On a warm July day I toured Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY, just a few miles from downtown Albany. The 260-acre campus is home to approximately 5,000 undergraduates. An impressive mix of ivy covered brick buildings and glossy modern structures line the insulated academic and residential quad. Overall, the campus is a stark contrast to the run-down, depressed city of Troy.
RPI began as an engineering school. Today, RPI is not only a top engineering school but an institution that offers a variety of academic disciplines across five schools: Architecture, Engineering, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, the Lally School of Management, and Science. Double majoring is popular, and many majors are interdisciplinary.
During the information session, admissions delivered some noteworthy facts about RPI programs. The architecture program is a five-year program; students graduate prepared to sit for the certification exam. Engineering students can choose from 11 majors, with chemical, mechanical, biomedical and aeronautic engineering being the most popular. Engineering students attend studio-style classes, which incorporate lecture and lab and promote hands-on learning. All engineering students are required to complete a capstone. The Humanities school offers 21st century majors such as game art and electronic media communications. Lally prides itself on being a “business incubator” for entrepreneurial ideas and encourages students to work with faculty and classmates to put an idea in motion. Guitar Hero started on campus.
RPI offers a variety of study abroad opportunities, allowing students to study abroad while staying on track for graduation. Nearly 70-percent of architecture students study abroad, and many choose to study in China, India or NYC. Students studying engineering often choose to study in Denmark and Singapore.
Most students participate in co-ops and internship programs. Nearly 30-percent of students participate in a co-op semester domestically or abroad, and approximately 80-percent of students hold at least one internship over the summer. All students receive academic credit or are paid for their internship experiences.
Like most colleges with strong engineering and technology programs, men dominate the student body: 70-percent male and 30-percent female. RPI actively recruits females interested in studying engineering and technology and actively supports them on campus through women only organizations, including a women’s only engineering fraternity.
Freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus. Housing is not guaranteed all four years. Many students choose to live in Greek housing.
Outside the Classroom
Although many students here are self-professed nerds, our tour guide told us that there is an active social scene on campus. He is a swimmer and like his fellow varsity athletes competes in the division III Liberty League. Hockey, however, is division I at RPI. Nearly 70-percent of all students participate in club, intramural or varsity sports. Greek life is strong, with 30-percent of students joining fraternities or sororities.
RPI accepts the Common Application and the Universal College Application. Students must apply to one of the five schools but do not have to choose a major. Students who want to study architecture must submit a creative, electronic portfolio for admissions. All students applying to RPI are automatically considered for merit aid.
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