Priya Desai 7 min read Essay Breakdowns

Pomona College Essay Example: Breakdown + Analysis

Pomona college is a small, private liberal arts college in Claremont, California. Along with Claremont McKenna, Scripps, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer, Pomona is part of the Claremont Colleges. This conglomerate of schools is known for its selectivity, top-notch academics, and intimate learning environment. Pomona is no exception, with a slim 7.6% acceptance rate, #4 ranking in US News’ National Liberal Arts Colleges List, and 8:1 student to faculty ratio.

 

A complete application to Pomona includes five 50-word short response questions and two longer essay supplements. These vary from year to year, and range in style from whimsical to insightful and probing. 

 

In this post, we will go over a previously submitted sample essay from a past Pomona applicant. By analyzing this piece of writing, we hope to give you a better idea of how to write to this school’s essays.

 

Pomona College Supplemental Essay Prompt

What gets you excited about your academic interest selection(s) above? (300 words) 

This is a classic example of the “Why This Major?” prompt; here, admissions officers are looking to gauge your passion for your academic interests. Applicants to the same major often have identical academic statistics and similar extracurricular experiences. This essay is a way for you to distinguish yourself from other candidates, and holds especially true at Pomona due to its small class size and selectivity. 

 

To answer this prompt, many choose to take a narrative approach that underscores their passion in a story-like manner. You might write about how you were introduced to the academic subject, or provide an anecdote that illustrates how you realized it was your passion. But this doesn’t mean that your message should be lost in excess fluff and details.

 

This means you’ll have to balance that personal element with actual concrete evidence of your interest in the subject. Point out a subfield that you’ve researched at length, or an extracurricular that has allowed you to pursue your passion on weekends. Admissions committees want to see what you have done to deepen your interest in the subject outside of required academics, so you’ll need solid examples of this in your essay.

 

Another key essay component is school-specificity. You’ll want to highlight why you’re choosing to pursue this academic interest at Pomona and not another college. To this end, you’ll want to look into classes, major-specific offerings, professors, and other aspects specific to the major at Pomona. See our post on how to research colleges for this essay for more tips.

 

Once you’ve found these specific elements, it’s important to smoothly incorporate them into your writing and explain how these resources will support your goals. Don’t just name them and move on, as any student can research and list off specific aspects of a school. It’s important to demonstrate your fit!

 

Pomona College Essay Example

Saved in the Notes app on my phone are three questions: What can I know? What must I do? What may I hope for? First asked by Immanuel Kant, these questions guide my pursuit of knowledge and organization of critical thought, both skills that are necessary to move our country and society forward in the right direction. As I am deeply passionate about political reform, I believe that a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics education will provide me the opportunity to understand the systemic problems in our country and devise effective solutions. 

 

What can I know? Over the past years, I have been primed to memorize and regurgitate information. But to me, learning is not just about filling my mind with information; I crave an understanding of how to think critically about the things I know. I am particularly excited about taking the Political Philosophy and Ethical Theory courses at Pomona to ask the “Why does this matter?” question for information I learn. A multidisciplinary education will enable me to gain new knowledge and use it productively. 

 

What must I do? I plan to pursue a career in the field of law, representing underprivileged members of society such as undocumented immigrants. Therefore, I believe that action beyond words is most important to giving people the justice they deserve. An education at Pomona would allow me to learn from professors such as Professor John Seery, who has had hands-on political experience working in Washington D.C. and serving as a city commissioner. Through the staff at Pomona, I will learn to use my knowledge as a vehicle for political activism. 

 

What may I hope for? I am motivated to learn how to examine challenges holistically and help create a better America. Attending Pomona will be the first step to achieving this goal.

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Breaking Down This Pomona College Essay Example

 

This essay takes an unconventional approach; rather than being more anecdotal, the author takes a famous philosopher’s questions and applies it to their own life. Though less personal on the surface, the connections they draw between the inquiries and their own goals allows their personality to shine through.

 

The author engages in straightforward diction over flowery writing – this helps keep the essay concise and allows their message to be transmitted clearly. Though you should try to vary your sentence length and can use literary figures like metaphors, you should also try to write in a way that illustrates your personality. If a more condensed, almost “choppy” writing style like this one fits your personality, you should go for it!

 

The three questions allow for a straightforward layout, so readers have some idea of what the author will discuss. The author sets up the essay to be well understood, and makes explicit statements about attending Pomona that underscore their interest in the college. Using this structure, they are able to answer the prompt by showing their passion for their prospective major and how they will continue to develop that passion at Pomona. 

 

Saved in the Notes app on my phone are three questions: What can I know? What must I do? What may I hope for? First asked by Immanuel Kant, these questions guide my pursuit of knowledge and organization of critical thought, both skills that are necessary to move our country and society forward in the right direction. As I am deeply passionate about political reform, I believe that a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics education will provide me the opportunity to understand the systemic problems in our country and devise effective solutions. 

 

This paragraph nicely introduces the topic of the essay and how the author plans to discuss it. By bringing in a quotation by Immanuel Kant, they subliminally allude that they are familiar with his work and highlight their passion for philosophy from the get-go. The student then states their major and gives some background as to what they hope to do with it.

 

This section is overall a solid introduction, but could be improved if the student pointed to a specific societal or systemic problem they wish to resolve. Though they might want to resolve multiple global issues, centering their issue on one that personally resonates with them can go great lengths in making a specific connection. Similarly, you might have many reasons for pursuing your prospective major, but try to narrow it down to one or two that really hold a special place in your heart. 

 

Overall, the student could have supplied more specifics as many sentences contain general sentiments about wanting to positively impact the world. This does make sense as 300 words is not a lot of room to establish an academic passion. However, the student could benefit from removing some of the more general sentences, and using the space to supplement these claims with specific evidence of how they have pursued and plan to continue pursuing their academic interest.

 

What can I know? Over the past years, I have been primed to memorize and regurgitate information. But to me, learning is not just about filling my mind with information; I crave an understanding of how to think critically about the things I know. I am particularly excited about taking the Political Philosophy and Ethical Theory courses at Pomona to ask the “Why does this matter?” question for information I learn. A multidisciplinary education will enable me to gain new knowledge and use it productively. 

 

The student then establishes their ideal learning environment and expresses a desire to think critically. The first couple of sentences are a bit generic and the student might have wanted to make more specific inclusions instead, perhaps by giving examples of ways they’ve pursued critical thought outside of the classroom. 

 

The student also mentions a specific class at the university and how they hope to use the content to revolutionize their learning experience. This is a good example of a school-specific detail that can really make the difference in demonstrating your interest in Pomona. However, this applicant could have gone more in-depth, mentioning specific coursework or other courses they want to explore and why.

 

What must I do? I plan to pursue a career in the field of law, representing underprivileged members of society such as undocumented immigrants. Therefore, I believe that action beyond words is most important to giving people the justice they deserve. An education at Pomona would allow me to learn from professors such as Professor John Seery, who has had hands-on political experience working in Washington D.C. and serving as a city commissioner. Through the staff at Pomona, I will learn to use my knowledge as a vehicle for political activism. 

 

Next, the student discusses their future career aspirations and how their degree will help them achieve them. This is a good way of establishing your academic interest in your subject. Nodding to your future career demonstrates goal setting and illustrates commitment to your field to admissions committees. 

 

The student then mentions a professor that they hope to learn from and why. A common pitfall many applicants make is name-dropping a professor and not giving context as to why they hope to learn from that particular individual. Here, the student mentions the professor’s experience and how it relates to their passion for political activism. This establishes a solid link that supplies credibility to their interest in Pomona.

 

What may I hope for? I am motivated to learn how to examine challenges holistically and help create a better America. Attending Pomona will be the first step to achieving this goal.

 

The student concludes their essay with a straightforward couple of sentences. Though this last sentence is a bit general, it accurately sums up the sentiments in the previous paragraphs. Though the last sentence may seem a bit straightforward, it matches the student’s overall style in this essay and really underscores the purpose of the essay. Thus, if it matches your style, you can engage in a conclusion like this; otherwise, feel free to make yours however best fits your previous writing. 

 

For more help with your Pomona Essays, check out our Pomona Essay Breakdown.

 

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Priya Desai
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Priya has been working at CollegeVine for two years in various capacities, including mentoring students, editing hundreds of essays, and creating blog content. She has also interned in healthcare consulting. She is extremely grateful for all the help she received as an applicant and wants to pay it forward by demystifying the admissions process for others.