Impressions Of
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Academic Experience

Male Materials Engineering Major C/O 2019

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
You get to know the professors really well in the department. You’ll know all of them by name and most of them will know who you are and if you have any problems you’ll be able to go to them and address them personally.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
It’s very collaborative. Most people will form a group and work with that group. There’s almost no competition.

How accessible have the professors in your department been?
They’re very accessible for the most part. A lot of them have their doors open so you can just go in whenever and talk to them.

Male Information Technology and Science and Technology Double Major C/O 2020

Is there anything you feel your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
They’re both smaller majors, which I think is really cool because I get a lot of individual attention. They’re both interdisciplinary, so I’ve been able to take business courses, law courses, and I’m also able to take a lot of computer science and engineering courses. It’s great because the school has a lot of different offerings in both tech and humanities and I’ve been able to take advantage of both sides.

Why did you choose your combination of majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I started in Computer Engineering and was working on hardware, but then I learned that I like software more. I like software in terms of applying it to business problems, so I thought that Information Technology was a good mix of computer science and business. I also like the humanities and law a lot, so Science and Technology Studies offers a lot of courses in law, policy, the environment, and things like that. It was only going to be two or three extra courses and I took them for my humanities requirements and it ended up working out that I liked it. I just added it on for fun.

How accessible are your professors?
It really depends. In the intro courses like Calculus 1 or biology, I’ve found the professors are less accessible. Typically, you’ll get help from your TA’s in those courses. Once you finish your first year, your professors are very accessible.

Male Architecture Major C/O 2019

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your Architecture major?
Initially, you’re taking a lot of classes with the majority of the student body, like calculus and physics, but very quickly it shifts to all architecture students. You’ll spend the majority of your time in the Greene building. Your biggest time commitment each semester is your studio class, whatever it is. You start off with Architecture Studio 1, which is a five-credit course that meets three times a week. For that, you have drawing assignments with feedback from the professor.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
It’s very collaborative. There’s an open studio, and your friends are usually always in the same room with you. You can also ask them for advice, and your professors are more than happy to help. It’s a great learning environment.

How accessible have the professors in your department been?
It depends. The professors in computer science or calculus have office hours, so I could go in or email them. For Architecture, my studio professors have a lot going on because a lot of them teach as a side job, so they don’t check their emails as frequently. They get back to you, but in two or three days opposed to a lot of the Architecture professors that get back to you within a day.

Social Opportunities

Male Materials Engineering Major C/O 2019

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I really like to go places with friends over the weekend. We’re only about two hours from Boston, New York City, and Hartford, so there are a lot of places you can go to for weekend trips that are really accessible. You can also take Amtrak or buses to a lot of places. I personally really like going to Boston because it’s not too bad of a drive and there are a lot of fun things to do there. Also, Airbnb’s are really accessible so if you go with some friends you don’t have to spend too much.

How happy are you with the weekend options at RPI? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I don’t think I would change anything. I think there’s something for everyone no matter what you’re looking for. I personally just like to hang out off campus and travel, and that is available to me.

Male Information Technology and Science and Technology Double Major C/O 2020

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
If you don’t join a fraternity, there is not much of a nightlife if you’re not 21. But, if you’re 21 there are a lot of bars. Fraternities and sororities also do mixers together and clubs do a lot of things during the weekend. Usually, mixers are Friday or Saturday nights and people will do things within their own houses and organizations on Tuesday nights because it’s common to not have class on Wednesday.

How exclusive are the fraternities on campus?
It used to be very open, but the school’s been cracking down on Greek life so now everything stays within the organization and who they’re friends with. Like, if I want to bring a friend who’s not in the fraternity it’s fine, but the parties aren’t public. We’re also a dry campus now so that changes things.

Male Architecture Major C/O 2019

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I think the city has a good selection of bars. My favorite bar in the city is a Biergarten. It’s a good environment, and it’s something to do. The RPI Hockey team is D1, and it’s pretty exciting to see them at some point, especially when we play our rivals.

What nights of the week do you regularly do things? Are there regular places you go or things you do on certain nights?
The school is in the middle of a transition out of the fraternity parties. Our whole Greek life system is being evaluated right now. The fraternity party scene has really died down since I was a freshman when every Friday and Saturday we’d go out. Lately, it’s been just me and a few of the older brothers going out to a bar Friday night, and then Saturday I would mainly stay in and hang out with friends because I don’t feel like going out two nights in a row. [30% of men are in fraternities, and 16% of women are in sororities.]

Campus Culture

Female Architecture Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the Black community at RPI? How strong is it?
The Black community is becoming stronger every year. This past two years there have been more Black students on campus, especially in the Architecture school. In terms of having a social impact on the campus as a whole, we kind of struggle with it in terms of having our issues heard. We are starting to have more multicultural people on the Union executive board, but in the past it wasn’t that way, so if you don’t have people who look like you representing you, it’s hard to get things done that are in your favor. [Since 2013, the number of Black/African-American students has increased by over 100%.]

How do you like the size of RPI in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [RPI has about 6,600 undergraduate students.]
When I came here it made me feel comfortable because I come from a small school, so it felt right at home for me. Lately, they’ve started taking more and more students and that’s caused some problems with students being able to find housing. The number of undergraduate students has increased from 5,557 in 2014 to 6,590 in 2018.]

Male Materials Engineering Major C/O 2019

How would you describe the student body?
Overall, I think the student body is pretty upset with the school and has a very negative opinion of RPI right now. There three main topics of issue with the students right now. There is The Arch, which is being forced upon the students. Over a longer period of time, the Union takeover by the school has been a really big issue. The Union used to be completely student run but the school has added administrators to be in charge of it and has taken power away from the students. We’ve had several protests on campus. RPI recently was ranked one of the worst schools for student free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. [See Times Union article, “RPI students lament ‘culture of fear’ as protestors face judicial action” and article, “RPI starts mandatory summer session for students.” See, a website started by alumni concerned over the changes happening at RPI and the direction they feel it is going in. Also see, a website dedicated to stopping the changes happening with the Union.]

Male Architecture Major C/O 2019

How would you describe the overall social scene at RPI?
You really have to put yourself out there if you want to be social because there’s nobody who’s going to tell you to. If you’re a person who likes staying in your room, nobody is going to force you to go out.

To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I’d say it’s pretty mixed. As a minority, it’s not something I’ve particularly noticed, but I feel like I see people of mixed races hanging out. I never really ask about sexual orientation so I wouldn’t particularly know that, but I do have a few gay friends. [The undergraduate population is 4% Black, 14% Asian, 9% Hispanic, and 51% White.]

Do you think people are happy with their choice of RPI by the time they graduate?
I wouldn’t say people leave loving RPI, I’d say people leave loving the community of RPI. There’s a lot of work in the school, and the administration is really at odds with the student body right now. [See, a website created by alumni concerned about changes happening at RPI.]

Troy, NY

Pros of

  • “Downtown has a nice shopping area. There are several small restaurants and shops you can go hang out at.”
  • “You’re not too far from Albany and Saratoga Springs, so you’re in the middle of some cool areas.”
  • “There is an art scene. Like, there are tech startups, nifty boutique shops, and a farmer’s market.”
  • “The city takes the initiative with things. Once a month there is Troy Night Out, where the students of RPI are invited to come to the city and explore. They have Chowder Fest, and [Rockin’ On the River]. They have really good programs to get people outdoors and involved.”

Cons of

  • “There is no really good local supermarket to get groceries. Walmart is about a 20-minute drive.”
  • “Sometimes you can be trapped in Troy if you don’t have a car. If you need to go to Home Depot, it’s about a 15-minute drive, so if you don’t have a car you’re stuck on campus.”
  • “The main con is it’s very cold. Sometimes during the winter, you don’t know what to do outside of campus because it’s so cold.”
  • “Safety.” [The violent crime rate in Troy is 85% higher than the national average and the property crime rate is 48% higher than the national average.]

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Female Architecture Major C/O 2021

What is something a prospective student of color may want to know about RPI that we haven’t touched on?
There are definitely organizations and resources in place to help those students. The minority students on campus, even though a small portion, are a strong force on campus.

What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?

Male Information Technology and Science and Technology Double Major C/O 2020

What is something that you wish you knew about RPI before you entered as a freshman?
I knew there was a gender ratio and that the school didn’t have a lot of girls, but I didn’t know how it would impact my social life coming in. It makes it harder to date and stuff like that. It’s not that bad, I can still meet girls, but it’s definitely easier elsewhere. There are great girls here, but you can’t be really picky as a guy.

What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
It’s been getting better lately, but the administration likes to have a lot of control over student life. When I came here, the Student Union and Greek life were entirely run by students, but now that I’m a junior, the Union is no longer run by students entirely and the control of Greek life is going to the school. If anything, RPI is becoming more like any other school, but I think that was something special that we had and now I think it’s kind of upsetting. Because of that, RPI students have protested a lot and there is a lot of solidarity from that.

Male Architecture Major C/O 2019

What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There’s this new place called Off-Campus Commons that not a lot of people know about right now. It’s a good study place that’s off the beaten path. A lot of my friends go there, and they find it very odd because not a lot of people know about it, so they like it better.

What is something that a prospective first-generation student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
It’s a lot of schoolwork, but it’s not work that you will feel is useless. Everything you learn will help you in a future endeavor. All my friends who’ve gone through it have gone to get really good jobs and feel like they’re ahead of other students because of the work they’ve done at RPI.

Reasons to attend and not to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

To Attend

  • “You’ll meet an interesting mix of students here from very different backgrounds. There’s everyone from international students to ROTC students to people who are from the New York area. It’s a very diverse community.”
  • “If you’re in a smaller department, you’ll be able to get to know your professors really well. If you’re in a bigger department, you’ll get a lot of interesting professors from different backgrounds.”
  • “The kind of care they have for freshmen. They have different activities that kept me here.”
  • “The education. There’s a history there with it being the first polytechnic institute.”

To Not Attend

  • “The administration is one of the biggest problems on campus and there’s a very negative perception of them on campus from the students.” [See Renew Rensselaer and Save The Union.]
  • “The value of RPI, in comparison to a public university, is not as worth it because I don’t think you’re getting all that much in return for how much more you’re paying, especially considering the facilities on campus aren’t very good. There’s a lot of things you see that should be fixed, like, sometimes our WiFi doesn’t work or the projectors don’t work.” [Total costs of RPI in 2019-2020 is $73,816.]
  • “If you want a campus that has a lot more parties, this isn’t a great place. You’ll have fun here, but it’s not going to be a party experience.”
  • “The school has a good humanities program, but there aren’t as many traditional humanities offerings. The offerings for humanities are good, but they are not as good as other schools.”
Notice: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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