Should I Go To Pomona College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Evan is a Seattle tutor specializing in test prep tutoring, many levels of math tutoring, and writing tutoring. He graduated from Pomona College in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science and Psychology. Check out his review of his alma mater:

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?

Evan: Pomona is one college among the five Claremont Colleges, which all share one campus. Despite containing five liberal arts colleges, it is very small (about one square mile). Most students walk, skateboard, bike, or unicycle (typically only Harvey Mudd students do this) around campus. Claremont is a very suburban town, with its small city center--"The Village"--located right next to Pomona. You can either take the train into Los Angeles (takes about an hour) or drive (can take longer, depending on traffic), but there is no need for a car to get around campus or to the nearby shops. The public transportation in Los Angeles is pretty abysmal, so a car comes in handy if you want to go elsewhere around the area. I never had one while I was in college, but I often borrowed a friend's in order to get to concerts, Clippers games, or the beach.

Regarding safety--while parts of East Los Angeles can be very unsafe, and bike theft and other crimes are not uncommon around campus, in general it is a very safe place.  

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

Evan: I think the availability of the professors at Pomona is one of its greatest attributes. Classes are never taught by teaching assistants, and professors serve as academic advisers to all students from the day they arrive on campus. I had a fantastic relationship with my adviser; I worked as a research assistant in her psychology research lab as an upperclassman, and often had dinner at her house nearby in Claremont with other students and members of the lab.

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

Evan: An interesting thing about Pomona is that something like 98% of students live in dorms for all four years, and most students stay on the meal plan and eat at the dining halls throughout their time at school. The good news is that Claremont Colleges’ students can eat at the dining halls on any of the five campuses, so the options rarely get old. All five colleges socialize together frequently as well, which allows students to get the benefits of a bigger school in terms of having lots of people to meet, without some of the drawbacks such as larger classes and less accessible professors.

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?

Evan: Pomona is simply an excellent academic environment, regardless of what you study. I had friends who majored in Economics, Psychology, Middle Eastern Studies, Spanish, Sociology, Neuroscience, and more.  I chose to study Cognitive Science and Psychology because of the excellent faculty and research opportunities, and because I love the subject material. The Psychology and Cognitive Science departments are fantastic. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who didn't like their major or their department at Pomona.

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?

Evan: Greek life is very limited at Pomona. There are one or two "fraternities," but they aren't like those at big state schools in that they don't have frat houses and aren't recognized by the national fraternity boards. For me, a huge part of making friends was my basketball team. I played Varsity basketball and met most of my closest friends through that. There are also "sponsor groups" for every freshman comprised of 10-20 freshmen and two sophomore "sponsors" who live in a hall together. Sponsor groups serve as immediate, automatic friend-groups as well as good sources of information and learning your way around in the first few months.

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

Evan: Career Services at Pomona is very good. They do a great job of reaching out to students to get them involved in career planning, and host many helpful events. As I mentioned, Pomona is a very academic place, so many students go on to a graduate education or some other academic work after graduating from Pomona. However, many big tech-related corporations, consulting and banking firms, and other companies recruit heavily at the Claremont Colleges. Many of my closest friends now work for Google, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, and

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

Evan: Pomona's facilities are simply amazing. The library is enormous, and the dorms are generally very nice. While Pomona is a small campus, it is proportionally very large in relationship to the number of students who live there. Many students have single rooms (as opposed to sharing a double) as early as freshman year. I never had a hard time finding a place to study. It helps that so much of the student body places a lot of value on their academics. If you tell people you need to study, they get it.

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? 

Evan: Claremont is not a very exciting town. There are a couple of good restaurants and one or two fun bars, but everything is expensive. There aren't a lot of student-friendly deals like you might expect there to be. Fortunately, the on-campus social life is beyond compare at the Claremont schools. Many people never need to leave campus to find things to do (especially student athletes like myself, who rarely have time anyway). Los Angeles, on the other hand, is extremely exciting. It takes some planning to get there, but the beach towns, Hollywood, the east side, and just L.A. in general are all the excitement you could ask for.

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

Evan: Pomona is a small school (about 1,600 when I was there, heading toward a goal of expanding to accommodate 2,000 students in the next five years or so). My classes were all very small, which is just fantastic for the education you receive. My professors were all extremely accessible. Pomona professors receive a small amount of money each semester which they are required to use for taking students out to lunch around campus, whether to talk about school or just get to know one another. The drawback to a small class, especially an English class or seminar, is that if you don't do the reading, you will be exposed. Pomona is not for the faint of heart when it comes to schoolwork.

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

Evan: My first memorable experience in class was when I asked a question of Dr. Deborah Burke that had been answered in the reading from the night before (which I did not do carefully enough). She called me out in front of the whole class, saying that maybe if I read more carefully I wouldn't ask such dumb questions next time (wow!). Dr. Burke ended up becoming the adviser that I mentioned earlier whose house I would go over to for dinner--by working hard in her class, I was able to earn her respect, and we have become good friends since. She wrote letters of recommendation for me for graduate school, and has told me that if I ever need a job, I can always come back and work in her lab. I can't imagine being closer with a professor, and I bet that experiences like this don't happen everywhere!


Check out Evan’s tutoring profile.

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