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How to justify top liberal arts schools to people who haven't heard of them?

philologiaphilologia 1 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
I'm a senior and recently verbally committed to Pomona College for athletics. While I am thrilled about my decision, I have been getting a lot of weird reactions when I tell people where I'm going. Because of my stats (35 ACT, 4.8 GPA) and extracurriculars (student body VP, a bunch of awards both academically and athletically, patented invention, national essay winner, president of many clubs, etc) many people are really confused when I tell them I'm going to Pomona -- a lot of "Oh, I thought you would go to an Ivy." Besides an except few, those don't confuse it for Cal Poly Pomona just give me blank stares. While this doesn't affect my feelings toward my decision (I put a LOT of time into it and decided I wanted a liberal arts education and to continue playing sports in college), I'm not sure how to explain what Pomona is to people without dropping acceptance rate stats or college rankings.
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Replies to: How to justify top liberal arts schools to people who haven't heard of them?

  • Techno13Techno13 175 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Who cares what uninformed people think? Where do you live now? We're in NorCal and Pomona is the holy grail of LACs for Californians. I know many many highly qualified students who applied-- ZERO have been accepted. Your accomplishment here is fantastic. My D21 is looking at East Coast LACs and gets the same blank stares here when she drops names like Barnard, Wellesley, Swarthmore, etc. Most LACs don't have universal name recognition, but they do with the people that matter. I just visited the 5Cs 2 weeks ago and it is amazing, beautiful. We'll be out there again in November with D21 (touring Scripps and Pitzer)-- she won't get in to Pomona. Congrats!
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  • yauponreduxyauponredux 730 replies25 threadsRegistered User Member
    Mention one or two things that drew you to Pomona and then invite them to check it out. If they bother to do that, they’ll get it, and if they don’t care enough to learn more, then @#$&; ‘em!
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  • momtogirls2momtogirls2 811 replies4 threadsRegistered User Member
    I can tell you the name doesn't mean anything to me. I wouldn't even know it is a liberal arts school or what state it is in without looking it up. That is fine - not everyone needs to know your school for it to be a great school and a great fit for you. I'm sure if I researched I would agree it is a great school but in reality it doesn't matter what anyone but you and your family think.

    I'm sure local employees are very familiar and know it is a great school. I would just say it is the school that it felt like the best fit for me and worked out cost wise if your going to say anything.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 909 replies12 threadsRegistered User Member
    You don't have to justify anything to anyone.

    Exactly.
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  • doschicosdoschicos 21122 replies219 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "I'm sure local employees are very familiar and know it is a great school."

    National employers, too. :) And graduate schools.

    Those who are important in that sense, will know.


    Both my kids attended LACs. We were used to the blank responses. At this point, I just say my kid "attended a small liberal arts school in x state". If they want more info, they will ask. Most don't.

    Bottomline, most Americans don't know colleges/universities, even the majority of the top colleges. They'll know a few of the Ivies, they'll know colleges/universities in their own backyard, and many will know big sports universities. You don't need approval from Joe Schmoo.
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  • PublisherPublisher 7977 replies82 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 13
    Agree that you do not need to justify your decision to anyone but yourself & your family. But why ? (smiley face)

    What impressed me was your "patented invention" which, rightly or wrongly, raises images of a high tech environment.

    I think that those who stare & wonder why have good intentions & a very high impression of you & your accomplishments. They probably think: " Big fish in a small pond when you could have played in the big leagues."
    edited September 13
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  • scmom12scmom12 3112 replies21 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    If you need any response, just do one that doesn't make them feel foolish for not knowing about it, like "you know, I didn't know much about it either until it was suggested to me and I researched it. It's a great fit. And well known in my intended field." And leave it at that.

    The LAC my D1 attended was one I had never heard of until our niece attended. And it is pretty highly ranked and very selective.
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  • Eeyore123Eeyore123 1428 replies19 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You likely would have gotten the same "Oh, I thought you would go to an Ivy." if you told them you were going to Dartmouth.
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  • sushirittosushiritto 4000 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    and to continue playing sports in college

    You had me with "hello." :wink:
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 5506 replies1 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Pomona College is a superb small school. Employers and graduate school admissions will definitely know about it.

    One daughter went to a different very good small school in the opposite direction (a small university in eastern Canada -- Canada uses the word "college" differently than the US). She had the same "where" and "why" reaction from other students in her high school (in the northeast of the US). As soon as we arrived the reaction we were getting changed to "great school". You are going to get the same reaction as soon as you arrive anywhere close to Pomona.

    I have become a very big fan of small schools.

    You will get full professors teaching small classes. This means that professors will get to know you and you will get to know them. Where the professors are doing research, they will not have graduate students to work with them, and will instead look to strong undergraduate students to assist on their research projects. You will also find your small classes to be full of very strong students.

    You do not need to justify this to anyone. Do not even try.

    "I am thrilled about my decision"

    And you should be.

    The day you show up at Pomona you will see how strong the professors and students are, and everyone in the area will know that you are at a great school. As long as Pomona has your major and as long as you can afford it, you have made a great choice. You will get a great education there.
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  • doschicosdoschicos 21122 replies219 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Publisher wrote: »

    I think that those who stare & wonder why have good intentions & a very high impression of you & your accomplishments. They probably think: " Big fish in a small pond when you could have played in the big leagues."


    Pomona is big leagues in a small LAC package. 9% acceptance rate, #5 in USNews LAC rankings.

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  • LindagafLindagaf 9232 replies495 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 13
    Yay! Great choice! The people who need to know, know. Don’t worry about the others. Excited for you!

    My D attends an LAC. For three years now, we just say she goes to a small college in Maine. If they want to know the name, then I tell them.
    Honestly, do not stress about this. You’ve made a superb life choice.
    edited September 13
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  • MWolfMWolf 1474 replies9 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The most common response in Chicagoland to my kid, when she says that she attends Middlebury is "what's a Middlebury?" It goes with the territory, and don't pay any attention.

    You may, however, want to have a one-sentence explanation as to what a LAC is.

    You can also tell them that Pomona is as selective and as academically challenging as any of the big name colleges which they thought that you would attend.

    In any case, big congratulations - Pomona is an amazing college (it was my kid's former top choice, before Midd).
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  • homerdoghomerdog 5057 replies93 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Our S19 is at Bowdoin and we are from the midwest. We get blank stares from some people when they ask where he is. We've started saying he's "at Bowdoin College in Maine". There were quite a few families in our town who thought for sure he would end up at certain other schools that are highly ranked and better known here. Neither S19 or we care what people think. And, honestly, those who do know Bowdoin here get it and are so excited for him.

    Congrats on Pomona!
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  • MuggleMomMuggleMom 517 replies6 threadsRegistered User Member
    You are not alone. But you have to remember your college choice, is your college choice. It isn’t about anyone else. You want to be happy. You want a great education (which you will certainly get there). Not everyone is informed, and honestly, it’s none of their business.

    My children had a very similar experience. My daughter, who was valedictorian, goes to a college that absolutely no one in her high school heard of. She was made fun of, questioned, and told by students and faculty alike that she made a mistake that she would come to regret. Let me assure you that my daughter is having the best four years of her life, getting an outstanding education, amazing internships, making fabulous lifelong friends. None of these people had any idea what they were talking about. When people ask me where my children go to college my answer is now “they go to a small no name Engineering school outside of Boston “ Your job is not to impress people with what college you go to. Your job is to live your best life without worrying what other people think.
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4226 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    First off congratulations. That's awesome! Oral commit? Get it in writing.. Lol😉(don't really know how it works..)

    My daughter started at one lac then transfered to another one Beloit in Wisconsin. Since she /we love the school we use it as an opportunity to educate the people asking. If they have kids in high school their reaction usually is "that sounds great, we will have to look into it". Or typically we will throw out a fun fact about the school.

    But of course the only decision that counts is yours and your families. Again a big congrats!
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1379 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Folks who think only about the Ivy league are actually showing their own ignorance. Do they realize that MIT is not Ivy? Stanford? Harvey Mudd? Many many others. You don't have to justify someone else's ignorance. I went to college for the first couple of years in a foreign country( I am not foreign). People gave me blank stares. Employers always loved this and spent a lot of time on it. I was given many jobs that I know I would not have ever gotten otherwise.
    You need to follow your OWN path. BTW, you will also get odd comments if you don't marry, have kids, retire in the right time frame. Of course, this will be from folks who often fail in many things because they are listening to others and not their own inner voice.
    Have fun at Pomona. It's a great school and believe me people know that.
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