Colorado College v. Oberlin v. Reed

These three colleges are my top choices, and I’m looking to do something in the sciences (in particular physics, environmental sciences, and engineering) although I’m not sure what major yet. Based on the research opportunities and resources available, job opportunities, and grad school enrollment, which would be a better choice? I’m into the block plan of CC, but it’s a common worry that the science classes are quite difficult in that schedule; I don’t know a lot about Oberlin’s student body and overall vibe, but it seems to have a lot of resources; I’ve heard that Reed has a lot of druggies, although that might just be an outward reputation. If anyone who knows a lot about/have been to these colleges have information to offer, I would be greatly thankful!!

I can give a little advice because I live not far from CC and have been to the campus several times. Colorado College (and the surrounding community) is VERY conservative. Many of the tea party, evangelical, traditional values type. Reed is the complete opposite, among the most liberal campuses (the hippie reputation is somewhat deserved). When deciding between CC and Reed, know that you are deciding between two polar extremes.

The above is NOT correct. Colorado College is NOT conservative – the town its in, Colorado Springs, is – but not the school. In fact, CC has been described as a liberal oasis, and once appeared as #6 on Princeton Review’s list of top colleges for hippies.

It attracts smart, academically ambitious and, yes, LIBERAL students. And because marijuana is legal in Colorado (for those over 21) you will find plenty pot on/around campus… just like you would in most LACs.

That said, it’s the least well known of the schools you listed.

Reed has been ranked no. 1 in terms of STEM PhD production. Oberlin is up there as well. Colorado is a good all around school, but it doesn’t do well in contrast to the other two on most fronts.

Reed and Oberlin are excellent but VERY different. Reed is often thought of as a small version of Chicago, and the liberal arts counterpart of Caltech, where lots of Reedies do graduate school. Unsurprisingly, lots of Reedies go to Chicago for graduate school too. Reed is apparently comparable to Chicago and Caltech in terms of sheer rigour. The workloads are HEAVY. I believe MIT and Bryn Mawr are the other notoriously super rigorous powerhouses. Be prepared to work REALLY hard at Reed. Oberlin is more like a small Ivy. Lots of work if you want it, but no heavy heavy pressure - not bone crushing like Reed/Caltech.

An interesting number that underscores Reed’s outrageous STEM PhD production: it has a whopping 32 Rhodes Scholars. Oberlin has 16, and CC has 12 to date. To put these numbers in perspective, Reed is the tiniest by at least 50% (Amherst), and consider that Columbia has 27, Northwestern 16, Chicago 50, Penn 5, Michigan 26, Cornell 30, Georgetown 24, Amherst 20, Swarthmore 28. Reed outdoes all save for Chicago, which is 5 times bigger at the undergrad level!

(I have all this stuff at my fingertips at the moment because I just emerged from a regional college diversity conference)

Also, Colorado is the least diverse, with 2% Black, 4% Asian - both numbers are ridiculous. 9% Latino enrollment prolly reflects demographics in proximity to Colorado Springs. And a recent graduate says those numbers are recent improvements. Oberlin is the first majority school to graduate a Black student…back in 1840 or something! (Consider that stat versus Rice having an official policy of barring Blacks until 1968 I believe!) Reed’s first year class is 8% Black, 9% Latino, and something like 15% Asian in addition to the internationals. There must be factors well beyond ethnic/racial diversity (hippies?) that would contribute to CC’s alleged liberal-ness (although I am not sure what liberal means any more!)

In terms of undergraduate academic experience, Reed is one of the best in the country, especially if you plan to go the grad school (see ^^ stats). It’s also in Portland, a growing metro area with a great vibe. Oberlin is excellent too, but I’d go with Reed.

You do know that none of those schools offer engineering, right? Do your stats give you any shot at Swarthmore? Very intellectual atmosphere like Reed, but they have engineering.


This would help explain Reed’s relative Rhodes production, as it doesn’t have much competition in Oregon (compared to, say, Massachusetts–whose glut of top schools makes Williams’ 36 Rhodes Scholars look even more impressive). @cutepug

Agree with @katliamom that Colorado College is far from conservative. It might not be as well known to the average American but is more in demand than Oberlin and Reed and is a real up and coming school. It has the lowest acceptance rate of the 3 schools by a pretty wide margin.

Have you visited them? My D is an Oberlin grad. She loved the ExCo and January term where she hiked the Inca traiil one year and mapped the moons of Mars another.

They have fabulous environmental studies including a building that pays you to poop.

D’s roomate was a Chem major and had many research opportunities and is now in a top grad program. Sciences are strong at Oberlin.and I’m sure you could have both a fabulous undergrad experience and do fine as a physics major,

D was a geloogy major and is doing fine post grad in her field in terms of jobs.

@rayrick yes I’m aware of that, and I was probably referring to the 3-2 or 4-2 engineering programs. From what I know, Reed offers a lot more variety in that (more institutions in partnership with, more programs, including physics and comp sci which is a big plus) and I think academically I’m leaning more towards Reed, since I’m planning on doing grad school and all that. However, I’m worried (probably paranoid? idk) about the social scene there, a lot of people say you get trapped in a “bubble” and there’s a big stress culture etc. I have plenty of experience in working my ass off in high school, and since some people have said the workload is comparable to Chicago, and I’ve talked to an alumni of Chicago and my high school during their interview and they said I’d do fine. I don’t know though, it does seem quite intimidating.

I really like the atmosphere at Colorado, although it does seem in the middle of nowhere and doesn’t seem as impressive as Oberlin or Reed. I feel like Oberlin when compared to Reed isn’t as great, and one thing that sort of turns me off about Oberlin is how intolerable the people are when exposed to non-liberal ideology (and my experience with that sort of social justice stuff is eeehhh). I think I prefer Reed to Oberlin in terms of academics and resources, so I think I’m just stuck between Colorado and Reed right now.

2 words: Block breaks. :smiley:

Colorado Springs has a population of over 400K (a bit smaller than Portland, OR).
By car it’s a little over an hour away from Denver (a much shorter distance than Middlebury College to Montreal, Williams College to Boston, or some of the New York LACs to NYC). I’d say the “middle of nowhere” label sticks better to many other LACs. Arguably, Colorado College has one of the best LAC locations in America (depending on what you want, of course). For a student of environmental science, its setting and the block plan are an excellent combination, because together they facilitate field study of a wide range of ecosystems (

@dreamschool314 what even is that link

@tk21769 I don’t have a car nor can I drive :frowning: (I’m out of the country and I think the legal driving age here is 18)
Portland has good public transport, I don’t know if transportation in Colorado Springs is easy without cars?

@doschicos have you had experience at CC? If so, how was your life like? I heard science classes are hard to do with blocks.

I heard that doing a double major at Reed is nearly impossible and since I’m aiming towards a 3-2 program and probably a minor (which they don’t offer) would it not be a good choice for me? I also heard Oberlin is a less intense Reed, does anyone know if that’s accurate?

^ I don’t know enough about the public transportation systems in Portland v. Colorado Springs (and surrounding areas) to compare them well. At CC (and most American colleges) you should be fine without your own car. You can access many shops and services in surrounding neighborhoods by foot.The terrain is flat and the climate is pretty good (with something like 300 days of sunshine). On weekends and block breaks, many CC students go to ski/wilderness areas or to downtown Denver. As long as you can make friends, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a ride. Or, just hang out on campus. Most residential colleges generate plenty of on-campus activities.

All 3 colleges are good. In my opinion, strictly from an academic perspective, Reed seems to be best for physics. CC seems to be best for environmental/earth sciences (geology is a popular major). None of them offer engineering. Oberlin might be best if you can’t make up your mind about a major. The data on per capita alumni-earned PhDs seem to reflect these relative strengths. Reed has very high numbers in physical and life sciences (and across the board). Colorado College is one of the top LACs (behind Carleton) for alumni PhDs in geology/earth sciences. Oberlin’s numbers are relatively high in social sciences and humanities. But look at the faculty bios and course offerings to judge for yourself which school aligns best with your academic needs and interests.

Have you been accepted at all 3? Are there significant differences in the net costs?

@tk21769 I’ve been accepted to Oberlin and CC, and Reed is supposed to mail their acceptances today, still waiting though I’m pretty sure I can get in. Academics wise, I don’t like how Reed isn’t flexible as much as most lib arts colleges nor how everyone has to do a thesis, at CC or Oberlin you can be nominated or choose to do an honors option I believe, and that system works better for me. Although I’m impressed by how Reed graduates do in terms of graduate school enrollment, I don’t really know if the conference style is for me, now that I think of it. FA isn’t that big of a problem, I have savings that will pretty much cover me for undergrad, and since I get a bunch of IB credits I’m pretty sure I can graduate a year early depending on the institutions’ requirements. I’m also quite interested in environmental sciences, but I haven’t really been immersed in it yet, so you’ll never know.

well I just got officially accepted to Reed
I think I’m going to talk to a few alumni through my high school network and see if it’s for me
I chatted with a CC alumni from my school and he really liked his experience, so I think I’m leaning towards there.

Congrats on Reed and good luck with the decision!

Congrats! Go to Reed. Excellent education.

I’m not sure if this will help you at all, but my son is a first year at CC. He is planning on double majoring in math and computer science. He loves it. He is incredibly happy there. It is very liberal (which is good for him). So far, his hardest class has been the double block of Spanish that he had to take. It was a ton of work (it was a new language for him). A year of Spanish in 7 weeks. He has loved his math and computer science classes and all of his professors. I just heard that CC’s acceptance rate this year was 15.5%. It is an excellent school. The big draw to CC is the block plan. All three schools you are deciding between are excellent. Good luck with your decision.

@Denverdapper, I think you’re mixing up Colorado College with Colorado Christian University.