rigorous academic environment with a focus on computer science and engineering, the Rochester Institute of Technology offers a haven for students who want to focus on their work, often to the exclusion of a typical college social life. Although 40% of students drop out, those who persevere tend to find the education rewarding and worth the effort. And that education is nothing to scoff at: RIT students spend much more time in class than students at other schools do, via their quarter system and CO-OP (paid internship) requirement. Most complete their degrees over five years, not four. The CO-OP program mandates that by the time they leave, they are well-prepared to join the workforce and have valuable connections. The school also offers strong artistic majors, among them Photography and Film Animation, and RIT is known as well for the NTID (National Technical Institute for the Deaf)—the largest school for the deaf after Gallaudet. The student body is only 31% female but otherwise diverse in race, class, and ability; although thanks to upstate New York’s long, dreary winters, the most popular weekend activities remain drinking and World of Warcraft.
The Rochester Institute of Technology is known as a pretty intense place. “When I tell people that is where I go, I either get WOW! That’s a great school you must be smart or I get OUCH...how’s the nerds? But the WOW is enough to keep me here,” says one freshman. The “ouch” drives a lot of students out of the school entirely or, if they stay, out of their minds: “Do RIT students have intellectual conversations outside of class? About RPGs and First Person Shooters. Are students competitive? With video games,” says one alum. But the “wow” also counts for a lot, and it helps keep people mostly satisfied with their decision. As one freshman puts it, “At RIT, everyone fits in because everyone is different. There are so many interesting, unique people on campus, and I think that originality is what RIT is all about.”
Being willing to work hard is key to getting the most out of RIT. Most students agree that the environment is a competitive one. A sophomore Natural Sciences major sums it up: “Academics at RIT run the school, and for the most part will run your life.” There are two reasons for this, largely: the Quarter System and the Co-Op program, both of which set RIT apart from other schools. According to one junior, “You spend 3 years studying and about 2 years working in your major. This program is amazing, it gets you work experience so you can be sure you want to be in that field. This program also helps employers connect with students early and often many co-op jobs lead to your full time job after graduation. RIT is widely known for its high rate of students that get jobs after graduation.”
Fortunately, most students at RIT appreciate their classes. “The professors I've had so far for my major have been fantastic. They all have real world experience, and some of them were pretty famous in their day. The education here is definitely geared toward getting job. I think this is great, because I didn't want to take all kinds of liberal arts courses and things that I wouldn't need when I get out in ‘the real world,’” says a junior Visual Media major. Not everyone, however, is happy about the strict distribution requirements. “I love all my classes involving my major because they're relatively smaller, but the liberal arts classes and general education classes are just no fun. I don't even [feel] like I'm learning things in there sometimes and I'm paying so much money to go here and learn,” says another junior.
When they aren’t in class, some students do hole up with their computers, but others seek out things to do on campus. “If I am awake at 2am on a Tuesday I am probably doing home work or down the hall hanging out in one [of] the guy’s room watching them throw stuff out the window and watching it explode,” says one sophomore. Even more mainstream activities stand out. According to one senior, “We have so many cool clubs and activities, student activities range (literally), from building a race car, to printing the student magazine (we have our own full size newspaper style printing press), to hockey games (our number 1 sport). Its easily one of the most unique (and slightly unusual) schools around.” RIT students more or less have to make their own fun: winters are long and snowy, and there’s not much to do off-campus in Henrietta. In the words of one junior, “What college town?”
As a tech school, RIT has its share of gamers and nerds, but even those tend to be diverse. “Sure, we get our share of geeks, but there are different types of geeks here: art geeks, computer geeks, gaming geeks, sports geeks, science geeks, etc.,” says one senior. There is a large Asian population and a large Deaf population, as well as smaller communities of blacks and Hispanics. The gender imbalance can be irritating. “The girl to guy ratio was 3:1 when I started here in '03-'04 and it's now closer to 2:1. Still not many females in the technical majors (they tend to stay mostly in Business, Photography, Film, and New Media), but it's getting better,” one senior points out. One freshman, tired of hearing that refrain, chimes in, “There's no girls. Wait, I'm a girl! Alright, so I have the 'librarian' glasses, but I'm normal besides I swear.”
Most students wish that RIT had more school pride. The energetic new president seems to help, as does the construction of new buildings and stores and the increasing numbers of females. It really is a unique environment, says one senior, but most people can get a lot of out of it: “If you love anime, video games, maybe aren't the most social person, RIT is absolutely for you. You will find people like you, with similar interests. If you care about academics and a good education, you will get it at RIT. If you want a party, a lot of free time, sports, and school pride, maybe not as much as other schools but you can still find it here.”