I was lucky enough to recently visit Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College. Pomona and CMC are known as Small Liberal Arts Colleges, also called SLACs. SLACs only focus on the first four years of college. To contrast, UCLA, a great university, offers PhDs, Masters’ degrees, MBAs, and law degrees in addition to a four-year BS. Instead of focusing on producing research, SLACs focus on educating students.
Claremont McKenna and Pomona are part of the Claremont Consortium, a group of eight educational institutions. The undergraduate colleges include Pomona College, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, and Pitzer College. The two graduate institutions include Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute. Though each institution has different ideals, admissions, students, and campus, they share resources and some classes, and are dedicated to small classes and extremely rigorous yet personalized instruction. By combining all of these schools, students are able to have the resources of a large school yet the community of a small school.
Pomona is the oldest of the five colleges. Pomona is known for extremely high academic standards, tying for 5th in US News and World Reports’ small college ranking, and leading about 90% of students to higher education like law school, PhD programs, and medical degrees.
Both campuses have beautiful architecture. Pomona’s campus is grassy and classic; my mother commented that it was “as pretty as Princeton, but without the maniac stressed energy going around.” On the other hand, CMC’s campus was beautifully modern. A main feature was the cube-shaped, water-accented glass study structure.
Campus tour leaders explained many interesting aspects of the Pomona experience. Pomona’s mascot is a sagehen, a rather un-intimidating and strange chicken-like thing. Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens have a fierce rivalry with the Claremont-Scripps-Harvey Mudd Stags or Athenas. Pomona College has a special relationship with the number 47; there are 47 possible majors, and April 7th (4/7) is celebrated every year. Pomona also embraces a progressive and accepting community; the feminist movement plays a big role on campus, as does the annual “Gaypril.” Students also have the choice of gender-neutral bathrooms and dorms.
Claremont McKenna offers the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. This is a relaxed yet informative speakers series offered Monday through Thursday where students have a chance to enjoy a meal while listening to leaders and writers. CMC is ranked 3rd in happiest students/best quality of life on Princeton Review’s list, which is no wonder considering the beautiful weather, exciting social scene, and outstanding International Relations, Government, and Economics programs. Students have exciting opportunities for internships and traveling through these programs.
Pomona and Claremont McKenna College show that dreaming big for college can mean thinking small.