Two Portland Area Colleges Worth Considering

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I had the pleasure of touring Lewis and Clark College and Reed College the other week while in Portland, Oregon. Both are small, private, liberal arts schools with spectacularly scenic grounds.

Reed College is a city based college built in 1908. Tucked away in Southeast Portland, the stately grounds suggest a British feel while the atmosphere, though groovy, has a decidedly academic and serious vibe. Once on campus, you quickly forget that you’re in an urban setting. The serenity, the trees, and the graceful old buildings sweep you into another time.

Known for it’s academic rigor and an admission acceptance rate of 34%, getting into Reed is challenging. Even though Reed’s tuition is one of the highest for selective schools ($51,242), the school boasts a generous financial aid policy and offers over half of its students financial aid. This year, in an attempt to attract more lower income applicants, Reed College became the first school to eliminate the application fee.

Considered one of the most intellectual and scholarly colleges in the country, Reed’s strongest programs include History, Anthropology, Philosophy, English, Psychology, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. Music and the arts thrive there too. The science program is impressive despite the school’s size and liberal arts focus. And here’s a novelty: instructors emphasize evaluations over grades and often write lengthy comments on performance.

Reed is not a sporty school, in the traditional sense, so if you are a serious student athlete who is thinking of competing on a collegiate level, this is not the school for you. They do offer lots of fun and offbeat sports for credit. The student I met in admissions was very proud of her archery skills, all learned at Reed. Her friend was into Rugby and she mentioned fencing and frisbee as some of the more popular athletic pursuits on campus. Also, forget about Greek life- you won’t find a fraternity or sorority at Reed.

In sum: if you like to create, think, and question, enjoy quirkiness, and want a small school feel, check out Reed College.

Though not as groovy as Reed, Lewis and Clark is still cool. With its cobblestone roads and top of the forest setting, you feel like you’re in a national park. About the same size as Reed, Lewis and Clark is also well known for its graduate schools in Law and Education. In addition to the estate like buildings and park like setting, this school offers Division III athletic opportunities and one of the most extensive off-campus student programs of any school in the nation.

Two things stand out about Lewis and Clark. First, this is a quality school which is hungry for students. In fact, they just made the list of schools desperately trying to attract more students through very generous aid programs. In other words, don’t let the sticker price of $40,330 scare you – apply and see what tuition package you get.

Second, Lewis and Clark provides a test-optional “Portfolio Path” admissions option. What does that mean exactly? The L & C website explains: “Designed to reinforce success in the classroom, the test-optional path allows an applicant to provide an academic portfolio demonstrative of the student’s intellectual curiosity, depth and breadth of curriculum, and overall preparation for college work. Students who choose this option still submit the Common Application and other required documents. In addition, applicants must also provide a total of two academic teacher recommendations and a portfolio of graded academic work. Applicants may choose whether or not to include standardized test scores in their applications.”

So if standardized tests are not your strong suit, this school gives you options to show your stuff in other ways cloud collaboration.

Strong in Biology, Environmental Sciences, International Affairs (due to so many students participating in the study abroad program), Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Foreign Languages, L & C also offers interesting minors, such as classical studies and dance. Honors programs are offered for all majors. Potential Science majors should check out the John S. Rogers Science Research Program.

Lewis and Clark has a robust campus life and students are required to live on campus their first two years. The campus is not too far from downtown Portland and there is great public transportation. Did I mention how incredibly beautiful the grounds are?

Are small liberal arts schools calling you? Do you like the idea of Oregon and greenery? If you answered yes, then definitely consider Reed or Lewis and Clark.

(Lewis and Clark photo courtesy of “Colleges That Change Lives”)

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