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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Write the Pomona College Essays 2020-2021

We’ve updated this post! Read the 2021-2022 Pomona essay guide.


Set against the beautiful backdrop of Southern California, Pomona College is one of the five undergraduate schools in the Claremont Consortium. Pomona boasts a diverse student body and tight-knit community on campus. It is also known for an incredible tradition of engaging intellectualism.


Another important perk is that Pomona allows students access to resources at all five Claremont schools, providing boundless opportunities for growth and discovery. In this regard, attending Pomona provides an undergraduate experience that maintains both the tender closeness of a liberal arts college, as well as the expansive offerings of a larger university. 


With an acceptance rate of 7.6% in 2019, Pomona’s selective admissions process measures up to its prestigious name and high quality educational tradition. Admission into Pomona is no small feat; the median ACT score for the class of 2023 was a 34, and the median SAT composite was a 1490. 


Writing a strong essay is crucial to any successful college application. In this guide, we will walk you through how to tackle each and every one of Pomona’s supplements. In doing so, our hope is that your application will shine! Want to know your chances at Pomona? Calculate your chances for free right now.


Want to learn what Pomona will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Pomona needs to know.


Pomona College Essay Prompts


Short Response Questions (1-50 Words Each, optional)


  1. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
  2. What’s your favorite way to eat a potato?
  3. You’re relaxing on a Friday night. Suddenly, your favorite song pops into your head. What is it?
  4. If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below.
  5. If not captured elsewhere in your application, please share with us how you have overcome challenges in your life.


Supplemental Essays (required)


Prompt 1: Pomona is committed to achieving the benefits of diversity for all students by creating a community that learns and grows together through the exchange of different lived experiences and perspectives. Our community is made up of students from diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, and linguistic backgrounds; political, religious and social views; physical abilities; home environments and socioeconomic backgrounds; hometowns and regions; and sexes, gender identities and sexual orientations.


Choose one of the following two prompts: (200 words)


  • Option A: Tell us about an experience when you dealt with disagreement or conflict around different perspectives within a community.


  • Option B: Tell us about one of the communities you belong to and what it means to bring that shared belief and/or perspective to Pomona.


Prompt 2: Helen Keller once said, “The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Whether you aspire to be a hero or an honest worker, what impact do you want to have in the Pomona community, your community back home, or any new community? (200 words)


Short Response Questions (1-50 Words Each, optional)


When first looking at these questions, you might be thinking to yourself, “Wow, these questions are…out of the ordinary. Why does this portion of the application exist?”


These questions exist to give Pomona a more holistic view of you as an individual, not just as an automaton capable of having a stellar GPA and an impressive résumé. The admissions officers want to see you: a well-rounded human capable of joy, humor, and a social life.


The biggest mistake you could make in this section is to not be completely authentic. Don’t select an answer in hopes of impressing the committee, instead be honest and write about what you truly think, feel, and believe. With that in mind, let’s jump in.


Short Response Question 1

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

To begin thinking about this prompt, try to recall any pivotal moments in your life. Did you receive some great advice during one of those times?


Still thinking? Reflect on any of your great mentors. Have they said anything in particular that stuck with you?


Once you think of something, you want to find a way to present it as quickly and efficiently as possible. After all, you only have 50 words!


You might try a quick description of the situation:


e.g. “Sprawled across the ice after an impressively unsuccessful turn, I can hear my coach’s skates. I instinctively reach for his hand but find nothing. ‘It doesn’t matter how many times you fall’ he tells me sternly, ‘I only care about the number of times you pick yourself up.’” (48 words)


or, maybe forego the description:


e.g. “My mother first said her (now iconic) slogan: “Listen to learn,” while berating me for not paying attention. “You’re never gonna learn anything if you don’t shut up and listen.” And she was right. I don’t always need to say something smart. Sometimes, I just need to listen.” (48 words)


Short Response Question 2

What’s your favorite way to eat a potato?

Come on! You have to at least chuckle when you read this. Give the best 50 word description of your dream potato. This prompt requires no real explanation. You should have fun with this. 

Are you a baked potato with toppings kind of gal? A refined au gratin aficionado? Mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving? Latkes at Hanukkah? Tater tots? Blitva at your Babushka’s? This response could be as heartwarming or as humorous as you like.


e.g. “Sometimes, I make the pilgrimage to the Golden Arches, where I order a large serving of French fries and an M&M McFlurry. I drive to a hill that overlooks the freeway. I dip my crispy fries in the decadent McFlurry and watch the passing cars in non-judgmental silence.” (50 words)


Short Response Question 3

You’re relaxing on a Friday night. Suddenly, your favorite song pops into your head. What is it?

Here, you’re just showing off your personality. Now is not the time to say that you jam out to Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major, unless that is your truth, and in that case, own it! Don’t worry about choosing something impressive, all you have to do is write about your favorite song! 


Some examples might include:


e.g. “Every once and awhile, my family will be sitting at our kitchen table when ‘Cecilia’ by Simon and Garfunkel will come on. There is something about the rhythmic stop-clap at the beginning that brings us all to our feet, tromping across the kitchen floor in syncopated bliss.” (47 words)


e.g. “The most authentic version of myself is this: windows down, sunroof open, “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo playing. I love to duet to her recorded voice a quarter tone flat, not a care in the world or a single note sung correctly.” (41 words)


Have fun with this one!


Short Response Question 4

If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below.

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. Perhaps you want to talk about your religion, sexuality, gender identity, family structure…Whatever it is that makes you the person you are, this is the space to put it into the spotlight.


You only have fifty words. This is tough to fit in a very serious aspect of your identity, but not impossible. You want to pack in as much “punch” as possible.


e.g: “I received Reggie as a bar mitzvah present. As a lifetime lover of reptiles, I have two snakes and a gecko, but the chameleon is my favorite. As I wear my “Chameleon Dad” shirt around my house, I watch with joy as he climbs the table with his zygodactylous feet.” (50 words)


When filling out this section, try to be as memorable, but authentic, as possible. Re-read these four short answer questions and ask yourself, “How could I summarize myself in these questions?” If your responses are forgettable, go back and see if you can find a more exciting option. This is a unique opportunity to present your authentic, unadulterated self to a college. Embrace it!


Supplemental Essays (required)


Prompt 1, Option A

Tell us about an experience when you dealt with disagreement or conflict around different perspectives within a community. (200 words)

This prompt is the classic “conflict question.” A favorite question in behavioral interviews, this question is asking for you to demonstrate your ability to facilitate through disagreement or conflict. 


Beware! When answering this prompt you run the risk of:


  1. Taking no responsibility and looking uncompromising, difficult to work with, etc.
  2. Taking all of the responsibility and looking incompetent, weak, etc.


To write this essay to the best of your ability, choose a scenario where you and the other party could have done something better. Then start by identifying what happened. If possible, try to avoid group projects, as this is a very common and routine answer.


1. Identify a conflict.


Once you identify an instance of disagreement or conflict, you want to present it in an engaging manner. Do not attempt to regurgitate the language of the prompt. How will your essay stand out from thousands? A good hook.


Here is a weak example that simply restates the prompt:


e.g. “One experience I have dealing with conflict was when my twin brother and I were on a road trip and I couldn’t follow the directions.”


You can do better than that! Try starting the story in media res—in the middle of an action! This is typically way more exciting.


e.g. “‘Pull over!’ My twin brother screamed, while reaching over the center console to commandeer the steering wheel. While trying to swat off his intensifying attacks and focus on the road, the car was beginning to swerve.


Although graced with several gifts, spatial awareness is not one that I possess. I am still learning how to drive a car in reverse, sadly resulting in the untimely death of several neighborhood trash cans and exactly two mailboxes. I have no hand-eye coordination, making tennis and baseball virtually impossible. And, I am absolutely terrible at directions.”


2. Explain your response to the conflict.


How did you handle the conflict? What is its origin? Who is responsible for the conflict?


In this section, you should address actions you took to stop the conflict. While taking responsibility, address how you changed the other person’s behavior or your own.


e.g. “As we approach the city limits of Albuquerque, my brother begins to give instructions. ‘In .6 miles take a left,’ he tells me. While his intentions are pure, this unit of measurement is essentially meaningless to me.


‘Can you just give me the street name and a warning?’ I ask.

‘That is a warning,’ he scoffs, before putting his feet up on the dashboard in an act of defiance.


‘Can you just try to give directions in a different way that helps me?’ I ask.”


3. Share the resolution and the long-term results.


What resulted from your confrontation? If nothing, maybe something changed about your perspective or you learned a lesson.


e.g. “After briefly vowing to only take separate cars for the rest of our lives, my brother and I were able to reconcile and find a better way to communicate while driving.”


Prompt 1, Option B

Tell us about one of the communities you belong to and what it means to bring that shared belief and/or perspective to Pomona. (200 words)

A quote from Pomona’s website reads, “the line between living and learning is practically non-existent. Ninety-four percent of our students live on campus all four years, and many professors live within five miles of campus. This creates a close-knit community where new collaborations or eye-opening discussions can spring up anywhere – a dorm, club meeting, or at lunch with a professor.” 


This living-learning environment is likely the reason behind this prompt. Pomona wants to understand how you’ll contribute to their community; this is a classic Diversity College Essay.


To start, think about which community you want to mention. There are many types of community. Geographic, religious, identity-based, familial, academic, extracurricular, etc. The choice is up to you, but the actual community you pick should have certain codes or values (formal or informal) that align with an aspect of Pomona.


Establishing a connection between your community and Pomona requires extensive research, so take your time to dig through the website, watch day in the life videos, and see if you can talk to a current student through your mutual connections.


Once you’ve done that, here’s what an outline of your essay might look like:


2. Give a description of the community you belong to.


Consider starting with an anecdote, metaphor, or effective hook.


e.g. “Upon re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, the Apollo 16 crew experienced 7.19 units of g-force. Strapped inside two chambers, both a vertical and auxiliary, I remember the lessons my instructor taught me: breathe deeply, focus, and remember your training. My vision begins to blur as I feel a tightening—almost a crushing—sensation in my chest.


Upon the successful simulation, I exit the chamber to find my fellow friends and trainees eagerly anticipating my review. ‘How was it?’ they ask, with fervor and excitement. I struggle to find the words as they pat me on the back and bombard me with even more questions.”


3. Identify the value.


This value should be similar to one of Pomona’s values. Additionally, you should show, not tell how this value exists in your chosen community. 


For example, if you are writing about Pomona’s love of learning outside of the classroom, a weak essay might directly say:


e.g. “At Space Camp, conversations about space happen outside of the classroom. I really enjoy talking to my peers about space and debating topics.”


A stronger prompt continues the narrative structure and introduces this idea with nuance.


e.g. “Although only five days, Space Camp is the highlight of my year. After a long day of simulations and training, I’ll return to my barrack. As late-night turns into early morning, my peers and I will discuss anything from the possibility of life on Europa to the Fermi paradox.”


4. Make the Connection to Pomona


Utilize your research. Without sounding like you already attend Pomona, seamlessly integrate your narrative into the context of Pomona’s community.


e.g. “I believe an education at Pomona would allow me to develop my intellectual curiosities. As someone who enjoys both traditional and experiential learning, in and outside of the classroom, I feel like my love of debate and pursuit of knowledge could be enhanced, if not maximized, by a Pomona education. Similar to my late-night talks at Space Camp in Alabama, I can picture myself, coffee in hand, talking about the Zoo hypothesis with my peers in the common room of Lyon Court as a brief tangent from studying for our Organic Chemistry midterm.”


Prompt 2

Helen Keller once said, “The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Whether you aspire to be a hero or an honest worker, what impact do you want to have in the Pomona community, your community back home, or any new community? (200 words)

First, let’s make the distinction: are you a hero or an honest worker? There is not a wrong answer. A hero might look like someone with large amounts of community service, a person who has done a lot for a particular community, etc. Whereas an honest worker could be an aspiring researcher, an artist, someone who has made smaller gestures toward a larger goal.


Again, the key to this prompt is research and the presentation of that research. How have your actions affected your community at home, and how would you continue them to make change at Pomona?


If you elected to complete Option B of the first essay, make sure to talk about a different facet of your identity.


1.  Present your identity as a hero or honest worker (or something else) in an engaging way.


Are you a “hero” because you work as a volunteer firefighter and want to pursue a major in Science, Technology and Society (STS) to maximize safety in engineering practices? Fantastic. 


Are you an honest worker because you are a writer who believes that an article can change the world and want to study under Professor Kevin Dettmar? Perfect.

Do you want to be something in-between? Do you want to be an MD-PhD who does cancer research but also treats low-income patients? Also great.


Try presenting your identity with a short anecdote or metaphor.


e.g. “As the last bell rang on Wednesday afternoon, I feverishly shoved my books and laptop into my backpack and raced down the hall to the library. In about 10 minutes my favorite part of the week would begin: the meeting for my school’s newspaper.


While I loved writing essays and compositions for my English classes, it never gave me the same thrill as writing articles for my school’s newspaper. As a journalist and reporter, I aspire to be an honest worker, using each article I write as an opportunity to inspire, educate, and evoke change.”


2. Synthesize your identity at home to your potential identity at Pomona.


After identifying yourself as a “hero,” “honest worker,” or something in-between, begin to reflect upon why you sorted yourself into either category. Focus on one reason. 


e.g. “I consider myself an honest worker because I value the smaller steps required to reach a larger goal. Whether I’m writing an article about improving the food in the cafeteria or eliminating racism and discrimination, I use my words to empower others to question current norms and take action.”


3. Address the “impact” you want to have in the Pomona Community.


Explain to the admissions officers how you will continue to be an active and impactful community member at Pomona.


e.g. “At Pomona, I hope to contribute to The Student Life Newspaper and continue to use my words to evoke change. As an active community member, I will make a positive impact on Pomona’s campus by identifying and writing about important problems that should be corrected. I will do my best as an honest worker to not only make my own small pushes, but also inspire others to do the same in order to better Pomona’s community.”


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