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Pomona College 2017-18 Supplemental Essay Guide

Please note: the information below relates to last year's essay prompts. We are going to update this guide with the prompts for 2018-19 as soon as they become available. Check back soon!

Pomona College 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanations

Pomona starts you off with a fairly standard Why essay, but that’s just the appetizer. As a second course, they offer a platter of oddball prompts to inspire and challenge you. Luckily, you only have to choose one. While the prompts themselves may seem a bit off the wall, you can still be strategic in your selection. First and foremost, go with your gut. It’s a blessing to feel a spark when you read one of these, and it can feel like a curse forcing an oddball essay out of your brain when you’re not feeling inspired. Once you’ve picked your prompt, give yourself a little time to brainstorm and play around with a few ideas before you commit. These quirky prompts are all about showing your creativity so let you mind roam!

The Requirements: One long essay of 400-600 words, one short essay of 250 words.

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Oddball

Most Pomona students enter the College undecided about a major, or they change their minds about their prospective major by the time they graduate. Certainly we aren’t going to hold you to any of the choices you’ve made above. But please do tell us why you’ve chosen the major or majors (or Undecided!) that you have (in no more than 250 words).

This somewhat rambling prompt is nothing more or less than an academically-inclined Why essay. As you dig into the writing, aim to answer these two key questions: (1) What do you love about the subject? (2) How does Pomona’s specific program meet your needs or excite your curiosity? In other words, your goal is not just to geek out (although this is highly encouraged!), but also to demonstrate your fit for Pomona specifically. If you can demonstrate a knowledge or curiosity for your chosen major alongside some school-specific facts, you’ll show admissions that you’re motivated and dedicated to their institution. If that’s not a winning combo, we don’t know what is! So before you start scribbling away (or pounding out 250 words on your computer), remember that the backbone of any good why essay is research! Give yourself some time to dig through the Pomona website and get to know your department as well as any related programs, centers, and opportunities.

As you write the essay, think about how you will align your current interests and passions with Pomona’s offerings. Maybe you’ve become increasingly dedicated to saving the planet and learned the power of collaboration by starting a neighborhood composting program; so of course you’re drawn to the interdisciplinary and communal approach of the Environmental Analysis Program! Or perhaps you think Southern California would be a great place to pick up a Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies Major. Or if you’re undecided, maybe you still have a list of subjects you’d like to try on for size and are excited by the scope of the 5Cs. Whatever the program and whatever your reasoning, build a bridge from your lived experience to your future life as a Pomona student.

Please respond to one of the three following prompts. We’d recommend an essay between 400 and 600 words, but yours may be longer or shorter.

Prompt 1: You have been given the option of having one superpower, but, in exchange, you have to give up one of your five senses. If you take this offer, what do you hope to accomplish with your new power and what would you miss about the sense you’ve given up?

Allow us to rephrase the question in non-Marvel terms: What cause or idea do you care about so much that you would be willing to make a significant personal sacrifice in its name? What are you willing to fight or go out on a limb for? We think it’s helpful to think about the power you would want to have or the change you want to see in the world BEFORE you decide what sense you’d want to give up. First of all, maybe you’ll discover that this prompt really isn’t for you because you haven’t quite settled on your passions, and that is okay! You have two other prompts to choose from, and skipping this one doesn’t make you a bad person. On the other hand, as you brainstorm superpower ideas you may surprise yourself or uncover a common theme that helps you decide what sense you would want to give up. Can you choose a sense that contributes thematically to your overarching idea? For example, maybe you want to live in a world where people can listen to and learn from each other despite their differences. So perhaps you’d want to heighten your sense of hearing to super-hearing while giving up your sense of sight as a way to avoid getting a prejudiced first impression. Whatever you choose, make sure you write from the heart and offer concrete examples of how you would use your superpower. How would it improve the lives of those around you? How might it have helped you in the past? Filling this essay with specific personal details will transform it from a creative sci-fi writing exercise into a memorable essay that shows admissions who you are at your core.

Prompt 2: For Pomona students, the College’s location in Southern California is integral in shaping their experience. Tell us about a location, real or fictional, that has shaped you in a meaningful way.

Psst… we have a secret for you. There’s something Pomona isn’t telling you about this prompt: you’ll likely be able to recycle the essay on other supplements. Questions about special or significant places have become fairly popular, so picking this prompt probably gives you the most bang for your buck. (And if you do a really great job on the essay, it might even be worth using when schools ask you to write about a “topic of your choice.”) Efficiency isn’t the only reason to choose this prompt, but it certainly could make a difference if you have a lot of writing ahead of you! This is also a great option because almost everyone has been affected by their environment in some way. Maybe living in a tiny apartment with your family after surviving a fire brought you closer together both physically and metaphorically. Or perhaps you have a favorite tree with a special nook that you lean against while you sketch, and maybe over time your drawings have captured gradual changes to both the environment and your perspective. And of course fictional locations are fair game too! So maybe the windy moors of Wuthering Heights taught you to see an alignment between your own emotions and the natural world. Or maybe you’ve spent the past several years fantasizing about how you would use your own Room of Requirement if only you went to Hogwarts. The point is: use the location to reveal something about yourself. Admissions isn’t looking for a detailed description of every physical detail, but rather a sense of who you are and what you enjoy. The more anecdotes and personal details you can include, the more your location will truly come to life.

Prompt 3: A recent Critical Inquiry course at Pomona, ”I Disagree,” poses these questions: What does it take to be the one juror out of twelve who votes innocent? What are the dangers of living with people who agree with you? How does a scientific or a religious community confront troublesome new ideas? Consider one or more of these questions and address ”the noble art of disagreement.”

This is the heaviest and most philosophical of the options, but its relevance may draw a lot of folks’ attention. The biggest challenge will be coming up with a concrete answer rather than an abstract musing. You’ll want to give yourself some time to brainstorm and outline before diving into this one, which requires a more structured argument than the others. Try to think of examples from your own life that relate to the questions or to the concept of disagreement in general. When was the first time you disagreed with someone older or more powerful than you? What did you do and what were the consequences? What patterns of agreement and disagreement have you noticed in your family, community, and beyond? Do they differ based on the size of the group? If this prompt reminds you of one of the questions from the Common App (#3) or Coalition (#3), we think that’s a valid interpretation. So if you’ve already written about a significant conflict or disagreement, you may want to skip this question. On the other hand, if this is still new territory for you, we’d recommend checking out our guides for more inspo.

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