Reed College

★★★☆☆
  • 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd

    Portland, OR 97202

    Map & Directions
  • 503-771-1112

3.0 2
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I graduated from Reed in the mid-1990s. For some, the college is great. I found it strange, insular and depressing, although academically rigorous. My experience was mixed. Reed occupies a very particular niche -- one that, unfortunately, wasn't right for me.

I've been reading the Reed College alumni magazine for years. The alumni notes are underwhelming (especially when compared with those of Oberlin, Swarthmore, Harvard.). Ask a Reedie to name a famous Reedie, I promise the person will be hard-pressed to come up with an answer other than Steve Jobs. But Mr. Jobs doesn't count -- he dropped out after 6 months.

Quite a few Reed graduates pursue PhDs and become successful academics. Others go into alternative medicine, or computer programming, or library science, or beer-making. These are fine vocations but there is a lack of spectrum. It is is not a place known for graduates who also start businesses or invent things or go into politics or lead large organizations or stand out socially in other ways. Of course, there are many that do, but far fewer than one would expect given the quality of the education. In my opinion, this is problematic: if you have the privilege to obtain an elite education, do something that leaves a mark on the world, or at least try -- there's simply too much emphasis on how "intellectual" Reed is! Purely my bias. This situation owes itself as much to the pool of self-selected students as to the marketing and culture historically promulgated by the administration.

That said, Reed does promote serious engagement in ideas and has a very demanding curriculum. Grades are de-emphasized, which outsiders sometimes confuse with the notion that there are no grades at all. While the school doesn't disseminate report cards, students DO receive grades which appear on official transcripts. With the exception of a single A-, I received a B in every class I took. And I worked my butt off.

The prioritization of scholarship over grades is laudatory, but Reed is too self-congratulatory about this, and about how iconoclastic and liberal and free-thinking it believes itself to be. There's a pervasive, studied, non-ironic, self-indulgent, counter-culture miasma. Sometimes it's all a bit much. Reed prides itself on being "different," but it's not a place where someone who's different from the Reed norm can easily feel comfortable. In this way, it's not very tolerant of diversity.

There was no shortage of pot, alcohol, and hard drugs (especially during Renn Fayre). Reed provided a safe atmosphere for me to try some of this. There was also lots of admiring talk about drugs that few people ever experienced (in awed and mystical tones, some referred to "Bromo" -- strong and scary, mind-altering stuff that a Reed student had apparently invented in a chemistry lab).

On campus, there wasn't much conversation about contemporary issues or much linkage with the wider Portland community -- the place is incredibly inward-looking. Fortunately, campus is pretty to look at - green, ivy-covered, even stately. Unfortunately, it's also a bit run down. I walked through the grounds a couple years ago and saw more broken basement windows, cobwebs, peeling paint, and litter than I would have expected.

There have been spates of student suicides during Reed's history. I don't know whether this is a bigger problem than at other liberal-arts colleges, but it's hard not to wonder about the influence of perpetual cloudiness, near-constant drizzle, low skies, prolonged winter darkness, recreational drugs, interminable pressure to study, insularity, and the number of socially awkward kids who enroll.

I got a great education at Reed. I suspect I would have been happier, however, and received an equally good education if I had attended a more conventional school where there was a bit more sunshine. There are many fine schools with better opportunities for a more balanced life (any of the Ivy Leagues; most of the highly-ranked US News and World Report liberal arts colleges; and even lots of big state schools, many of which have liberal arts programs that try to capture the feel of life in a small college -- if this is what one wants).

Lots of alumni love Reed. Perhaps the place has changed. Many, though not all, of these observations reflect personal experience, opinion, values, predilections, and the nature of my adolescence. While I had happy times, adventures, and great friends at Reed, somehow these just don't figure as prominently in my memory as how forlorn and angst-ridden I felt.

I have gone on to have a wonderful family, and a fulfilling and successful career. But most telling about my attitude is that I would not encourage any of my own children to attend Reed -- or even visit it.

3
★★★☆☆

I graduated from Reed in the mid-1990s. For some, the college is great. I found it strange, insular and depressing, although academically rigorous. My experience was mixed. Reed occupies a very particular niche -- one that, unfortunately, wasn't right for me.

I've been reading the Reed College alumni magazine for years. The alumni notes are underwhelming (especially when compared with those of Oberlin, Swarthmore, Harvard.). Ask a Reedie to name a famous Reedie, I promise the person will be hard-pressed to come up with an answer other than Steve Jobs. But Mr. Jobs doesn't count -- he dropped out after 6 months.

Quite a few Reed graduates pursue PhDs and become successful academics. Others go into alternative medicine, or computer programming, or library science, or beer-making. These are fine vocations but there is a lack of spectrum. It is is not a place known for graduates who also start businesses or invent things or go into politics or lead large organizations or stand out socially in other ways. Of course, there are many that do, but far fewer than one would expect given the quality of the education. In my opinion, this is problematic: if you have the privilege to obtain an elite education, do something that leaves a mark on the world, or at least try -- there's simply too much emphasis on how "intellectual" Reed is! Purely my bias. This situation owes itself as much to the pool of self-selected students as to the marketing and culture historically promulgated by the administration.

That said, Reed does promote serious engagement in ideas and has a very demanding curriculum. Grades are de-emphasized, which outsiders sometimes confuse with the notion that there are no grades at all. While the school doesn't disseminate report cards, students DO receive grades which appear on official transcripts. With the exception of a single A-, I received a B in every class I took. And I worked my butt off.

The prioritization of scholarship over grades is laudatory, but Reed is too self-congratulatory about this, and about how iconoclastic and liberal and free-thinking it believes itself to be. There's a pervasive, studied, non-ironic, self-indulgent, counter-culture miasma. Sometimes it's all a bit much. Reed prides itself on being "different," but it's not a place where someone who's different from the Reed norm can easily feel comfortable. In this way, it's not very tolerant of diversity.

There was no shortage of pot, alcohol, and hard drugs (especially during Renn Fayre). Reed provided a safe atmosphere for me to try some of this. There was also lots of admiring talk about drugs that few people ever experienced (in awed and mystical tones, some referred to "Bromo" -- strong and scary, mind-altering stuff that a Reed student had apparently invented in a chemistry lab).

On campus, there wasn't much conversation about contemporary issues or much linkage with the wider Portland community -- the place is incredibly inward-looking. Fortunately, campus is pretty to look at - green, ivy-covered, even stately. Unfortunately, it's also a bit run down. I walked through the grounds a couple years ago and saw more broken basement windows, cobwebs, peeling paint, and litter than I would have expected.

There have been spates of student suicides during Reed's history. I don't know whether this is a bigger problem than at other liberal-arts colleges, but it's hard not to wonder about the influence of perpetual cloudiness, near-constant drizzle, low skies, prolonged winter darkness, recreational drugs, interminable pressure to study, insularity, and the number of socially awkward kids who enroll.

I got a great education at Reed. I suspect I would have been happier, however, and received an equally good education if I had attended a more conventional school where there was a bit more sunshine. There are many fine schools with better opportunities for a more balanced life (any of the Ivy Leagues; most of the highly-ranked US News and World Report liberal arts colleges; and even lots of big state schools, many of which have liberal arts programs that try to capture the feel of life in a small college -- if this is what one wants).

Lots of alumni love Reed. Perhaps the place has changed. Many, though not all, of these observations reflect personal experience, opinion, values, predilections, and the nature of my adolescence. While I had happy times, adventures, and great friends at Reed, somehow these just don't figure as prominently in my memory as how forlorn and angst-ridden I felt.

I have gone on to have a wonderful family, and a fulfilling and successful career. But most telling about my attitude is that I would not encourage any of my own children to attend Reed -- or even visit it.

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I have done work here. the campus is very big. the dorms are nice. the staff is nice. they take good care of the campus .it is a nice place to check out when the leaves change

3
★★★☆☆

I have done work here. the campus is very big. the dorms are nice. the staff is nice. they take good care of the campus .it is a nice place to check out when the leaves change

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