Catherine - Reed College - Class of 2010
Hometown: Kirkland WA
High School: Public
Major: History/Political Science
Goal: Graduate school
Freshman Year Update
I anticipated working hard at Reed, but I didn't anticipate spending as much time as I do in the "Hauser Fundome," our nickname for the library. Oddly enough though, I've actually made more friends through library commiseration than any other way on campus, so on Friday night, when we're all free of the Fundome for a good 12 hours, I have a ton of people to see.
Sophomore Year Update
School is great. For example, this week I finished setting up the New York Times Educational Program at Reed, so I can do the crossword puzzle every morning for free. On Thursday, I am flying to Chicago for a Model United Nations conference. When I get back, I have to write two papers, one on Madame Bovary and one on John Milton's Areopagitica. Then, for Spring Break, I get to relax at a cabin on the beach with my friends!
Junior Year Update
I just took the qualifying exam that every Reed junior must take to be admitted into senior study. I passed! So now I have to start thinking about topics for my senior thesis. On the fun side, I helped referee the first annual "Late Night Laser Tag in the Library" event, in which we turned out all the lights in the library after it closed and about 300 students played laser tag in the stacks throughout the night. Plans for the future? I used to be pretty sure I wanted to enter academia, but the job market is awful. After I graduate I hope to get a job in a law firm or non-profit and eventually go to graduate school or law school.
Many students are such perfectionists that they stress over getting the best scores or grades. I was fortunate to go to a high school where I could focus on myself as a person. Instead of a 2400 on my SATs, I had leadership positions in many extracurricular activities. I am most proud of starting a student-run free press school magazine, which I wrote about in my applications. I think colleges are interested in interesting peoplepeople who are more than a bunch of statistics.
Small, serious, and safe
When I first began looking at colleges in my sophomore year, I imagined going to Ivy League schools and some well-regarded liberal arts colleges, such as Amherst and Hampshire. After taking summer classes at a prep school, however, I decided that going to colleges with high numbers of prep students was not for me. My ideal college became a small, "funky" liberal arts school that placed a strong emphasis on intellectualism.
My father is a professor at Reed College, and my parents considered Reed the ideal. In their minds, all of my choices needed to be as good or better than Reed. For the most part, I agreed. I looked for schools with under 3,000 students, discussion-based classes, a strong intellectual focus, and a commitment to effecting change in the global community. I looked for students who were curious and engaged in serious discussion. I eliminated schools that felt more like summer camps than colleges.
University of Chicago was the exception. A friend convinced me to apply despite its size and environment. I was drawn by its rigorous reputation. Given its size, I thought I could find a group of friends there.
Coming full circle to Reed
I got my bad news first, from Macalester, which I thought was a good bet. I freaked out about getting into the rest. Shortly after, I learned I was waitlisted at Carleton and Oberlin. This was the most disappointing, as Oberlin was one of my favorite schools.
I considered Swarthmore and University of Chicago to be colleges that would accept me when hell froze over. So you can imagine how excited I was to get into University of Chicago. Unfortunately, neither University of Chicago, Bates, nor Bard offered me the financial aid I needed in order to attend. Reed became the most viable option.
My ups and downs
I found it extremely difficult to write supplemental essays on the topic of "Why (name of school here)?" At the time I applied, I had only visited three of my 11 schools. It's challenging to write strong essays without regurgitating information from college brochures.
What I learned
I sent a disc of articles from my student magazine, as well as an English essay I had written in my junior year. Sending additional materials (if they are accepted) brings your accomplishments to life, much better than items simply listed on your app.
I was surprised by some admission officers. They were genuinely interested in my application and me. Many of them were grateful I was choosing to apply to their college.
The money factor
My parents didn't want me to take out loans if I could help it. Some of my peers are already taking out $20,000 or $30,000 loans, scoffing at me for not opting to attend my first-choice school. I do not think they understand entirely that in four years they will be harnessed to $80,000 of debt. My tuition is free at Reed, since my dad teaches there. My parents are paying room and board, but I am responsible for additional expenses.
ROAD TO COLLEGE
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Student Stories - 2014
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Student Stories - 2010
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