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Time for the stress questions,etc. again

chaucers_palchaucers_pal Registered User Posts: 263 Junior Member
edited May 2008 in Reed College
So my daughter is accepted at Reed, and there are a lot of things she likes about it. The sense of humor, the intellectual playfulness all sound great. The required freshman Humanities sounds great. But the emphasis on being folks being stressed out all the time is worrying.

So time for the stress questions, again. I realize different people will have different reactions, but all input is helpful

Do you feel stressed out most of the time about your work? Or are there peaks and valleys? Certain times of the school year? One giant wad of stress when you do your thesis?

What are some of the major causes of stress - the actual amount of work, the rigor of the work, competition, or...?

Reed says it has support programs for stress. Do people use them, or is there a "toughing it out" mentality?

When do you need to know the direction for your thesis? How focused do you have to be towards a major during your freshman/sophmore year?

Thanks!
Post edited by chaucers_pal on

Replies to: Time for the stress questions,etc. again

  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,909 Senior Member
    As an alumnus of Reed, I'm going to offer a few observations. The culture of a college doesn't change a lot over time, so my experience should be pertinent.

    1. Do you feel stressed out most of the time about your work? Or are there peaks and valleys? Certain times of the school year? One giant wad of stress when you do your thesis?

    Because of the intensity of the academic workload, I (like most of my classmates) always had a sense that there was work to do -- if not a deadline looming in the immediate future, then nonetheless reading and research to be done. I consciously budgeted my time each day and kept a fairly detailed calendar. For me this still meant many hours devoted to my academic work, including weekdays and weekends; and occasional all-nighters when papers were due. But to be honest, although the work was incessant and often challenging I enjoyed so much it that I didn't feel stressed by it, just aware of my priorities. But I did get stressed as the deadline for a paper approached.

    The thesis is not one giant wad of stress. It's just a big project that you have to plan well and carry out in pieces and stages (under supervision of your thesis advisor). Your thesis can be intense work but also very satisfying and not particularly stressful. For me the only stressful part was getting the thing typed up just before the deadline (typewriters in that era); an all-nighter, lots of coffee, and gratitude to my g.f.!


    2. What are some of the major causes of stress - the actual amount of work, the rigor of the work, competition, or...?

    Reed is not competitive, that is, competitive between students. Nor is it about grade grubbing (we hardly knew what our grades were). In many ways its a cooperative intellectual enterprise. In Hum 110 there was a "we're all in the same boat" mentality as we worked through a piece of literature or a paper was due (all 300 students writing the same paper due the same hour of the same day), and to some degree this spirit was maintained in other courses. Knowledge isn't a finite resource that some people can monopolize; it's something that we each acquire or partake of in our own way, perhaps with differing abilities or talents for doing so. (Out there in the wider intellectual world, where people publish research or where they are trying to be "first" to come up with an invention or idea, or to win a contract or a grant, there truly is competition and often rivalry. That's not what happens among undergraduate students at Reed.)


    3. Reed says it has support programs for stress. Do people use them, or is there a "toughing it out" mentality?

    I'm not aware of the current programs. They did have both academic advisors and counselors and psychological counselors. Somebody else will have to comment on the current situation.


    4. When do you need to know the direction for your thesis? How focused do you have to be towards a major during your freshman/sophmore year?

    You don't need your thesis topic til the beginning of your senior year but may well start gravitating toward one earlier (you do need to select a thesis advisor, and so by end of junior year you're probably going to know who this will be). It's a good idea to know your intended major early on (first year even, but usually by the beginning or middle of the second) so that you can focus on building blocks in your academic program in subject areas such as math, language, and so forth. If you're interested in an interdisciplinary major then that has to be decided fairly early, too (end of sophomore year at latest) and isn't something you can just fall into late.

    One thing to keep in mind is that so much of the curriculum is dominated by Hum 110 in first year that the difference in courses taken by students in one major vs. another are not that great then. There's more differentiation in the second year. But to me one of the wonderful things about Reed was the common experience that we all had in Hum 110 (and Hum 210 in my case), which fostered a common language of discourse.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    Science majors need to have taken the basics as freshmen/sophomores- chem/bio/calc. It is more difficult if you wait longer because you need the pre-reqs before the upper division classes, however this is true whether you attend a community college or Reed.

    I know that my D participated in study groups- informally in her dorm freshman year, she co-led a support group for students with ADD and I know there are resources through the health center.
    I believe you need to know what your major is going to be junior year so you can take appropriate qual.
    A major in bio chem for instance- has to take both the bio qual & the chem qual. :p
    However- I felt students and profs were very supportive & not competitive with each other- but that doesn't mean they aren't competitive with themselves.
    There was an attitude of being competitive as to who went with the least sleep, but I wasn't sure if that was tongue in cheek or not.
  • TetraTetra Registered User Posts: 31 Junior Member
    Speaking as a student who will probably be in the library for several more hours this Saturday night, I would like to second most of what Mackinaw said.

    As for support, I think the most important thing is to love what you're doing. The accessibility of the professors is something that should not be understated, though. It's very easy to walk into a professor's office and have him/her walk you through problems you missed on a test, point you towards articles that help with your research, etc. In my experience, these meetings frequently end in conversations about school and life in general, and this closeness with the teachers can often be encouraging. In addition to professors, you can get free private tutoring from upperclassmen who have been recommended by professors, stop by the DoJo (Dorothy Jo-something tutoring center), or get help from your friends. The last is especially encouraged, I think, in math and science classes.
  • tennisdudetennisdude Registered User Posts: 629 Member
    I had sort of an abnormal experience this (my freshman) year, but I found that there was not nearly enough work. At least, compared to the hype and fear that was created around it.

    If you give more details about what your daughter wants to study, I can give you a pretty realistic picture of how the freshman year will be, stress wise.
  • laughablelaughable Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    I'm currently working on my thesis, so my view is heavily biased toward the alarmist end of the stress spectrum.

    Competition among students for grades or other evaluations is virtually nonexistent. I have never seen my transcript and know only that I will graduate and grad schools don't seem to mind them, either.

    First-year students do not (and should not!) complain about their workloads, as they are heavily encouraged to take only 3 courses their first semester, and all introductory courses at that.

    A major must be declared after 13 units are earned (end of 2nd year).

    In some departments, the junior qualifying exam required of all students prior to beginning a thesising year serves as an effective launchpad for the thesis itself. In others, particularly the sciences, this is not so. This 'qual' can be fairly stressful for most students.

    Beyond the free professional massages offered in the library during reading week, the vast majority of students I have known "tough out" the stress of work sans heavy reliance on support structures.

    The stress level is fairly intense beginning the 2nd year through the last final in the senior year. Of course, finals ratchet this intensity (usually) to 11.

    Prof.s are used to kids feeling overwhelmed and occaisonally crying in their offices. C'est la vie in the world of difficult undergraduate schools. As has been mentioned, their assistance and guidance are invaluable. The faculty will do everything to assist every student, save supplying the student's effort. For many, including myself, completing 100% of required readings for all courses is infeasible, and may perhaps appear ludicrous.

    School-work related stresses are a main reason why I and so many of my cohorts either took time off or escaped to relatively lacksadaisical study abroad programs.

    As a tutor in the writing center (in the Dorothy Johanssen House, an out-of-the-way but lovely study bungalow) for the last three years, I have seen many students consumed with grief. Interestingly enough, they are mostly freshmen worried about their first HUM 110 papers. The moral: while the stress level doesn't decline (or rise particularly, for that matter) the students' coping capacities greatly improve with acclimation.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    I'm currently working on my thesis, so my view is heavily biased toward the alarmist end of the stress spectrum.

    Whats the Renn Fayre theme this year?
    I wished I went to Reed, just to see noise parade.
    ;)
  • TrinSFTrinSF Registered User Posts: 1,482 Senior Member
    "The Dawn of Time", it looks like.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    oh that is fantastic!
    Garth can let the raptors out ;)
This discussion has been closed.