How to Write the Pomona College Essays 2021-2022

Pomona College, based in Claremont, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, is one of the most prestigious and selective liberal arts colleges in the country. Part of the Claremont Colleges consortium, which consists of seven private institutions of higher learning, Pomona offers a word-class education, with an emphasis on research.

 

This year, Pomona’s supplemental essays consist of four short answers, including three repeat prompts from last year, and two longer, 200-word essays. The first essay and short answer prompts are required, however the second essay asks you to respond to your choice of the two provided prompts. The short answers prompts are off-the-beaten-path and quirky, while the essays ask you to grapple with your goals, priorities, and identity.

 

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Pomona College Essay Prompts

 

Short Response Questions (50 words each, optional)

 

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

 

2. Marvel or DC? Pepsi or Coke? Instagram or TikTok? What’s your favorite “this or that” (you are not restricted to these three examples), and which side do you choose? 

 

3. What’s your favorite way to eat a potato? 

 

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

 

Essays (200 words each, required)

 

Prompt 1: According to our Board of Trustees, “Institutions such as Pomona College should prepare their graduates to lead lives of creative leadership and exemplary service.” How do you hope to use the knowledge you will gain in college to impact something greater than yourself, such as your family, neighborhood, community, city or society?

 

Prompt 2: 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. 

 

Both of the following prompts address this topic, and we ask you to respond to one of them. We give no preference, so choose the prompt that resonates the most with you.

 

Option A: We believe that everyone has something to contribute and receive from a diverse community. Why is belonging to a diverse and inclusive college community important to you?

 

Option B: Advancing diversity and inclusion (D&I) can be hard work and a continuous learning process. Tell us about how you have either recently championed D&I or how you plan to maintain a deep commitment to D&I in college.

 

Short Response Questions (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

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!

 

Short Response Question 2

Marvel or DC? Pepsi or Coke? Instagram or TikTok? What’s your favorite “this or that” (you are not restricted to these three examples), and which side do you choose?

This quirky prompt asks you to demonstrate your reasoning skills by constructing a persuasive argument in a very short amount of space. You should avoid using the items Pomona gives as examples, unless you truly feel passionately about, say, Pepsi vs. Coke, because many other students will use the examples provided. Instead, demonstrate your creativity by coming up with your own “this or that,” such as celebrities who are often compared, streaming services, and so on. 

 

In just 50 words, you should be able to construct a well-reasoned perspective on the topic of your choice. The items you choose are less important than how you present your response and connect the items back to you as a person. This is one where you can have a little fun and demonstrate a less serious side of yourself.

 

Short Response Question 3

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 4

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!

 

Essays (200 words each, required)

 

Prompt 1

According to our Board of Trustees, “Institutions such as Pomona College should prepare their graduates to lead lives of creative leadership and exemplary service.” How do you hope to use the knowledge you will gain in college to impact something greater than yourself, such as your family, neighborhood, community, city or society?

Although it might not seem like it at the surface, this prompt is actually an amalgam of several archetypal prompts, such as “Why This College” and your impact on the community. The question asks you to discuss how you believe Pomona will prepare you for your future and what kind of concrete impact you hope to have on the larger world, toward the goal of better understanding your ambitions and why you think Pomona is the best college to help you achieve them. 

 

Consider the two sides of the prompt. First, you should explain why you’re drawn to Pomona over other colleges. Be very clear and very specific. Of course, as with any why us prompt, you should focus on concrete, non-superficial details — avoiding topics like the beautiful California weather, for example, and anything you can find with a cursory look on the website — and, instead, write about real aspects of the school that you’ve discovered based on your own research. For example, you might discuss:

 

  • Specific applications of the five-college consortium, with particular emphasis on Pomona itself and how it will serve as a hub for your learning

 

  • Extensive opportunities to conduct research with particular professors (you will also need to explain why the area of research appeals to you)

 

The second part of the prompt asks you to connect Pomona to your future goals, focusing specifically on how those goals will impact others. Rather than simply discussing your interest in becoming a physician, for example, and explaining how Pomona’s history of providing research opportunities to undergraduates will help you get there, you should go a step beyond by exploring why you want to be a physician, in terms of how you will further the practice of medicine.

 

As a whole, the prompt asks you to assess your place in both the Pomona community and the larger societal community, with particular emphasis on unique aspects of the college. You must envision how you will spend your time at the school, with the end goal of using the knowledge you gain there to help other communities, whether that’s a religious community, a geographical community, or even the larger world.

 

Going with the physician example, you might, for instance, discuss how you will use the preparation to assist underserved populations, explaining why this is so important to you. How has your life led you to this point? Why is Pomona the place to learn this knowledge? Why does the community you plan to serve hold special significance to you? These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself.

As always, avoid cliches and vague or trite examples. “I want to help people” won’t cut it. Whom do you want to help? Why do they matter to you? How do your values connect with Pomona’s and your goals?

 

Prompt 2

 

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.

 

Both of the following prompts address this topic, and we ask you to respond to one of them. We give no preference, so choose the prompt that resonates the most with you.

 

This is a classic diversity prompt. The goal is to help Pomona build a diverse class that encompasses multiple perspectives because colleges want their student bodies to have exposure to different viewpoints that will encourage them to mature and shape their thinking as they explore future goals and careers. You will only need to choose one of these prompts.

 

Prompt 2, Option A

We believe that everyone has something to contribute and receive from a diverse community. Why is belonging to a diverse and inclusive college community important to you? (200 words)

 

You don’t have to belong to a minority group to write a successful essay for this prompt. Diversity has many applications and can pertain to groups like:


  • Ethnicity/Race
  • Gender
  • Country of origin
  • Language
  • Hometown
  • Income class
  • Illness
  • Interests/activities

 

Moreover, you don’t have to have to be a member of a diverse community — although many are, when you consider the topics listed above — to explain why you hope to belong to a diverse college community.

 

Again, it’s tempting to resort to cliches here, writing something like “I value different perspectives.” While this is important, it’s not enough. It’s also something many other students will say. 

 

Instead, approach it through a more authentic lens. You might, for example, offer an anecdote of a community you belong to — not necessarily one people immediately jump to when they think of “diversity,” such as a music ensemble, compiled of different instruments and talents, using it as a metaphor for the various groups and perspectives that come together to form a college community.

 

Go a step further, exploring why this is so significant and the impact your experiences with diversity have had on your own life. Perhaps you’ve grappled with it in the classroom, in your extracurricular activities — such as volunteering with a community different from your own — and beyond.

Prompt 2, Option B

Advancing diversity and inclusion (D&I) can be hard work and a continuous learning process. Tell us about how you have either recently championed D&I or how you plan to maintain a deep commitment to D&I in college. (200 words)

 

This prompt, like other diversity prompts, asks you not only to demonstrate how you’ve taken part in diversity efforts but also to grapple with what diversity means to you. Again, don’t worry if you don’t belong to a minority community per se — there are many different meanings of the word diversity, and this question only asks you to explain how you’ve been a champion of diversity and inclusion, whether or not you’re part of the specific community you’re describing.

 

This is an opportunity to color your narrative with anecdotes — perhaps you led a Day of Silence as part of an LGBTQ+ allyship initiative and want to speak to that experience — but make sure they are truly relevant and further your story. Avoid being overly negative. Even if you felt your efforts were in vain, perhaps you gleaned some type of lesson about how you could do things differently in order to create more buy-in in the future.

 

This also calls for you to be specific and avoid casting too wide a net. In other words, try not to list all the qualities that set you apart, and instead focus on one or two elements to create a cohesive narrative.

 

Remember that learning is part of this prompt. Not only do you want to depict what happened, but you should also describe what it meant to you and how it impacted your life. And while there is a choice to explain what you’ve done in the past vs. how you hope to make a difference in the future, the best essays will do both: share stories from your past and explore how you’ll carry those lessons into the future.

 

Going with the Day of Silence example above, you might discuss what you took away from the experience of sharing this reflection with others and how you think it will affect your time in college. Perhaps there were elements you’d do differently once you get to Pomona, or you want to be a leader and a champion of LGBTQ+ rights at college — using specific examples of how you plan to do that, of course.

 

Where to Get Your Pomona Essays Edited for Free

 

Have a draft of a Pomona essay ready? Before you hit the “submit” button, make sure you get another set of eyes on it. When you create a free CollegeVine account, you can take advantage of a wide range of college admissions preparation resources, including our Peer-Review Essay Tool. Get feedback on your essays and much more — all you need to do is sign up!

 

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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.

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