Thoughts on Reed College

My daughter was just accepted to Reed and she is very excited but I have some concerns about their relatively low retention rate (why is that?) and rumored drug culture. Would love to hear your experience, thanks!

Regarding retention, Reed’s first-year rate (88%) falls along a continuum in which it is difficult to draw sharp distinctions. While Reed’s rate lands somewhat lower than those of the NESCACs and Claremonts, for example, it places higher than those of some LACs in its region such as UPS (85%) and Lewis & Clark (83%).

Hi, and congratulations to your daughter!! I have two (!) Reedies and it has been an outstanding college education for both. One just graduated May '17, and she is still missing it like crazy. The other is a junior and loves it, another great fit. They are very different people, but Reed was/is a wonderful home for both. Excellent teaching, close relationships with profs., lots of opportunities if you seek them out. The eldest made lifelong friends, the second is less social but has a tightknit department and closeness with classmates and advisor. I think its reputation for drug culture is bogus in that it’s overblown and kind of a legend that won’t die. Drugs are around as they are at any college, but my understanding is no pressure to get involved (same with alcohol, and probably less alcohol problem than many big colleges, no frat stuff). It’s a very demanding school academically, perhaps too much pressure for some, also, I think maybe Reed takes a lot of chances on kids, and things just don’t work out for whatever reason? I kind of wonder as well if Reed takes a lot of introverted boys who have difficulty connecting with the community/making friends, and that undermines their success at Reed, so they leave? Just wondering.

Hi, I’m also the parent of a junior and just stopping by to echo what was said above about druggie reputation. My kid says drugs are accessible but there’s no pressure to partake and many don’t. It’s a tough school but he’s getting a really great education (and being made to work for it). You didn’t mention whether your daughter has had a chance to visit campus but suggest she do that if at all possible…it’s kind of a “love it or hate it” place.

Hello! I think I am in a great position to answer your question. I am technically one of those 12% of students who left Reed in the first year. In my case (and of one other person I knew) it was due to deficits in healthcare and disability services. The other student has already returned (just a year behind in their program now) and I hope to return soon. I was definitely way too ill for any college or cross-country move and would have failed any attempt at college. I hope to come back to Reed within the next year even though I would really benefit from (and legally deserve) better accessibility and accommodations because of the great professors, classes, and peers I got to experience during my limited time there.

Now that I think of it, everyone I know who left in or after their first year is an example of something notable about Reed. First, some dude dropped out within the first month to try and be a Soundcloud rapper–you have to be willing to have academics be your first priority if you go to Reed; if you are primarily interested in developing your music or your business go somewhere else. A second was a very, very wealthy girl who did well the whole first year and then decided she didn’t really like studying or college. She’s a waitress back home now. There are a lot of wealthy students at Reed and there is a very “academic” focus, which tbh turns a lot of students off of what used to be their interests (music! biology! professorship!) by the time they are seniors. I know two students who went back home to live with their parents and go to the universities their parents teach at (there are a lot of professor parents at Reed). One was super introverted and awkward and not the best at self care (there are a lot of Reedies like that). The second changed their minds about what they wanted to major in (Reed does not offer many majors and none that would commonly be called practical). The final student I know who dropped out during their first year had a preexisting drug addiction that blossomed at Reed/in Portland.

I have never felt pressured to do drugs at Reed. Compared to the schools I grew up around (Georgetown and George Washington Universities) the access to parties and intoxicants is much less centralized because there are no fraternities or sororities, which I think makes for a healthier culture. Alcohol consumption appears to also be much lower and also in much less abuseable formats (cans of low ABV hipster beer vs. the Everclear/keggers I see from other colleges). There is certainly more access to weed in Oregon but I don’t see it impacting social life much. Psychedelics may be less stigmatized here but stimulants and injectable drugs still have the standard strong stigma. One thing about the party culture of Reed that I can’t place as good or bad is that nearly all events start at 10 pm and go until like 2 am–and students will be working on a problem set or whatever right up until like 9:55 when they emerge covered in glitter and ready to throw down. Not the healthiest, but neither is a day of pregaming I guess.

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