Pomona College


Walking onto Pomona’s campus, it is easy to see the similarities between Pomona and the New England liberal arts colleges that inspired it. Los Angeles filmmakers have often used the college as a “stand in” for the campuses of East Coast colleges, featuring Pomona’s architecture in Pearl Harbor and episodes of The Gilmore Girls. Of course, the students sunbathing, studying, and throwing Frisbees on Pomona’s main quad in January illustrate one key difference between this college and its peers. Moreover, the Doric columns of the Carnegie Building are not far from the solar panels and rooftop greenhouses of the Seaver biology building, a testament to the meeting of old and new taking place at Pomona. In 1887 a group of New England Congregationalists founded Pomona College. Their hope was to bring the intellectual rigor of the finest colleges of the East and Midwest to California. The unfinished hotel that housed some of Pomona’s first students still stands today, serving as Pomona’s admissions building. Like a traditional liberal arts college, Pomona prides itself on small classes, discussion-based education, and the relationships between students and faculty. Walking through Pomona’s tree-lined walkways, it becomes clear that Pomona is a small school with big resources. The college builds or renovates at least one academic building and one dorm every year, and the administration has committed itself to building only LEED standard green buildings since 2003. Pomona College is a coed, residential, nonsectarian liberal arts college located thirty-five miles east of Los Angeles. At Pomona, talented students enter a dynamic community with first-class faculty, melding some of the best qualities of small schools and research universities. The college brings together world-class teachers, a diverse student body, and an administration committed to its students, and places all of this in the sunshine of Southern California.

The Consortium

One of the keys to Pomona’s ability to combine big school resources with small school feel is the consortium of colleges to which it belongs. The college grew significantly in the early twentieth century, and administrators faced the challenge of expanding Pomona to serve a larger and more diverse group of students while maintaining the character of a small school. While the liberal arts schools of the East gave the first model for Pomona, the college used Cambridge and Oxford as models to found a consortium of colleges that was new in the United States. Today, Pomona is the largest and most academically diverse of the Claremont Colleges, which include four other liberal arts colleges and two graduate schools. Not only can Pomona students walk to the adjacent schools, but they can also enroll in classes at the other colleges and take advantage of consortium resources such as a 2.5 million-volume library. The consortium also allows Pomona to feel more like a large or small school, depending on the student. Some people spend four years focusing on getting to know 1,520 at Pomona, while others branch out to the more than 5,500 across the consortium.

One of the things that most people applying to Pomona have to overcome is the “what’s Pomona” experience. When you’re having the recurring “so, where are you applying to college?” conversation and you list the schools you’re applying to, your Great Aunt Harriet is going to tell you she’s never heard of Pomona. Considering that it often competes for students with the big-name colleges, it is a surprise that more people haven’t heard of Pomona. Still, let’s remember that this isn’t a popularity contest: you’re choosing a place to spend four years of your life and finding the right place is going to determine what those four years are like. Clearly the college guides know about Pomona. Clearly graduate schools know about Pomona. The fact that Pomona’s retention rate is often the highest in the country means that students know that Pomona is something special.

Information Summary

Ranks 2nd in California and 12th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 99.0
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $71,996
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 34 / 1540
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 7 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 97% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 1,573


Probably the most significant thing that separates Pomona from some of the other schools in this book is the size of the college. With only 1,500 students total, Pomona is a small college. At Pomona, the average class size is fourteen students and there is one faculty member for every eight students. Even introductory science classes, which are “large” by Pomona standards, break out into small lab sections. The classroom dynamic can vary quite a bit, depending on the professor and the students in a given class, but the vast majority of classes place a premium on student participation. If you learn best by being involved in the process, you want to be at a school like Pomona.

One slogan that speaks to the Pomona College education is ‘size matters!’ In my second semester at Pomona I took an English class with twelve students and a computer science class with five people. Beware, though: with only four other people in the class, there is no ‘back of the classroom’ to hide in!” What it really takes to be successful at Pomona is the willingness to take advantage of the relationships and opportunities that the college offers. Walking into a professor’s office to discuss a paper assignment can be the beginning of a relationship that leads to a summer research opportunity, and it is the student who is willing to take advantage who takes the most out of Pomona. You see, there aren’t any graduate students at Pomona, which means two things: One, every single class at Pomona is taught by a professor, not a grad student; two, Pomona undergrads end up working as research assistants for their professors, which becomes a huge advantage when they apply to graduate school. In fact, Pomona further encourages student research by funding summer research performed by students and Pomona professors. Students spend their summers at Pomona doing everything from synthesizing experimental pharmaceuticals to translating Frenchwomen’s Civil War diaries.

One of the things that I didn’t appreciate about Pomona until I got there was the influence that small, discussion-oriented classes had on my education. When I compared notes with friends at other prestigious schools, I found out that they expected to spend their first year or two in lecture halls where professors spoke through a microphone to a crowd of note-takers. To most university students, a discussion session means a break-out session led by a graduate student. At Pomona, academic dialogue is the norm. My college education took place around a small table with faculty and students who were interested in hearing my voice, and it made all the difference.

For a school that prides itself on its small size, Pomona offers its students a surprisingly wide array of academic options. The college boasts forty-five academic majors in the natural sciences, huamanities, social sciences, and arts. Of course, Pomona students can also design their own major with the help of an advisor and the approval of the college, which has led to the creation of such innovative programs as Peace Studies and Social Justice through dance. Even the “standard” majors at Pomona benefit from the college’s broad strength. Majors such as cognitive science, environmental analysis, and politics, philosophy, and economics take advantage of Pomona’s versatility and ask students to think beyond the conventional boundaries of academic disciplines.

The academic breadth available to Pomona students is increased by Pomona’s membership in the Claremont University Consortium. This partnership of five colleges and two graduate schools opens up the possibilities to Pomona students. Students at Pomona register for classes at the same time as students across the consortium and have access to most of the classes being offered at all seven schools. Students use cross-registration in a variety of ways, from looking for a specialized computer science class at Harvey Mudd to shopping for a statistics class at Pitzer that doesn’t meet as early as its Pomona counterpart. Pomona students can take up to half of their classes off Pomona’s campus, though the average student takes only a few beyond Pomona’s gates.

Given the broad strength of Pomona’s programs and the diverse interests of the student body, it shouldn’t be surprising that Pomona’s most popular major changes virtually every year. Pomona students tend to move around as well: it takes only a one-page form to change a major, so the average Sagehen changes major 2.5 times! When they enter Pomona, first-year students are paired with an academic advisor based on his or her academic interests as well as personality. While many students go on to change their major and their advisor several times (it’s the same one-page form to do both), the relationship between student and advisor is usually a special one. It is not at all unusual to see academic advising taking place over a milkshake at the Coop Fountain, where faculty are given coupons to take students out to eat.

After dropping into my psychology professor’s office hours a few times, I found myself with an offer to join her research lab as a second-semester freshman. The ability to get involved with research as an undergrad is one of the best parts of being at a school with no graduate students.

General Education

Pomona recently revised its general education requirements with the goals of providing the most possible openness to its students while maintaining the breadth of a liberal arts education. As a result, Pomona enforces a Breadth of Study requirement for its graduates.

While at Pomona, students must take one course in the arts, one in the natural sciences, one in the social sciences, one in mathematics or formal reasoning, and one in history, culture, or ethics. Pomona’s academic departments are grouped into these five areas, and students can take any class within the area to satisfy their breadth requirement. For example, one could satisfy the science area requirement by taking “Biology, Gender, and Society,” “Topics in Neuroscience,” or “The Physics of Music.” Likewise, Pomona students can fulfill their math requirement with a course in calculus, statistics, or formal logic. There is no such thing as a GE course at Pomona, so students have a choice in every course that they take. The result of the broad-based general education system is a lot of freedom for Pomona students. Pomona requires thirty-two course credits for graduation, and thirty of those courses have to be taken at the Claremont Colleges. It is often possible for students to fulfill several general education units within their major, freeing up time to minor, double major, study abroad, or take classes for interest. Beyond five general education classes, Pomona students must show proficiency in a foreign language, which can be demonstrated by passing an upper-division course or with an AP, IB, or SAT exam score. Students must also take a semester of physical education, which can be fulfilled by taking anything from ballroom dance to Pilates to archery.

One of the best teachers I experienced at Pomona was Zayn Kassam. Zayn’s religious studies classes were exactly what I wanted from my education: her challenging discourses that regularly spilled out into lunch tables, or the discussion board on the class Web site. Of course, Zayn openly refused to lead class discussion, asking every student to take a turn moderating a class. Though she is a nationally awarded teacher, Zayn understands that her strength is not organizing others, but pushing the interpretations and biases that students bring into the discussion. Zayn became the most spirited participant in her own classes, making each person consider their role in the communal meaningmaking that we participated in.

The most unique, and well-loved, of Pomona’s academic requirements is the Critical Inquiry Seminar. During their first semester at Pomona, students must take one of thirty or so seminars offered exclusively to first-year students. The topics for Critical Inquiry Seminars are chosen by the professors who teach them. Often these professors will choose to teach something that they are passionate about, so topics for seminars include “Baseball in America,” “Music and the Order of the Universe,” “The Graphic Novel,” and “Light, Perception, and Art.” Though the topics can be lighthearted, first-year seminars are designed to be an introduction to academics at Pomona. Critical Inquiry seminars have low enrollments, usually fewer than fifteen students, and ask students to engage with each other in discussion.

Study Abroad

One of the particularly strong opportunities that Pomona offers its students is its study abroad program. Every year, about half of Pomona’s juniors spend a semester abroad in one of fifty programs in thirty-one countries. Pomona also allows students to petition to study in non-Pomona programs, opening the doors for Pomona students to go virtually anywhere on Earth. Pomona’s study abroad office keeps a library of books about the countries that it serves, as well as an extensive list of program reviews from past students that include course evaluations, budgets, and recommendations for travel.

During my junior year, I spent a semester at Cambridge University in England. The program was a great combination of an academic challenge, a cultural experience, and an opportunity to travel through Europe during the five-week intersession.

For students studying abroad, Pomona tries to make the program as simple and seamless as possible. There is no added cost for studying abroad: just pay Pomona tuition as usual and the study abroad office will take care of tuition, housing, and fees, and they will write you a check for your plane tickets. Unlike some other study abroad programs, Pomona also makes sure that your courses from study abroad translate into Pomona credits when you return.

For a number of students, the journey to studying abroad begins in Oldenborg. Oldenborg, or “the borg,” as it is more commonly known, is a combination of a dorm and an international studies hub. Oldenborg houses mostly sophomore students, who live in “halls” grouped by language. Russian hall, for instance, houses students interested in Russian language and culture. These students meet regularly for conversation classes with a foreign language resident who is a native speaker. The hall might also meet to watch a soap opera in Russian or to cook some perogies. Pomona offers language halls for Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and German, and there are two “theme halls” that students propose each year (past themes include “Middle Eastern Language and Culture” as well as “Dead Languages”).

Even for those who don’t want to spend a year living in the “borg,” Oldenborg offers an international relations speaker series, an international movie theater, summer travel grants, and a dining hall where the only language that is not allowed is English. And yes, “the borg” is said to be the inspiration for the twisting halls of the Borg Cube in Star Trek.

Most Popular Fields of Study


College Building :: Pomona College
College Building :: Pomona College


One question that comes up often on Pomona tours is “How competitive is Pomona?” The answer depends on what you are asking. As an elite liberal arts school, it is no secret that admission to Pomona is competitive. However, the competitive side of Pomona’s applicants seems to be left in the admissions office, as Pomona students are often found studying in groups or serving as subjects for each other’s psychology studies. It is challenging to get into Pomona, but the campus atmosphere is laid-back once you get here. Starting with the basics, Pomona requires the Common Application, official transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and two teacher recommendations. Pomona has its own supplements to the Common Application for both the applicant and the applicant’s high school. The individual supplement asks for a little more personal data as well as one more writing sample that the college strongly encourages students to submit. Pomona also provides the opportunity for applicants to complete special supplements for the arts, sciences, or athletics. Videos of theater performances, slides of paintings, and athlete profiles are assessed by Pomona faculty, who then submit their evaluations to the admissions committee.


As a small college, Pomona prides itself on treating students as more than the weighted sum of their GPAs and test scores. Students are encouraged to submit a photograph with their application to remind admissions officers of the person who is applying to Pomona. Perhaps the best chance to come off the page is by interviewing at Pomona. Applicants can interview when they visit Pomona, though the most relevant conversations usually occur after a student has completed junior year. Students interviewing on-campus meet with an admissions officer or with a Pomona senior to talk about their high school experiences, their passions, and what they hope to do in college. Those who cannot come to campus can interview with an alum in their area. If you plan to interview off-campus, be sure to make that appointment early in your senior year.


Just as there is no ideal Pomona student, there is no formula for getting into Pomona. Pomona expects applicants to have taken four years of English, three years of math and foreign language, and two years of lab science and social science. There is no magic number of AP or honors courses, but most students who are admitted to Pomona have taken full advantage of the academic challenges that their high school has to offer. Talking with Pomona students, one is as likely to meet a semiprofessional cyclist as a state Scrabble champion, so it’s not surprising that no particular combination of cocurricular activities are the “right ones” for Pomona. Many of Pomona’s applicants have been involved with high school sports, publications, arts, or clubs. More than a laundry list of activities, though, Pomona looks for those students who have demonstrated a commitment to their interests by creating something new or taking on leadership. Last, know that you have some options when applying to Pomona. Pomona offers three application deadlines: two Early Decision options and one date for regular decision. Early Decision applicants get a decision within seven weeks of the application deadline, while regular decision applicants find out in the spring. While Early Decision has a slightly higher admit rate, the pool is also more competitive. The main benefit of applying early is finding out where you’re going to college before everyone else does.

Financial Aid

Pomona’s financial aid policy is very simple and it’s one of the best things about the college. Even with the declining economy, Pomona has increased its commitment to student aid, replacing the loans in their financial aid packages with grant aid. Graduating from college loan-free means that Pomona graduates are able to immediately begin careers and adventures rather than worrying about how to pay off their debts. Pomona admits its students need-blind, meaning that financial need has no bearing on a student’s chance of being admitted to Pomona. By putting its endowment to work, Pomona allows its admissions office to choose the best students it is able to, then offers admitted students one hundred percent of their demonstrated financial need.

Talking with Pomona students, many were attracted by Pomona’s reputation, but it was often the financial aid package that sealed the deal. By the numbers, Pomona’s tuition is over $46,000, but the average student pays under $17,000 after need-based aid. Pomona offers a few merit-based scholarships through the National Merit program, but most of the aid at Pomona is directed toward making Pomona’s education affordable to the greatest number of students possible.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 4514th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in California.


Campus Life

The thing that eventually sealed my decision to come to Pomona was the feeling that the college was not just a school, but a community. It’s hard to quantify, but when you take 1,500 smart, talented people and steep them in Southern California sunshine, something special happens: for instance, no one really talks about grades at Pomona. Sure, there are always a few whispered conversations when papers are handed back, but most of the time Pomona students assume that everyone is working, that everyone is going to struggle with something, and that everyone gets the grades that they get. Stress happens at Pomona too, but Pomona students seem to have a sense of perspective that keeps things in balance. When speaking about campus life at Pomona, it bears reminding that Pomona is a residential college. That means that most students at Pomona live on campus all four years. As a result, most of what happens at Pomona, well, happens at Pomona. The town of Claremont isn’t a college town by any stretch of the imagination, though a new development at the west edge of town has brought movie theaters and more nightlife to the sleepy community. Still, the Claremont Colleges provide most of their own entertainment, which isn’t a bad thing. The five colleges host a substantial number of lectures, guest speakers, and musical events during the week, and the consortium opens up to feel more like one big college on the weekends.

Residential Life

The beginning of Pomona’s residential college environment is the sponsor group program. The Pomona College housing form, in sharp contrast to other schools, is a full three pages and includes multiple choice, ranking, and essay questions. No, this isn’t the last test from the admissions department, but rather the information that a group of juniors and seniors will use to put together the housing for Pomona’s first-year students. Most firstyear students get roommates, though about twenty percent of first years end up with single rooms. Pomona takes things a few steps farther than “smoking or nonsmoking,” asking its incoming students about their sleep schedules, study habits, and taste in music. Because of the extensive housing form, Pomona has an extremely low rate of roommate “breakups,” and most people get along well with their first roommate.

Sponsor Groups

After the roommates are in place, Pomona places its first year’s “sponsor groups,” which are groups of twelve to twenty students whose interests and personalities are similar. The sponsor group is a sort of instant social group when you arrive on campus. Every sponsor group is different, but often, sponsor groups will eat meals together and organize activities throughout the first year. Some sponsor groups hang together through all four years at Pomona. Also living in the sponsor groups are two sophomore “sponsors” who serve as informal mentors through the first year.

Though sponsor groups are only set up for first-year students, Pomona students are guaranteed housing on campus for all four years. Most students choose to take advantage of this because housing in Claremont is not appreciably more affordable and the majority of campus life takes place on campus. For dorms, the housing at Pomona is pretty good, particularly because Pomona renovates at least one dorm every year. About sixty percent of Pomona’s rooms are singles; there are no triples on campus.


Another reason why Pomona students tend to stay on campus is the food. No, seriously. Obviously, eating in a cafeteria for four years is going to wear on everyone at some point, but the overall quality of Pomona’s food is excellent. Every meal features a made-toorder grill, salad bar, pizza, and soup, and some kind of exhibition like custom pizza or custom stir-fry. Make-your-own sandwich day is a big favorite, featuring freshly baked bread, deli meats, and flavored mayonnaises.

The best part of Pomona’s meal plan is that meals can be taken at any of the dining halls in the five colleges. Many students are willing to walk a couple of blocks to get a change from the regular fare, and favorite dining halls is a common subject of debate on campus. Many students try to hit the best of each campus, hitting Harvey Mudd for steak night, Scripps for sushi, and Pomona for Sunday brunch. If that weren’t enough, the dining hall menus for the consortium are posted online.

By far and away, though, the most important meal of the day at Pomona is snack. Every weeknight, Frary dining hall opens its doors to give studying students a bowl of Cheerios, some nachos, or a cup of coffee. For some, snack is a chance to grab free calories and a break from the books, and for some it is the social event of the day. The seven a cappella groups on campus take advantage of hungry students and the acoustics on the steps outside Frary to give evening concerts. Picture yourself at Pomona, bagel in one hand, watching Men’s Blue and White, the oldest all-male a cappella group west of the Mississippi, performing Justin Timberlake. This is Pomona.

Cocurricular Activities

Honestly, I’m not even going to try to list the number of clubs and activities at Pomona. There is a conscientious eating club and a meat club. There are numerous campus publications, from poetry journals to newspapers. Pomona’s musical ensembles are a great place to start understanding how campus activities work at Pomona. Like most small colleges, Pomona graduates only five or so music majors each year. However, Pomona’s music department produces a concert choir, chamber choir, orchestra, concert band, jazz band, and Balinese Gamelan, as well as numerous student ensembles. At Pomona, most of the students who play in the orchestra aren’t music majors, but just students who love music. The same goes for programs such as theater, dance, and athletics. The Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company has won six national championships, but the only dance major at the Claremont Colleges is at Scripps. Pomona is a place where you expect to see biology majors writing entertainment columns and anthropology majors singing in a musical.

Off-Campus Activities

With Pomona’s proximity to Los Angeles, a lot of people want to know how often the average Pomona student gets off campus. The answer depends on the student. Some students take advantage of internships in the Los Angeles area, go to art openings downtown, and regularly venture out to see concerts at the Hollywood Bowl or House of Blues. Other students content themselves with working in a professor’s research group, going to the Pomona College Museum of Art, and seeing Lewis Black, Gavin DeGraw, or Bill Clinton when they come to campus.

For the student who wants to get out, Pomona is a great jumping-off point for adventures in the Los Angeles area. Students can drive or take light rail into Los Angeles, and Pomona offers a shuttle that takes students to sporting events, shows, and other events, often with discounted tickets. Pomona’s biggest off-campus group is called On the Loose. OTL, as the club is commonly known, is an outdoors club that organizes and outfits student adventures to go hiking, biking, climbing, camping, or even orienteering. The club trains leaders for trips, provides gear rentals, and even has access to vehicles so that students can enjoy the outdoor activities that Southern California has to offer.

Even for those who prefer not to sleep in tents, the outdoors has something to offer every Pomona student. Many take advantage of the sunny weather to do homework outside or to exercise regularly. The real proof of Pomona’s fantastic geography is a tradition called Ski-Beach Day. Once a year, a busload of Pomona students take advantage of Pomona’s central geography by driving up to the mountains to ski in the morning, then down to the beach for sun and a bonfire at night.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


Like other activities at Pomona, sports are a place where Pomona students excel, but not the only focus on campus. Pomona teams up with Pitzer College to compete as a Division III varsity program, and Pomona’s teams regularly play for national championships— though you probably haven’t seen them on ESPN. Most of the people who fill the stands at Pomona-Pitzer games are there to cheer on their friends rather than to take part in a collegiate rite of passage.

The games that tend to involve the whole campus are games with consortium rival CMS. Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Scripps field varsity sports, and the games between Pomona-Pitzer and CMS are hotly contested and well attended. Outside the varsity sports scene, Pomona also fields a full complement of club and intramural sports. A number of club sports draw from all five colleges, offering students everything from men’s Ultimate Frisbee to women’s rugby. Finally, Pomona puts on several intramural sports each semester. In these informal contests, friends, sponsor groups, academic departments, and even a cappella groups face off in spirited competition. While dodge ball and home run derby are enjoying upstart popularity, Pomona’s favorite intramural activity is inner tube water polo. For those not familiar with the game, imagine two teams rowing inner tubes across a pool while trying to throw a ball into a goal. You have to see it to believe it.


For those who are interested in getting out into the world, the CDO also offers comprehensive career counseling to Pomona students and graduates. By taking advantage of a network of alums, Pomona is able to offer its students advising, internships, and a lot of information about the world beyond Ponoma. This office also brings graduate school admissions officers, corporate recruiters, and informational panels about fields such as educaiton, journalism, and finance to campus. The CDO offers mock interviews, career inventories, and even etiquette courses to help students put their best foot forward as they leave Pomona’s gates.

It is hard to generalize about what one does with a Pomona College education. During the first year out of Pomona, I can remember checking in with one friend who was teaching English in Korea on a Fulbright grant, one who was doing research for National Science Association, one attending UChicago Med School, one doing strategy for the presidential campaigns, one designing educational computer games, and one backpacking through South America. In recent years, the college has seen record numbers of students winning prestigious Fulbright Fellowships. The Career Development Office (CDO) counsels and prepares students to compete for this kind of post-baccalaureate fellowship, and a surprising number of Pomona’s students spend a year doing research abroad after they leave Pomona.

While students go on to do many different things, often a Pomona College degree isn’t the last one. Many Pomona students find their way to graduate school within two years after graduating, taking advantage of Pomona’s unusually strong reputation with graduate programs and their hands-on experiences as undergrads. Programs such as Pomona’s premed group start meeting with students as freshmen to talk about course requirements and test preparation.

Famous Grads

The relationships that one forms with faculty at Pomona also prove helpful when applying to graduate school as Pomona professors give great advice and can write personal recommendation letters. Particularly as they are graduating without student loans, Pomona students now have even more freedom to take interships or go on adventures in the wider world.

  • Scott Olivet ’84—CEO of Oakley Sunglasses and Fashion
  • Bill Keller ’70—The New York Times Columnist and Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Catherine Porter ’62—President of the Modern Language Association
  • Jim Taylor ’84—Co-Writer of the movie Sideways
  • Roy Disney ’51—Former Vice Chairman of Disney
  • Kimberley Dodgson Labinger ’80— California Teacher of the Year
  • Kris Kristofferson ’58—Songwriter, Singer, Country Music Hall of Fame

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