Is Reed College really so hard?

Just wondering if it’s worth researching any further. Is Reed really so much harder academically (and stressful) than other LAC’s? Do any “Middle of the Road” types go there and have a good time?

What are you comparing it to?

Higher ranked universities and colleges are usually on average academically more challenging than lower ranked universities and colleges. I would not expect Reed to be quite on the level of MIT or Caltech or Chicago. I would not expect it to be any more difficult than Bowdoin or Wellesley College. It is however quite a good school and all good schools are going to expect quite a bit from their students.

In the admission video, a student is quoted as saying, “It’s hard, but in the end it’s so worthwhile.” Comments on CC seem to indicate htat students have a large workload. Yes, I’m comparing it to other top LAC’s in the Northeast or the Midwest. When people speak about Bowdoin, Middlebury or Macalester, I don’t usually hear first about heavy workloads. I hear about great academics, fantastic clubs and opportunities, etc… Is Reed really less balanced in its student life/ academic life than these other schools?

I can’t compare Reed’s academics to those of other schools.

I will say that Reed is a school where fit is extremely important (more so than any of the schools mentioned so far), and IMO if you can’t visit there then I would tell you not to apply. Yes, I know we are in a pandemic, so enough said.

Reed has always been a school where academics come first. If you want “fantastic clubs” and “opportunities,” Reed might not be for you. You can find them, but you will need to deal with your classes first. What @Mwfan1921 said is very true. You need to buy in to the Reed ethic or you will will not be happy.

I attended a different highly academically challenging university. My take on this (which I will admit I borrowed from someone else) is “You have to want to do it”.

If you want to do it, then an academically challenging university can be a great experience. If you do not really want to do it, then it gets old well before four years are up.

“Great academics” requires a lot of hard work. There is no easy way to learn any one of a very long list of challenging subjects.

I just looked at the student reviews for Reed on Niche. There are so many comments about an overload of work and burnout. I guess we’ll drop Reed from the list. I don’t think that’s what my son is looking for.

Everything is relative. How “hard” a college is depends not only on the school and its programs, but also on the relative strength of its students.

I’m a Reed grad and yes, it is that hard. I had to work about 2x as hard as a undergrad at Reed than as a grad student at UW-Seattle. This is the message that they insert into the envelope when they send out Reed transcripts:

The average GPA for all undergraduate students in 2018–19 was 3.18 on a 4.00 scale. This figure has increased by less than 0.12 of a grade point in the past 25 years. During that period, only eight students have graduated from Reed with perfect 4.00 grade averages.

10% graduated with a GPA of 3.73 or higher
25% graduated with a GPA of 3.53 or higher
Average GPA—3.21
The absence of grade inflation at Reed reflects the rigor of the academic program and the high standards set by the faculty rather than any deficiency in the quality of the student body.

Students are encouraged to focus on learning, not on grades. Students receive rigorous feedback on their work, and semester grades are filed with the
registrar, but, by tradition, students do not receive standard grade reports. Papers and exams are generally returned to students with lengthy comments but without grades affixed. There is no dean’s list or honor roll, and Reed does not award Latin honors at graduation.

Reed students and alumni have won
32 Rhodes Scholarships (the second highest from a liberal arts college)
112 Fulbright Scholarships
68 Watson Fellowships
25 Goldwater Scholarships
179 National Science Foundation Fellowships
Nineteen Reed alumni have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. About nine percent of Reed alumni are CEOs, presidents, or owners of private companies.

Reed ranks fourth in the nation among all institutions of higher learning in the per capita production of future PhDs in all disciplines. It ranks fifth in science and mathematics, third in social sciences, and fourth in humanities and art. Among more specific fields, it ranks second in life sciences, second in humanities, third in social sciences (not including psychology, education, and communications), second in psychology, and third in physical sciences. (Source: National Science Foundation and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System data, based on doctoral degrees awarded 2005–2014.)

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Yes, it is hard but I loved it. I’m an alum and I found that more was expected of me at Reed than at Johns Hopkins, where I went for grad school. That being said, I think I learned more, and think I received a much better education than I did at Hopkins.

Agree wholeheartedly with previous post. My son is a sophomore at Reed. He is very academically oriented and hopes to be a biology professor some day. His idea of fun is discussing philosophy over dinner with a variety of students from other disciplines, or playing in the jazz band. Organized sports isn’t a thing. Frat parties don’t exist. He has a diverse group of men and women that he hangs out with, but for all of them, academics comes first. They don’t seem intimidated by the hard work, and look forward to being challenged. They all call their professors by their first names, which elevates them almost to the status of colleague. To fulfill that role they feel a responsibility to know their stuff and hold up their end of class discussions. My son took a music history course his freshman year because it was rumored to be the hardest course on campus. It was hard, but also the professor was great, the material was interesting, history and philosophy were integrated into the course along with studying the music itself, the class was very small, and he enjoyed the experience immensely. He is planning to take a religion course on Islam in the fall because the professor is one of the nation’s experts on the subject, is a great teacher, and the issues discussed have so much relevance in our society today. He feels if he is to be a leader in an academic role he needs to know how factors like gender, religion, history, philosophy etc. influence and shape our beliefs, our thinking, our politics, our knowledge.
The professors are top notch, well published, well educated at top colleges and universities, and are crazy open to mentoring students. He has already lined up a mentor for his biology work/senior thesis as well as a mentor for his sub-field of philosophy of biology. Both his mentors have collaborated together on academic work themselves. A biology professor called my son up and offered him a fellowship for the summer doing DNA sequencing research from home this summer. He learned a ton from this experience, and as an extra bonus, will likely have his name on a publication as a result.
My son says there are two general types of people at Reed. Those who “get it” and are seeking it’s academic intensity, and those who think of Reed as a safety school. The latter folks tend to be part of the 20% of the population that drop out or transfer. They just don’t fit in this intense academic environment.

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That was my impression as well. There are a certain number of status-seeking type students who somehow wind up there because they didn’t get into Stanford or Northwestern or the Ivies or wherever. And they find it is just to difficult relative to the status reward of a Reed degree. And that there are too few pre-money type peers seeking finance and business consulting jobs like you would find in droves at say Princeton. Back in the 80s I remember the few students who were angling for MBA programs and internships with high finance wall street firms would even kind of be denigrated. “Don’t be so Bourgeois” was what some students would say. If you want to be a bond trader on Wall Street or something like that, there are better schools to attend.