Pitzer College is located in Claremont, CA and is one of the Claremont Colleges. The other colleges in the consortium include Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Claremont College, and Scripps. Pitzer has about 1,000 students and emphasizes student participation and mindfulness (their motto is “Mindful of the Future”). As such, their supplement is outward-facing and asks you to write about your contributions to and observations about the world. Our advice on how to ace this supplement below.
We want to preface Pitzer’s supplement by talking about the nature of the questions. #1 is asking about your thoughts on tackling an external issue, and #2 is asking about your own personal experience. Our instinct is always to choose a question that draws out more personal stories and that is asking about something that happened to you that you can discuss. That said, #1 might be a draw for you if you feel particularly passionate about an issue. One thing to consider with this response is the length—650 words. That is as long as your Common App Personal Statement. As such, you could use a topic that you didn’t write about in your Common App. It’s important to consider the topics before choosing your question. As a general rule, if you’re in doubt at all, go with question #2.
At Pitzer College, five core values distinguish our approach to education: social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, student engagement, and environmental sustainability. As agents of change, our students utilize these values to create solutions to our world's challenges. Please choose from one of the following prompts and answer below: (650 words)
1. Incorporating one or more of our core values, how would you contribute to solving a local or global issue of importance to you?
If this question calls to you, by all means go for it. We must send you off with some words of advice, though: the smaller the issue, the better. When given the option of going local or global, we essentially always advise going local because you can tell more of a story, extract more significant meaning, and illustrate more impact with a local issue versus a larger, more global issue. This is a great essay option for those students who have already spent a significant amount of time tackling an issue of importance to them.
The reason why we always advise students against tackling bigger (political and social) issues, Syria for example, is because it’s difficult to personalize it. While in many ways it might seem weird to say, “you have to make the issue about you,” it’s true. Everyone cares (or should care) about Syria. Your caring about Syria does not make you stand out. Global issues simultaneously affect everyone and no one. Choosing an issue that affects you personally will make more of an impact on the person reading your application. Writing about an issue that you have dealt with directly will also inevitably make your writing stronger because not only do you know the issue, you’ve experienced it. If a global issue does directly affect you, then and only then should you write about it.
We advise starting there—with the impact, and then working backwards. Why and how has this particular issue resonated with you and affected your life in a significant way? Talk about how it became important to you, and get bigger from there by incorporating what you’ve learned and how your perception of culture, society, others, etc. has broadened. How have you worked for change, both internally and externally? This scale of issue is so much easier and more meaningful to relate to. That is ultimately set of goals, after all, right? To force the admissions readers to relate to you, feel drawn in to your story, and be compelled to admit you.
2. Reflecting on your involvement throughout high school or within the community, how have you engaged with one or more of Pitzer's core values?
A big fat warning here: this is not the time to repeat the Activities section of your Common App.
They are familiar with how you were involved in your school and/or community. Colleges ultimately want students who are eager to jump in to their community and make an impact. This essay is your chance to illustrate how you’ve jumped in to your various communities at home and how you plan to continue to make those jumps in meaningful ways.
If you’re looking at this question and aren’t sure what you’re going to write about because you don’t feel like you’ve been very involved, then read up. Get involved. Or call us so that we can help you come up with something great to write about.
We digress. This is the time to tell a story about something that you did that created an impact in any way. It can be small. In fact, the best stories come from a brief interaction or small action. What we want to make sure of is that this is new information that you’re bringing to the table. While the admissions readers know about the community service work that you did because it’s your Activity #4 on your Common App, they might not know the story behind it.
Tell your story, and from there incorporate two values from Pitzer’s core values listed above. Two that come to mind that we feel are easiest to incorporate are student engagement (this very concept is inherent to your response because it’s the topic of the question) and social responsibility (contributing to and interacting with humanity in search of meaning is our social responsibility, or so one will certainly argue to get into college). Also, feel free to be creative with this. You’re should incorporate some personality and genuine humor into this piece. We always encourage our students to strike a balance of meaning, self-awareness, reflection, and humor with their essays. It’s the best combination because it’s memorable. Not that many essays will force the application readers to smile.
Let us know if you need a second (or tenth) pair of eyes. We have a number of great pairs and an abundance of good advice.
By Victoria Van Amson
Since my days at Greenhouse Nursery School, art on Columbia's campus has engaged me. Whether it is taking form on the Quad or at Baker field, the Scholars' Lion enlightened me to the kind of institution to which I wish to contribute over a lifetime. The core curriculum is a significant manifestation of the Lion's remarkable ability to unite Columbia's community with shared motivation. I have diverse interests which make the foundation of a liberal arts education necessary for the full explorations of my passions. On Columbia's relentless education of generations of students lies the edifice upon which the wisdom of Alma Maters' owl, and the perspective of The Curl rest. Throughout my high school career, I enjoyed giving speeches and facilitating dialogue on topics that are not normal to classroom discussions. One-sided mindsets challenged me as I encountered classmates without interests in looking at issues from multiple angles. Many of my peers blast our beloved society, choosing to ignore our abilities to profoundly improve our culture and democracy. This potential is inherent in everyday actions. Columbia would surround me with the values of others who understand my admiration for what the owl and The Curl represent to me; wisdom and perspective. Columbia understands that there is a stark difference between diligently standing before a metal sculpture that one may acknowledge as aesthetically pleasing, and taking the time to walk around it and conclude that it embodies something deeper and possibly more intense. Columbia would satisfy my hunger to master the quest to go beyond the surface of facts.
Victoria Van Amson, a 2011 graduate of the Nightingale Bamford School, received her bachelor of arts degree in sociology with a concentration in business management from Columbia University last week.
By Cameron Carr
Prompt: Founded in 1963, Pitzer College was built upon four core values that reimagine the purpose of a college education in a progressively changing world. These values are social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning and student autonomy. Almost 50 years later, our students feel that our founding values help prepare them to address the issues of their time. How do you feel these values will help you find solutions to the evolving challenges of your generation? (Maximum of 4000 characters)
Malcolm X sits in the corner of the boxing ring with two coaches tending to his bruises--Barack Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King. They stand over him as he waits for the bell. I created this drawing a year ago and struggled with which of the three men should be the fighter and which should be the coaches. My strong affinity to Pitzer is tied to my confidence in the institution's compatibility to wrestling with a question like: Which man has an inner character and belief system that would make it necessary for him to enter a boxing ring and fight against inequalities in society?
I am an artist and an aspiring entrepreneur who is committed to social justice and capitalism. At Pitzer, those identities would be nurtured, challenged and expanded in the classrooms, dormitories, internships, study abroad programs and countless clubs. I do not see a divide between the pragmatic and intellectual components in my college education and life beyond. Pitzer values blends between liberal arts foundations and pragmatic views of the world. It is inherent in its progressive mission that brings a Postmodern version of the Dewey model of education, which is why I am drawn to an innovative institution like Pitzer.
My attraction to Pitzer extends from my commitment to the idea that diversity brings people together as a community and allows them to educate each other about their own unique backgrounds - leading to an atmosphere where a group of people can embrace differences. I pursued this mission by coordinating diversity workshops in high school. Once diversity becomes a comfort zone of a community, education reaches an ideal that carries the mission of exposure and growth at multiple levels. I want to join the Pitzer community because the schools fosters values centered around that ideal of growth through engaging diversity through academically innovative classes, creative extra curricular activities and social experiences. I want an education that challenges me to learning more about myself and "the other." In the process, I will continue to wonder which man is best suited to box and which two would be the best coaches?
Cameron Carr, a 2011 graduate of The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, received his bachelor of arts from Pitzer with a double major in media studies and visual arts.
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