Although freshmen classes are fairly large, each large class is split up into smaller groups for recitations with TAs. The professors also have reasonable office hours and will know your name if you frequent them. As you go further into the curriculum here, your classes become smaller and smaller and professors definitely know your name. Right now none of my classes are over 40 people. My favorite class is probably Graphic Storytelling, which I'm taking right now. It's definitely awesome to go to such a technologically-oriented school, because the professors tend to incorporate all sorts of materials and media into class lectures, which really adds to it all. My least favorite class was probably Calculus 2, which I'm awful at. The professor was amazing though - he really knows what he's talking about. If you ever get a chance to take a math class with Prof. Schmidt, definitely do it. Class participation is varied, but pretty common, especially in the smaller, upper level classes that are major specific, because that's when you get into material that is appealing to you specifically. Students study pretty often, but it can be social as a freshmen because a lot of the core classes are the same, so it's not as much of a drag. RPI students do have intellectual conversations outside of class - that's what's so awesome about this college. Students are varied in terms of competitiveness - there is the range of the very anal student who calculates their average after every homework, to the genius who does no homework, doesn't care about grades, but ends up acing the final without doing any work. I'm a dual major in STS (Science, Technology, and Society), which is like sociology but applied to current issues and technologies, and EMAC (Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication), which is a digital art/communication major. Both of the majors have awesome programs. STS is a smaller program, with only about 5 people in my class in this major. It's really easy to fit in a dual major with this program, because it's so interdisciplinary and versatile. EMAC is a larger program, one of the only and most prominent art majors at RPI. RPI's academic requirements have worked fine for me so far. So many students come in with credits from community colleges, APs, college courses from high school, that the curriculum is easy to mold to your specific situation. There are some classes that you can't get out of, but that's pretty unavoidable. RPI's education is geared toward learning, but also to the future and what you'll do once you're out of school. There are a lot of opportunities to network with alumni within your major, whether it's through a class project or extracurricular activity. There are also a lot of major career fairs on campus.
In the big classes professors will only know your name if you ask questions, speak up, or go to office hours. In smaller classes, they will learn names fairly easily, whether you talk or not. I've never had a professor NOT make an effort to learn names. Some students at RPI are very competitive, but others just seem not to care. Lots of people have a shock freshman year, because they are used to being at the top of their class, without having to do much work. You have to work to do well at RPI though. Even really really smart people tend not to be able to "skate by." Also, most people seem to find RPI very challenging. I agree that it is, and I wouldn't have done nearly as well the past few years had I not started going to office hours my sophomore year. Not only do you get questions answered and difficult topics clarified, but you also build a relationship with the professor. He/she knows you're putting in effort above what most people do, and they might be inclined to bump your grade up when the end of the semester rolls around. And yes, that happens. I have had professors give me a higher grade because I was in their office every week, trying, at least. The civil engineering department, as compared to other engr ones, seems pretty laid back. The biggest classes are the intro courses (structural, geotechnical and transportation engr), because every one has to take them. But other than that they are very small, and the professors are really nice. More civil engineers seem to slack though, as compared to say, biomedical.
Oh, God, I could spend hours on this topic. I know a lot of professors here, and they know me. Yes, they actually know me by name. Shocking, isn't it? Some of the core classes here really suck, but I love the elective classes: Biology and Engineering of the Extracellular Matirx, Advanced Cell Biology, that sort of thing. Intro to Biology was probably the worst, but that's only because the bio majors are combined with everyone else who doesn't like bio but is required to take it, so the class is really boring for the bio people. As for studying, I study all the time, but I know people who don't study much and they do fine, too. I put a lot of effort into my homework, even when it's not checked or graded, because I actually came her to learn, and because I love biology so much it isn't really a burden to do all of this work. And the workload is huge. The tendency at RPI is to have nothing due for a couple of weeks, and then to have three tests in one week--it all piles up really fast. You have to be good with time management in order to do well here. The cool thing is, when you don't understand something, or if you're just interested in something, there's always someone around who will want to talk about it with you, be it a professor, in class, out of class, or with friends. There's never a dull moment in the conversation--it may not always be intelligent, but it's never dull.
In the liberal arts classes, the professors know your name. In the first two years of major related classes they don't, but i don't think that really affects how much you learn or how well you do. The liberal arts classes here are a joke, but the engineering and science classes are tough. You have to both be smart AND work hard to succeed. Everyone here has an IQ of 130 or above, and many of the kids here already can (or do) work full time in the industry of their major, so if you're just starting out its tough. (excluding lab sciences... most people dont have a chemistry laboratory in their basement) The students here are not competitive. They'll always help you out and i haven't had a class yet where competition would increase your grade. RPI students frequently have intellectual conversations out of class to the point where unless you're highly knowledgeable in the subject you wont be able to follow it. They also take up extra projects (such as writing scripts, managing linux memory, taking apart computers) with no class basis. The education here is geared towards getting a job. its almost never for its own sake.
Professors know my name, but its because i am in a small department the Earth and Environmental science department, i see my advisor on a daily basis. I talk to my professors outside of class, and will have intellectual conversations, i will also have these types of conversations with people in my major, and people outside of my major, but classes and such are not what we all talk about 24/7. In class participation depends on the class, in my major it is common. Depending on the major, students can study every day/not everyday. It is Dependant on the major/class and if the class has homework or projects to do they tend not to have exams. Students are competitive, but some arent, it depends, some are willing to help you understand, some arent. you just have to find the type of person. I spend alot of time with my professors outside of class, there is always food in the EES office. RPI's academic requirements are fairly strict, you dont have a lot of room to replace a class if you dont want to take it. RPI students are geared toward getting a job. However, my professors and i am geared toward learning just to know.
Academics at RPI cover a wide range of subjects, to accommodate the growing number of majors offered here. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences is expanding most rapidly, with the same number of humanities and social science courses required for graduation as science and math, as well as the introduction of a brand-new major for the 2007-2008 academic year. All students are required to take a certain number of courses not applicable to their major, and some are quite hard or time-consuming, but it is well worth it, as RPI's students enjoy a hefty 70% employment rate upon graduation with a B.S. (not including military enlistment or graduate school) with an average starting salary of about $56,000. (Unfortunately, EMACs have the lowest average salary, but still a cool $36,000.) For their part, the professors mostly do a good job of teaching their subjects, and a lot of the teaching issues arise from the TAs that are too hard to understand or can't quite explain the theory/solution/project/what have you properly.
Most professors do not know names AT ALL. there is one physics prof. though that got to know all of his students, which was nice. (Prof. Eah) Same as high school - the kids that come to class do good and the ones that skip do bad. (yes, even at RPI many kids skip classes and bomb fairly easy exams) Very Very Very competitive students here. Most unique class is ENGINEERING PROCESSES. its a 1 credit class. TAKE IT!!!! you get to use lathes and drills and etc. to make a cannon out of aluminum. My major is chemical eng...by far the one of the hardest majors here. only 70 or so kids in my grade doing it. (as opposed to 1300 total) im just about to start my sophomore year this fall. the education at RPI is phenomenal. u will get a job anywhere. i got an internship the summer of my freshman year at Momentive Performance materials (formally GE Silicones) partly because of the fact that i am a student at RPI. (also, work on you resume ASAP because that helped a lot too.)
Professors usually don't know your name, unless you personally make an effort to really get to know them. They just have too much work, and too many students to get to know them all. Favorite class was probably IEA - Intro to Engineering Analysis. The first class in which we actually were able to apply the math skills learned in calculus in real world applications/problems. Least favorite was Intro to Chemistry - labs were boring, lab write ups were laborious and i didnt learn hardly anything, plus everything I did learn, we re-did in Mat Sci the following semester. Class participation is scarce, and people dont talk very much, even when the professor opens up discussions. The only classes that really have a lot of student interaction are the humanities and arts classes. The requirements for my major in terms of grades and general required classes are fair, it is also not at all inflated like most liberal arts majors, therefore making it hard to get a high GPA.
This semester, my third at RPI, I have noticed the intensity of engineering courses more than I did in my past two semesters. Yet, the material I am learning is interesting, so despite the stress, I still enjoy myself. The fact that office hours are so readily available also helps. Attending office hours has also proven beneficial in that the professors have had the chance to learn who I am, which is especially difficult for them in larger courses. With more difficult classes comes more study time, but that does not mean that we students find no time for activities other than schoolwork. I also enjoy that professors or graduate TA's often hold review sessions before exams, although questions during class are typically welcomed. So far, I have been happy with the course requirements for chemical engineering. I especially love the humanities and social science requirements considering I am working toward a psychology minor.
There are good professors and bad ones, but mostly I would consider my education to be fantastic. I could not have gotten it better anywhere else! The courses are TOUGH- many students fail out their first semester because they think they can work the way they did in high school and still get away with it. Be prepared to be challenged! The professors are generally pretty great- I have gone out to dinner and movies with many of them, and had long discussions about a variety of things. Most professors love to interact with the students and are willing to get to know you. One great thing about RPI is that the students are all hard-working, but not very competitive against each other. They are willing to work hard and stay up all night in order to help each other succeed, unlike many stories I've heard form my Ivy League friends.