All of the member schools within the Claremont Consortium have excellent reputations, but Pomona College and its 1,477 brilliant undergrads, edge out Claremont McKenna for the title of “Most Selective.” In fact, along with schools like Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, and Bowdoin, Pomona College is one of the most revered liberal arts colleges in the United States. Presently, around 7-8% make it through the gates each year, a far cry from 1988, when the acceptance rate at Pomona approached 40%.

Because elite liberal arts colleges are lesser known to the average person than Ivy League universities, some parents/students make the mistake of assuming that a Pomona is easier to get into than a Penn or a Dartmouth—this assumption is simply incorrect. All colleges of this ilk, Pomona included, reject a fair number of valedictorians each year as well as those with near-perfect scores on the SAT/ACT. None of this is meant to scare you—we just want to make sure that students and parents alike possess:

1) An understanding of how competitive this admissions process at Pomona really is in 2021.

2) More data on which to accurately assess your chances of admission.

3) Advice for how to get your application to Pomona College to stand out, even against a sea of other superb applicants.

To accomplish these goals we will touch on the following topics:

  • Pomona’s Early Decision acceptance rate
  • Pomona’s Class of 2025 acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Pomona College applicants
  • Admissions trends
  • Pomona College’s system for rating applicants
  • A look at the demographics of current Pomona College undergraduates
  • The percent of accepted students that attend the Pomona College (yield rate)
  • Tips for applying to Pomona College
  • How to assess whether applying to the Pomona College is worth the $70 application fee (for you)

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.

Pomona College Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Pomona’s ED acceptance rate was 15.39% for the Class of 2023, a razor-thin increase from the previous year’s 15.17%. The ED acceptance rate compared quite favorably the to the Regular Decision rate of 6%. They have not yet released official Class of 2024 or 2025 ED numbers.

Pomona College Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025

While they have yet to release an official Class of 2025 acceptance rate, we do know that Pomona admitted 745 students—83 were admitted to the previous class but deferred their acceptance (largely due to the pandemic). Looking at the official Class of 2024 results, we see that Pomona’s official acceptance rate was 8.6% which was actually higher than the prior cycle which saw applicants admitted at a 7.4% clip.

Pomona College Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank

For Class of 2024 members, the mid-50% SAT range for enrolled freshmen was 1390-1530, the ACT range was 32-35. Among enrolled 2020-21 first-year students, an impressive 90% hailed from the top 10%, while 98% earned a place in the top 25%. One-quarter of students in the Class of 2024 were the valedictorian of their high school class.

Admissions Trends & Notes – Class of 2025

  • Only 57% of accepted students submitted a test score with their application.
  • The 745 admitted students attended 635 different high schools worldwide.
  • 5% of students offered a place in the Class of 2025 were first-generation applicants.
  • Admissions officers connected with 33,600 students, parents, and counselors through virtual school visits, college fairs, and presentations.
  • 17 students were matched through QuestBridge.
  • Due to COVID-19, Pomona has announced that it will continue to be test-optional for students applying for entry from 2022-2024.

How Pomona College Rates Applicants

Pomona College labels eight factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school course load, class rank, GPA, recommendations, essays, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. Factors that are “considered” are: standardized test scores, an admissions interview, first-generation status, geographical residence, racial/ethnic status, volunteer work, and work experience.

Since Pomona wants to see achievement and leadership outside of the classroom as well, it’s important to grasp what highly-competitive colleges are looking for when evaluating extracurricular activities. In short, they are looking for evidence of commitment and achievement in a couple of areas as depth is far more important than breadth. For more on the topic, we recommend reading our blog: How Many Extracurricular Activities Do I Need for College?

At Pomona:

  • 20% of students play on 21 varsity sports teams.
  • Hundreds more participate in club and intramural athletics.
  • There are eight musical ensembles on campus.
  • There are more than 250 clubs and organizations at the five undergraduate Claremont Colleges.

Pomona admissions officers cite the following qualities as being of primary importance when evaluating candidates:

  • Investment and involvement in a community or passionate pursuit (if activities are curtailed by coronavirus (COVID-19) precautions, we will obviously take this into account. Please stay safe!)
  • A love for learning, and a willingness to challenge yourself and go outside your “comfort zone”
  • An openness to new ideas and rejection of easy answers
  • An appreciation for a collaborative learning environment
  • Personal character — be it grit, kindness, diligence or serving others
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Appreciation for/involvement in the visual and/or performing arts (for students with talent in dance, drama, music and/or visual arts, we encourage the submission of an online arts supplement)

Pomona College Demographics

Let’s look at the demographics of Pomona College undergraduate student body. The states that saw the greatest number of Class of 2025 admits were:

  1. California (167)
  2. New York (46)
  3. Illinois (38)
  4. Texas (34)
  5. Washington (34)
  6. Florida (34)
  7. Colorado (18)
  8. Massachusetts (16)
  9. Maryland (15)

As at any highly-selective liberal arts college, Pomona applicants from states with very few applicants will receive an admissions boost. This preference for geographic diversity often benefits teens hailing from places like West Virginia, Idaho, the Dakotas, and other less-populated U.S. states.

The greatest number of international admits came from the following countries:

  1. China (21)
  2. United Kingdom (9)
  3. India (7)
  4. Canada (6)
  5. Hong Kong (6)
  6. Japan (6)
  7. Mexico (6)
  8. Singapore (5)

In terms of ethnic identity, the breakdown of admitted students into the Class of 2025 is as follows:

  • White: 26%
  • Asian: 16%
  • Hispanic: 17%
  • African American: 12%
  • Two or More Races: 9%
  • International: 15%

A look at the gender split reveals that the college admitted far more women than men into the Class of 2025.

  • Men: 43%
  • Women: 57%

As a result of this disparity, in picking the Class of 2024, men were accepted 10.1% of the time compared to women at 7.6% (These figures include students accepted from the waitlist).

The intended majors/concentration areas of admitted Class of 2025 students are:

  • Humanities: 21.7%
  • Interdisciplinary Fields: 27.8%
  • Social Sciences: 21.3%
  • Undecided: 3.4%

Pomona College’s “Yield Rate”

Pomona College’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was 45%, down from 54% the previous year. For comparison, other top liberal arts schools have the following yields: Swarthmore College (41%), Williams College (46%), and Amherst College (39%).

Tips for Applying to Pomona College

If you plan on joining the 10,000+ Pomona College hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • If Pomona is your top choice, you’ll want to strongly consider applying ED I by November 15 or ED II by January 8. The Regular Decision deadline also falls on Jan 8, but the acceptance rates are significantly lower in this round.
  • This school offers optional alumni interviews—however, they receive more requests than they have slots. Twenty-minute virtual information sessions with an admissions officer are also an option, but admissions staff do not conduct formal interviews.
  • Pomona College does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
  • Prospective students can apply through the Common Application or Coalition Application.
  • You’ll need to submit a Mid-Year Report in late February, so remember to keep those grades up throughout your senior year of high school.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the eight supplemental prompts required by Pomona College. In the 2021-22 cycle, the essays and short answer prompts are as follows:

On the Common Application and the Coalition Application, applicants will be required to submit two short essays. Each essay should be max. 200 words.

  1. Pomona is committed to achieving the benefits of diversity for all students by creating a community that learns and grows together through the exchange of different lived experiences and perspectives. Our community is made up of students from diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, and linguistic backgrounds; political, religious and social views; physical abilities; home environments and socioeconomic backgrounds; hometowns and regions; and sexes, gender identities and sexual orientations. Please choose one of the following two prompts:
  2. Tell us about an experience when you dealt with disagreement or conflict around different perspectives within a community. OR
  3. Tell us about one of the communities you belong to and what it means to bring that shared belief and/or perspective to Pomona.
  4. Helen Keller once said, “The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Whether you aspire to be a hero or an honest worker, what impact do you want to have in the Pomona community, your community back home, or any new community?

You will also be required to spend up to 150 words addressing the following academic question:

  1. Students at Pomona are encouraged to take a variety of classes before declaring their major(s) in their second year. Tell us what gets you excited about the academic interest(s) you selected or any other fields of study you hope to explore in college.

There are also five additional short answer questions which can be addressed with between 1 and 50 words:

  1. If there are aspects of your identity that you feel are not captured elsewhere in this application, please provide that information below.
  2. If not captured elsewhere in your application, please share with us how you have overcome challenges in your life. 
  3. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
  4. What’s your favorite way to eat a potato?
  5. You’re relaxing on a Friday night. Suddenly, your favorite song pops into your head. What is it?

 College Transitions’ Pomona College Essay Tips

With one academically-inclined short answer query, five silly/open-ended short answer prompts, and two community/conflict-related brief essays, you certainly have a chance to show off your personality, interests, sense of humor, quirkiness, resilience, involvement, passion, humility…the list of attributes you could showcase here goes on and on.

In response to the academic prompt, make sure you genuinely communicate your intellectual passions. There is no wrong answer here, but the committee should emerge with a solid understand of how your brain works and what makes you tick.

For the two 200-word essays, you are addressing something that is extraordinarily importance to Pomona admissions officers—how you believe you will be able to contribute to the larger community. To assess these possibilities, they’ll want to hear how do you have contributed to your various communities in the past. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do handle adversity or conflict? Tell a story that is honest, thoughtful, and humble. Think of this as a chance for the committee to get to know your humanity, morality, ethics, problem-solving ability, and willingness to serve others or a cause greater than yourself.

Should I Apply to Pomona?

Seventy-four percent of those accepted into Pomona possessed an SAT score of 1400 or better; 92% earned an ACT score of 30 or higher (this does not include the last application cycle when the school became temporarily test-optional). Just about everyone finished at or near the top of their high school class. If you check these boxes then you’ll certainly be a competitive applicant at Pomona, but those with additional attributes and talents will fare best. As the school states, they are looking for candidates who exhibit a “love for learning, and a willingness to challenge yourself and go outside your comfort zone.”

Any student applying to a school of Pomona’s caliber also needs to also have a proper mix or “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.