Reed College Visit Report by Blakey
Visit to Reed College in May 2013 by Blakey(Parent of Student, HS Class of 2012)
(Member since April 03 2012 with 4 posts)
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Information Session: Yes
Campus Tour: Yes - one of the better tours we took this year. Students were bright and very funny. The campus is lovely if wet(it's portland after all)
Overnight Visit: Yes
Classroom Visit: Yes - Son was impressed by quality of discussion in humanities core, and that students were engaged (and not asleep) so late in 2d semester.
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Campus Visit Notes for Reed College
A worthwhile visit. Don't rely on oral tradition about this school. See it for yourself. This goes for conservative parents too. Just be sure your son or daughter sees it up close, meets some students and does the overnight if possible. Let them stay both days if you go to the accepted students event. Although it has a reputation here on the west coast as a leftist sleepaway camp like a Wesleyan or a Hampshire, that reputation is not actually fair (notwithstanding the popular t-shirt slogan "communism/atheism/free love" or some such), and this reputation may have as much to do with Portland's carefully cultivated weird image. This is no place for slackers or the politically distracted. Students are required to take on a rather rigorous western civ and literature core of the kind now rejected by most of our elite northeastern colleges. Reedies focus so intently on their educations that the ideological bent of the faculty and typical student just don't loom so large as to interfere with quality serious education. You'd likely waste more time listening to political rants in the humanities at Berkeley than at Reed. Reed grooms students to be intellectuals headed for grad school and probably teaching, not MBAs and not corporate drones. Because the faculty are honest, it seems that even a conservative student with the right intellectual strength can make it here and not feel marginalized or that they are wasting time.
We attended the two-day event for accepted students; my son attended a rather rigorous prep school in SoCal and felt very much at home in the humanities core section he sat in on. Son was impressed that the students were so engaged in the discussion so late in the year. In one or two other April visits to other well-regarded schools, students had shut down and/or were asleep. He immediately recognized that Reed is an intellectually stimulating place, and the focus there is primarily on academics. It also turns out that an obsession of many Reedies throughout their years there is the senior thesis and which desk they get to use all senior year in the library. The senior thesis is a source of stress, but if you can pull it off at Reed, you've essentially done a practice run on a master's thesis. Definitely not a place for the academically faint of heart. In fact, the school has to force the students to go outdoors; there is actually a physical education requirement.
Reed is an outlier; not just another one of many fungible institutions. The student body reflects that. Reed does not play ratings games with the magazines, so their numbers are not comparable to other places. They may indeed accept 40% of their applicants, but their applicants are people who think that they might be able to cut it at Reed. So the pool of applicants is already somewhat winnowed.
We eventually crossed Reed off the list, but mostly for financial reasons. There is not a lot of money for merit scholarships; none for first-years. Son was offered some generous and attractive packages elsewhere. Although my son was very excited by the intellectual tone and the inclusive atmosphere, he realized that he is not actually a "free spirit" in the way so many of the students are up there, and on reflection he reluctantly decided maybe Reed just wasn't quite the fit we all hoped it might be.
However, we are fans of this place, and would recommend it for the very bright, very serious student who is comfortable with the Portland lifestyle, wants to be surrounded by other bright students, may be on the road to being an academic, and doesn't need the brand name, the greek letters or the luxury gym and climbing wall amenities available at lesser places. By comparison with other LACs, Reed would be culturally and intellectually about 180 degrees opposite Claremont McKenna, which seems to be a training ground for future city council members. Nothing against that; we need city councils, but many of the kids at Reed would probably have little problem with the curriculum at University of Chicago, say, or Pomona. Those places just aren't Ree