From Student to Counselor: Checking in with Alex!

Hi all! Alex here, friendly neighborhood admission counselor! I’ve only had two months on the job so far, but gosh has it been a wild ride. My first day at work was a day-long conference for SoCal admission counselors over at Occidental, and it’s only gotten busier since! Summer is supposed to be downtime; an opportunity for us to plan out our fall trips to meet you at high schools and college fairs across the world, but languishing in a holiday holding pattern is not really our style over here at Pitzer! Just as so many of our stellar prospective applicants are doing internships, working hard at jobs, and getting versatile academic experiences, the PZ admission counselors are keeping busy. Sounds tough for an office newbie, right?

(Let’s all marvel at the transformation…)

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Well, let me back up for a sec! Even though I’ve only been an admission counselor at Pitzer for around two months now, I’ve been a part of the larger Pitzer community for 4 years as a student, RA, sound technician, researcher, and erstwhile sea chantey soloist. I did so much work here at Pitzer, inside and outside the Office of Admission, that it seemed totally natural for me to try to get a job here. Two weeks after graduation I returned to Pitzer’s campus and started work! So, while I might be new to this job, I’m pretty much an old pro at all things Pitzer. Returning to my alma mater with no real break in the action has partially been why this summer is so exciting! I helped plan a great on-campus program with EMERGE, a Texas based college access organization with values that align with Pitzer’s, I’ve interviewed prospective students, helped train student staff members, and even already got to travel to a college fair in Illinois put on by the swell folks over at Chicago Scholars! It’s becoming clear to me, that a lot of the time, being a Pitzer staff member can be pretty similar to being a Pitzer student!


Along those lines, a lot of our conversations at the office this summer have been about how we can collectively support current and prospective and Pitzer students in a more comprehensive way. We’re a young school, and that means a lot of things for the people who make up this community. Pitzer is secure in its identity, but that identity is one ideally defined by constant change. Even though we’re busy in the Office of Admission thinking of novel ways to do our jobs and prepare for application season, it’s also important for us to ask “What can we do better?” That’s not necessarily a question we can answer ourselves. Our work involves so many moving pieces, across countries, ages, genders, races, religions and socioeconomic statuses, that we rely on feedback from the diverse array of people we interact with.


What does this mean for you as a prospective student, or a new member of the Pitzer community, in the coming months? At least for me, it means you should be asking the tough questions. The common “What’s your least favorite thing about Pitzer?” is a good start, but, at least in my opinion, you deserve more! It would be a disservice to the huge commitment you’re making to apply to Pitzer, or pursue higher education in general, if I ever tried to obfuscate something about this place to you. In your application to Pitzer, we’re going to ask you about how our core values apply to your life; wouldn’t it be unfair if we couldn’t tell you how our vaunted ideological framework measures up in practice? If you see me on the road or on campus, don’t hold back! Be secure that our work should be focused around you, regardless of what you need or want to know.

Anyway! I’ll get off the soapbox and wrap things up. I honestly hope everyone’s summer is shaking out nicely, regardless of what the next year is going to bring. Based on these past two months, I think it’s going to be a pretty good one for me, and I wish only the best for you too!

Stay strong and good luck,

Posted by Alex Cromidas ’15, Admission Counselor


Finding Your Place at Pitzer

April is a tumultuous month of self-reflection and future planning – for juniors, it’s the time to begin the journey of college applications, and for seniors, it’s the time to decide where to spend the next four year. Pitzer offers an exceptional education for students who are serious about their role as an agent of change. I first started working at Pitzer three years ago and was instantly impressed by the openness of our students, who weren’t afraid to challenge, question and seek alternative answers to some of our most pressing societal issues. The education here is focused on freedom – the ability to use your education to make a difference in diverse communities by following an academic path guided by your interests and our dedicated faculty. Students actively seek out opportunities to roll up their sleeves and get involved in their local and global community. It’s what sets Pitzer apart from other institutions; the heartfelt drive of our students to think deeply about critical issues of privilege, social status and culture. It’s embedded in the curriculum at Pitzer and found in the mindset of our students.

Students are also connected through an unmatched commitment to social justice and responsibility. Our students embody diversity in a multiplicity of avenues – they study everything from Anthropology to Zoology; they are artists, social entrepreneurs, biologists, philosophers, computer scientists, and environmentalists. However, the foundation of their academic inquiry revolves around the question of how they will use their knowledge gained in their classes and their action research work to impact diverse communities. I’m always impressed when I talk with students to learn how they push the conversation forward in the classroom, while participating in our Student Senate or with their peers; they are never satisfied with easy answers or traditional solutions.


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You probably could be easily swayed by the stunning native plants and sustainable landscaping, near perfect sunny weather, the beautiful and poignant murals, and friendly students, faculty and staff (of course, all compelling reasons to spend four years at Pitzer!).  Yet, deciding where to go to college should focus on the character and values of the institution – values matter.  This is where you will spend four defining years. This will be home and your peers and faculty will serve as your second family.

How do you find the school where you can find your place and know that your values match with theirs? Take the time to talk with students on campus, look deeper at the course curriculum, sit in on a class, participate in an evening lecture or athletic event, or sit it in the middle of the campus coffee shop or dining hall listening to every day conversations.  Feel the energy and the pulse of the campus! If you cannot make it to campus, talk with an Admission counselor who can help guide and connect you virtually to community members who can share their experiences.

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You have the potential to be one of our next Fulbright Winners, or perhaps you will start your own NGO, go to medical school, work at the United Nations, or write a novel – perhaps a combination of the above.  Those who opt to attend Pitzer will enjoy the benefits of four years of education firmly grounded in the concepts and philosophies of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, interdisciplinary learning, intercultural understanding and student engagement. These values are what matter most to our community and interconnected world. And that’s at the heart of what I love about Pitzer. Our students are engaged in the messy, real life work of making a difference. I hope you will discover in your own way what makes Pitzer so very special.

Photo credit: Pitzer College and Robert Little

Posted by Jamila Everett, Interim Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid


Some Sage(hen) Advice on College Applications

Let’s be honest, college applications are kind of the worst. There is so much pressure to be perfect in those two 650-word essays and three recommendations. I know, it seems impossible.

…wow, that got off to a dark start. Let me try again. My name is Katie and I work in the Pitzer Admission Office as an admission counselor. I’ve been here for about four months. I often get mistaken for a student on campus because I recently graduated from Harvey Mudd College. It’s ok; when people ask me what I study, I can just say “Your application”. Too much? Yep, too much.

In all honesty, working in this office has been incredible so far, and it has already taught me so much. Like, make sure you ask Santiago to replace the water jug, he really enjoys that task. And, there is such a thing as an envelope sealant; you don’t have to use your tongue. And another really important lesson: Creating labels requires two people, each with a work phone, and a functional printer. That last component is especially important – even if you’ve used it before, there is absolutely no guarantee it will print anything remotely like what you want.

And then there’s the application process. I was a senior in high school five years ago, bugging teachers to finish their recommendations, fidgeting over my personal statement. I recall the stress that came with that process. But now, as I stand among the receiving end of the applications very much like the one I filled out by hand (yes, even just five years ago), there are some words of wisdom that I think should be shared. These words come from much more experienced people than myself (well except for the ones that are coming from me). You can take them or leave them, adjust your mindset or not, nod your head and smile or make a pshhhh sound. It’s up to you. But I personally think there is some very worthwhile advice that the Pitzer admission counselors have posted on our social media sites over the past couple months. So before you read them, be sure to follow us here:

Facebook: Pitzer College Office of Admission (

Instagram: @PitzerAdmission (

Twitter: @PitzerAdmission (


“College life is exhilarating. It’s a time to question everything, figure out who you are – or more importantly, who you want to become. The process of applying to college is the beginning of your journey towards self-discovery. As you put the finishing touches on those applications, don’t forget that THIS is what it’s all about.”

— Angel Perez, VP and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid


“Remember to take time for yourself while finishing up your essays and keeping track of application deadlines. Take a break, read a good book, spend time with friends and most importantly, take time to appreciate your senior year of high school and all of your accomplishments!”

— Jamila Everett, Director of Admission


“The admission decision is not the finish line. You still have to attend, participate, explore, and enjoy your college experience. Wherever you end up you will have so many opportunities to grow and be challenged. Don’t think that an acceptance letter means you’re set for life, and don’t let that other letter keep you from pursuing those goals.”

— Santiago Ybarra, Associate Director of Admission


“Create memories. Yes, the college search process is stressful, but if you let it, the process will teach you quite a bit about yourself. Applying to college teaches you what and who you value. Plus, there are lots of opportunities to have new experiences, visit new places and make new friends. The application process goes by pretty fast. As Ferris Bueller once said, ‘If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ Don’t miss it!”

— Owen Wolf, Associate Director of Admission


“As a student, social responsibility was an integral part of my Pitzer experience. Now, as I read Pitzer applications, I am not only interested in learning how a student has sparked change in their community, but how they will continue to do so.”

— Mattie Ross ’12, Assistant Director of Admission


“When it comes to your application, don’t overthink it! Let your application be a true reflection of yourself and your personality. If you tailor your application to what you think admission counselors want to see, it will be harder for us to tell if you are a good fit for our institution. Enjoy this process and let it be 100% YOU!”

— Sarah Fischer, Admission Counselor


“The best way to learn about a place is to talk to its people: Admission counselors and staff love the schools they work for, and we won’t be shy about telling you why. To gather a more complete perspective, a fuller understanding of a school, talk to the resident experts – our students! Walk around campus and ask questions; the answers you receive will help you make the most informed decision.”

— Nolan Ellis, Admission Counselor


“Applying to college is like lying in a hammock; it requires a lot of effort to get there, but once you’re in it feels like paradise.”

— Katie Shepherd, Admission Counselor

Sure, the eight of us read all the applications Pitzer College receives. We make the tough decisions to create the kind of community that will thrive at Pitzer. But we are always here to help in the application process. If you ever have any questions, send us an email or call. And if you’re trying to decide if you should apply…just do it! Nike. You’ll never know unless you click submit.

Posted by Katie Shepherd, Admission Counselor


Waiting for the Incredible Hulk

From Inside Higher Ed:

If K-12 education is waiting for Superman, then higher education in America must long for the Incredible Hulk. In the movie “Waiting for Superman,” Davis Guggenheim highlights the problems that plague elementary and secondary education in this country, and illustrates how a system challenged with systemic injustice and bureaucratic red tape is obstructing students from attaining the American dream — a shot at college.

But what happens when those students who make it arrive at the doorstep of the ivory tower and realize (like Geoffrey Canada, the educator in the movie whose childhood awakening inspired the documentary’s title) superheroes don’t exist? Higher education leaders paint images of colleges and universities in America that we don’t live up to. Like the fictional characters we grow to admire in our infancy, postsecondary education can often disappoint.

Of the students who enter college in America, 43 percent don’t graduate, and those who do typically don’t complete in four years. Between 1971 and 2009, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment between white and Hispanic students grew from 14 to 25 percentage points. At public four-year colleges, less than half of the recipients of Pell Grants — our lowest-income students — graduated with a bachelor’s degree. For African-American students, the proportion is even smaller.
We have a for-profit college sector that preys on low-income and first-generation students who are not savvy about the college application and financial aid process. These schools have produced the highest student loan default rate in the country and amongst the lowest graduation rates in the nation.

There are students who attend universities where they have little contact with actual professors because professors are so busy doing research. You can’t blame the faculty, since promotion and prestige in academia is based on research and publication outcomes, not teaching and student engagement. Those who lose are our students, who experience education from a factory, instead of a second home where they are nurtured and cultivated.
In the world of elite colleges and universities, institutions compromise their values to compete for top ratings in U.S. News & World Report. They don’t always engage in student’s best interests; rather institutional policies are shaped to ensure climbing a few numbers on a report that earns a magazine millions of dollars and tells students and parents nothing about a college where they will thrive.

Most shocking of all are the unethical practices of college enrollment offices that disguise information in financial aid packages to enroll as many students as they can — at the lowest price. Since our government does not require colleges and universities to provide certain basic information in a financial aid package, colleges sometimes provide the minimum amount, knowing that naïve students will enroll, even if they really can’t afford it. We have a multibillion-dollar student loan industry and the highest rate of default in our history. Some would argue it’s the consumer’s fault, but colleges and universities that hide total cost of attendance and don’t counsel students about the implications of borrowing are just as much to blame.

Higher education is an industry at risk. We focus on opening the doors for students, but we have not done a good job of making sure they persist. We are moving further away from our values, and if the pendulum does not swing drastically in the opposite direction, we will be the focus of the next documentary that shakes a nation and inspires a movement. We should not set our educational agenda around the egos of faculty and administrators, or the hopes of gaining prestige. We should do what’s ultimately best for students. If a college education is the dream our young people reach for, it’s up to those of us who lead it to create a system that embodies the strengths of the superhero they truly deserve.

Angel B. Pérez is director of admission at Pitzer College and a fellow at the Bowen Institution for Higher Education Policy at Claremont Graduate University.

Posted by Angel Perez, Director of Admission



The “Testing Option” Debate

Our Director of Admission, Angel Perez, was quoted today in the Chronicle of Higher Education as part of a discussion on colleges that no longer require standardized test scores from their applicants. We’re proud of our testing option and grateful to be included in this nation-wide discussion.

Applicants to Pitzer College have many choices to consider in lieu of standardized test scores. Students with a cumulative 3.5 unweighted and academic GPA (without Health and P.E., for example) as well as students in the top ten percent of their high school class (for schools that rank their own students) are completely exempt from submitting testing. Students who do not meet those requirements and still would like to forgo standardized tests may submit AP or IB test scores in English and Math, or simply submit a graded math test from Algebra II or a more advanced course, as well as a graded essay from their most current English course.

Our testing option is designed to give students as much freedom as possible to represent themselves academically. Some people love the tests, some people don’t. We get it! We have found that a demonstrated commitment to hard work is a much more consistent indicator of academic success at Pitzer than high test scores.

Happy reading!

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor


Beyond Buzzwords, Part 4

At last, we come to the end of our journey through Pitzer’s core values, and how applicants might better come to understand what we mean when we repeat them. So far we’ve discussed Social Responsibility, Intercultural Understanding, and Interdisciplinary Learning*. The final core value that is central to the Pitzer College experience is Student Autonomy.

*Briefly, though, I want to pass along this article for anyone who is interested in reading more about the debate (oh yes, there is a debate!) over interdisciplinarity and its future in higher education.

And now back to the task at hand…This idea of Student Autonomy was born, like our other values, from the experiences of the individuals who founded our college in the early 1960s. Student Autonomy has many meanings, and is manifested in several ways both philosophically as well as practically here at Pitzer.

Most liberal arts educations are based on a “core curriculum,” which is a fancy way of essentially saying “general education requirements.” These core curricula may comprise the first one, two, three or even four semesters of one’s college education. The idea behind the core curriculum was to give all students the same basic introduction to college-level work by teaching the “foundations of a good liberal arts education,” often without giving students any choice in their own course schedules.

Not at Pitzer.

Rather than force students to check courses off of a list of requirements, our letter of admission is a vote of confidence in our students that they are capable of imagining and navigating their own educations. We do provide some guidelines to ensure that students expose themselves to a breadth of subjects (32 Sociology courses, however fun, do not comprise a robust liberal arts education). For example, Pitzer students take at least two courses in the Humanities and Fine Arts, two in the Social Sciences, one in the Natural Sciences, and one in Formal Reasoning. Within those areas, however, the specific courses that students choose to take are up to them. Easy, right?!

You’ll notice that I didn’t say “Math.” If you’re anything like I was in high school, you are constantly asking yourself what does geometry…calculus…trigonometry have to do with what I am going to do in the world. The principle behind Student Autonomy is that everything we do here at Pitzer should be related to making the world a better place. Not everyone is going to use a graphing calculator to make the world a better place. Some of us will. The result is that we’ve hired some outstanding faculty to teach courses such as Math, Philosophy and the “Real World,” The Mathematics of Gambling, Mathematics in Many Cultures, and more. If you want to do Dynamical Systems, Chaos, and Fractals, we’ve got you covered there, too! The point is, you have choices. By the way, Math, Philosophy and the “Real World” was one of the best courses I took in college.

Another manifestation of Student Autonomy on campus is the presense of student input at the highest levels of administration. It is not uncommon – at all – to find students in heate debates with each other, with faculty members, and with administrators over institutional decisions, policies, and current events. The fact that debate even exists between students and administrators is evidence that students have real agency in every aspect of the governance of the school. Students are required to sit on every governing committee at Pitzer including the Faculty Executive, Budget, Academic Standards, and Judicial. If you love Student Government, if you’re passionate about the direction of your institution, and if you’re courageous enough to engage in conversation then you will likely be encouraged by the autonomy you find at Pitzer.

So for prospective students, we want to see your leadership, your independence, your initiative. Are you the kind of person that does well with autonomy? Are you curious and excited about taking courses in whatever subjects you choose…even if it means turning a course you end up disliking into a learning and growth opportunity? If so, then show me! We want to see all of those moments when you’ve stepped out onto a limb by yourself. We want to hear about the hard choices that you’ve had to make. We want to know that you’re excited to thrive in an autonomous environment.

I hope this exploration beyond the buzzwords has been helpful. As we head into Winter, keep coming back to Admission Unpeeled to follow your application through our office. Blog posts will be more frequent as we begin reading heaps of applications. We know that this is a stressful time. So if there’s anything we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at the office.

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor


Beyond Buzzwords, Part 3

Interdisciplinary Learning…I can almost see all of your eyes rolling at just the thought of these words together. This term represents perhaps the most overused buzzword in higher education today. For more than a century, the “modern” social science disciplines like Sociology, Economics, Psychology, and Anthropology have battled each other professionally and intellectually. In a very literal sense, college and university faculty argue with each other and with administrations to justify expanding their particular departments. More generally, debates continue about which discipline best prepares students to study and understand the world around them. In fact, traditional higher education in America is based on these debates.

Since the 1960s, however, a new way of looking at the world has begun to earn a place in the academy. Pitzer, founded in 1963, has always embraced the interdisciplinary approach to learning. Interdisciplinary learning is an acknowledgment that people are multi-faceted, that the world does not conform to traditional academic disciplines. As a result, we are looking for students and faculty who agree that the learning process is best served when we ask what traditional disciplines can do together, rather than how they differ.

One of the ways you can see this value manifested on campus is in the structure of our Field Groups. Most colleges and universities place their faculty within traditional departments. We’re not most colleges. At Pitzer, faculty members can choose to identify with different Field Groups, allowing for a freer exchange of intellectual perspectives. We have professors here at Pitzer who may have been “trained” in graduate school as Anthropologists or Neuroscientists, but they choose to teach courses in History or Psychology. Further, we don’t physically separate our faculty by subject area. You won’t find the “Sociology building” on campus, or the “English/World Literature” building either. You will find Economists sitting next to Psychologists and Poets sitting next to Mathematicians.

Andre Wakefield, Professor of History at Pitzer, teaches a course on the History of the Disciplines and is currently working on a new project that will consider the historical, intellectual, and practical issues surrounding academic disciplines in higher education.

Another example of Interdisciplinary Learning has been the rise of the “Studies” in higher education, and particularly at Pitzer. Several of our Field Groups and majors fall into inherently interdisciplinary categories such as Media Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, Political Studies, and Organizational Studies (to name but a few). The idea behind these degree programs is to provide room for students to explore a subject from a variety of perspectives. For example, in Environmental Studies when we talk about water usage in the Southern California area, we are forced to acknowledge that we are really talking about a political issue, and a sociological issue, and an economic issue, and an historical issue, as well as a scientific issue.

Christine Zarker Primomo is currently a Senior at Pitzer College and an Admission Fellow here in our office, among other things. Her major – Science, Technology, and Society (STS) – is a great example of Interdisciplinary Learning. Christine says, “These classes span across multiple disciplines including but not limited to: history, philosophy, anthropology, politics and public policy, and sociology. After taking Governing India my first semester, I discovered my interest in global water issues. STS has allowed me to combine my love for science with my passion for improving the health of and access to water resources. One of the best parts about Pitzer, especially majoring in an interdisciplinary field, is that each semester, without consciously trying, my classes all come together. Learning takes on a new face when in addition to taking classes I love, I see that they are all somehow connected under a bigger idea, one not tied to a specific discipline but rather have a diversity of views and practices. Part of the excitement of the semester involves discovering new links between classes like Environmental Chemistry, Language and Society, the Politics of Water and Philosophy of Science.”

For prospective students, we’re interested to know how the idea of Interdisciplinary Learning helps you look at your world. What are the theoretical and methodological tools that you need to take on challenges in your community? What kinds of multi-dimensional issues pique your interest? If you could create your own major, what would it include?

If you are excited to answer these questions, then you have gone beyond the buzzword. I encourage you to think about how your education will challenge you to find questions and answers in curious places. Tell us how you see the world, its problems, its successes, and why you want to continue your explorations at Pitzer. Read faculty bios and course descriptions at the various institutions that you’re considering right now; if they’re not assigning readings from different fields, then they’re not interdisciplinary. If they’re not assigning men and women on their reading lists, then they’re not interdisciplinary. If they’re not assigning ethnically and racially diverse sources, then they’re not interdisciplinary. Put institutions of higher education to the test.

Thanks for coming back to Admission Unpeeled. There’s a lot more information coming in the days ahead so stay tuned and keep reading!

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor


Beyond Buzzwords, Part 2

Hi, readers! For those of you who have been following along for a while, welcome back! If this is your first time reading Admission Unpeeled, welcome! We created this blog over a year ago to provide behind-the-scenes insights into the Pitzer College Office of Admission, and to discuss the admission process in general. Last week we began a four-part series designed to demystify and move beyond the “buzzwords” that we use to define Pitzer’s values. We started with Social Responsibility. This week we’ll be talking about Intercultural Understanding. But first, as usual, some numbers from my travels this week:

  • The Roo (my 1999 Subaru Outback) had the week off, since I spent the whole week in Chicago with a rental car (a Hyundai Elantra named “Ellie”). Ellie gets better mileage than the Roo, so the approximate number of gallons of unleaded fuel consumed: 22.
  • Number of BLT sandwiches I ate: 3.
  • Slices of “Chicago-style” pizza I ate: 0.
  • Days in a row that “Balloon Boy” beat out Health Care as the leading news story: 3.

The importance we place on Intercultural Understanding stems from a strong belief that our world, and the ways that we hope to make it better, require us to see things from perspectives that might not come naturally to us. Few people reading this blog will honestly disagree that this is a good thing. But what does it mean specifically? Are we talking about diversity?What kinds of diversity? What kinds of cultures are we referring to, and how does this idea play out in our admission process as well as at Pitzer on a daily basis?

For prospective students, this means two things: one, we’re looking for students who contribute in some way to the diversity of our community; and two, that students value the diversity around them. We want an intellectually diverse student body in which you can find friends interested in Neuroscience, Environmentalism, Literature, Art, etc. We want an ethnically diverse student body in which your relationships with your peers become genuine learning opportunities every day. We want a geographically diverse student body from which you can know a good place to get a home cooked meal anywhere in the world. We want a racially diverse student body that reflects the world we live in. Diversity comes in many forms and part of your job in the application is to explain how you contribute to, and value, our diverse community.

Significantly, we want this same diversity from the faculty who guide our education. Pitzer already has one of the most diverse faculties of any liberal arts college in the country, and the administration has made it clear that continuing to diversify our faculty is a real institutional priority.

Aside from who you (the prospective student) already are, we want to see that you crave a diverse environment. Maybe you grew up in the middle of Manhattan with a cacophony of languages and cultures all around you. Or maybe you’re from a small town where almost everyone around you knows your first, middle, and last name. Either way, we want to bring students to Pitzer who can articulate what they’re excited to contribute to the community, as well as their desire to learn from others in it.

The journey only begins once students arrive at Pitzer on move-in day! All of our academic programs require students to incorporate some cultural study that takes them outside of their own community. The major you select or create will need to include at least one course on a non-Western or non-American subject.

Moving beyond the classroom, more than 70% of Pitzer students study abroad before they graduate! Our students go abroad more than those from almost any other school for a number of reasons. First, we actively look for prospective students who are excited to take this opportunity. Second, we think of studying abroad as an integral part of a progressive liberal arts education, not an optional luxury. As a result, all of our Financial Aid packages apply to studying abroad. If students are admitted to Pitzer, then they can study abroad through Pitzer. Finally, our students are encouraged to study abroad by their faculty and peers because we know the value of a community that is enriched by other cultures. When at least three out of four people around a table have spent a significant chunk of time in a foreign country, it changes the kinds of conversations one can have. It will also change what you and your peers do after you leave Pitzer.

Since 2002, Pitzer has been awarded more Fulbright Fellowships than any other school in America per capita. After graduation you can find Pitzer alumni scattered across the globe, literally. Many choose to return to countries in which they studied, others join organizations that allow them to serve a totally new community, and still others simply seem to throw a dart at a map and take off to explore themselves and their world. As a community, we believe that the world would be a better place if more people shared this attitude!

I hope that this gives you a better idea of what we mean when we talk about Intercultural Understanding. If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you. Before you go though, take a minute to check out where Cecil the Sagehen has been this week! While everyone in the office is running around the country meeting students this season, we snap shots of Cecil in various locations. If you can figure out where Cecil has been in these pictures, then we’ll send you a prize. Honest! We’ve already had two winners: congratulations to Katie Kecso of West Des Moines, Iowa and Benjamin Levine of Providence, Rhode Island. Keep up the good work!

I went out one night in Chicago and Cecil was unable to join me (past Cecil’s bedtime). I was able to capture some video from the night before a security guard asked me not to film inside the club (sheesh!). If you can figure out who’s singing on stage, then you’ll not only get a prize from Pitzer, but a special nod of approval from me. And we all know how satisfying a nod of approval can be. Until next week, my friends!

Carter Presidential Library Atlanta GASanta Oxnard CA

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor


Beyond Buzzwords, Part 1

Hello readers! I’m writing to you from Wallingford, Connecticut. I’m sitting at a place called Half Moon Coffee and Grille Café. This place serves up a perfect combination of hearty, Italian-inspired meals alongside genuine Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee; and if you know me at all, you know how happy I am!

Now that we are fully engulfed in the crisp autumn air of October, many more of you are beginning to get your first real looks at college applications. You’re reading brochures, navigating websites, talking to counselors, and imagining yourself in different schools around the country. Throughout your literal and figurative journey, you will “try different colleges on for size,” see how you look in their colors, listen to how the names of different schools sound in your voice, and increasingly notice places where the fit is too loose, too tight, or just right. You will hear and read about how schools define themselves, and you will wait to feel a resonation between their values and yours. I call the values by which schools define themselves, for this reason, buzzwords.

Pitzer’s buzzwords include Social Responsibility, Student Autonomy, Intercultural Understanding, and Intercultural Learning. They are alternatively known as our core values.

Over the next weeks I will write about each one of these values, providing real life examples, to help us get beyond buzzwords. Our goal is to clear the air of static and really get down to the way that these values play out in our day-to-day lives at Pitzer. Hopefully, you’ll find something that resonates with you!

But first, some quick numbers from this week’s travels:
•Miles on The Roo (see last week’s post if you’re not familiar with The Roo): 960.
•Approximate number of gallons of unleaded fuel consumed by The Roo: 48.
•Approximate number of gallons of coffee (good…and bad) consumed by me: 2.5.
•Number of live deer observed from the road: 2.
•Number of deceased deer observed from the road: 5.

But I digress…

This week I want to talk about Social Responsibility. When students ask me to talk about the “typical” Pitzer student, this is often the first thing I think of. Our definition of Social Responsibility is intentionally broad (think of it as inclusive rather than ambiguous). Quite simply, Social Responsibility at Pitzer is the shared agreement that knowledge has ethical implications. The opportunity to live and learn at Pitzer imbues us with a responsibility to help a larger community, and empowers us to do so.

Everyone at Pitzer has a fire burning inside them about something in the world. It may be environmental justice, education, national politics, international development, human rights, gender equality, sexual liberation, medicine… Not everyone is passionate about the same thing, but everyone is passionate about something. Learning about the issues that are meaningful to other students is an important part of the intellectual diversity that we love at Pitzer.

In the admission process we are looking for students who have already demonstrated their commitment to something outside of themselves: a community service placement, an independent project, responsibility within one’s own family, activism and leadership in a community organization, the list goes on indefinitely; our understanding of social responsibility is as diverse as our student body.

As a Pitzer student, one is expected to continue learning and working on behalf of a larger community. The Center for California Cultural and Social Issues (CCCSI) is one of the best places in Claremont to get connected to a local organization that is doing valuable community work. Funding, transportation, and guidance is always available for students to pursue a totally unique social engagement project. All Pitzer study abroad programs include a community service component. Pitzer students are required to complete at least one semester’s worth of a community commitment, which can be fulfilled by any of the opportunities listed above, or by working in one of several positions on campus to strengthen and support our immediate community.

It is no surprise that most Pitzer graduates go on to jobs, activities and careers after college that reflect the value of Social Responsibility. Many alumni can be found teaching, working, and volunteering around the country and abroad with an organization they discovered during their time at Pitzer. Others are working for socially oriented law firms, NGOs, or private companies. The ways that Pitzer students choose to make the world a better place, again, are as diverse as the students themselves.

So as you think about Pitzer, and think about yourself, we hope you find your values matching ours. We’re excited for you to teach us about social responsibility in your life! While you strut your stuff in front of the metaphorical mirror, enrobed in Pitzer orange, take a moment to see if you can spot where Cecil has been this week. You may notice a certain theme between this week’s pictures and this article! Email me at [email protected] if you think you know where Cecil is in the pictures below, or if you have any questions about social responsibility, or any other part of the application. Thanks for reading, see you soon!

Stowe centerNat'l Underground Freedom Center

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor


Getting Savvy

This week the Office of Admission is quiet. Not because there’s no work to do, but because we’re on the road visiting you! Our counselors visited schools and met students in Atlanta, Tennessee, the San Francisco Bay Area, Dallas, Boston, and Southern California – and we’re just getting started! Meeting a representative from Pitzer at your high school is a great opportunity to learn more about Pitzer, ask specific questions about the school, as well as gain insights into the college search and application process in general. If you can’t meet with one of us in person, remember that we have phone interviews available, and someone is always in our office to answer your questions or find someone who can.

But what kinds of questions should you be asking? How do you make the most of your opportunity to speak directly with an admission counselor? How do you know that you’ve found the right group of schools to apply to? The questions go on.

No matter how far along you may be in your college search and application process, you have no doubt been exposed to the glut of information designed to “assist” you during these often stressful months. Whole libraries have been devoted to college admissions, selections, applications, interviews, essays, and rankings. Entire graduate-level programs exist to train the professionals that you’ll meet along your way (also, ostensibly, to assist you). Not to mention the vast sea of college-related articles and – ahem – blogs that are just a search away on the internet. Wikipedia even has an article on university and college admissions (containing, among other things, information on the process in more than thirty other countries). A USA Today article this week titled, “To friend or not to friend?” comments on the pitfalls of using Facebook and other social networking tools to enhance your relationship with a particular institution or counselor. In short, there’s a lot of information coming at you.

So with all this information about the transition to college, why are there still so many questions? How do you become what I call a savvy consumer of college knowledge?

One way, if you know that you’re going to talk to a college representative, is to prepare some questions in advance so that you can make the most of your time together. You might even have some general questions prepared that you can ask of every college that visits, and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions! We’re on the road looking for you, so feel confident seeking answers.

When you’re presented with promotional materials from a college (picture that stack of brochures you brought home from the college fair), pay attention to the “buzzwords” that colleges use to describe themselves, and then do your own investigation. If a college talks a lot about “interdisciplinary education,” go through their online course catalog and read some course descriptions. Do they seem interdisciplinary to you? When it comes to advertising, colleges are no different from private companies, so developing a critical eye will help you become a more savvy consumer of college knowledge.

Another thing you can do to get savvy is to read some of the literature that college admission counselors read. The National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) is the professional organization of our business. At their website ( you can become a student member and gain access to loads of insider information. Find out how college admission professionals talk to each other. Find out what issues are on the minds of the people reading your application. Sign up for the NACAC newsletter (Steps to College) under the “Publications and Resources) tab from the NACAC homepage.

The Pitzer College Admission staff is here to help you. You can find out which counselor is primarily responsible for your region on our website. Find us, contact us, ask us questions! Being proactive should be your goal during the college search and application process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there is still plenty of time. Have fun meeting counselors and investigating colleges!

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor


Smog Blog

Hi everyone, Justin here.

Danny is taking this blog entry off and was gracious enough to let me steal some space. I do take some time off my juggling career (note the Pitzer orange tie) to do some real work! I come bearing an answer to the question you might have had. As you know, Pitzer is located in beautiful Claremont, California, about 35 miles East of Los Angeles. When you think of Los Angeles you think of the entertainment industry, the beach, freeways, and yes, even smog.
Let’s do some a comparison, shall we? Here is Beijing China just right before the Olympics:
Can you even tell that there is a building in that photo? That is what smog can look like. This is a photo I took on Thursday, July 30th at 9:27am from Pitzer Hall toward the mountains.
pitzer morning
Those are clouds in the background, it was a little overcast that morning. Here is what that afternoon (1:48pm) looks like from the same location.
pitzer afternoon
I grew up in the Los Angeles area and when I was younger and in elementary school and a bit into high school (I graduated high school in 1997) we had what were called “Smog Days.” These were days where the smog was bad enough that we were not allowed to go outside. This was something that affected all of Southern California. Since I have been back in California (since 2001) I do not recall there being any “Smog Days.”
Keep in mind that California has some of the strictest emission standards in the entire country. You can take a look at these graphs and see the data for yourself.
 As you can see in the graph above, things are getting much better. One of the students working with us this summer, Witt, is from upstate New York. If you visited campus this summer, Witt may have been your tour guide.
When I asked him about smog, he said that he thought it was going to be bad here in the Los Angeles area. He followed that up by saying that he has not seen it here in Claremont. There are plenty of days when you can see downtown Los Angeles (35 miles away) from vantages in Claremont.

What does this all boil down to? Basically, don’t simply go by your preconceived notions. Do a little research. We are always happy to answer questions.

To find out more information about smog and other environmental issues in California, visit the California Environmental Protection Agency at or their subsidiary, the Air Resources Board at .

This is all another reason why Pitzer’s focus on sustainability is some important. It is our responsibility to be proactive in providing a clean environment. To learn more about what Pitzer is doing, visit .

Enjoy the rest of your summer and hope to see you while we are on the road in your town during the fall.

Posted by Justin Voss, Associate Director of Admission

EJustin Juggleing

Happy Summer Everyone!

Happy summer everyone!

I hope your summer is going as well as mine. It has been pretty busy here at Pitzer, a large number of students have been visiting us on campus, we are working on some new projects for next year and, of course, half of the office is taking their vacations. In fact Angel is in Thailand right now. I am very jealous, but I am actually just getting ready for a vacation of my own! I am going to be spending some time in San Diego, on the beach with my whole extended family and then I am actually going to be going on a college road trip of my own.

My younger cousin is about to enter her senior year of high school, so we are going to take off to look at a few schools around California. Right now our plan is to take the 2nd week of August to travel down the coast and check out 1 to 2 schools a day.

You can call me a college nerd, but I am really excited for this trip. It has been 6 years since I was at this point in my college search process and now that I know what goes in to making these visits happen at Pitzer, I am curious to see how other schools look.

While I am talking about college visits, I thought I would give you a few pointers on what to do during your college visit.

Go on a tour – I know sometimes you are worn out and just want to do a self guided tour, but the tour guided by a current Pitzer student will give you an important perspective that you would loose if you tour on your own.

Go to the information session – These are very easy to overlook during your visit and sometimes can be less exciting than the tour, but they are still very helpful. Look at the tour as the student side of campus and these informational sessions as the application side. Often times colleges will go through their core values or mission statement during the information session. This should give you a good idea of what the school is looking for in an applicant. At Pitzer we talk about our core values during our information session and those are going to show up again on our supplemental essay.

Have lunch on us – If you are thinking about spending 4 years at a school, you should know what the food situation will be like. Also, make a point to eat lunch with a student. I know you will be embarrassed when your family member plops down and starts grilling a student while they are eating, but this can give you a truly uncensored view of the school because that student probably isn’t connected to the Admission Office.

Talk to students -Whether it is in the dining hall or on the mounds make sure you talk to someone random and learn something new about the school.

Question everything – Now I know that I am an amazing Admission Counselor who addresses a ton of important points during my information sessions, but it is impossible for me to cover everything, that is why you need to ask questions. Whether it is to the Tour Guide or the Admission Staff make sure you ask at least a few questions on every campus. Yes, you should prepare these in advance and NO, your parents shouldn’t be asking all of them for you.

Know why you are asking a question – More important than just asking a question, is to know why you are asking the question. Whenever you ask a question, be prepared to answer “Why is that important/relevant to you?” Everyday parents and students ask me questions about endowments and statistical data that really do not play a factor in their college selection process. So make sure when you are asking questions that the answers will help your college search.

Take everything with a grain of salt – College visits are very subjective, so know that what you see during your 2 hours on campus might not be an accurate representation of what 4 years on that campus will be like. This works both ways, you could have a great visit to a school that is not a strong match for you or you could have a terrible visit to a school that is really a great match for you. Take your time to observe the campus, but still keep doing research after you leave.

Write everything down – My last piece of advice is to write down your impression of the school right after your visit. I know this sounds unnecessary, but come April when you go to make your final decision your memory probably won’t be as accurate as your notes.


I hope this introduction to a campus visit is helpful, and I may be making some additions to it once I get back from my campus tours. Best of luck on your school visits and if you happen to run into me on the road, I hope to get a chance to meet you. [This goes for any Admission folk as well. 🙂 ]

Posted by Danny Irving, Admission Counselor

Danny Leaps for joy