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Pomona: A "College of the New England Type" in Sunny California


Pomona College was the first of the Claremont College (see my post about the consortium here). It was established as a “college of the New England type,” and both physically and philosophically, Pomona is true to the New England model. Pomona is a traditional liberal arts college, offering a wide range of majors in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. However, just as at the other Claremonts, Pomona students may take up to 50% of their courses at the other 4 Cs. Class sizes, as everywhere else on the Claremont campus, are small. The largest is perhaps 35 students. All courses—even the science labs—are taught by professors, not by teaching assistants.
The student body tends to be less socially and politically engaged than at Pitzer. One student used the word “complacent” to describe her peers. However, students are very involved in athletics and in the 5C outdoor club. The outdoor club organizes trips to various places in California throughout the semester, and all gear and transportation costs are included in the bargain.
Physically, the campus also seems more traditional: grassy quads, tree-lined alley ways, and residential facilities that resemble “houses” found on many New England campuses. Some of the dorms on the north end of campus didn’t look all that great, and rumor has it that there is an “overflow” residence hall that is actually a mobile home of some sort (needless to say, that was not on our tour).
Academically, Pomona has more requirements than Pitzer, including a distributive requirement in five academic areas. Some majors require an oral examination, some require theses or presentations of research to faculty committees. Pomona is also a tad more competitive in admissions than the other Claremonts, and tends to have fewer California students as a percentage of its student body than the other Claremonts: Pomona is only 30% Californian.
I enjoyed Pomona, but frankly I found it the most difficult of the Claremonts to get a bead on its distinct personality. In part, this makes sense, because Pomona’s educational model is more akin to a small, liberal arts college in New England. It has a wider variety of programs, a wider variety of students, and it doesn’t aim (as Pitzer does) to find a tighter fit in constructing its incoming class. Academics count more here, perhaps, and the Pomona admissions staff wants to create a diverse, well-rounded student body. Therefore Pomona’s institutional character is less obvious to the outsider than that of the other Claremont colleges.
That said, I came away with a very positive impression of Pomona, and would recommend it highly to students seeking a “college of the New England type” in sunny, southern California.
Mark Montgomery
Montgomery Educational Consulting
Expert on the Colleges of Southern California

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