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Pomona College 2018-19 Supplemental Essay Guide

Regular Decision: 

Pomona College 2018-19 Application Essay Question Explanations

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

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Oddball, Community

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, in no more than 250 words, please tell us why you’ve chosen the academic programs (or Undecided!) that you have listed. (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: 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 2: “Let only the eager, thoughtful and reverent enter here,” is inscribed on one side of Pomona’s College Gates. Dating from 1914, the gates remain a potent symbol today as we welcome every new class of students to enter them together. If you were to inscribe a fourth quality into the gates to describe students who enter Pomona today, which adjective would you choose? What quality would you want your Pomona peers to share, and why?

Here is our number one recommendation for facing this prompt: Copy and paste it into your favorite word processor and delete the first two sentences. You’ll notice that it boils down to this basic question: What essential quality will you bring to the Pomona community (aside from eagerness, thoughtfulness, and reverence)? Yes, it’s basically a community essay. To answer this question correctly, you’ll need to choose an adjective, but we’d recommend starting with the story. How would your friends describe you? What anecdotes have become legend in your family? What qualities do others appreciate about you, and how could you see them contributing to life at Pomona? Perhaps your foolhardy (but ultimately successful) attempt to go for a winter hike in your tennis shoes shows that you are someone who sees things through — dedicated. Or maybe you’re most known for your unique and infectious laugh — joyful (or maybe loud, if you feel like taking a risk). This is an opportunity to connect a story from your personal, non-academic life to an image of who you will be on campus.

Prompt 3: Oscar Wilde said that there are two tragedies in life: not getting what one wants and getting it. Tell us about an experience of not getting what you wanted or getting it and why it was a tragedy.

In our opinion, Pomona is focusing on the less interesting half of this Oscar Wilde quote. Wouldn’t it be interesting to think about a time when getting exactly what you wanted turned out to be a tragedy? But we digress. The assignment is clear cut and, at the end of the day, quite similar to the Common App’s second prompt about failure. And the basic advice is the same: you should still think of this as an opportunity to cast yourself in a positive light. So don’t play the victim, and definitely don’t tell a story that would make an admissions officer question your judgement — like that time you didn’t get the shirt you wanted because you got caught shoplifting. That said, it can be hard not to come across as whiny when the prompt specifically asks you to cast your experience as a tragedy. Our advice: go extreme. Either pick something that was a real tragedy in your life (not getting that last cup of tea with grandma before she passed away), or a trivial loss that becomes funny or interesting through the lens of tragedy (when you didn’t get a pet unicorn for your fifth birthday). There is no in between on this prompt. You need to commit to your story. This prompt is definitely for applicants with writerly chops, so if you’re not confident in your ability to spin a convincingly sad or funny yarn, we’d suggest sticking with one of the first two options.

Please note: the information below relates to last year's essay prompts. We are going to update this guide with the prompts for 2021-22 as soon as they become available. Check back soon!
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