A Day in the Life at Pomona College

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Krista is currently a sophomore at Pomona College. She tutors students in Algebra tutoring, Geometry tutoring, Essay Editing tutoring, and much more. Check out her review of Pomona College:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Krista: Pomona College is located in Claremont, California in Los Angeles County. The town of Claremont is a very safe environment—it is a quiet suburb in the foothills of the San Bernardino Valley. Although the town is not very lively late at night, it is conveniently located within walking distance from all parts of Pomona College’s campus.

Pomona College is one of seven private institutions that form the Claremont College Consortium, which also includes Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, and Scripps College, as well as Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences. The colleges share one campus, so you can easily walk between the campuses without a car. Many students opt for bikes or longboards, but these are not absolutely necessary. For the students who like to stay in and around Claremont, the bus system is advisable. There is an hour-long train to downtown Los Angeles, although most students who frequently visit the city or beaches prefer cars, whether their own or a rented Zipcar. First-year students may not park cars on campus. Ontario Airport is the nearest airport, about 15 minutes from campus, although Los Angeles International Airport often has a wider range of flight options.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Krista: Professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants are always available at Pomona College. A professor teaches every class, and every professor holds weekly office hours that their students can attend for additional help or conferencing. I have attended the office hours of more than half of my professors at Pomona College, and many even required periodic meetings during the semester or when embarking on large individual papers and research tasks. A huge benefit to knowing your professors is their increased ability to write personalized letters of recommendation and their increased willingness to advise independent studies or other research projects, even over the summer. In my experience, professors also love to get meals with their students. I have dined with six or so Pomona College professors and many more administrators, too. It is always fun to have a lively conversation about the economic detriments of globalization, and then walk to lunch as a class.

Academic advisers are first chosen for the student, but you may seek a new academic adviser at any time. My adviser, a professor of history, is always willing to meet, and we meet two to four times a semester. Not every time is for business: I have gone out to watch a soccer match with my adviser, and on another occasion, she treated all of her advisees to Thai food.

In general, teaching assistants (TAs) will hold their own office hours. Sometimes, instead of TAs, Pomona College professors have mentors or writing fellows as their assistants. In any case, I never had trouble meeting with them, and they were frequently in contact with the professor on behalf of all of the students.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Krista: At Pomona College, somewhere around 97% of students choose to live in on-campus housing all four years. Student housing is required as a freshman, and there are six possible freshman dorms. One unique feature of Pomona College residential life is the sponsor program, where housing forms are used to determine groups of individuals and two upperclassmen who will all live on the same floor of a dorm. All dorms are co-educational, and there are options for living in singles or in doubles. I got along well with my first-year roommate and became friends with many people in my dorm, despite initially knowing no one. All of the dorms are located on campus, with most underclassmen on “South Campus” and most upperclassmen on “North Campus.” Resident Assistants (RAs), sponsors, and a few sophomores live in the freshmen dorms, as well. On-campus housing is guaranteed all four years, and it tends to get better as the student progresses.

Campus is really the focus of all socialization opportunities. At a school where almost every student lives on campus, almost everyone eats on campus too. Most students are on the dining plans that are shared across the five undergraduate Claremont Colleges (5Cs). This provides access to all eight dining halls, three of which are located at Pomona College, and a number of student-run stores and cafés. Dining is good by college standards, and plans are underway to make it even better in years to come. In addition to dining, most of the social life happens on campus, among all of the different schools. Generally, weekend events are open to the approximately 5,000 students that live at the Consortium, making Pomona College feel like less of a small school in terms of social life, even though the personalized academics prove otherwise.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Krista: I am currently an undeclared major, which Pomona College actually encourages! The community believes in learning for the sake of learning, and I have been encouraged to explore many different interests instead of jumping into a major straight out of high school. I am focusing on social sciences, although I have taken courses in the humanities, the arts, and the applied sciences. There are loosely defined breadth of study requirements that aim to enroll students in a variety of different disciplines.

That said, many students come to Pomona College to study pre-medicine, and biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and neuroscience are some of the more popular fields. The social sciences, particularly economics, politics, and international relations, also get a lot of attention at Pomona College. The Cognitive Science and Linguistics department, which has connections to the Psychology and Computer Science departments, has been of great personal interest, as well. Even though many Pomona College students graduate with degrees in the “hard” and “soft” sciences, the most popular career field of alum is education.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Krista: By the end of freshman year, I already felt close to my classmates and had made many solid friendships. My own reluctance to turn my focus away from friends back home did cause me a few months of struggle, but even at that time, I was making connections to people. The community at Pomona College, and the people I have found there, are the most important thing that I take from my college experience.

Greek life is limited to three local fraternities (one of which is co-ed) that do not have their own houses, but that do hold public parties in reserved on-campus spaces. Unlike many Greek parties, Pomona College parties have security officers and are less about the organization hosting the event than the event itself.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Krista: The Career Center has many post-graduate opportunities, but they also love to help students get involved in (paid) internships and (paid) research while students are still in school! Ask about SURP and PCIP for more information. Pomona College is definitely a big name for employers, especially in the California area, and I knew people who recently graduated that had already secured jobs with companies like Apple. A lot of students also choose graduate school instead of going directly to work, and Pomona College has very high acceptance rates if that is in your future plans.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Krista: There are always buildings to study in. If you do not want to study in your dorm room or in your hall’s study lounge or the dorm’s lounge, the library (shared by all seven colleges) has a busy café area. Each floor gets increasingly quieter as you move up the stairs. There are several buildings open all night long (with free coffee!), and the student union in the Smith Campus Center has a fireside lounge where many students like to study. Of course, in sunny California, it is a personal favorite to study out on the lawn, because then you can be more productive by working on your tan while you work on your linear algebra problem sets. On the rare occasion that it is not sunny, there are plenty of cafés in nearby Claremont that will welcome you with open arms. Finally, many students prefer to study in various lounges that are the safe spaces of campus, whether that be the Women’s Union, the Office of Black Student Affairs, the Students of Color Association, the Chicano/Latino Student Association, the Writing Center, the Foreign Language Resource Center, or any of the other student spaces on campus.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Krista: The town of Claremont does not have tons to do in terms of entertainment, but there are many cafés, restaurants, and bars. Claremont has a village center that attracts visitors from the nearby areas, and there is a movie theater. Many Claremont students go to the Village for Starbucks or frozen yogurt. All of this is within walking distance of the school. For concerts and sporting events that are not directly related to Pomona College students, Los Angeles is the place to go, and Anaheim/Irvine in Orange County also offer lots to do. California has many outdoor opportunities, including surfing, skiing, and hiking. Many of these require a car, however, but the school does have an Outdoor Education Center that provides gear and sometimes vehicles. Most students do go to the downtown area, but not very frequently. I went a couple times a month to Los Angeles, and even to San Diego and the Bay Area, but a lot of people only went to Los Angeles once per semester. The malls in Montclair (the next town) or Ontario are both within a short bus ride of campus.

Arguably, most students stay on campus most of the time. There is a big culture of involvement that includes weekend activities, and many students cannot afford the time away from campus or simply do not feel the need when there is so much going on in Claremont every day. Yet with a car, or with fewer weekend commitments, or perhaps no classes on Fridays, it becomes much easier to explore Southern California and to get off campus.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Krista: The student body is on the small side, with about 380-450 students in each class, and a total school size of 1,600 students. This may look small, but it is an incredible academic resource because class sizes are usually around 15 students. My largest class was an introductory chemistry lecture of 42 students, but most of my classes have been under 20 students. Small classes are always beneficial. You get more of the professors’ attention, and you are forced to participate, which leads to greater intellectual investment and growth. Cross-enrollment at all of the 5Cs is allowed, and those classes will be similarly small. The small overall student body also means that each person gets more involved in many clubs and organizations, and that the community is very tight knit because it is actually possible to meet everyone in your graduating class.

Although I was personally disappointed in the lack of a major Division One football team to cheer for (Pomona College students have more reserved school pride than crazy school spirit), so far that is the only downside of attending a small school, and I made up for that by rooting for nearby teams. The social scene does not feel too small by any means: having four other undergraduate schools on the same campus means that there is always a larger pool of people to meet and socialize with, at least for the first couple of years on campus.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Krista: I loved my Introduction to Drawing class, the first formal art class I ever took. Not only did my professor, Mercedes, make us switch seats every day so we would not get too comfortable, she also had us actively toilet paper the classroom so we could draw the long, flowing lines of toilet paper during one class. She also read aloud to us while we drew on another occasion. 

Check out Krista’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.