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How to Write Powerful Pomona Supplements 2018-19

UPDATE!  There have been some changes to the Pomona supplements for 2019-20.  Get the details here.

Applying to Pomona College? Cool! In addition to your Common App personal statement, you’ll have to respond to a couple of Pomona essay prompts.

One of these Pomona supplements is basically a “Why major” essay, which all applicants are required to write. Let’s take a look!

Why Major?

250 words max

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.

See that exclamation point after “Undecided”? It’s true: Pomona thinks it’s “awesome” if you don’t know right now what you want to major in. But even without a single main focus, you’ll still need to demonstrate that you have unique interests and passions.

Follow these steps to develop content that shows readers your personality, burning interests, and thoughts about your future.

Step 1: List your main interests and passions.

  • If you know your major, identify at least 2 specific aspects of the subject that appeal to you.
  • If you’re undecided, list at least 2 academic or intellectual interests of yours—and be as specific as possible!

Step 2: For each item from step 1, write down 1-2 reasons why it fascinates you.

  • These might include how you got introduced to the subject, ways it has enriched your life, or how it connects to other interests and values of yours.

Step 3: For each step 1 item, try to name a related future goal.

  • If you know your major, elaborate on how each specific aspect of it from step 1 will impact your future plans.
  • If you’re undecided, just jot down some things you might want to do after college, related to your interests. You don’t have to be super specific here; you just want to show that you’re excited to get out into the world and do things!

Step 4: Research specific opportunities at Pomona (classes, faculty, events) that would help you pursue your interests and achieve your goals.

  • Aim for 1-2 resources here. It’s okay if you want to mention something offered through the Claremont Colleges consortium, but make sure you also have something that’s Pomona-specific.
    • For example, if you’re majoring in geology and obsessed with volcanoes, you might cite the large number of field trips throughout the western U.S. and the opportunity to take classes such as GEOL020A PO - Intro to Geology: Geohazards study with Professor Nicole Moore, who researches “the mafic eruptive products of volcanism.” (Do I know what that means? Absolutely not. But as an aspiring volcanologist, you probably would!)


Now you’ve got lots of details to incorporate into your essay—so get writing! Tell a story that connects your step 2 reasons to your goals from step 3. Don’t worry if you suspect this might all change; think of this as a snapshot of your passions and goals at this moment. Conclude your essay by briefly addressing the Pomona opportunities from step 4. If you’re undecided, explore how these opportunities could help you narrow down your interests and choose a major.

For your other required Pomona supplement essay, you’ll choose from three prompt options. Let’s explore how to pick the one that’s perfect for you!

Choose 1 of 3

600 words max


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.


"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?

Pick this prompt if: you can think of a quality that describes you and that you think makes you an ideal Pomona candidate. (Get your parts of speech right, by the way, and make sure you choose an adjective!) Since they’re looking for qualities that a community can share, think about adjectives that could describe you and your friends or classmates when you’re all doing something exciting together. The most important part of your response is the “why”: why is it meaningful to you that your group has this characteristic?

By getting to know Pomona through its website and perhaps a visit, you can verify that the trait you choose (and by extension, you) would be a great fit at the college.


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.

Pick this prompt if: you sometimes find yourself either pining for a place from your past, physically returning again and again to some specific spot, or daydreaming about being in some fictional locale. You’ll want to discuss why and how your significant place has contributed to the person you are today, and perhaps tie that briefly to what Pomona’s location means to you. Another angle might be to discuss a place that you didn’t like (or a fictional place you always dreaded), and how you grew from that experience.


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.

Pick this prompt if: at some point you grew significantly as a person through some kind of failure, or else you realized that a success was not all it was cracked up to be. The trick is that although it might have been a “tragedy” at the time, you’ll want to show some kind of “bright side” to the experience—perhaps a realization about what’s truly important to you, or a newfound commitment to a goal (perhaps a different goal than you initially had). Briefly touch on how the experience will impact your actions and goals in the future, both in college and beyond.


There’s one more Pomona prompt and although it’s optional, it could be a good opportunity to highlight another intriguing side of yourself.

If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below in no more than 50 words.

Think about traits, values, and experiences of yours that could show a different side of your personality and set you apart from others (even in just a small way), and then write as honestly and directly as possible, as if every word counts—because it does!

Overall, be genuine and even a bit daring when you write these Pomona supplements; don’t just say what you think admissions officers want to hear. They want to be surprised and find out what makes you unique!


Get started with our free brainstorming tools!


Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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