How to Write the Pomona College Essays 2018-2019
As one of the five colleges in the Claremont College system, Pomona is often considered as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. It boasts a tight-knit community of diverse students both in their background as well as academic interests.
Additionally, as a Claremont College, students at Pomona are able to access the resources of the other colleges in the system to expand their undergrad experience. Wherever your interests lie, you can be sure that you will be able to forge your own path at Pomona College.
For the class of 2022, only 6.9% of applicants were accepted, making it the most selective year of the school’s history. With so many applicants that apply, having a strong essay that really sets you apart from other students is vital to a successful application.
In our guide, we will walk you through all of the supplemental essays offered for this cycle and give you suggestions for how you can approach answering each one. Read on to learn more about how to write a great essay!
Prompt #1: If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below. (50 words)
Before you dive into answering this question, remember that you are only given a 50 word limit. As such, you are not being asked to write another deep piece about your childhood or an issue that matters to you—you should have already covered such topics in your Common Application.
Instead, use this space to be straightforward and direct. Perhaps you have a hobby that wasn’t really explored yet or a quirk that all your friends have come to identify you with. Whatever it is that makes you the person you are, this is the space to put it into the spotlight.
In terms of formatting, due to the limited space, you may not have enough time to really go into an explanation about what this topic is or give much background. As an alternative, you can answer the prompt in the form of a list or short action-packed sentences. For example, if you love to solve hands-on puzzles like the Rubik’s cube, then you may write something like:
It’s one in the morning. Under the luminescent glow of my lamp, my hands are moving furiously. Finally, I glance at the stopwatch and slam the object onto the table. Twenty-five seconds. My new record. The completed Rubik’s cube stares back at me, beckoning me to solve it once more.
The “essay” doesn’t necessarily need to have a resolution like your other essays might, but it allows you to give the reader a small glance into your world and to show them what is important to you simply because it just is.
Prompt #2: Most Pomona students enter the College undecided about a major, or they change their minds about their prospective major by the time they graduate. Certainly we aren’t going to hold you to any of the choices you’ve made above. But please tell us why you’ve chosen the academic programs (or Undecided!) that you have listed. (250 words)
This essay is the classic “Why Major” essay. If you already have an idea of what major you are interested in, then this is the space for you to explain all the reasons that this specific academic field excites you! That being said, it’s easy for people to fall into the trap where they then spend too much time explaining the nuances of the field and why it is cool in general instead of focusing on why they like it personally.
For example, you may be interested in chemistry because the labs are exciting and you like knowing the building blocks of life. While those may both be true, using this reason to justify your choice doesn’t give the admissions counsel any more insight as to why you would choose chemistry over biology. The point is, you need to show that you have actively engaged with the major you have selected, and understand enough of the nuances in the field to make your informed decision.
A better response to the chemistry example would be:
I am currently interested in learning more about the human body at the cellular level, but in order to gain a full appreciation of the cell, I will also need a good grasp of the physics at play. As the central science, chemistry will allow me to build those connections between the two science disciplines and as a result help me become a better versed researcher.
Remember that every essay you write should always circle back to you in some way, and “Why Major” essays are no different. Some questions to help get you thinking about your response are listed below.
1) What is your earliest memory of interacting with this subject?
2) When you are engrossed in this subject, what kind of feelings are evoked?
3) What have you already done up to this point to pursue your interest in this subject?
4) Where do you see this subject playing into your life after graduating college?
You may choose to answer one or all of the questions listed above, but take them more as prompting guidelines. You can definitely answer this question in a more straightforward manner, but you may also choose to convey your passion for a major in a more anecdotal manner.
For those of you who have no idea what to choose, no worries! Colleges are well aware that declaring a major is a huge decision, and it’s very common to see students switching majors even in their Junior year. What Pomona is really looking for in this essay is to see if you have an academic passion. After all, this is a school widely known for the rigor of their classes, so they want to fill up the classroom with students who are driven and curious about the world around them.
If you are undecided, you should still choose at least two or three subjects that you are vaguely interested in, and talk about why those fields have been of interest to you in the past. You may want to use these examples more as a way to show off your curious side, and talk about what kind of learner you are. Who knows, perhaps your reason for remaining undecided is simply because you have so many interests that you don’t want to confine yourself to one without getting a chance to explore what’s out there! That is a great sentiment which reveals both conviction in your decision as well as passion.
Prompt #3: “Please respond to one of the three following prompts. We’d recommend an essay between 400 and 600 words, but yours may be longer or shorter.
a) For Pomona students, the College’s location in Southern California is integral in shaping their experience. Tell us about a location, real or fictional, that has shaped you in a meaningful way.
b) “Let only the eager, thoughtful and reverent enter here,” is inscribed on one side of Pomona’s College Gates. Dating from 1914, the gates remain a potent symbol today as we welcome every new class of students to enter them together. If you were to inscribe a fourth quality into the gates to describe students who enter Pomona today, which adjective would you choose? What quality would you want your Pomona peers to share, and why?
c) Oscar Wilde said that there are two tragedies in life: not getting what one wants and getting it. Tell us about an experience of not getting what you wanted or getting it and why it was a tragedy.”
Prompt #3a: For Pomona students, the College’s location in Southern California is integral in shaping their experience. Tell us about a location, real or fictional, that has shaped you in a meaningful way.
Though this question asks about a location that is important to you, the trick is that you can actually make this essay about any topic that you want. As long as you can find a connection between the topic you want to write about and the location, you can use the latter as just a jumping off point.
To begin, you want to figure out what “meaningful” means to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the first place you think of, but it should be a place where some sort of transition happened. Perhaps you will talk about the trunk of your family’s pickup truck because that is where your mom showed you how to find constellations, thus sparking your continued interest in astronomy. Or maybe you will talk about the soup kitchen that you dedicated your weekends to because your acts of service have led you to become very passionate about social work and gain a deeper appreciation for the opportunities you have in your own life.
Whatever you choose, whether that location hold an academic connection or a more personal one, the important part is that you not only describe the place and why it is important initially, but also how you have changed as a result. Think of this essay as one that needs to answer three questions.
1) What were you like before you formed a connection with this location?
2) What happened with this location that makes it so special to you?
3) After your interactions with this location, what have you learned/taken away?
If you chose a fictional place, the same three questions apply. Just be careful that you aren’t using too much space providing background for the piece of literature your location comes from. For example, if you write about Hogwarts, the admissions committee don’t want to read a simplified history of Harry’s life. Instead, they want to see what your personal connections with this school of magic is. If you find yourself needing to provide a lot of supplementary information, then what you are actually writing about is a piece of fiction that has shaped you in a meaningful way.
Prompt #3b: “Let only the eager, thoughtful and reverent enter here,” is inscribed on one side of Pomona’s College Gates. Dating from 1914, the gates remain a potent symbol today as we welcome every new class of students to enter them together. If you were to inscribe a fourth quality into the gates to describe students who enter Pomona today, which adjective would you choose? What quality would you want your Pomona peers to share, and why?
First, let’s decode the first three adjectives. Eager in this context can be conflated with driven, thoughtful with aware, and reverent with respectful. While there may be other words that these three adjectives can be synonymous with, the basic idea is that you should avoid listing the qualities of “driven, aware, and respectful”—words that are often overused anyways.
Instead, forget about trying to find a quality that can encompass a whole campus of individuals and is very grandiose. Focus on yourself and the people that you look up to most in your life. What are the reasons that you surround yourself with their company? What is something about them that inspires you? The word that comes to mind may not always seem significant, but choosing the fourth adjective is only the first part of conquering this essay. The more important part is your explanation as to why you value this specific trait. When you explain your reasoning, any word that you choose will become important.
For example, maybe your fondest memories of your friend group are the weekly Wednesday night study sessions that always end up as a karaoke session. You love your friends because they know how to be goofy even during stressful times, and show you that there is more to life than studying for the next exam. You might also think of your grandfather’s stubbornness in always doing what feels right to him. Many people tend to shy away from the word “stubborn” like the plague, but the word does not always have to carry negative connotations. Stubbornness can mean believing in doing the right thing despite what the majority of others believe, or even a confidence in one’s own abilities.
As mentioned before, any adjective you choose can be used to make a statement about who you are and what you believe in, but with this essay it is so important to be genuine. The reasons you provide in the answer will generally be very personal, so the more truthful you are the stronger your essay will be.
Prompt #3c: Oscar Wilde said that there are two tragedies in life: not getting what one wants and getting it. Tell us about an experience of not getting what you wanted or getting it and why it was a tragedy.”
Depending on how you choose to interpret the word “tragedy”, this essay could be a great piece for someone who wants to write a more light-hearted piece. You can use tragedy ironically, or as an over-exaggeration. For example, you could talk about a Halloween where you ate your entire haul in a single weekend and ended up with two painful cavities. You can use this seemingly mundane event to launch into a piece about your self-control and how you have been able to improve on it dramatically over the years.
As a more serious example, you could also talk about a time when you let a great opportunity pass you by because you didn’t think you were eligible only to find out that it was well within your reach. While you are sharing a slip-up in this version, it is still a powerful example to use because you can use it to convey that since that time, you are now a very proactive individual and actively seeks out ways to use the resources available to your advantage.
As with the first option of prompt 3, this essay is about your growth as an individual surrounding a specific “tragedy”. Thus, the instance you choose should only be the turning point, and not the whole essay. Once you find your instance, the next step is to figure out what you have learned from it.
Some last words…
As you write your Pomona supplements, remember that they should always be working together to reveal more facets of yourself. Think about what message you really want to deliver to the admission committee, and as you read through what you have written, ask yourself if those messages are coming through. Sometimes, it may even be helpful to find a neutral party to read through your responses and tell you’re their impressions.
We wish you the best of luck in your writing, as well as the rest of your process!
Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.