At RPI, I haven't felt any negative tension between those with diverse racial, religious, sexual, socio-economic,etc backgrounds. Generally, everyone here is open-minded because there is such a diversity of students here. There are also so many different student-run groups that you are bound to find someone you can relate to. Students wear a lot of different things to class - you won't feel out of place in RPI sweats, or in a skirt and nice shirt. In the winter, be prepared to bundle up. Most people layer up because it gets so cold and the weather can be unpredictable. All types of students interact. It's a really friendly campus, especially if you have something in common, like classes, a funny experience, the weather, anything. The four tables in the dining hall would be mostly full of groups of friends, with maybe one student sitting by her/himself studying, or grabbing a meal between classes. The students sitting together would be talking about a class they just got out of, or that they have a test in soon, or their plans for the weekend. Most RPI students are from all over the US, and some are international. There are a lot of students from the East Coast/New England, but I've met students from all over. Middle class financial backgrounds are the most prevalent, from what I've seen. Most students are at the very least politically aware, although not all are active. Since it's known that RPI grads are usually pretty in demand once they graduate (or at least, have good networking opportunities to find a job), and tuition is not exactly cheap, we often joke that we'd better get a high paying job when we graduate in order to pay off student loans.
RPI's student body is at best painfully boring and at worst completely detestable. Freshman generally have the average starting salaries for various types of engineers memorized within the first month of school. Essentially the students are from that category of graduating high school seniors that is rich and white enough to get into a "top school" but boring enough to really only care about salary after college, and despite the school's best efforts to make the student body more heterogeneous, the fact that "RPI as an employment factory" isn't being challenged at any level means it will never really change. There are a lot of nerds too, but the range of nerd goes from "yes I like World of Warcraft and I'm not ashamed to admit it" to guys that bathe once every two weeks and shave never. There are more of the former than the latter, and truthfully, the "nerd issue" isn't a big one. It's just people who like technical things. The "women issue," however, *is* a big one. RPI is mostly male. This isn't a problem because "there are no women so I can't find a girlfriend." The problem is that female attention becomes a resource to be fought over. This isn't even necessarily a conscious process - I've seen women completely fuck up their own social groups unintentionally merely by being the only woman in it (and don't get me wrong, they weren't happy about it either). And then sometimes you get woman that are well aware of the situation and take advantage of it at every opportunity. These aren't common, but they exist, and they should be kept at arm's reach at all times.
Very diverse student body. Despite there being many more nerds than in other schools, there are still many "normal" people here, who get smashed on the weekends and throw parties. For that, go to the Frats. Everyone here knows that. But everyone else is here to work and get a good job, so most people (with the exception of frat kids) usually are very serious about their grades, studies, or technical hobby. There isnt really a social class here, everyone can talk to everyone else. Even though there are some dirt poor kids here, most kids are affluent, but i cant say it ever comes up. People don't talk about what they'll earn, and they don't talk too frequently or seriously about politics, most people are apathetic. But unlike what i've heard about liberal arts colleges, if the students chose, i believe most would be conservative. I think the kind of student who would feel out of place here, is someone that isn't wicked smart. You could still probably pass the science classes if you weren't smart, but they'd be wicked hard and people would constantly be talking over your head.
I'm going to talk about racism because that's the first thing I think of when I think of RPI and Troy. Mind you, I'm not saying that RPI students are racist; most of them aren't. I just want to talk about the racial separation in Troy. Here's the breakdown: all the white and asian people are RPI students, faculty, or staff. All the black people are in downtown Troy. That's how it is with a few exceptions. The nerve-wracking part is that most of the black people in Troy associate with the "gangsta" label. It's pretty freaky when you walk down the street to get to campus and walk by a group of six or so black teenagers in traditional gangsta attire. It's usually not a problem, but it's an all-too-common sight to see public safety alerts around campus warning of a teen-aged African-American wearing a black hoodie and riding a tricycle. Also, it doesn't help that the vast majority of students at RPI aren't capable of defending themselves in the event of a mugging. Also, a lot of what I've said is subjective and possibly flat-out wrong. Believe me at your own risk.
I have noticed a large variety of students on the RPI campus. Just going to the activity fair that is held every semester, one can observe the diverse interests of the student body. We have about 206 student union-funded clubs, and any student with enough signatures of interest can start a club. I personally have friends of varying racial, ethnic, religious, and socio-economic background, but none of that matters. I personally love that international students have a large presence on campus. Of course similar interests, personalities, and backgrounds do draw people together as friends, but I have not experienced or observed any bias towards others. Many students are from the northeast, but there is a significant portion of students from farther away as well .One of my favorite aspects of the students is that they are interested in academics, just as I am. Even though we are a technical school, I know many students who share my love of humanities. Many students also love video games and Pokemon.
As I said earlier, we're a bit of a bubble, and most of the students here come from families that fall into the middle- to upper-classes. But that doesn't mean a whole lot in the end, because we each student has their own distinct personality and experiences to bring to the table. The great thing about RPI is that we all have something to bond over, be it classwork or anything else. Yes, there are cliques, but I've found very few people who are unwilling to interact with others. Sharing stories with the other students is fascinating because many of us come from different parts of the USA and other countries as well, and there are a huge number of viewpoints and opinions on any given topic (as you would expect with 7,000 students).
There is no one definition about the type of student at RPI. There are so many cliques at RPI. You will find athletes, LGBT, every religion, hippies, nerds, dancers, actors, etc. There are days where I walk to class and see someone hanging out on a tree, a group of hockey players, and a group of students from the Student Senate. So as far as finding a group of friends to be with for the four years, this is very easy, and rarely have I encountered someone that feels out of place, or has to eat a meal in the dining hall alone. Most of the students are from the east coast, but almost every state is represented in RPI, in addition to many international students.
One of the things that does disappoint me is the lack of diversity in my friends. I have casual friends of all races, but the ones I see on a regular basis are all white (and largely male). RPI's various groups seem to be fairly clickish. I think this is largely due to clubs like National Society of Black Engrs, Society of Professional Hispanic Engrs, the Bengali Student Association, etc. Not that you HAVE to be black or Hispanic or Bengali, but most people are and simply because they are heavily involved with the organizations, most of their good friends are the same race/religion.
I don't really make a point of thinking about this as I go around campus, so the topic is kind of difficult for me. However, I like the student body we have here. Most people here are the type that like to be intellectually challenged, whether with art and media or the more traditional, technical fields of engineering. People are relaxed but respectful of both the teachers and the other students on campus. We do have little cliques, like the RPGamers and the EMAC majors and the school of science, but we are friends no matter what group we're usually associated with.
ethnicity wise, the student body is extremely diverse. surprisingly, as a white american girl i often feel as though i am in the minority. because of the painful price of tuition, i think it is safe to say that only middle and upper class families are able to send their children here. to go to this school you have to be prepapred to get technical, and pretty much throw creativity out the window. so if you have a vivid imagination and love finding questions for which there is no definite answer, then go to a liberal arts school because rpi is definitely not for you