Reed College

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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: March 2003 Archive: Reed College
By anyone? on Friday, February 14, 2003 - 07:24 pm: Edit

Does anyone know a lot about this school? It seems really interesting to me, but I haven't had a chance to visit and see what it's really like. A friend checked it out for me while in Oregon and she said people seemed dark and generally drugged up. Is everyone there really depressed or cynical or something? What percentage is like this? Are some students moderately happy? Also, I know it's a liberal school, and while I'm liberal minded, I'm really shy so I come off a conservative sometimes. Can a shy person fit in there? One final question: what's the grading like--do many students get a's? I am accustomed to getting a's all the time, and I'm worried how I'll hold up when I don't feel confident with my grades. Do a lot of people struggle for good grades?
Thanks so much for your help (if anyone happens to respond).

By Thedad (Thedad) on Friday, February 14, 2003 - 08:56 pm: Edit

I can't help you with most of your questions. I have a friend who went to Reed and loved it. Her daughter went to Reed and dropped out before the end of the first term, couldn't stand it. Best quote from PR: "Going to Reed was a lot like choosing to go to hell: your work is never done and nobody believes in heaven." But other students note it's every excting and intellectually stimulating. It's the antithesis to a lot of schools in that it has no Greek life and no college sports. I have no info about being drugged up but one caution: Reed is in Portland, Oregon and for a significant percentage of the population that suffers from Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD, they get depressed from the lack of sunshine), Reed--or anywhere in the Northwest coast--is not the place to be (though Portland is actually worse than Seattle in this regard).

Hmmm...reading PR some more: "The pot is fantastic and relatively cheap." And "Reed students are wierd, creative, and radical in theory...self-centered, cynical, homogenously rich, [and] white."

LOL: "If academia is a religion, we're pretty damned pious."

Does say grades are de-emphasized.

Hope this helps.

By tamwitch on Saturday, February 15, 2003 - 09:41 am: Edit

My older daughter and I went to visit Reed a couple of years ago. She also asked an alum to write a recommendation. Both experiences left us feeling the same way. There is a bit of intellectual snob in a lot of Reed. One of my daughter's friends went to Reed and transferred. His roommate was pretty bizarre and very non-social. When my daughter would visit her friend she was struck with how unfriendly things seemed. (but that could have be a reflection from the friend not being happy there)
As to the alum who we asked to write a recommendation? He asked her for three separate writing samples and a letter to him saying why she was considering Reed. If she gave him all that material he would consider it because "not everyone is right for Reed."
This daughter scored 1500 on SATs and was a published author. Website designer who had developed an internationally following.
She ended up not applying at all to Reed and attended Willamette and loved the school.
Having said that, if you are internal motivated and find intellectual dueling stimulating then Reed might be your cup of tea. You must realize however, that everyone there thinks they are just about the smartest person on earth. I think they spend their time at Reed proving that to themselves. Our friend was right, Reed isn't for everyone, but for those it fits, it must be nivana.

By tamwitch on Saturday, February 15, 2003 - 10:28 am: Edit

It's nirvana....A Reedie would know.

By originalposter on Saturday, February 15, 2003 - 12:39 pm: Edit

Thanks for helping me out everyone.

I'm wondering if the intellectual elitism is significantly higher than it would be at an ivy or something. I think that when you look at a lot of these reputable institutions you find an inevitable element of snobbery. I'm prepared to face this, but it's certainly not an incentive.
The suicide comment sort of freaked me out--I can't believe an admissions counselor would openly say that. I was thinking of applying to Oberlin until I found out how cutthroat it was. Thanks for directing me to the Princeton Review; the comments there were very helpful. Do you know what your friend's daughter didn't like about Reed specifically? Many of the "older" people I have talked to about Reed have better impressions of the college than the "younger" people--maybe it's changed over the years?
Tamwitch...are you a Reedie? If so, help me out! Answer some of my questions (if you have time). How much homework do you have a night/week? What do you do in you free time? Are people unfriendly and snobby? Etc. Thanks again everyone!

By Thedad (Thedad) on Saturday, February 15, 2003 - 01:51 pm: Edit

I'm not precisely sure but I think she found it too intense--as PR says, the kind of place where to take a break you do a different kind of homework--and not socially interesting. Though I think homesickness may have played a part, too.

By tamwitch on Saturday, February 15, 2003 - 03:02 pm: Edit

I am not a Reedie. My daughter's friend is extremely interested in Music and there was little there in that way for him. If you are considered Oberlin maybe you are interested in music too. If so. Probably not the school for you. The reason he left was #1. music and #2. unfriendly snobby and cold people. His "grades" although they don't have grades, were excellent. He has taken a year off and is heading back to some sort of music school Berkeley I believe, in the fall.
My daughter said he had a lot of homework. Hundreds of pages of reading a night. I remember asking myself if the admission's person was kidding regarding the suicide rate, but I got the distinct feeling she wasn't.
How the snobbish intensity measures up to Ivy's I don't know. I know I never had that snobby feeling around Stanford, although I am sure there are people who are snobby.
Maybe it's because at Reed it felt like a game. Like they were playing with you. I know it is difficult for many people who are extremely intelligent to be surround by equally intelligent people. Most aren't used to that. The school doesn't feel very social to me. My daughter said when she had lunch and attended classes there that all that was okay, and her tour guide was nice enough, but listening to the conversations of the people at the table next to her turned her off. They were engaged in an intellectual debate over some esoteric topic. She felt like it might be hard to relax at this school, even at lunch.
Once again, you may be the kind of person who would thrive in this atmosphere, and it would help you achieve more than another environment, on an intellectual level. I would worry about just about anyone on a social level.
At least that is my non Reedie impression.

By originalposter on Saturday, February 15, 2003 - 03:23 pm: Edit

Sorry, I didn't realize that you posted both the comments under tamwitch--I just looked at the name from the second response (the short one).

I'm a little confused about the game idea. Who is playing with whom? Also, did you see anyone on campus who was relaxed...were some people engaging in 'normal' conversations at lunch? I would be really worried if everyone was the same in this respect (all geared solely towards intellectualism and very cold/antisocial).

I'm a firm believer in getting the full college experience, and I don't want the next 4 years of my life to be only academically intense. I really want to connect with more people, and I thought it would be easier if I were around those with values similar to my own, but if the people at Reed are very self-centered and snobby, I doubt I would connect with many of them.

As for Oberlin, I still think it's a great school, but I need to get out of Ohio. Also, I'm not a music major, although I play piano and violin.

Thanks for all your anecdotes. Any other impressions of Reed are greatly appreciated.

By tamwitch on Saturday, February 15, 2003 - 10:32 pm: Edit

You know the only way you will know if you fit in is to go there yourself. I found it cold and snobbish, never felt an oz. of warmth in my short visit there. You may find it stimulating. My daughter found the conversations intellectually boorish, and her experience visiting as a prospective student and a friend of a freshman was that, she was really glad she didn't apply. But you may find that the repartee of the students is engaging and interesting, Her friend thought it was hard to connect at the school, but he is unique in his own right and it might not have been the right fit.
Regardless of what anyone says you need to make up your own mind. I think you have heard pretty good representations of Reed. The quotes above from others seem pretty good. Reed prides itself in being different. If you are not different you may not fit in.

By Marcie on Monday, February 17, 2003 - 11:17 pm: Edit

Hello, My sister and family live just two blocks away from Reed, so I have heard quite a bit about it over the years. She had a nanny from Reed who has become a dear family friend. This friend is a very normal, smart person. She transfered out of Reed after two years because she wanted a different major, but she told me Reed gave her a great foundation because it was so rigorous. I also know a friend of a friend who just graduated from Reed in math who did his own research in some obscure kind of math and is now the world expert in whatever the field is. He is now in grad school at U. of Washington in math. My daughter's camp counselor for two summers also went to Reed and she was a straight arrow, very normal person and quite conservative.

Reed is supposed to have the highest percentage of its students attend grad school. (I think that is on their web site.) They also cover a more traditional curriculum (classics of Western thought and philosophy) that many schools have now turned away from. Less emphasis on grades and more on intellectual development.

I think there is a chapter on Reed in the book "The Hidden Ivies" that is very helpful in explaining their approach.

Reed is a beautiful but small campus next to a lovely old neighborhood with huge, old-fashioned houses and big trees. My sister has also had other Reed students as tutors for her sons. There are a lot of sort-of "hippie" looking students, lots of rumors of pot/drug use. But there are also lots of "regular" smart college kids there. A few blocks away is a fun area of shops and restaurants called Sellwood, and Portland is a great, accessible city. Lots of things to do downtown and easy access by bus. Portland's weather is better than Seattle (where I live); I disagree with previous poster. It is milder and sunnier there; they are known as the Rose City.

I used to live in Ohio, in Columbus, and I think Portland would be an excellent contrast if you want to get out of Ohio.

By Marcie on Monday, February 17, 2003 - 11:21 pm: Edit

I just re-read your original post: our family friend who went to Reed is also shy.

Re grades: according to what I remember from The Hidden Ivies, they don't really have grades as such at Reed, to eliminate the pressure to receive them. They are recorded in their offices and you don't have to look at them unless you want to. (You'll have to check the book or the college to make sure that is correct, but that is what I remember.)

By originalposter on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - 04:12 pm: Edit

Thanks for responding. The info about the weather and general environment was very helpful. Also, thanks for letting me know that the student body isn't as ideological as it has been portrayed--I knew there must be some "normal" people on campus, and some conservatives too. Do you have anything negative to add about Reed? I'm really trying to get an un-biased perspective, which is difficult here in Ohio where the best info about the college comes from their own guidebook and website. You affirmed many of the good aspects of Reed, which were influential in my decision to apply; however, I don't know many negative aspects of the college. Anyway, if you can think of some negative things that haven't been explained please let me know.

By Marcie on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - 10:19 pm: Edit

You really need to read the chapter on Reed in the Hidden Ivies book. It provides a more rounded view. The book indicated you really need to want their intellectual approach of studying all the traditional great classics of Western thought. That is kind of an old-fashioned education, but their theory is that it will teach you to think. Does that approach appeal to you? (That may be why they have such a high proportion of students going on to graduate school.)

I guess it is quite small, that could be a drawback to you. I think there would be some intellectually snobbish students and professors, but I have also heard that about Harvard and other Ivies.

Other pluses I forgot to mention: Reed is renovating all their older dorms. There are some cool older houses on campus that are special interest houses for languages: French House, Russian House. I thought that looked interesting. Skiing is only about an hour away from Portland, and the ocean is only about half an hour away.

By reedie on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 08:44 pm: Edit

I went to Reed and consider it to be the best experience of my life! It's really hard to describe Reed. It just is. If it's the right fit, you'll love it. If it's not, you'll probably hate it.

For me everything I read about Reed and all the people with whom I spoke, just made me want to there more. It can be intense. Freshmen year isn't too bad but then they really kick up the work sophomore year. There were a few semesters where I probably spent 70 hours a week just doing academic stuff. I'm in grad school now and it's far easier than Reed.

As far as grades go, they sort of become a non-issue once you're there. In most of the classes, students receive comments and not grades on their homework and papers. Reed does issue grades but students are not automatically given a copy. However, you can check on them easily. I personally didn't see my grades until I applied to grad school, but one of my friends checked on his grades every semester. It's just a personal preference thing. Reed doesn't have any grade inflation, so the average GPA has stayed at 2.9 for a number of years. I think in the past two decades only 4 or 5 people received a perfect 4.0

From a social perspective, the vast majority of Reedies are happy and well-adjusted people. I've met the most interesting, friendly, and intelligent people there. I was a dorm mom for several years, and most of those living in the same dorm, especially first years, formed tight bonds. It was the kind of place while walking from Commons to the library I'd say hi to a dozen people. I think where the antisocial myth that surrounds Reed is due mostly to the fact that most Reedies are more committed to their studies than at other schools. There aren't frat parties or a lot of bar hopping. Also, the Portland drizzle causes a lot of people walk with their head down. Some people say this is just Reedies avoiding eye contact but it's really just a practical way to keep rain out of your eyes.

My biggest piece of advice for you if you're a little shy no matter what college you go to is to try talking to a few people in your dorm or classes. Most likely you'll find a few friends in each place. I'm a really friendly person but like most people can be shy when in a new situation. It may seem awkward but that first week or two but don't be afraid to ask your dormies if they want to go to dinner or if they'd like to explore Portland with you. Most likely the first week or two they may be a little lonely too.

As far as drugs go, they are present. The most common drug is probably pot. Alcohol is around but except for a small minority is not used that frequently. There are other drugs around but in my experience people don't use them that often. Most people do drugs only recreationally. In my experience as a house adviser, it's really difficult for people to get too involved in drugs and maintain themselves academically. I never used drugs in my 4 years there and neither did most of my friends. I also never felt any pressure to drink or do drugs. If you're concerned about the drug problem, they do have a substance free floor where the residents sign a contract not to do drugs on the floor or come home intoxicated.

The weather in the winter months can get really gray and blah, but it just makes the sunny days all the better. Reed is just across the street from the Rhododendrom Gardens and there is nothing more beautiful to take a quick stroll there on a sunny day.

I hope this helps you make you're decision and convince you that not all Reedies are drugged up and depressed because it really is a wonderful college in a wonderful city. Best of luck!

By Carl on Sunday, February 23, 2003 - 10:41 am: Edit

I did a Reed alumnus interview, and he said that most of the students who stay enrolled at Reed work hard, but that there are some students who drop out their freshman year and become social parasites. They will still go to all the parties and hang around the campus, although they are no longer students.

The alumnus was brilliant; he majored in physics and then went on to Stanford for law school. He now is a law professor at Florida State University. His friends from college were supposedly brilliant as well; one of them became an instructor at MIT before having a bad trip on acid, another went to Princeton and spent a few years at the Institute for Advanced Studies, and another is a mathematician at Stanford University. The wife of the alumnus also went to Reed, and was a professor at Williams College; she now teaches at FSU as well.

He went to Reed during the 70's, so he said that drugs were a big part of Reed. He also commented that not everyone will fit in there; he STRONGLY urged me to visit before making a final decision.

An example of eccentricity he noted was a girl that used to square dance with her pet python around her waist. Also, there is some concrete figure that all the residential halls try to steal from each other; one time a group was running with it away from some pursuers who also wanted possession of the concrete figure. The chased (not chaste) group ran to the top tower of the library, where a helicopter came and picked them up.

Perhaps this gives you some idea of what Reed is like.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Friday, March 28, 2003 - 03:30 pm: Edit

I was asked some questions on another board about Reed ( I am a parent) so I am posting them here

( Q)What kind of friends did your daughter have in high school, and what sort of "group" does she relate to now? Would you say the students are a lot more "serious" than most college kids? Do you think there is more of a problem with depression and gloominess than in some groups that age?

( A)She has studious but quirky friends. For example one of her best friends entered the U of Washington when she was 13 and skipped high school) She is not as studious as that. She wasn't on the honor roll in high school, but was involved in several activities( theatre/track/vocal ensemble) although she is quiet, she is perky, and has been a camp counselor since middle school( actually riding staff)
She has been in the substance free dorms for two years and is planning to again next year. I haven't seen any drug or alcohol problems on campus, not any more than your typical suburban high school anyway. Reedies like to think they are pushing the envelope, and perhaps at Renn Fayre they do, but for someone who grew up in the 70's Reed isn't even mildly disturbing.( you have to pretend you are shocked though by things like walking around in suit jackets and boxer shorts carrying martini glasses during prospie day though or else they are disappointed) Her friends are very sweet, young people who sit around knitting while they discuss the Orestia.( knitting is a very big thing) I would say the students are more serious than students who would be attracted to a school with frats and football.( not big on sports except rugby) There is also a group who thinks they are smarter than anyone else, and love to moan about how much they have to study, but on the whole they are happy smart kids who take pride in how quirky they are percieved to be.( do a google for Renn Fayre, it's not your fathers celebration!)

My daughter does have a problem with depression but it is familal not anything to do with Reed. They do have a good health clinic there and counseling staff.

( Q)How much DOES it rain?? How many days would you say you see the sun in a typical month?

( A )Well Seattle is gorgeous today, but often times it is cloudly but burns off. I would say half and half, the weather is mild though never gets that cold, or hot, and you get used to drizzly days in the winter, they are kinda cozy.

Q What kind of a dorm room does your daughter have?

A First year she was in Chittick which like I said was a sub free dorm.
She had a single room even though she didn't request one, but as she has ADD it worked very well considering that she could control the traffic in her room. Bathrooms are co-ed which freaks out some people, but I didn't have a problem with it. There is a lot of privacy and the dorms are generally so small that there isn't any one else using the bathroom any way. Chittick was small about 28 people and most she became very good friends with. They all would study together( all freshman have a common Hum 110 class) .
The dorm rooms themselves I thought were pretty nice. It was actually about the same size as her room at home.
This year she is in one of the newest buildings Steele East, which has three floors.( her floor is sub free, next year the whole dorm witll be sub free) She has a single room again as do most of the students, some have a divided double, two rooms but one door to the hall.
Her sister who is 8 years younger often stays with her when we go to Portland, and has been adopted by several of the kids in the dorm. Their housekeeper is also a real sweetie, makes them coffee, takes them to the airport...

QI understand that "seeing" your grades is optional. How does she feel about that?

AYou meet with your advisor and I think she does learn her grades at the end of the term. She did sign something so that I could see them when requested, but I have never done that. She seems to be doing well, it is a challenging school and tough on grading, and I knew that she & I would be notified if her grades were a problem so I don't worry about it ( usually)

QWhat size are her classes, and how excited does she seem about them?
She is a bio major, which means she had to start taking classes in her major freshman year. The hum lectures are larger than the labs or seminars. I think the lectures could be 60-70 students and labs about 23, and seminars a little less than that. General classes like Math I think are about 30.
Biology is one of their top departments, and she really likes almost all ot the teachers. They often also see professors outside of class, for instance when Peter Steinbrenner was the acting president, they went out to play paint ball with him and a few other profs, and she went to see LOTR ( lord of the rings) with a few of her friends and her bio profs and their sig others. The professors are generally very engaged in what they are doing, and transfer that excitement to the students. She has to work hard, but she doesn't seem to be overworked.
The main thing I would change about Reed is that it isn't very ethnically diverse. They are giving finaid to international students this year, but there is the perception that it is full of rich white kids, which I imagine deters those of other backgrounds. We are white but defintely not rich ( blue collar)and while there are those who think everyone spends summer after highschool in Europe, there are more who need all the aid they can get.

By Marylandmom (Marylandmom) on Saturday, March 29, 2003 - 05:48 am: Edit

EKity4, your comments are very much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to answer so thoroughly. Some of the posts at the beginning of this thread make me wish I hadn't seen them considering that my daughter may end up at Reed.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, March 29, 2003 - 09:35 am: Edit

MMom, In general it seems that many Reedies were the academic whizes in their high schools. This leads to them discussing esoteric ideas that seem to be hairsplitting outside of class at time. THey are very intense and take themselves seriously. Still it might be worthwhile to not that Tamwitch's daughter chose another Oregon school Willamette, which is quite different in location and feel.

I tend to feel in general, what you notice can say more about you than your environment. For instance my mother who is sensitive about her nose, always notices the schnozzes of others.

I have spent a lot of time at Reed in the cafeteria and at a few parties ( hosted by interest groups), and I thought while they obviously took themselves seriously, that was more of a function of being young and idealistic rather than intellectual snobbery.

One thing to consider though is your daughters potential major. Reed is very small, and while their science depts are fantastic, and students can get some great work done in the arts, the arts depts are small and the group of students majoring in them are smaller than say physics usually.
However since it is so small- her friends are from several majors not just bio. which gives her a nice perspective

Distance may be an issue though. While my daughter didn't come home for spring break ( she stayed on campus to study and to do community service) freshman year she came home for all the breaks easily by train, and her 11 yr old sister and I visited her a few times as well.
When I didn't know exactly where she was at beginning of spring break ( she was on her SEEDS trip and forgot to tell me- I don't normally freak out, but I had been communicating with her about her aid and then all of a sudden I didn't hear from her for several days), it was a relief to know that Portland is just a few hours away and I could have looked for her myself.
( Backstory a high school classmate has disappeared in New Orleans before Mardi Gras. He is a student at Tulane, and his parents have hired private detectives, but little sign of him)
Swarthmore sounds equally appealing to your daughter, and it certainly would be closer to you.

By Wildchyld (Wildchyld) on Sunday, April 20, 2003 - 08:19 pm: Edit

I have also been considering Reed. I find myself consistantly wondering is why don't people think of it more highly? Is it because they aren't as well known and refuse to allow themselves to be ranked by US News?
It seems like rankings are more related to public relations then to education. They basically state...we can charge a lot and still the brightest kids will clamor at our door. I'm not sure that attracting the brightest students necessarily means giving the best education.
I'd be much more interested in seeing how far the less intelligent kids can go based upon what they've learned at college :)
My goal is a top grad program in Psychology. I want to find a school that can prepare me for that.
If I go to Reed, will admissions reps from grad schools realize how intense it is? Would I be better off at Brown or Berkeley?

By Dschnapps (Dschnapps) on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 - 11:25 pm: Edit

About US News, because Reed doesn't give info US News is really harsh in their grading, putting them in second tier, I think.

I went to Reed and spent the night, attended a few classes, and I was incredibly impressed. The atmosphere was the most academic and intellectually interested I had seen, including Stanford.

In the halls people were chatting about Kant and economics topics that are usually reserved for grad school. Anyway, it didn't seem cynical or depressed, and I'm sure that, just like at any other school, if you want to avoid drugs/alcohol/etc. you shouldn't have a problem.

By 12yearsofreed (12yearsofreed) on Sunday, July 13, 2003 - 04:50 pm: Edit

As per Carl's point, there is nothing wrong with being a "social parasite" at Reed, especially as any immersive experience with the place will generally warp you away from the outside world indelibly.

Drugs used to be more prevalent several years ago and now seem to be making a somewhat serious comeback, and by this I mean more than pot, I mean some of the more serious chemicals that Reed was known for in the early 80's and before.

Recently the school has completely deviated away from its original feel and has become more corporate more quickly than anyone could have imagined.

I was once one of Reed's best friends in town, I advertised for the place, did PR at all levels, attended there of course, and even convinced many locals that they had nothing to fear from the strange out of towners that Reed would attract.

Today though, I would urge you to spend the incredible sum Reed requests for tuition on a place where you will not get an ulcer while staying awake every night reading for a class which you will still fail.

Sorry to break the hearts of the kids who crave Reed's famous eccentricity, but the eccentricity has been fully replaced by professional administrators riding on the accomplishments of those long since gone.

They had a record enrollment for this coming Fall, I will bet you cash money that a huge percentage of the new kids will drop out before graduation, as it always has been.

Ask more questions about the place and I'm sure I could find more info for you.

By 12yearsofreed (12yearsofreed) on Sunday, July 13, 2003 - 04:54 pm: Edit

By the way, Carl's story about the concrete figure (its called the Doyle Owl and is thought to be destroyed at this point) never actually happened, the only occasions where a helicopter came to campus was when the army was training for medivac procedures near Eastmoreland Hospital on SE 28th and when an overzealous pilot flew too close to the school recently in order to photograph the campus for school marketing purposes.

There have been some truly, truly wild Doyle Owl stories though.

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