Reed College

IMG_3006Reed is not your typical college.

Fifteen hundred undergraduates share the Reed College experience each year.  Located walking or biking distance from downtown Portland, Reed is home to students who are very serious about intellectual inquiry.

You may have heard some things about Reed:  its students are quirky (yes); marijuana is rampant (among some students, not all), and it’s a place for students who want to go into academia (75% of students go on to earn a higher degree; 25% earn a Ph.D.).

Students considering Reed should visit before they make their decision to attend.  The student culture is pervasive here in a different way than at most colleges.

Students live by an unwritten, organic, much-debated and amended Honor Code.  “Reedies,” as they call themselves,have ongoing, deep and intellectual conversations via graffiti, often in bathroom stalls, but sometimes just on the walls.  A unique Reed feature:  the “Scrounge Table,” which was put on hiatus during COVID, offers students who can’t afford or don’t want to pay for a meal plan an opportunity to pick leftovers from other students’ plates once they are done.  [While I completely support steps to curb wasted food, I read this article and wondered whether Reed was doing students a disservice by not teaching them that this practice may not be something that the outside world looks favorably upon.]

The students we met were smart and engaged in the Reed community.  One talked about “full contact human chess,” an annual tradition during Renn Fayre.  When we asked him how many people at Reed play chess, he looked at us as if it hadn’t occurred to him that everyone doesn’t know how to play chess (some of us don’t!).

There is very little grade inflation at Reed, and students receive detailed feedback from professors throughout each course about their work, although they don’t have access to their grades on an ongoing basis.  While they do receive grades at the end of each semester, most students don’t check obsessively and many don’t know their GPA until they graduate.  All students must complete a senior thesis, and those who double major must complete two (it’s rare).

“Reedies,” have a strong sense of curiosity and excitement for learning that they want to share with others. They have an active community and  want to share their ideas with others. They have a strong sense of how their actions impact others. It is a rigorous learning yet collaborative environment.

The Mill is the second largest comic book reading room on west coast.  There are no varsity sports at Reed and no merit aid.  Reed has a beautiful 26-acre nature preserve called The Canyon, which students use for research and recreation. 

Reed is definitely a different place where individualism is appreciated, encouraged and enhanced.  About 90% of freshmen return for their second year; those who don’t return may not have felt it was a good personal fit for them.  Students are required to live on campus for two years; most live on or immediately near campus all four years.

Admission to Reed is highly competitive; admission officers can forgive a few low grades here or there but the constant is demonstrated intellectual curiosity.  All financial aid – and about half the students receive some form of financial aid – is need-based. You can see all of the pictures from multiple visits to Reed here.

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