If you’re a high school student making your college list, you’re probably juggling all sorts of priorities. Maybe you know you want a liberal arts school on the smaller side. Perhaps you want someplace with strong academics, and you know you can compete in a fairly selective admissions process. If this is the case, there are many small schools in the Northeastern United States that might be on your list. But what if you prefer a warmer climate or a West Coast vibe? Would Southern California fit the bill?

 

Pomona College, tucked into the surprisingly New England-esque college town of Claremont, California, is a selective liberal arts school that is part of the larger Claremont Consortium. Through its unique partnership with four undergraduate institutions and two graduate institutes, it offers students the small college experience in the context of large university resources and opportunities.   

 

Pomona is located about 35 miles west of Los Angeles and is routinely ranked in the top ten National Liberal Arts Schools by U.S. News and World Reports. It offers 45 majors to choose from, and with an enrollment of just around 1,700, it boasts a student-faculty ratio of 8:1.

 

Are you considering Pomona College, where the breeze is warm, the days are bright, and the school somehow manages to feel like a New England liberal arts institution nestled into a small town in southern California? If you’re planning a visit, you can expect to meet an engaged and intellectual community of learners, scope out the broad variety of on-campus housing, and see both classic and modern teaching facilities. But there’s much more that you should plan to see as well. If you’re considering a visit to Pomona College, be sure to check out these top eight Claremont sites.

 

1. José Clemente Orozco’s Prometheus mural in Frary Dining Hall

Orozco was one of the three great Mexican muralists, along with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Pomona College is home to Orozco’s Prometheus mural created in 1930 on a wall inside Frary hall, which is now one of two primary dining halls on campus. The work is widely recognized as one of the artist’s masterpieces, though it sometimes goes unnoticed as students dine beneath it three times a day.

 

Whether you’re an art history aficionado or not, you’ll appreciate this bold artwork for its sheer size and powerful stance, towering over the formal dining hall. It becomes even more powerful when you learn that this is the first modern fresco mural to be painted in the U.S. by a Mexican artist, and it exists at Pomona thanks to the fundraising efforts of students in the 1920s. Be sure to check it out on your campus tour. While it is of course hard to miss, it’s also easy to pass beneath it without a full understanding of its significance.

 

2. Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations

The Oldenborg Center serves as both a residence hall and the foreign language hub at Pomona. It offers a unique living and academic experience to its 140 residents, who live in foreign language sections where they speak the language amongst themselves. The Center provides language sections in Spanish, French, German, Russian, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese, with each directed by graduate student language residents who are native speakers of their languages. The formal requirements for living in Oldenborg include a year’s study of a foreign language on the college level (or the equivalent) and a willingness to join in on the Center’s extracurricular activities, including meals served at foreign language tables.

 

Oldenborg is also known on campus as a bit of a maze. Its unique appearance and labyrinth-like hallways were the former home of Joe Menosky, class of 1979, who went on to become the writer and co-producer of three series of Star Trek sequels (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager). It is rumored that he named The Next Generation’s Borg after his old Pomona residence hall, which does have an undeniable starship-like exterior. He has never confirmed nor denied these rumors, but the parallels between the two Borgs are definitely convincing. 

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3. Dialynas and Sontag Halls

Pomona’s newest residence halls, the Dialynas and Sontag Halls, were completed in spring of 2011 and are home to more than 30 suites, comprised of about 150 single bedrooms. Suites range in size from 3 bedrooms to 6 bedrooms, and each suite has a common living room. But what makes these residence halls remarkable is not their room configuration.

 

These dorms truly unique in their construction, having been built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum standards, the highest level of sustainable building. As such, these new residence halls are among the greenest in the country. They boast solar hot water heating, solar voltaic panels, an electricity cutoff switch for each suite, daylight sensors, and low water use fixtures. Sontag Hall also has a full kitchen on each of its three floors, equipped with Energy Star appliances, and a rooftop garden and patio area.

 

Although these impressive new structures are home to only upperclassmen, they could well be your future home if you end up attending Pomona College. 

 

4. Smith Campus Center

The Smith Campus Center is the hub of student life on campus. It houses several dining options, including the COOP fountain where you can purchase snacks and casual meals like burgers or chicken fingers, along with the Sagehen Cafe, a student-run restaurant where you can expect a slightly more refined dining experience including waited tables and meals like french onion soup or grilled chicken salad.

 

In addition to its restaurants, the Smith Campus Center also offers comfortable study spaces featuring couches, arm chairs, and even working fireplaces. Here you will also find the Smith Campus Center Student Programs Office where you can pick up discount tickets to local attractions (think Disneyland, Six Flags, and the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art!) and find student clubs. It is also home to  the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) Office & Senate operations, the Student Mail Center, email & printer stations, The Writing Center, and the Asian American Resource Center.

 

It’s easy to see why the Smith Campus Center is always booming. You’ll be hard pressed to find any Pomona College student who doesn’t pass through it on a daily basis, and many students find themselves here for various reasons several times a day.

 

5. Studio Art Hall

Pomona’s impressive Studio Art Hall was completed in 2014. At over 35,000 square feet with more than half the building’s exterior made of glass, this building is definitely hard to miss.

 

The Studio Art Hall is described as “a village of interconnected studios to bring together disciplines” ranging from sculpture and painting to digital arts and multimedia. Its open, free-flowing interior lends itself well to interaction and collaboration between both artists and mediums. Its prominence on campus is intended to make the arts—music, theatre, dance and the visual arts—more visible for the entire college community, and it’s an impressive spot to visit regardless of your experience as an artist. You never know, you just might get inspired! 

 

6. Pendleton Pool

It’s not every college that is located in a climate where pool days can occur year round, but Pomona is one of the lucky few. Though the average temperatures in January drop to the 50s, these are still offset by random spikes to the 70s and even 80s. Many students take advantage of this mild climate by visiting the pool.

 

Pendleton Pool is Pomona’s secondary pool, not to be confused with the Haldeman Aquatic Center where the swim teams and water polo teams practice. Tucked away behind the freshman dorms, Pendleton has a much different vibe, and if it feels more like a community pool, that’s because it is—this is where many local children grew up learning to swim! Now, you can visit on the weekends, lay out your towel, and show off some stunts from the diving board, if you aren’t too busy working on your tan.

 

7. Some Crust Bakery

A five minute walk down Bonita Avenue and you’ll find yourself off campus in what is commonly referred to as The Village. This is downtown Claremont, and it’s just about as quaint and picture-perfect as any college town you can imagine. With shady tree-lined shops and more local storefronts than chains, you might feel like you’re in upstate Vermont instead of southern California.

 

One of The Villages’ true treasures and a real institution among locals is the Some Crust Bakery. Located at 119 Yale Ave, this building has been home to a bakery for over 100 years and home to Some Crust for nearly 40.   

 

Open daily, the bakery serves up sandwiches, baked goods, tea and coffee to a discerning crowd. Stop here for a quick lunch before you leave, and you won’t be disappointed. Just keep in mind that if you visit on the weekend, the line might weave its way out the door. Don’t worry, though. The wait will be worth it.

 

8. Folk Music Center Museum and Store

Another site not to be missed in The Village is the Folk Music Center. Part museum, part store, part home to the local music community, this place is also buzzing with activity and its collection of both traditional and rare instruments won’t disappoint even the most experienced musicians.

 

Speaking of experienced musicians, this store has raised at least one well-known Grammy winner. Opened in 1958 by Ben Harper’s maternal grandparents, Charles and Dorothy Chase, this store was where Ben Harper grew up learning to build, repair, and play musical instruments. The store is still in the family, now owned by his mother, and Harper still sometimes hangs out there, along with his brothers, Joel and Peter, both of whom are musicians themselves.

 

In a 2014 article in the LA Times, Harper referred to the Folk Music Center as “an oddity that has produced the last 20-some years of my adult life making music. Not only musically but the principles of this place — its music, its art, its poetry, its politics, its spirituality.” You can experience its spirituality yourself by stopping by its 220 Yale Ave storefront any afternoon Tuesday-Sunday. You’re sure to be greeted warmly as you browse its eclectic collection, and if you’re lucky, you just might catch an impromptu performance by a member of the Harper family.

 

If you’re interested in attending Pomona College, a campus visit is bound to lend some insight into the Pomona vibe and values. Both on and off campus you will likely find a diverse and engaged community. On campus you’ll find a mix of classic buildings dating back to the 1800s and modern architecture built to the highest levels of sustainability. There’s something to suit almost any interest from the arts to engineering to recreation. Off campus you’ll find a cozy downtown, easily accessible by foot and brimming with culture.

 

Thinking about applying to Pomona College? Not sure where to begin or how to ensure that you’re best set up for gaining admissions? If you’d like some more advice about the college application process, consider CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, you’ll be paired with a personal admissions specialist who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process, including how to best highlight your unique skills and activities.

 

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Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist