My daughter Abby and I just returned from a road trip to LA where we visited the Claremont Colleges, Occidental and USC. After attending information sessions, campus tours and wandering around campus observing and talking with students, I am sold on the advantages of a liberal arts college consortium—as it combines the best of a small school with the resources of a larger one.
The Claremont Colleges are five liberal arts schools and two small graduate programs all located
within one square mile
in the city of Claremont, about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The five schools range in size from about 800
(Harvey Mudd) to 1500 students (Pomona).
|Clock Tower at Pomona|
Each of the five colleges has a distinct mission, focus and curriculum yet all five share common resources including a shared course catalogue accessed by all students who can take up to 30% of their courses at any of the other institutions, a library of 2 million volumes, a concert hall, bookstore, facilities and joint sports teams (Pomona/Pitzer and Claremont McKenna/Harvey Mudd/Scripps). Students can eat at any one of seven dining halls and many social and social justice activities occur outside individual school boundaries.
Meanwhile on each campus, class sizes are small, student-professor
relationships are warm and nurturing and students can
pursue their own passions surrounded by like-minded friends. Pomona is the traditional liberal arts
school; Pitzer is the ‘60s activist campus; Claremont McKenna focuses on
politics and leadership while Harvey Mudd features engineering and science and
Scripps is a women’s college.
|Residence Hall Courtyard at Pomona|
|Mural at Pizter|
Abby was drawn to both Pomona and Pitzer so we visited those campuses more in depth and we were both favourably impressed by our student guides and the engaged yet casual “vibe” on each campus. In recent years following Pomona all of the Claremont schools have become quite competitive so admittance is very selective. If you are drawn to a liberal arts curriculum and want to attend college in the west, any of the Claremont schools is a very attractive option.
|Desert landscaping at Pitzer|
|Organic Garden at Pitzer|
(If you want the liberal arts consortium advantage but prefer to leave California you might consider the Massachusetts Five College Consortium of Amherst, Hampshire, Smith, Mt. Holyoke and U Mass Amherst or the Tri-College Consortium of Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore outside Philadelphia.)