Academic Life at Pomona College

Unlike many large schools, new students at Pomona College don’t register for classes until after they have participated in the Orientation program just before the fall semester begins. Together with your faculty advisor, you’ll choose classes that integrate your interests and enable exploration of new areas.

Your first year is for exploring the offerings of Pomona while also fulfilling General Education requirements while also sharpening basic skills (i.e., writing, mathematics, foreign language, etc.). This guide provides background you will need for your important first conversation with your advisor.

Academic Life at Pomona College

Choosing a Major

Not yet! About half of our first-year students are undecided about their majors; half of the remaining students change their minds during the first two years. For that reason, it’s very important to be broad and flexible when choosing your classes. Keep your options open while also being aware of gateway courses in disciplines that you think you might choose to pursue.

The requirements for most majors can be completed in three years or fewer, thus there is no urgency to choose a major during your first year at Pomona. Exceptions to this are music, some of the natural sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics, geology), foreign languages and literatures, and international relations. In these fields, an early start on required courses may be strongly recommended by your faculty advisor.

Placement Examinations/Advisories

Several disciplines, including chemistry, economics, foreign languages, mathematics and music, have placement examinations or special introductory sequences of courses. For students who plan to take introductory science and/or calculus, we also offer an online quantitative skills assessment and tutorial service called ALEKS.

Please visit our Placements and Advisory Exams page for more information.

Course Selection

In some department curricula, first-year students are limited to the standard introductory courses like General Chemistry (CHEM001A/B) or Accelerated First Year Chemistry (CHEM051) or Principles of Macroeconomics (ECON051).

In other departments you are free to choose from all of the offerings unless there are course prerequisites (listed in the Pomona College Catalog). Upper-division courses (typically numbered 100 or above) usually assume greater preparation than those courses typically elected by first-year students, and will have prerequisites or restrictions based on class year or major.

In all cases, you will register after considerable investigation into the offerings of the College — above all, after discussing options with your advisor, but also after availing yourself of information from the Catalog, The Claremont Colleges Undergraduate Course Schedule, and department and faculty websites; from the Department Fair during Orientation; after placement tests; and after many conversations with sponsors and other students.

Closed Courses. Because the College believes small classes make for the best learning outcomes, you will find that some courses you want to take will be closed when you register, and you may need to wait a semester (sometimes more) to take them. Flexibility in planning your program is the key to coping with these situations. Select several alternates for courses in your planned schedule. There is a way to submit a request for permission (a “PERM”) to enroll in a closed course through the portal, when you view the schedule after logging into the portal.

Pre-Professional Planning

Law schools and business schools are interested in students with a variety of undergraduate majors, so students interested in these options need not be concerned with meeting special requirements during the first year.

Medical and other health science schools also encourage students to consider a variety of majors, but they do have specific requirements which require starting chemistry and math as early as possible. It is possible to pursue a curriculum to prepare for health science and postpone these courses until after the first year; however, this may require course overloads or summer school work later on.

Pomona does not have a major in pre-business, pre-engineering, pre-law or pre-medicine/health sciences; i.e., one cannot be a “pre-med major.” But it is possible to satisfy all of the requirements for admission to professional schools while pursuing a Pomona College major. Our Career Development Office can offer assistance in preparing for graduate study in professional or other fields.