was extra credit – people mainly wanted to see that you were putting in effort, not that you were getting anything out of that effort…Showing up is not the bare minimum at Pomona. Having done a ton of work and thought beforehand, then showing up awake enough to be able to build off of that work and thought in class is the bare minimum – doing well means having good thoughts and doing good work. The standards here are just higher. You can get by without doing the reading here in the same way that you can get by in a marathon by walking at a leisurely pace – it’s possible, but it’s also defeating the purpose. [READ MORE]
April Xu ’18 – For your convenience, here is a list of resources (which surely is not comprehensive) of which I have personally taken much advantage, as well as links to a few of my previous blog entries on Voices:
- CSA (Chinese Student Association): Studying abroad in the USA may mean that you can’t get easy access to your home food or celebrate your home festivities the way you have always celebrated them. No worries! Organizations like CSA consistently organize events where you can participate in various cultural events. Like other mentor groups on campus, CSA is also very inclusive. It provides opportunities for non-Chinese students to learn about Chinese culture through organizing events like Chinese New Year celebrations, Chinese theatre productions, etc.
- QSC (Quantitative Skills Center), Writing Center, FLRC (Foreign Language Reosources Center), mentor sessions, study groups, office hours: We attend a small liberal arts college that spends a lot of money to help us learn. Academically, there are many resources in different disciplines that Pomona offers. Plus, you can always organize your own study sessions with peers. A lot of the times, those discussions spark moments of epiphany that you will truly appreciate.
- The main library + smaller department libraries + the lovely Denison Library at Scripps College nearby: Whether you are looking for a quiet study space, a cozy environment surrounded by books, or a space where you can get some coffee while studying, you can easily get access to all of them. [READ MORE]