Impressions Of
Reed College

Academic Experience

Male Russian Language and Literature Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It depends on the class. I think the humanities classes tend to be more competitive than collaborative. My experiences in lab science classes have been more collaborative than competitive, and I think that’s partially because in labs you’re always working in groups so it’s in your greatest interest to collaborate with everybody. In the classroom setting for a literature course or religion course, people are always trying to outsmart one another or come up with the best idea. You’re also working by yourself on the reading and papers, coming up with your own ideas, so everyone’s bringing their own thoughts to the table. If you want to dictate where the conversation goes or if somebody says something you don’t like, it can foster a more competitive environment.

Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
It depends on the class. I’ve been in some classes where that is welcome and where a lot of people from different majors are in a class and people are bringing in a religious versus mathematics education to the same text and it works really well. I’ve also been in classroom environments where people totally reject someone who doesn’t have the same background knowledge that they do and isn’t as well read in whatever field the assigned reading is a part of. It depends on the people who are in the class.

Female Linguistics Major C/O 2019

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
In Linguistics there are two paths you can go down, I did mostly formal linguistics classes and then wrote a sociolinguistics thesis. For formal linguistics classes, you mostly have problem sets that are every two weeks and take somewhere between 8-10 hours and our major graded assignments are take-home assignments that have questions about the material that you have to work through and type up the answers. It’s creative thinking and problem-solving. You also have readings for each class, that aren’t necessarily optional but most people don’t do them. For sociolinguistics classes, you generally have two projects over the semester and then weekly small writing assignments.

Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They do a good job of motivating unique end goals. I was able to take an independent study on something that there wasn’t going to be a class for during my time at Reed. They worked with me and allowed me to pursue that material. Since it’s such a small faculty, we don’t offer a lot of fields of linguistics that are really popular, like computational linguistics. I also think our introductory class can feel jumbled because we switch topics every two weeks and it’s a smorgasbord of different linguistics and doesn’t feel as cohesive.

How accessible are your professors?
It varies, but the Linguistics professors are very accessible. There are a few departments that have older professors that sometimes makes it hard to meet with them, but Reed does a great job of making it feel like you can talk to your professors. It’s common to call them by their first name and go over to their houses, so there isn’t much of a barrier which is nice.

Female Comparative Literature Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think that’s a particularly difficult question at Reed because we aren’t given access to our grades unless we petition for them or speaking directly to our professors about them. In some ways, I think that reduces the competition because people can’t compare themselves to others letter by letter. But, in other ways, it increases competition with yourself because you don’t know exactly where you are so maybe you doubt yourself and you always push yourself to do the best you can. Then, if you feel like you’re not doing well, you may push yourself even harder. So, it can be competitive and not competitive in different ways.

Do you like that you don’t have access to your grades?
I think I do like it. I like the idea that is de-emphasizing learning for a grade and emphasizing learning for the sake of learning. I think it can sometimes lead to people feeling a sort of imposter syndrome because they don’t know how they’re doing and then start to feel like they don’t deserve to be there because they don’t have the constant assurance that they’re doing okay. I personally like it, but I very much understand why some people aren’t the biggest fans of it.

How accessible are your professors?
For the most part, incredibly accessible. There are office hours every week. Many of them will schedule time outside of their office hours and sometimes they’ll even meet with you on the weekends at a coffee shop. It’s really easy to form relationships with your professors. They really seem to care about how you’re doing, how you feel you’re doing, and how they can help you. All you need to do is reach out.

Social Opportunities

Male Russian Language and Literature Major C/O 2021

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
I normally go out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There are parties at Reed that I sometimes go to. I personally prefer to go out downtown and go to bars or concerts. There is a really big DIY space concert scene in Portland that is worth taking advantage of. A lot of the events are 21+ which is a hindrance for the first year of school. There are also parties on campus and off-campus because a lot of people live off-campus at Reed but in the general vicinity of campus.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Reed? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I guess the parties are always a little small for my taste. It’s a really small school, so there will be 30 to 50 people at a party, which constantly feels underattended. The club scene is occupied by older people as well, so there are a lot of 30-35 year old’s at pretty much every club you go to, so you don’t have a lot of places for different age groups and interests because it’s a small place. Socially, I would want a more diverse club and party life.

Female Linguistics Major C/O 2019

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
There is a really good beer and cider scene in Portland and it’s nice to go out. There are also some “Reedie Owned” places [that are owned by Reed alumni] that are cool. I would also go to karaoke a lot. Portland’s a really nice area to do road trips to places like Seattle or the Gorge. In my final year, I was really busy writing my senior thesis, so I would go out Friday or Saturday. My junior year and before I wasn’t 21 so I would go out more but to try different foods or go to talks in the city or at Reed.

What are some of your favorite on campus events?
On campus, the comedy shows that are pretty popular and the school dances, which are known as “Balls,” that are pretty well attended. When I was younger I would do that type of stuff.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Reed? Is there anything you would change if you could?
It’s not great. There are some Gray Fund trips that are really fun. But, there is such a climate where people feel like they need to work all the time that there isn’t a lot of fun happening on the weekends that you would see at larger schools that don’t have that atmosphere. There also aren’t a lot of centralized activities and Reed can be pretty cliquey even though it’s a small school.

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2021

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
Reed has a lot of dances, they happen almost every weekend. I go to all of those. They aren’t dances like prom, they’re all themed. We have a Talking Heads theme party that everybody goes crazy for. I don’t go out into Portland personally, which is why the fact that the campus is separated from the city can also be good. Most of the stuff the school offers happens is on campus, and I personally like to go to that. We have dances, comedy nights, improv shows that people go really crazy for, and open mic nights. The dances are my favorite.

What nights of the week do you regularly go out? Are there certain things you like to do on certain nights?
Dances usually happen on Saturday and comedy shows and stuff like that happen Friday. Parties usually happen on Saturdays when there’s not a dance.

How has being a person who identifies as Queer impacted your nightlife experience?
I don’t necessarily think it’s impacted my experience because Reed is a very open school when it comes to exploring your sexuality and exploring your gender. I’ve never felt like my sexual orientation impacted the way I do my life. In high school, I felt like I had to step around it but here I don’t have to.

Campus Culture

Male Russian Language and Literature Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the social scene?
It’s intense. It’s a lot of people in everyone else’s business. If you can’t take that insular community and can’t handle how tightly woven it is, it’s really difficult to navigate. It’s very easy to get wrapped in that side of it, but it’s also very easy to get outside of it if you decide to. Once I made the friends that I knew I wanted, we all moved away together, and then we were able to make the social scene whatever we wanted it to be. You then can weave your own web of people and made it a lot more enjoyable for me. [Reed has about 1,400 students.]

How would you describe the student body?
Intellectually focused. I think a lot of people who go to Reed were a little held back socially in high school and are releasing a lot of things here.

Female Comparative Literature Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the social scene?
It’s small, we have about [1,400] students, so you know or know of most people. When I was younger I found it easier to know who the upperclassmen were whereas now I don’t know a ton of the freshmen, but I think I know more freshmen than the average upperclassmen college student would know. There is a lot of group formation and people will hang out with the same people all of the time, but when there is a big event everybody goes and everybody knows everybody and we all hang out. It goes back and forth between really small groups that don’t really interact and then people totally forgetting about that and doing whatever they want.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
There may be some correlation that I would not say is causation. Some people have friends who have the same sexual orientation and some people don’t. There are communities and alliances specifically for particular identity groups and I think those help form communities, but I don’t necessarily think that people’s friend groups are determined by their sexual orientation or racial identity.

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the student body?
We’re all very passionate and we all are very focused. Students at Reed have a certain degree of civic engagement that they participate in, and they are very aware of social issues and political issues in the world and on campus. They’re very aware of what they say and what they do and how it impacts other people.

Are there a lot of student protests at Reed?
I think that’s kind of a stereotype. There were some heavy protests about two years ago about an intro level Humanities class. People try to paint Reed into this place where there are protests all the time, but that’s not true. There hasn’t been a protest so far this year. People are very passionate about what they believe, and if something harms you in any way it’s a place that is open to people saying why something harms you and for what reason. I wouldn’t say there are a lot of protests, but people are not shy about what they believe. I don’t like that people paint Reed students as kids who don’t do anything other than protest.

Portland, OR

Pros of

  • “It’s a very artsy city, so there are a lot of theaters and museums and stuff you can do for cultural creative outlets. There’s the Portland Art Museum and the Portland Armory is a cool theater.”
  • “It’s a gorgeous part of the country. You get to see some of the most beautiful nature in the Pacific Northwest.”
  • “The location of Reed is not downtown but in a fairly residential area that has a good relationship with the college.”
  • “It’s a city so there are things to do.”

Cons of

  • “It rains a lot. It’s very, very gray for five months out of the year, which makes it difficult to keep yourself positive when you have a lot of work and it’s been raining for the past three weeks.” [On average, Portland has about 164 days of precipitation a year.]
  • “There is a lot of gentrification happening that the students of Reed contribute to.”
  • “It’s not a very diverse city.” [The median household income in Portland is $66,187 and about 70% of residents are White.]
  • “It’s a small city that is very much geared for people who are over 21, so it’s difficult to go out and see [live music] shows and do what you want when you’re not 21.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Female Linguistics Major C/O 2019

What is something you wish you knew about Reed before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew about the diversity here. I think they advertise it’s a really diverse place, but it’s not. I wish I had known that it’s okay to not do all your readings and, in fact, professors don’t expect you to most of the time. Also, I wish I knew that a lot of college is what you make of it and you can always find something to do so you don’t feel bored or unfulfilled. [57% of the Class of 2022 is White.]

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I don’t think the visits explore the Canyon. If you’re into nature, definitely look at that. I would also check out the music studio. I took drum lessons at Reed that were really awesome and I really loved learning how to play the drums. It’s also just a gorgeous building.

Female Comparative Literature Major C/O 2020

What is something you wish you knew about Reed before entering as a freshman?
I would emphasize the realness of the Reed Bubble and how important it is to get off campus and push yourself to do that. I think something that is not really easy to see on campus is that a lot of people you see have not left it in four weeks because you don’t need to go anywhere. That works for some people, but, for me personally, I think it’s important to be a person and not a student for a couple of hours every week.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Definitely check out the Reed College Canyon. I would go into that as much as you can. I would also check out KRRC, which is the college radio station. It’s just this little room with a mixing board, lots of graffiti on the walls and a lot of black lights.

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Reed before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that some of the majors have strict requirements. You can do interdisciplinary majors, like there is a joint degree in Religion and Classics, but you’re not getting a degree in both of those things it’s only one degree. You can move around majors if you want to, but when you write your thesis – we all have to write a thesis to graduate – you have to pick a [unique topic], so I think it’s a good idea to have a general idea what you want to study. I came in very much undecided, and it worked out for me and it works out for most people, but it would have benefitted me to know that it’s a good idea to know what you want to study because I would have thought about it more.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I don’t know if they show it on tours, but I really like the Thesis Tower, which is in the library. It’s where all the hard copies of peoples’ theses are stored. I also think the Gray Campus Center is a good place to check out because it has a pool hall, the dining hall, and the campus bookstore. There are lots of posters and things to sign up for that happen that make it worth paying attention to when you visit.

Reasons to attend and not to attend Reed College

To Attend

  • “If you want to go to graduate school. Reed is very much a school that’s built for people to go to graduate school. There are so many research opportunities and writing a thesis is really good for applying to Master’s and Ph.D. programs.”
  • “I love how ridiculous some things about Reed are. We have dances, Renn Fayre, Hum Play, which is when freshmen act out a play at the end of the semester, and many others. If you like dumb traditions that are very much so Reed specific, it’s fun.”
  • “You will be really well looked after by your professors and will learn a lot if you want to.”
  • “If you have a particular passion, whether you know it’s going to be your forever career or not, Reed is a good place to begin to pursue something fully.”

To Not Attend

  • “If you can’t take six months of darkness in Portland, don’t go.” [On average, Portland has about 164 days of precipitation a year.]
  • “If academia is not your thing and you don’t want to be hearing about theory all the time, it’s not the place for you.”
  • “If you want a school where you can have fun and party and not really focus on academics, I wouldn’t come. We do have fun and party, but Reed is very much focused on academics and that is the number one priority for everyone.”
  • “If you want more institutionalized community bonding, like fraternities, Reed isn’t going to be the place for you.”
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