Comparing Pomona College vs the University of Southern California

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

an AP class with students participating in a room discussion

Comparing Pomona College vs the University of Southern California

When it comes to choosing a college or university, there are many factors to consider. Two of the most notable higher education institutions in southern California are Pomona College and the University of Southern California (USC). While both offer a high-quality education, there are key differences to consider. In this article, we will compare Pomona College vs the University of Southern California in terms of location, admission requirements, academic programs, campus life, cost of tuition, and other pertinent categories.

Location and Campus Size

One of the most significant differences between Pomona College and USC is their location and campus size. Pomona College is a residential liberal arts college located in the quaint suburb of Claremont, California. USC, on the other hand, is a large research university located in the heart of bustling Los Angeles. Pomona College has a smaller student body, with just over 1,700 students, while USC has over 47,000 students.

a building in Pomona College

Despite being located in a suburban area, Pomona College is still within driving distance of many popular attractions in Southern California. Students can easily take a short trip to visit Disneyland, Universal Studios, or the beaches of Santa Monica. USC, on the other hand, is located in the middle of Los Angeles, giving students access to a wide range of cultural experiences, including museums, theaters, and music venues.

Another difference between the two schools is the size of their campuses. Pomona College’s campus is relatively small, with most buildings located within walking distance of each other. USC’s campus, on the other hand, is much larger and spread out, with many buildings located several blocks apart. This can make it more challenging for students to navigate the campus and get to their classes on time.

Admission Requirements and Process

Both schools have competitive admission processes, but Pomona College is considered one of the most selective colleges in the country. Students applying to Pomona will need a stellar academic record, with a focus on grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities. USC requires a similarly impressive application, but with a greater emphasis on standardized test scores. Both schools also take into account recommendations, essays, and demonstrated interest in the school.

It is important to note that both schools have different application deadlines. Pomona College has a regular decision deadline of January 1st, while USC has a regular decision deadline of January 15th. Early decision and early action options are also available at both schools, with earlier deadlines and different requirements.

Additionally, both schools offer need-based financial aid to admitted students. Pomona College is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need for all admitted students, while USC offers a variety of scholarships and grants to help offset the cost of attendance. It is important for prospective students to research and understand the financial aid options available at each school before applying.

Academic Programs Offered between Pomona College vs the University of Southern California

While both Pomona College and USC offer a wide range of academic programs, the predominant focus of each school is quite different. Pomona College is primarily known for its strong liberal arts curriculum. Students at Pomona study a broad range of subjects and are encouraged to engage in interdisciplinary research. USC, on the other hand, is known for its robust program in film, as well as its preprofessional programs such as business, engineering, and medicine.

Additionally, Pomona College offers a unique program called the “Pomona College in New York City” program, which allows students to spend a semester in New York City and take classes in various fields such as finance, journalism, and theater. USC also offers a variety of study abroad programs, including a popular program in Florence, Italy, where students can study art, history, and Italian language and culture.

Faculty and Student Body Diversity

Another key factor to consider when comparing Pomona College and USC is the diversity of their faculty and student bodies. Pomona College places a strong emphasis on diversity and has a student body that is notably diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and backgrounds. Similarly, faculty members at Pomona College represent a diverse range of academic specializations and experiences. USC has a diverse faculty as well, but its student body has been criticized for being less diverse than Pomona’s.

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It is important to note that both Pomona College and USC have taken steps to increase diversity and inclusivity on their campuses. Pomona College has implemented various programs and initiatives to support underrepresented students and faculty, such as the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) and the Faculty Diversity Initiative. USC has also launched several diversity and inclusion initiatives, including the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force and the Race and Equity Center. However, despite these efforts, there is still room for improvement in terms of creating more diverse and inclusive environments at both institutions.

Campus Life and Extracurricular Activities between Pomona College vs the University of Southern California

When it comes to campus life and extracurricular activities, both schools offer a variety of options. Pomona College has a more intimate and community-oriented campus life, with a robust residential college system and numerous student-led clubs and organizations. USC has a larger campus and offers more traditional collegiate experiences such as Greek life and a renowned football program. Both schools offer superb opportunities for internships and professional development.

Additionally, Pomona College has a strong emphasis on sustainability and environmentalism, with many student-led initiatives focused on reducing waste and promoting eco-friendly practices. USC also offers a wide range of cultural and diversity-focused organizations, including clubs for underrepresented communities and international student associations. Both schools prioritize student wellness and offer resources such as counseling services, health clinics, and fitness facilities.

Sports and Athletics Programs

As mentioned, USC has a storied football program and a strong athletics department overall. Pomona College competes in Division III sports and has a long history of athletic success as well. However, sports do not play as significant of a role in the campus culture at Pomona College as they do at USC.

Despite the difference in emphasis on sports, Pomona College offers a wide range of athletic programs for students to participate in. These programs include basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming, and many others. The college also has a state-of-the-art fitness center that is open to all students.

Moreover, Pomona College places a strong emphasis on the importance of physical activity and wellness. The college offers various wellness programs and resources, including yoga classes, meditation sessions, and nutrition counseling. These programs aim to promote a healthy lifestyle and help students maintain a balance between their academic and personal lives.

Housing Options for Students

Pomona College offers a variety of on-campus housing options, including traditional residence halls and themed dorms. USC offers both on-campus and off-campus housing options. Both schools guarantee housing for all four years.

At Pomona College, students have the option to live in special interest housing, which includes language immersion housing, substance-free housing, and gender-inclusive housing. These options provide students with a unique living experience that aligns with their interests and values.

USC offers a variety of off-campus housing options, including apartments and houses located near campus. These options provide students with more independence and the opportunity to live in a more diverse community. However, it is important to note that off-campus housing may come with additional expenses and responsibilities, such as paying for utilities and transportation to campus.

Cost of Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid Available between Pomona College vs the University of Southern California

One of the most significant differences between Pomona College and USC is the cost of tuition and fees. Pomona College is a private liberal arts college with a high tuition cost, while USC is a prestigious private university with a similarly high price tag. However, both schools offer generous financial aid packages to help alleviate the cost for eligible students. It is worth noting that USC has a higher average student debt upon graduation than Pomona College.

Young woman visiting Europe

Another factor to consider when comparing the cost of attendance at Pomona College and USC is the availability of scholarships. Pomona College offers a variety of merit-based scholarships, including the Pomona College Scholars Program, which covers full tuition and fees for four years. USC also offers merit-based scholarships, such as the Trustee Scholarship, which covers full tuition for four years, but these scholarships are highly competitive and not guaranteed.

Additionally, both Pomona College and USC offer work-study programs to help students earn money to pay for their education. Pomona College’s work-study program provides students with on-campus jobs, while USC’s program offers both on-campus and off-campus job opportunities. These programs can be a great way for students to gain work experience and earn money to help cover the cost of tuition and fees.

Career Services and Job Placement Opportunities

Both Pomona College and USC offer comprehensive career services to help students find internships, job opportunities, and prepare for their future careers. USC, in particular, has strong ties to the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and offers many networking opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career in that field.

Pomona College’s career services also offer a variety of resources for students, including resume and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, and career fairs. Additionally, the college has partnerships with various organizations and companies, providing students with access to exclusive job and internship opportunities. Pomona College’s alumni network is also a valuable resource for students, as they can connect with successful graduates in their desired fields.

Campus Safety Measures and Crime Statistics

Both Pomona College and USC take campus safety seriously and have invested in measures to improve safety and security on their respective campuses. However, like all urban campuses, USC has higher crime rates than Pomona College’s suburban campus. USC has implemented numerous measures to improve safety, including a large public safety department, but it is worth noting that Pomona College has a lower number of reported incidents.

One of the safety measures implemented by Pomona College is the use of a campus-wide emergency notification system. This system allows for quick and efficient communication with students, faculty, and staff in the event of an emergency. Additionally, Pomona College has a strong partnership with the local police department, which provides an added layer of security for the campus community. USC also has an emergency notification system in place, but due to the larger size of the campus, it can be more challenging to reach everyone in a timely manner.

Alumni Networks and Connections between Pomona College vs the University of Southern California

Pomona College and USC both have strong alumni networks and offer numerous opportunities for alumni to connect with one another and with current students. USC, in particular, has a robust alumni base that includes many successful leaders in business, entertainment, and other industries.

These alumni networks can be incredibly valuable for current students and recent graduates who are looking to establish themselves in their chosen fields. Alumni can offer mentorship, job opportunities, and valuable connections that can help students and recent graduates get their foot in the door.

Additionally, both Pomona College and USC offer a variety of events and programs specifically designed to connect alumni with one another and with current students. These events can range from networking mixers to career fairs to panel discussions featuring successful alumni. By attending these events, alumni can stay connected to their alma mater and give back to the next generation of students.

Graduate School Placement Rates

Both Pomona College and USC have excellent graduate school placement rates. Pomona College places a larger focus on graduate study in the humanities, while USC’s preprofessional programs prepare students for graduate study in industry-focused fields such as business and engineering.

A tutor talking to a student.

Additionally, both schools offer resources and support for students interested in pursuing graduate studies. Pomona College has a dedicated Office of Fellowships and Career Advising that provides guidance on graduate school applications and funding opportunities. USC offers a Graduate School Preparation Program, which includes workshops and seminars on topics such as writing personal statements and preparing for graduate school exams.

Student Success Stories and Testimonials

Pomona College and USC both have a long history of success and notable alumni. Many alumni from both schools have gone on to achieve great success in their respective fields, and both schools have produced notable leaders in a variety of industries.

One notable success story from Pomona College is that of Dr. Jane Chen, who graduated in 2001. Dr. Chen went on to co-found Embrace Innovations, a social enterprise that creates low-cost infant warmers for premature and low-birth-weight babies in developing countries. Her work has saved countless lives and earned her numerous awards and recognition.

Similarly, USC has produced many successful alumni, including filmmaker George Lucas, who graduated in 1967. Lucas went on to create the Star Wars franchise, which has become a cultural phenomenon and has earned billions of dollars worldwide. His success has inspired countless aspiring filmmakers and has cemented his place in Hollywood history.

Faculty Research Projects and Publications between Pomona College vs the University of Southern California

Both Pomona College and USC have renowned faculty members who are engaged in research and publication. Pomona College faculty members are particularly engaged in interdisciplinary research and have achieved numerous accolades in their respective fields. USC is known for its strong research program, with a particular emphasis on medical research.

At Pomona College, faculty members are encouraged to collaborate across departments and fields of study, resulting in innovative research projects that tackle complex issues from multiple perspectives. For example, a team of faculty members from the biology, chemistry, and environmental analysis departments recently collaborated on a project exploring the impact of climate change on local ecosystems.

Meanwhile, at USC, faculty members are conducting groundbreaking research in the field of medical technology. One professor is developing a new type of prosthetic limb that uses advanced sensors to provide users with a more natural range of motion, while another is working on a new drug delivery system that could revolutionize cancer treatment. These projects are just a few examples of the cutting-edge research being conducted by USC faculty members.

Community Outreach Programs and Service Opportunities

Both Pomona College and USC offer numerous opportunities for community outreach and service. Pomona College is particularly well-known for its community engagement and service-learning opportunities, while USC has a robust volunteer network that focuses on improving local communities.

At Pomona College, students can participate in programs such as the Draper Center for Community Partnerships, which connects students with local organizations and provides opportunities for service-learning. Additionally, Pomona College hosts an annual “Into the Streets” event, where students can volunteer with various community organizations and learn about pressing social issues in the area. USC also offers service opportunities through its Volunteer Center, which coordinates projects such as beach cleanups, food drives, and tutoring programs for local youth.

Study Abroad Programs Available to Students

Both Pomona College and USC offer numerous opportunities for study abroad, and both schools have a strong emphasis on global learning. Pomona College offers numerous immersive study abroad programs, while USC has extensive partnerships with universities around the world.

Additionally, both schools offer financial aid and scholarships to help students cover the costs of studying abroad. Pomona College has a dedicated study abroad office that provides resources and support to students throughout the application process and during their time abroad. USC also has a comprehensive study abroad program that includes pre-departure orientation, on-site support, and re-entry programming to help students readjust to life back on campus.

Institutional Rankings and Accolades Received between Pomona College vs the University of Southern California

Both Pomona College and USC have received numerous accolades and are highly regarded in their respective fields. Pomona College is consistently ranked as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, while USC ranks highly in many areas such as entrepreneurship and film.

a group of students laughing while walking the hall way

In addition to their overall institutional rankings, both Pomona College and USC have also received recognition for specific programs and initiatives. Pomona College’s Environmental Analysis Program has been recognized as one of the best in the nation, and USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top engineering schools in the world. USC also has a strong commitment to community service, with its Good Neighbors Campaign raising millions of dollars for local organizations and initiatives.


Choosing between Pomona College and USC will depend on a student’s individual preferences and needs. Pomona College offers a small, intimate liberal arts education, while USC offers a dynamic urban campus with a wide variety of academic programs. Both schools offer strong academics, robust career services, and notable alumni networks. Ultimately, the decision should be based on personal goals and how well each school aligns with those goals.

It is important to note that Pomona College has a strong emphasis on undergraduate research, with many opportunities for students to work alongside faculty members on research projects. USC, on the other hand, has a strong focus on professional development, with many programs and resources dedicated to helping students prepare for their careers.

Additionally, Pomona College has a unique consortium with other nearby colleges, including Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd, which allows students to take classes and participate in activities at these institutions. USC, on the other hand, has a strong network of industry connections, with many alumni working in fields such as entertainment, technology, and business.

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