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How to Write the Pomona College Essays 2022-2023

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 three short essays, with the last two prompts having three options each. The short answers prompts are off-the-beaten-path and quirky, while the essays ask you to grapple with your goals, priorities, and identity.

 

Read this Pomona essay example to inspire your writing.

 

Pomona College Essay Prompts

 

Prompt 1: What do you love about the subject(s) you selected as potential major(s)? If undecided, share more about one of your academic passions. (150 words)

 

Prompt 2: Choose to respond to one of the following three prompts in 150 words or less:

 

  • Option 1: At Pomona, we celebrate and identify with the number 47. Share with us one of your quirky personal, family, or community traditions and why you hold on to it.
  • Option 2: What item are you excited to bring with you to college?
  • Option 3: Describe a time when you felt empowered or on top of the world?

 

Prompt 3: Choose to respond to one of the following three prompts in 250 words or less:

 

  • Option 1: In the past few years, is there something you have changed your mind about? Why?
  • Option 2: Reflecting on a community that you are part of, what values or perspectives from that community would you bring to Pomona?
  • Option 3: What strength or quality do you have that most people might not see or recognize?

 

 

Prompt 1

What do you love about the subject(s) you selected as potential major(s)? If undecided, share more about one of your academic passions. (150 words)

This is the classic “Why This Major?” essay. With this prompt, Pomona wants to know why you chose your major(s) and what you hope to accomplish with your studies. 

 

Make sure you hit these points in your essay:

 

  • Give one or more examples of a recurring experience or state of mind that you have when exploring this major and why this is appealing.
  • Illustrate your interest with at least 1-2 specific, real-life examples of things that you enjoy in this major.
  • Explain how this major would serve your life and/or career goals.

 

Here are some potential examples:

 

  • A Computer Science major may open the essay by sharing their satisfaction at turning a 10-hour student council website update task into a 1-hour automated project by writing some code. They appreciate compsci for its ability to make processes more efficient and especially enjoy contributing to projects in social responsibility. They strongly believe that technology can be used as a force for good, and they even helped edit the code for an app that helps blind people go grocery shopping. While they’re not sure yet of their specific career goals, they hope to become a software engineer for a social enterprise. 

 

  • An International Relations major might describe her experience studying abroad last summer in Spain, and the engaging conversations they had with her host family around Spanish and American politics. She loves being able to connect with Spanish speakers around the world and is even part of an online language exchange club that pairs you with a native speaker in a different country each month. She’s also volunteered on local political campaigns and translated pamphlets into Spanish. She hopes to eventually work as a diplomat. 

 

If you’re undecided, that’s totally fine! Simply pick two of the majors you’re considering and share what you enjoy about them, following three major points above. While you may be considering more subjects, this essay is extremely short, so you should limit your selection to two. 

 

You should also share why you’re undecided. Maybe you’re torn between different career paths, or you’re not sure yet how to combine your passions. Maybe you just need some time to explore. You want to show Pomona that you’ve thought hard about your plans and aren’t undecided because you’re aimless about your future. 

 

You can get more tips in our guide to writing the “Why This Major?” essay if you’re undecided

 

If you have the space, you can end the essay with a line or two about how studying the major at Pomona specifically will help you achieve your goals. Is there a unique class, resource, or club that suits your interests perfectly? Make sure to mention it!

 

Prompt 2, Option 1

At Pomona, we celebrate and identify with the number 47. Share with us one of your quirky personal, family, or community traditions and why you hold on to it. (150 words)

Pomona is looking to build a student body of unique individuals. This lighthearted prompt allows you to share an unusual tradition and why it’s special to you, revealing more about your personality and background to the admissions officer. 

 

While you don’t have a lot of space, you can still open with a short in-the-moment anecdote setting the scene as you perform this tradition. What is happening? What thoughts are running through your head? What are you feeling?

 

From there, you can describe the tradition and why it matters to you.

 

Here are some potential topics for this essay:

 

  • Every year, you and your friends do a flash mob dance event at the mall. This began when your friend was teaching you the choreography to a new song during a shopping break, and passersby stopped to see what was happening. It soon turned into a small, enthusiastic crowd. You decided to do an organized version the next year to raise money for the local food pantry, and your friends plan to keep the tradition alive even after college so you can continue making memories together.

 

  • You and the school sustainability club do guerrilla gardening on abandoned plots of land each summer. You’ll take native wildflower seeds and plant them in these urban spaces to brighten up the environment. This began when a member said they wished they could start a flower garden, but they lived in a run-down apartment in the city, and there was no space for them to do so. Once that member graduated, you continued on that tradition because you’ve seen the joy on the faces of small kids living in the area when they see the flowers. 

 

Prompt 2, Option 2

What item are you excited to bring with you to college? (150 words)

The goal of this prompt is to understand what’s important to you; the object in itself isn’t as important as its significance. You could pick a totally ordinary item like a pillow or specific snack and still write a compelling essay. 

 

There are two things you want to address in your response:

 

  • Why did you choose this item? (What memories is it attached to?)
  • How will this item be a part of your college experience?

 

Here are some potential examples:

 

  • You could bring an ample stock of your favorite local pretzels, which won’t be found in Claremont, California. These pretzels have been your go-to snack as you pore over school work, read fantasy books for fun, and stay fueled during soccer tournaments. You imagine having those pretzels in very similar situations while you’re in college.

 

  • You’re most excited to take your crochet dinosaur (named Ragu) that you stuffed with fabric scraps and clothing rags. This was your very first crochet project, so the dinosaur has plenty of quirks and imperfections, but it always brightens your day when you see it on your windowsill. You’re also proud of it since you created it from uniquely secondhand materials. You’re looking forward to crocheting a dinosaur family for Ragu, maybe on your own or with some new friends at Pomona.

 

 

Prompt 2, Option 3

Describe a time when you felt empowered or on top of the world? (150 words)

This is your chance to share an accomplishment that you’re most proud of that wouldn’t typically show up on a college application. While getting formal honors and awards is great, these personal achievements are especially emotional and meaningful. 

 

Some cliche topics to avoid are:

 

  • Working hard in a challenging class and ultimately getting an A
  • Overcoming a sports injury

 

If these are central to your high school development, you can still consider writing about them, but keep in mind that these are very common experiences, and it will be hard to stand out. If your story has some sort of twist, then it may be more engaging (for example, say you got injured during the soccer season and discovered a new passion for knitting while watching from the sidelines, and you ended up learning to knit sweaters). 

 

Some examples of good topics would be:

 

  • Hitting your first ace in tennis after spending the entire summer practicing your serves. 
  • Building a computer from scratch and finding all of the parts used so you could stay true to your sustainable values. 
  • Organizing a basketball team for low-income middle school students and seeing them play their first game. 

 

This essay lends itself well to narrative storytelling, so you should consider writing this as an in-the-moment story rich with dialogue and descriptions. Just make sure not to get too carried away with the imagery and also include your thoughts and reflections.

 

 

Prompt 3, Option 1

In the past few years, is there something you have changed your mind about? Why? (250 words)

Pomona wants to admit students who are open-minded and willing to admit they were wrong. 

 

In today’s polarized world, you’ve probably had many disagreements with your peers, adults, and others. While this prompt lends itself well to nuanced political issues, you want to avoid potentially offending the admissions officer. 

 

Some of the most polarized topics are also going to be the most written about, so that’s another reason to pass on issues like abortion, gun control, defunding the police, etc. Of course, you can still write about them if they’re especially personal to you, but you shouldn’t make this decision lightly. 

 

Another topic to avoid is to say that you used to be opposed to a certain group of people or didn’t understand them, and now you’re more open-minded. While it’s great that you’re more open-minded, this could paint you in a bad light, especially since Pomona is a more liberal school. 

 

Some topics that are going to lend themselves more easily to a strong essay include things like:

 

  • Changing your opinion about an activity. Maybe you used to hate sports and thought you weren’t athletic until you decided to join a dance-a-thon for a classmate’s fundraiser. You didn’t realize how fun it could be to push your body and try to move in sync with others. This led you to join the dance team.

 

  • Changing your mind about a person. Perhaps you thought your dad was cold and wished he’d show his affection more, but then your grandparents visited from abroad and you realized that it was simply how he was raised. You began to recognize the different ways he showed his care for you, such as bringing you sliced fruit while you do homework, taking you to the art supply store even though he doesn’t understand your abstract art, and showing up to pick you up from practice early so he can see you play. 

 

  • Changing your perspective on a local issue. Maybe you attended several anti-fracking protests as part of your school’s environmental club, but then you spoke to a local miner whose family has made its living from the mines for generations. He said that he didn’t know what he’d do if fracking was banned, and that he felt shamed for simply making his living the way he knew. While you still oppose fracking in principle, you now recognize the importance of inclusive advocacy and no longer believe in a total, immediate ban.

 

There are several other ways you could’ve changed your mind; the important thing is that you share your thought process and how you’ll use this new perspective going forward.

 

 

Prompt 3, Option 2

Reflecting on a community that you are part of, what values or perspectives from that community would you bring to Pomona? (250 words)

This is the classic Diversity Essay question. Pomona wants to admit a class with unique perspectives, backgrounds, and beliefs, and this question allows them to see what you’d bring to the table. 

 

Remember that “community” can mean many different things. It can refer to:

 

  • Clubs, organizations, or sports teams
  • Culture, language, or ethnic background
  • Hometown or geography
  • Family
  • Friend group
  • School
  • Shared interest, value, trait, or ability

 

When selecting a community for this prompt, think of the one that impacted you the most that isn’t already addressed in your application. 

 

Here are some potential examples for this prompt:

 

  • You come from a low-income community, which forced you to be extremely resourceful growing up. You wore your older sister’s hand-me-downs, which were often sizes too large. You rarely ate out, and when you did, you saved the containers to use as tupperware. You had to cut open your toothpaste tubes to scrape out every last bit. While you used to be embarrassed about your financial situation, you also recognize how it pushed you to be more sustainable, and find it funny how these types of habits are now being popularized. You plan to continue making the most of the resources you do have and sharing these low-cost sustainability tips in the Environmental Activism and Responsibility club at Pomona, ensuring that voices like yours are represented in the sustainability movement.

 

  • You’re a member of a community orchestra that has members of all ages, from high school to retirement. You’ve been able to see how music can be used for social good, as the orchestra has raised thousands of dollars for charity by donating most of its revenue from concert tickets. You were also able to lift people’s spirits during the pandemic by doing socially-distant outdoor concerts. You hope to continue making music at Pomona in the symphony orchestra, and you also hope to start a band with students and community members to put on concerts for social causes.

 

There are many ways to write this essay, but here’s a potential outline you can follow:

 

  • Start your essay by describing a meaningful experience you had in your community through imagery, dialogue, and your in-the-moment thoughts. 
  • Provide a brief background on your community. Who is in it? What is the group dynamic like? 
  • Reflect on the perspectives and values the community has taught you. How did it help you see your life and the world differently?
  • Share how you’ll bring these values to Pomona.

 

Prompt 3, Option 3

What strength or quality do you have that most people might not see or recognize? (250 words)

This prompt gives you a chance to share one of your “hidden” talents or traits. And no, we don’t mean being double-jointed or being able to lick your elbow. This prompt is looking for your personal qualities that meaningfully impact your life, but aren’t readily recognized.

 

Take some time to brainstorm your strengths and reflect on which ones you’re most praised for. Cross those out and see what you’re left with. From there, select the trait that adds a new dimension to your application. 

 

In your essay, it may also be worth explaining why this trait is hidden or not typically recognized. Is it because you aren’t comfortable sharing it yet? Is it because the trait is interpreted negatively when it also has a positive side? Is it because the trait is only revealed in very specific circumstances?

 

Here are some examples:

 

  • You have to babysit your younger siblings each night because your parents work late shifts. Because of this, you’ve had to become creative with activities to keep your siblings entertained. One of their favorite activities so far has been coming up with a skit using only song lyrics from a specific artist. Your hidden talent could be creating fun team building games, and most people don’t know this because this is an experience you only have with your siblings.

 

  • You love cooking, but are pretty bad at it, and most people declare your concoctions to be “nasty.” Even you can’t finish most of the food you make (though it never gets wasted because the dog loves it). Your hidden quality is your willingness to try new things (“hidden” because most people are too focused on the nasty food to commend your open-mindedness and initiative). 

 

Where to Get Your Pomona Essays Edited

 

Do you want feedback on your Pomona essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!


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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.