thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2016-04-09 09:28 pm

College Stuff! (Not for Earthling, Thank God)

The redoubtable Cousin Z, my oldest nephew, is -- oh god oh god -- going to college next fall. He applied to many schools and got into most of them, and now, through assiduous research, careful internal debate, and, very likely, a color-coded spreadsheet with many tabs, he's narrowed down his options to Reed and Whitman. And now he's trying to make that final choice.

Z had very good experiences visiting both schools, including talking with a Whitman admissions officer who described the school in Harry Potter house terms. He also went to an accepted-students reception for Reed where he went to hide in the kitchen because people, and then so many other guests (and also the host) had the same idea that it ended up being a reception-within-the-reception for people who hate receptions, all of them hiding in the kitchen and talking about how much they wished they weren't there.

Z is a very introverted person who is interested in applied math (his intended major), Doctor Who, social justice, Harry Potter, politics, Game of Thrones, and economics. His hobbies are reading fic, playing and writing music for his cello, and spending many hours at Starbucks with his study groups. (Also making color-coded spreadsheets.) He likes both Reed and Whitman because they're smaller schools where he felt comfortable on the campus, in large part because the students seemed like geeky introverts and giant weirdos, so pretty much his people.

It seems like either school could be a happy place for him. But this is Z, so he is in hardcore information-gathering mode. He could use more data. (Z could always use more data.) He needs to know the differences between the two! Find a way to make a choice! My question for you is: do you know anything about Reed or Whitman? Do you have any experiences to relate or any data Z can gather? It would help.

Thank you!
dafna: (Default)

[personal profile] dafna 2016-04-10 05:15 am (UTC)(link)
I think the biggest difference is the location. Whitman is located in a small town, Reed is in Portland. Walla Walla is lovely (and gets both more sun and snow than Portland), but small college towns aren't for everyone.

Is your nephew from the Northwest? Reed definitely has more of a national reputation, but locally, Whitman is considered extremely positively and some people think Reed is a bit more snobbish. (But that's by Northwest definitions of snobbish -- I doubt it'd register in California or Northeast.)
brainwane: The last page of the zine (cat)

a note by a friend

[personal profile] brainwane 2016-04-10 05:55 am (UTC)(link)
A friend of mine who attended Whitman for their bachelor's says:

Reed and Whitman were also my two final choices. Similar to your cousin, I
had the impression I would have been just fine at either school, or at the
other liberal arts colleges I looked at -- they are pretty similar overall,
or this wouldn't be a hard choice. (The flip-side way to view this is that
there are no *wrong* choices.)

The deciding factors for me in choosing Whitman were:
(1) Reed offers (at least at that time) no merit-based aid, whereas Whitman
offered me a good merit aid package.
(2) Reed students seemed to be under a lot more stress, to deleterious
effect on their academic performance and personal lives. The school is
known for being rigorous, but this seemed to express itself
in eye-wideningly high rates of drug use and of students needing more than
four years to graduate due to taking a semester or more of leave to address
mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Maybe that has changed in the
17 (!) years since I was making this choice, but I don't know. But it was a
significant deterrent to me.
(3) I just liked my campus visit to Whitman more. The admissions officer
took the time to meet with me personally. I liked the classes I sat in on.
I liked the students who hosted me in their dorm overnight. I liked the
vibe of the place.

Your cousin also experienced something else about Reed, with the
hide-in-the-kitchen thing: it doesn't exactly discourage the introversion
and general weirdness of the type of kid that ends up there. The Reed grads
I have met later in life are still weird, in a harmless "wear a lot of tie
dye and Vibrams" way. Whitman made me a lot more normal after being an
introverted goth high schooler who wrote ample bad poetry in notebooks. I
started having colors other than black in my wardrobe again due to all the
free T-shirts. I view this "normalization" as a positive development rather
than something to sneer at.

And it's simply *pleasant* at Whitman, though that isn't to say Reed is
not. As said, I just liked it when I visited. Whitman is a friendly,
sporty, outdoorsy place. It rarely rains. A lot of Whitties marry other
Whitties. A surprising number of people participate in Greek life
(IIRC Reed has no fraternities or sororities). I didn't join a sorority or
turn into an extrovert, exactly, but I was happy and I was still free to be
weird via Ren Faire and Medieval Society. (Reed's "Renn Fayre" features
naked lube wrestling. Whitman's does not.)

The location may matter more to your cousin than it did to me. Walla Walla
is small and far-flung from a real city, while Portland is a real city, but
not too big, and very cool. Whitman is its own bubble of campus activities
and plays and films and frisbee golf. There isn't a lot on offer in town
compared to Portland. If your cousin wants a city, Reed is the rare liberal
arts college that's actually in one. That said, WW isn't a total podunk
town: I haven't been back to WW since 2007, but the wine boom there means
it apparently has much better restaurants and so forth than it used to
during my time there.

I hope this is helpful. I would be happy to chat with your cousin directly
if he'd like, but when I was comparing the two colleges, he was
busy teething and learning how to walk, and I haven't lived even in
Portland since he was about to start third grade, so I may not be the best
source of up-to-date information.

Good luck to him! As said, it may be that with the decision this close,
there is no "bad" choice.

I can put you in touch with my friend if you'd like to follow up!
jelazakazone: black squid on a variegated red background (Default)

Re: a note by a friend

[personal profile] jelazakazone 2016-04-10 11:18 am (UTC)(link)
I never went to either, but this summary gives an excellent point of what I know of both schools. I think there might be a higher than avg transfer rate too, from Reed. I think if you can handle the environment, it's great, but it really and truly is not for everyone. I'm all about gentler/kinder these days. We don't need to push ourselves to our absolute limit. If it were me, I'd steer my kid to Whitman.

I have heard of both, btw, having gone to Pomona College (disclaimer, I graduated almost 25 yrs ago).
dine: (Esther & Till - copperbadge)

[personal profile] dine 2016-04-10 06:09 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, thakfully you've a few years yet before the earthling begins college hunting - hope you all enjoy the process when the time arrives

I've lived abt 12 blocks from Reed for over 20 years, but I must admit that my age has meant I dont hang out where Reedies tend to congregate. However, most everything I've heard is pretty positive - the campus is lovely and Portland offers everything a young geek might want.

a friend attended Whitman, and his memories were fond. as dafna said the colleges themselves have similarities, so one thing Z will want to consider is what he wants/needs from the surrounding community.

And not that it matters a whit, but my grandmother attended Reed in the 20s (math major) and afaik thoroughly enjoyed herself
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[personal profile] laurajv 2016-04-10 10:36 pm (UTC)(link)
I would encourage very careful thought about what Z wants about the surrounding community, in fact. One of my sisters loved everything about her first college, a small, excellent school in the middle of nowhere....except that it was in the middle of nowhere. She transferred after 1 semester to my alma mater, a major research university in a medium-sized city, because she could not stand one more second of small-town life.

Another sibling started off at Johns Hopkins, and transferred after her first semester to a small, excellent school in the middle of nowhere because she loathed living in a major city.
Edited (i was on my phone before and got irritated w typing so came back to add 2nd sister on my computer) 2016-04-11 00:50 (UTC)
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[personal profile] frayadjacent 2016-04-10 06:36 am (UTC)(link)
My cousin in-law attended Whitman and my good friend attended Reed, so I'll ask them. My friend does have a magnet on her fridge that says 'I went to Reed and all I got was this lousy GPA', but as above that was 20 years ago. Reed might have changed. But re: Whitman's reputation: my cousin in-law got into grad school at Caltech after Whitman. It's not as well-known as Reed, but it isn't *poorly* known either.
Edited 2016-04-10 06:59 (UTC)
dafna: (Default)

[personal profile] dafna 2016-04-10 04:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I'm sorry if I gave that impression. I just meant that people from New York or wherever are more likely to have heard of Reed, but locally, people think very very highly of Whitman.
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[personal profile] sanguinity 2016-04-11 01:18 am (UTC)(link)
Reedie here, and the GPA thing is more than a joke: unless there's been a policy change recently, you're never informed of your grades, you have to go and ask your advisor what your grades and current GPA are. The rationale is that they don't want you chasing grades while you're there -- you're there for an education, not for a GPA! -- but I've had some friends graduate and discover, to their shock and horror, that they had crummy GPAs, ones that would make it very difficult to go to grad school, and they had no idea.

Obvs, this is manageable by simply walking into your advisor's office every semester and asking what your grades are -- which is what I did, when I was there -- but also just as obvs, that's far more manageable for some students than others.
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[personal profile] aris_tgd 2016-04-11 01:39 am (UTC)(link)
Reed is still in the practice, as of this year, of sending with any transcripts you order a short explanation that Reed's policy of anti-grade-inflation makes a lot of qualified students' GPAs look less than impressive.
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)

[personal profile] sanguinity 2016-04-11 02:22 am (UTC)(link)

As much as I understand where Reed is coming from on this -- it's part and parcel of Reed's academic culture, and isn't going to change easily -- GPAs are mostly used for communicating with people outside the school, not inside it, and need to be in the same scale as is being used elsewhere.
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[personal profile] abyssinia 2016-04-11 03:13 am (UTC)(link)
Reed's not the only college that does this. My alma mater - Harvey Mudd - has the same issue with not having grade inflation, and thus lower-than-average GPAs (though you are regularly aware of your grades).

They also do the same thing as Reed - send a letter of explanation of their grading policy along with any transcript. It's hit and miss whether it matters - for me, I think having the Mudd name connected to me (for people who've heard of it) has been more helpful than I've been hurt by having a lower GPA than I would have gotten elsewhere.

(I'm not sure it would be possible to make GPA's equivalent across all schools while still having some schools be more difficult/intense...)
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[personal profile] winter_elf 2016-04-10 07:09 am (UTC)(link)
not that I know Reed or Whitman... but when I was choosing a college... years, years ago - I was looking at the TOWN the college was in. I picked the smaller college in a smaller community rather than the capital/large college which felt too much. I wanted the outdoorsy, nature orientated in the small one rather than nightlife and parties.

So the points made above are good ones. When Z visited the colleges - did he spend time OUTSIDE the college grounds getting the lay of the city? If not - he might want to do that to add to his spreadsheets.
snarp: small cute androgynous android crossing arms and looking very serious (Default)

[personal profile] snarp 2016-04-10 07:51 am (UTC)(link)
Nostalgebraist on Tumblr is a math grad student who went to Reed and has a not-dissimilar set of interests. If Z wanted to message him, he'd probably be a good resource. His public Tumblr posts about the school seem overall happy with the academics but kind of irritated by the student culture (example).

(Good luck to Z!)
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[personal profile] vaznetti 2016-04-10 08:56 am (UTC)(link)
I taught at Reed for a year, and think that it provides one of the best educations I've seen. The students definitely work hard, but they seem to have a good time while they're at it. The professors I knew are were all VERY committed to teaching.
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[personal profile] lomedet 2016-04-10 12:05 pm (UTC)(link)
hmmm...I didn't go to either, but I grew up in the area and went to Evergreen (the public, hippier, more-chill cousin of Reed). Thinking about my friends who attended Reed and Whitman (and this data is from -gulp!- 20+ years ago) - Whitman skews 'preppier' in my head (for Pacific Northwest values of preppy), and Reed hippier, with attendant higher rates of drug use. In terms of post-college life, my anecdata says that the Whitman grads I know have stayed mostly in the Northwest, doing good work in the world. The Reedies in my life trend more towards academia, with some staying in Portland but many also being scattered around the US and the world.
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[personal profile] lomedet 2016-04-10 12:07 pm (UTC)(link)
oh, also! I visited both when I was looking at colleges and came away with a HUGE crush on Reed (the seminars I visited were amazing) and super-frustrated at the lack of diversity (of pretty much any kind) at Whitman. Again - this is from 20+ years ago, so hopefully things have changed.
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[personal profile] fox 2016-04-10 12:57 pm (UTC)(link)
My brother visited Reed (with all of us in tow) in 1998 and decided not to go there mainly for the hippyish, apparently-high-rates-of-drug-use reasons you describe; he was kind of a long-haired sandal-wearing kid in high school, which is probably why it occurred to him to apply to Reed in the first place, but when we got there it was past the end of his personal comfort zone. But that was, as I say, in 1998 and it wasn't my own college decision, so the level of attention I was paying was probably minimally useful to the present conversation.
dafna: (Default)

[personal profile] dafna 2016-04-10 04:29 pm (UTC)(link)
That is a perfect description of Evergreen. I think one reason people in Seattle may have a slightly negative view of Reed is that why would anyone want to go there when they could go to the much cooler Evergreen? :)
ursula: (Default)

[personal profile] ursula 2016-04-10 06:27 pm (UTC)(link)
Reed is much more academically serious than Evergreen (where the joke is, "Why did the Evergreen student cross the road? To get credit.")
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[personal profile] sanguinity 2016-04-11 01:23 am (UTC)(link)
Heh, my wife's freshman roommate was from Seattle-ish, and went to Reed instead of Evergreen because it was farther from Seattle and her parents. (And her parents still showed up without notice one day!)

And I, who grew up across the Sound from Seattle, never seriously considered Evergreen for the reason [personal profile] ursula said: academic rigor.
klb: (Default)

[personal profile] klb 2016-04-10 01:02 pm (UTC)(link)
I went to Reed! Mixed feelings: LOVED it at the time, see some of the issues in retrospect (some of which are just issues of Portland culture overall). It definitely had beautiful weirdness and really interesting classes that engaged me and helped me grow a lot as a reader/writer/thinker. It also did have a culture of comparing who slept less/who worked hardest in a way that was not conducive to great mental health for some (though fine for me at the time). The drug culture is a thing but it comes hand in hand with a lot of drug safety education and supports, and also it wasn't universal. I never did drugs there and barely drank and never felt excluded or pressured. More of my friends didn't than did, it's just that the ones who did felt more safe and supported with their experimenting, I think. I still think very fondly of Reed traditions like Renn Fayre and Paideia and people stealing the Doyle Owl and sitting in the comic book reading room to read massive bound anthologies of every X-Men comic ever and then going to the pool hall next door for a game of pool. But I also know others who had a much worse time because of the academic pressure and the culture of competitiveness around that. Overall I think the best thing Reed did for me was introduce me to my life partner, but of course that's just a coincidence and could have happened in any school. Other than that, I don't think it especially shaped me becoming the person I am today but it certainly didn't stifle it, either.
Edited 2016-04-10 13:06 (UTC)
malkingrey: (Default)

[personal profile] malkingrey 2016-04-10 01:28 pm (UTC)(link)
If all other things are approximately equal, consider the climate.

When our elder son was college-shopping, he got acceptances from Rennselaer Polytechnic, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Vanderbilt, and ended up picking Vanderbilt on the grounds that if he wanted to spend four years in a town where there was a foot of snow on the ground from December through March, he could just as well stay at home.

Also, he had apparently met some female Vanderbilt students on a school trip down to Washington DC, and was favorably impressed by the flower of southern womanhood or something like that. (He was a teenaged boy at the time, after all.) So Z might also put a bit of thought into his impressions of the local dating pool as regards his preferences, whatever they may be . . . which sort of gives Reed the edge, from the sound of it.
heresluck: (Default)

[personal profile] heresluck 2016-04-10 01:30 pm (UTC)(link)
My impressions are very much in line with what others have said re: culture, reputation, geography, etc.

As someone who's in academia , who went to a college much like Reed, and who teaches at a college more like Whitman than Reed (good regional reputation but not well known outside the region), I would suggest (based on my alums' experiences) that Z think a bit about post-college location preferences: if he's likely to stay in the Pacific Northwest, it probably makes little difference which school he chooses, but if he wants or expects to live elsewhere, and/or if he is contemplating careers that are likely to require grad school, Reed's reputation *may* be an advantage.

That said, it wouldn't necessarily be a *big* advantage, especially in academia; much more important would be 1) a happy, stable college experience that would allow him to flourish intellectually and socially, and 2) strong relationships with professors that develop over multiple years and that translate into thoughtful, knowledgeable letters of recommendation. And it sounds like he could get that at either school.
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[personal profile] tyger 2016-04-10 01:53 pm (UTC)(link)
A friend of mine went to Reed, and enjoyed it quite a lot. They found the fourth year thesis and the testing to work in the reactor very stressful, and of course finals season is rarely fun, but honestly seemed happy as a clam otherwise. Lived in the dorms, made a heap of super geeky friends and dormies, etc. They were doing chemistry, if that helps!
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[personal profile] niqaeli 2016-04-10 03:28 pm (UTC)(link)
Everyone else has covered the main things that will differentiate: city, climate, etc. But as I sit here almost of a semester into dragging my ass all over ASU's campus(es, actually), I would suggest that the physical campus itself and how easy it is to get around are a factor worth considering. Because wow I have come to hate the Tempe campus particularly.

Another, related factor that may or may not be relevant to Z to consider is how easy their respective Disability Resource departments are to deal with. ASU's being very easy to deal w/ is the only reason I haven't wanted to set anything on fire.
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[personal profile] laurashapiro 2016-04-10 03:36 pm (UTC)(link)
I have only anecdata, but Reed is pseudo-famous for burning students out, and I have a very brilliant friend who fled from it due to the intensity of the pressure.
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[personal profile] devon 2016-04-10 04:11 pm (UTC)(link)
Reed sounds a lot like Rice University in Houston. Geeks, Houses, pranks and silly customs, but lots of burnouts, flunk outs, and debilitating stress. Particularly in the hard sciences and engineering.
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[personal profile] soupytwist 2016-04-10 03:37 pm (UTC)(link)
I have nothing useful to add except that he seems like someone who is likely to meet his people in the nerd societies at whichever institution he goes to. Has he looked into those much?

Also, holy moly I remember you talking about Z like, a decade ago. What even is this.
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[personal profile] minxy 2016-04-10 03:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Excellent comments, all! I would add: Reed as a college is happy being a Northwest, Portland campus. Whitman, like the Claremont Colleges and others, is unfortunately trying to achieve a New England look with the campus. This has bothered me more in recent decades than when I was a student, but if he's at all interested in sustainability or environmental concerns, that might chafe after four years.

Other addition: Reed's internships and connections are more likely to be in the city or maybe the next city over, which can be nice if you are not a super brave soul willing to move to a new place on your own. Whitman's connections are going to minimally be in a different town because Walla Walla is small, so that will take wider connections or greater bravery to implement. Now, that's not a deal breaker--if you have connections in the area it's nice to stay with family for a summer. I was in a small town school across the country and managed to find an internship in my hometown, which was amazing! It's just something to consider.

Last addition: Most college campuses have decent food and no one will starve. Portland has great food, though, and great music, which Walla Walla still lags on somewhat (the winery fame is good, but leading to more bed and breakfast or higher end restaurants than pizza-by-the-slice) but if that's not a concern, no big. You can always make mac and cheese in your dorm kitchen. When my best friend was there, though, finding a restaurant to take your date always needed a car to get to tri-cities.

My cred: local, academic who has worked with grads, known friends who attended, or interviewed at said schools. I chose a small town for college, and Portland for grad school.
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[personal profile] abyssinia 2016-04-10 04:03 pm (UTC)(link)
I loved, loved my time at Mudd, but I spent 4 years wondering why the hell Claremont, which barely got enough rain to not be classified a desert, was so desperate to look like Massachusetts. Especially since the architecture on the campuses was more SoCal than New England. While I was there, the campuses were slowly getting better at switching to local landscaping.

[I don't have much to add on the Reed vs. Whitman debate - I know I got scared away from Reed on my campus visit due to the high drug use. I highly recommend trying to talk with current students in Z's presumed major and see how happy they are - and what sort of research/internship opportunities they have]
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[personal profile] minxy 2016-04-11 01:57 am (UTC)(link)
I think you told me about the green lawn mandate in the town, even? Where a faculty's native california landscaping was fined, or something?
abyssinia: Sam Carter's first view of Earth from space and the words "all my dreams" (Default)

[personal profile] abyssinia 2016-04-11 03:18 am (UTC)(link)
Yep! Claremont had (might still has) a city policy that a certain percentage of your yard has to be green (not necessarily grass). We had a new professor who spent significant effort doing some beautiful zeroscaping of her yard, then get fined because of it. Dumb.
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[personal profile] sanguinity 2016-04-11 01:40 am (UTC)(link)
Can I ask more about what your environmental concerns are about the "New England" look, as you put it? Is that based on specific knowledge of Reed's practices, or is it more general? Last I heard, the lawns are watered via the on-campus springs that feed the Canyon -- not much of a diversion, watershed-wise -- and they have put a ton of work into rehabbing the Canyon in the two decades since I attended. The outdoor swimming pool has been ripped out and the creek in the lower canyon thoroughly rehabbed -- to the point that salmon are spawning there again, even! -- and I hardly ever see an invasive or non-native species in the Canyon anymore.
minxy: Teal'c raises a hand to say "hey". (Default)

[personal profile] minxy 2016-04-11 01:56 am (UTC)(link)
Fair question! When I was there, it was for an interview, so when I was asking about the stream running through campus in that high savannah area, and about all the trees that didn't exist nearby (grassland), it became a topic of conversation that trees have to be pretty carefully cultivated for a while, because the water table is pretty far underground, and something (er... rats, I don't remember the details here) controversial about the engineering of the stream to protect the town and flood something else instead. Sorry about the ambiguity on that last, it was five years ago... And half of my information comes from my best friend in high school who graduated about when you did, it sounds like, and was frustrated by the situation. My information may be out of date, on average.

I will say that I loved living in Eastern Washington while I was there, though! Reed I was impressed by because Portland, while very green in the rainy season while students are there, is very dry in the summer. If campuses let their lawns go a little gold, it impresses me, because who cares if students aren't even there in force? I otherwise I have no inside info besides the appearance of the campus on drive through, and that was also some time ago (10 years or so.)
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[personal profile] athenejen 2016-04-10 04:45 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't have much input on Reed vs Whitman other than to say that I've never met anyone who went to Whitman, but the people I know who went to Reed are kick-ass human beings (one of them, an artsy type, did end up transferring elsewhere, but the other, a historian I met in grad school, seemed to have flourished there).

But I have to say, I found reading through the comments fascinating! I went to MIT, and it kind of sounds to me like Reed is basically the East Campus to Whitman's West Campus, culturally speaking (though West Campus is still intense, which it sounds like Whitman mostly isn't). I was firmly on the east side, so I know which one I'd pick, but plenty of people seem happy with having chosen the other option. And people react to intensity differently -- it sounds like that might actually be the key question for your cousin.

One last thing I would say is that he should keep in mind that whichever choice he makes doesn't have to be the final choice for the entirety of his college career. It is totally okay to realize that maybe the particular experience you are having is not what you thought it would be or no longer what you want. People transfer! It's okay! So he shouldn't feel like he's locked in forever with this decision.

(MIT is also famous for burning people out. I know many, many dropouts and people who transferred after a year or finished up school elsewhere who are leading happy, successful lives, and who are still glad for the time they had at MIT despite the struggles. Heck, I have one friend to transferred elsewhere for a year, and then changed her mind, came back, and finished her degree! But there are also some who wish they'd gone elsewhere to begin with. There are just some things it's hard to know until you go through them. )
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[personal profile] elucidate_this 2016-04-10 04:55 pm (UTC)(link)
I went to Whitman and LOVED it. LOVED it. That being said, reading about Z it sounds like Reed might be a better fit. Reed is definitely geekier than Whitman. (it also has crazy amounts of drug use partially to handle the courseload [so things like adderall] and partly for funzies) The piece where he will probably like Whitman better is the social justice piece. Reed students aren't joiners. When I visited the professor I talked to told me that Reed would be lucky to have me but that I'd hate it because there was no social justice work happened. That's not to say Whitman is a social justice hotbed, but there is some work being done.

I graduated in 2005 so both schools may have changed (I'm almost positive the reed drug thing is still happening) but that is my experience as a Whittie who also considered Reed and who has friends who went to Reed.
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[personal profile] saraht 2016-04-10 05:07 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm not one for mindless devotion to reputation, but I will say, as someone who has bounced around a few Northeast academic institutions, I've of course encountered people who went to Reed but actually had to look Whitman up. Which doesn't mean it isn't a fine school, but Z isn't looking to settle down locally, Reed might be better, and it's also probably likely to attract more ambitious and committed students.

The college selection process gets essentially blind and arbitrary past a certain point, though. I'm sure he could have a good experience at either.
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[personal profile] ursula 2016-04-10 06:40 pm (UTC)(link)
I took math at Reed College as a special student when I was in high school (roughly '97-'99). Several of my high school peers went to Whitman; I remember it being sort of the default option for students who wanted a smaller college experience.

Reed is very academically intense. It's one of the top five producers of math/science Ph.D.s per capita, in between MIT and my own alma mater, Swarthmore. If Z thought high school was boring because it was too easy, Reed would be a good choice.

Small colleges tend not to have many applied math & stats faculty members. I know Reed has a great pure-math program, but I don't know what their applied program looks like. I know Whitman was advertising in stats recently, but I don't know what the result of that search was. Definitely it would be worth checking the research interests of faculty members at each school.
wintercreek: Grapes on a vine. ([misc] home in the vineyard)

[personal profile] wintercreek 2016-04-10 10:16 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm a Whittie! (Same class as [personal profile] elucidate_this, who I met in our first year of college, awww.) So, similar caveat: my experience is now 11 years old. I loved Whitman, found it academically rigorous but also emotionally warm, both in relationships between students and in student-faculty relations. I felt like I was exposed to a fair level of social justice work, and based on what I hear through alumni publications there's only been an increase in that. Yes, it's true that Walla Walla is a small town; this is something I really valued in making my transition to somewhat-independent adulthood feel manageable. For me, moving to a larger city (not that Portland is tremendous) would have been too intimidating. So there's a question for Z, about more-urban versus more-rural. I think the semi-rural setting (Walla Walla had about 30,000 residents when I was there) promotes closeness and richness of campus life in a way that more urban campuses may not, since the city provides so many options.

Whitties are known not only for marrying each other (something like 40% of marriages/long-term two-person partnerships are Whittie-Whittie pairings; I don't know of any stats about poly relationships) but also for networking with each other - there are plenty of stories of people making alumni connections, sometimes across twenty year gaps between classes, and building their networks that way.

I was just back on campus last fall for my ten-year reunion, and I was blown away by the work my fellow alums are doing, the balance and satisfaction they have in their lives, and the amount of justice awareness they had. To illustrate, I never once found myself in a "systemic racism 101," or similar, kind of conversation. Everyone was already on board with kyriarchal oppression and its problems and interested in talking about how to respond to it. It was also true that there was a lot of warmth and receptivity among people at the reunion, including folks I wasn't close with while in school. The sense of community remains.

Z may have already looked up the demographic data about the student bodies; I don't know the current numbers. When I was at Whitman it was overwhelmingly white, both in terms of student body and faculty, and mostly middle- to upper-class. I know efforts were being made to provide financial aid packages that would open up the school to more students of color and more students from working class families. It seemed like a good place for the people I knew at various points on the queer spectrum, but the disclaimer on that is that as a straight ciswoman I don't have lived experience to back the perception up.

I was also in a sorority at Whitman, and one of my best friends was in a fraternity. So if Z has any questions about Greek life, I can speak to what it was like 10 years ago. :P

I am super happy to correspond with Z, or with Z through you, to provide any particular data. LMK, and good luck to Z on his choice! May he remember that transfer applications are always possible if needed.
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[personal profile] aris_tgd 2016-04-11 02:15 am (UTC)(link)
I graduated from Reed in '06, and some of my own experience: I had friends who used drugs, but none of them pressured me to. I had friends who drank a lot more than I did, and friends who never drank. I had friends who thought they would have to graduate in five or six years graduate in four instead, and friends who thought they were on track to graduate in four years or three and a half years take six or seven years to graduate. I know people who never got their degree who nonetheless had a great experience, and I know people who got their degree who resent the college and their department for the experiences they had.

So it's a mixed bag.

Reed has a stress culture, and it has a "work hard, play hard" vibe, but it also has a lot of support available for people who take advantage of it. There was free counseling at the health center that I wish I'd continued to take advantage of. Professors have plenty of office hours and are always willing to email or chat in person. I think a lot of the stress at Reed comes from people not entirely trusting that they can ask for resources or somehow feeling they're failing if they need to ask, which isn't true at all! Nobody actually looks down on each other for using the resources available.

When I was there, the math department was mostly theory, but I know they just added a CS major, so it sounds like the math department is expanding. (The CS classes used to be just folded in with the math department.) First-year math involves first learning Calculus in historical order (integration first, like the Greeks did it,) then taking Intro to Analysis where you build a numerical system from scratch and define e and pi. (I was a Chemistry major but we had to take the first rung of math courses for our distribution requirements.)

The new performing arts building is fantastic and has a lot of practice spaces, and there are definitely going to be more people there interested in doing, like, chamber music or jazz or whatever, so there are lots of opportunities to pursue music. Also, the Grey Fund really is great, I went on a couple trips as a Freshman and wish I'd taken more.

Reed seems to be a good place to be queer, trans, or genderqueer, but that's second-hand experience.

You may have heard about Renn Fayre. I have had friends who really didn't like Renn Fayre and either stayed off campus or in their rooms the entire weekend, but there are also plenty of things to do during the weekend if you don't enjoy partying--there's always a quiet, substance-free room set up with movies playing all weekend and comfy couches which is a safe haven for quiet introverts.

Um... I really liked the dorms and lived on campus all four years, because I didn't want to have to travel to lab, but there are also opportunities off campus or the block of apartments owned by the campus which is kind of half-and-half (If your roommate at the apartments has to leave or moves, it doesn't affect your lease, which is nice.) After your freshman year you get a single room all to yourself if you're on campus, and seniors have their own dorm room lottery for rooms which are reserved for them. Reed guarantees housing for all four years, which is nice, but there's a room lottery so you're not guaranteed a specific dorm. The divided doubles are also fairly private, especially if you get the inner room; you do not have to hang out with your roommate.

Campus is very walkable and there is a strip of shops nearby if you need to buy anything, and bus access to downtown and various places around the city, including to the airport. Portland is a little big city; it's nowhere near the size of Seattle or San Jose, but it's big enough to have tons of stuff to do and bands and performers come through. And there's Powell's. There is a bit of a bubble effect going on where people tend to stay on campus rather than go into town, which is good and bad, but it does make the community feel close.

I guess if I had to make one last point (last one), I'd say that Reedies have always struck me as very giving. There's a lot of stuff that people do for the community, and a tradition of making things "Kommie"--available to all. Whether it's the Meatsmoke Crew doing food for the Renn Fayre Feast every year, the Reed Kommunual Sh*t Kollektiv seeding tiny trikes all over campus for people to ride, the free barrier protection in the bathrooms from the Safer Sex Society, the free coffee, tea, and energy drinks at the Stim Table during finals every semester... Reedies want to be there for each other. Reedies hold doors open for each other on campus more often than I'm used to out in the real world.

So... yeah? You can call it cult-like if you want, and as I mentioned not everyone I know thinks the positives outweighed the negatives, but I had a really good experience and recommend it, alongside all the advice I wish I'd listened to when I was a student there.
saraht: "...legwork" (Default)

[personal profile] saraht 2016-04-12 12:40 am (UTC)(link)
"First-year math involves first learning Calculus in historical order (integration first, like the Greeks did it,)"

Curious, is this not what everyone does?
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[personal profile] sporky_rat 2016-04-12 01:55 am (UTC)(link)
Nope. I didn't get into integration until halfway through the semester of Cal I.
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[personal profile] sanguinity 2016-04-11 02:15 am (UTC)(link)
I went to Reed twenty-five years ago and majored in math; I know a few people who graduated in the last ten. I still live in the campus neighborhood.

Back when, Reed's math program was theoretical only; there wasn't much of anything available in terms of applied math. That was a problem when I graduated, and discovered that baccalaureate-only math jobs are for applied math, and I had none. I've since had a good chunk of applied math coursework at the masters level. Turns out, that theoretical foundation I had is utterly bizarre for an undergrad math degree; no non-Reed professor I met ever really had a solid grasp on what I could and couldn't do off the cuff. (Could: prove anything, understand the theoretical underpinnings of anything, think rigorously, correctly extend a bit of mathematics to a new application, even if the extension wasn't straightforward. Couldn't: solve a calculus problem in my head without looking up in a book the calculus-equivalent of my multiplication tables. Most of my grad-level applied math teachers thought I was brilliant, but I got caught out on a few midterms with not having at my fingertips some calculus fact that "every" math major has memorized.) My understanding is that the math program has gotten a little more traditional on the calculus front, at least, but I'm not familiar with the current program. My guess it's still more like what I did than isn't.

Concerning drugs: I never did drugs while I was there, and never felt the least pressure to do them. From anyone. Ever. In fact, it seemed to be a code of honor among the people who did use drugs to not be peer-pressure assholes about it. (Which isn't to say that they were never assholes. People who aren't sober have a way of not thinking carefully about whether they're being jerks.) It was very easy to have a social life and social circle that never had drugs in it, but it would also have been easy to do drugs, should I have wanted to. I will second the comment above about the drug education on campus was pretty usefully informative. However, I also know that at least some things have changed: back in my day, campus security considered a student's drug use no concern of theirs; nowadays, I hear they do consider it their concern, and there are infractions and disciplinary actions? (I am very much not equipped to speak about whatever that currently is; I was stunned to discover that there apparently are rules on campus now? In my day there were literally two: no guns on campus, and no walking on the roofs.)

Portland versus a college town: You know, when I was there, most people didn't leave campus very often? And I hear it's much the same now. But it's true, there are cool things to do and places to go when you want to leave campus. And it's not that urban of a city; if you want to get into the countryside, it's not that hard.

Burnout: I think the attrition rate in my freshman dorm was 50%? Partly because of money, but a lot of it was people crashing and burning academically, typically because they couldn't handle the workload. After I graduated, I read nothing but YA for a year -- I could not stomach voluntarily reading anything written at a higher grade-level than that -- and it was a year or two before I could even think about grad school.

Socially: Reed was the first time in my life that I felt at home. I went from being a freaky weirdo in my high school, to being one of the squarest, boringly mundane people on campus. Reed was where I grew into myself, and better, became happy to be myself. It was lovely. It's also where I met my wife. (In fact, I think most of the people from my freshman dorm who didn't drop out ended up marrying each other later. Seriously, there's like four married couples from a dorm of thirty people, only half of whom came back for their sophomore year.) However, I have friends who feel exactly the opposite way about Reed: it never felt like home, it was a never-ending set of social battles for them. I do know of a couple people who left Reed because the social environment didn't work for them.

...and I'm happy to answer questions, such as I can, if you or Z have them.
xenacryst: Doctor Who - 2012 Christmas Special, Clara outside as a governess (DW: Clara winter governess)

[personal profile] xenacryst 2016-04-11 05:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Hmmm... thoughts that probably echo a lot of what was already said. I have a good friend who's a Reedie, and he's a fabulous person. He gradiated around 1989, though, so take that with a bit of salt. I've been to the campus, and it seems like a beautiful campus, and Portland is pretty nifty.

Myself, I went to Carleton in Minnesota, which, at a very rough glance, seems to correspond in some ways to Whitman - small student body (it was around 1500 when I was there, now about 2000), in a small town (Northfield is around 20k, Walla Walla is 30k), progressive social justice leaning academically good liberal arts college. (OTOH, my Reedie friend I met while I was at/he was working at Carleton, so I suspect decent comparisons can be made that direction, too.) The community the college is in can be important - I found being in a small town 45 minutes away from the Twin Cities to be nice - the social network I had was close, strong, and campus-based (we only went to the cities once or twice a year). I knew other people who chafed at the small community, though, and escaped to the cities whenever they had the chance. Is there anything that Z really values that Whitman/Walla Walla doesn't provide? If so, he'd either quietly let go of it (and find other interesting things to do, of course!), or start feeling very unhappy that he doesn't have a chance to do it. I didn't go downhill skiing for 25 years after I left high school, but it wasn't central to my life - but I did find folk dance and the science fiction club and so many other things. When he thinks about his visits, and the kinds of student clubs and life that he can discern (which really is only the surface of what's there - the campus web sites can only do so much), does one of them feel more like home?

From where I am, I wouldn't worry about academics or future career or grad school (unless he's a very driven pre-med or somesuch, in which case he wouldn't be considering either of those anyway) - either Reed or Whitman will be fine for that. And the real secret to a liberal arts degree was given to me by my uncle, who also went to Carleton: he said, "any degree from Carleton would have prepared me equally well for any career." A place like that, sure, gives you a fair bit of knowledge in some specific areas, but more than that it teaches you how to learn and explore and find the paths in life that work for you. So don't worry about the academics, but rather look for the place that you can call home (this advice is equally well suited to choosing a major, once that becomes relevant).
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[personal profile] sinclair_furie 2016-04-11 07:54 pm (UTC)(link)
A very good friend of mine is a math professor at Reed, and he seems to like it quite a lot. However, depending on what kind of applied math your nephew wants to do, he should know that Reed's computer science track is still very much in its infancy. They've been adding classes for the last few years, but it doesn't have the breadth of, for example, MIT's. I have no idea about Whitman, but I could probably put him in touch with my friend if he wants to know more. *edit* I just talked to him, and he said that Whitman's program is similarly new, but from talking to Whitman math/CS professors, he thinks Reed's program is more comprehensive and challenging. */edit* For what it's worth, my friend is also a geeky introvert, so the culture extends at least somewhat to the faculty.

I found Portland pretty delightful when I visited, though I do find the overwhelming whiteness of Oregon in general kind off-putting. It looks like Walla Walla is pretty similar though, so that might not be a big deal to Z.
Edited 2016-04-11 20:08 (UTC)

[personal profile] lknomad 2016-04-12 04:05 am (UTC)(link)
I am cousin Z's mom and will be taking him to visit Reed on Friday. If your Prof friend would be able to speak to my son (my kid does not have a DW account so I am doing the writing) would you PM me?
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[personal profile] sinclair_furie 2016-04-12 10:48 pm (UTC)(link)
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[personal profile] helens78 2016-04-21 04:17 am (UTC)(link)

I read most of the Earthling posts over my pregnancy, so in my head Z is perpetually 12!
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[personal profile] lolaraincoat 2016-06-03 04:57 am (UTC)(link)
Coming to this super-late, so by now Z has made up his mind I suppose. He will be happy (or not) either way. From my perspective as a prof at a huge public university, all the good small liberal arts colleges are more alike than they are different, and they are all fantastic places to get an education. A really important factor in decision-making should be cost; the less debt Z ends up with, the better.

I know history profs at both schools - they are all supremely dedicated and thoughtful teachers who truly love their students. And I think that will be true across the faculty at Reed and Whitman.