Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?

Jeff

Rensselaer is more than just lectures, it is about learning through alternative methods. As the first college to implement studio style learning, classes at Rensselaer take a more active role in you learning. Studio class incorporate a lecture as well as hand on application time during class so you see the real life application of these techniques. As a dual management and design, innovation, & society student, there is a sense of creativity in this combination. Duel majors are quite common and afford students the ability to shape their education and better prepare themselves for the future.

Emily

I'm an architecture major so my classes are somewhat different than that of the Engineers. We have a class size of about 60 students. From there we take a studio class that consumes most of our time. In studio we are broken down into smaller sections of about 15 people each. The professors are great and the definitely know our names. They are so personal and actively help us in the job search as we get older. I am currently on a study abroad with one of my Professors from the RPI campus. The academic here are strict and they expect a lot. They set impossible deadlines so that we will push ourselves to reach them. The education in the architecture department is 100% geared to developing a unique design style in hopes of getting a job in the future.

Carla

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.

Sharon

Academics are HARD. There is no such thing as a class where you can skip every class, come to take the exam, and end up with an A. Some classes are harder than others, but all of them require some time and effort. It depends on the professors, but I have found that most of my classes are interesting, and I enjoy going to class. Once you finish your freshman year and most of your lecture classes, most of your classes end up being very hand-on, and more project based rather than exam based. This is one of the things that I enjoy most about RPI. By doing project and presentation based work, I have found myself retaining more of the information beyond the semester, and it has prepared me very well for my internships and job.

Laryssa

Academics are taken very seriously here. You have to be prepared to go to those TA office hours if you need help, respond to emails promptly, attend review sessions, go to group meetings, and just be moving all the time. Your down time is probably going towards the clubs that you're in. But in terms of actual classes, class participation isn't as prevalent as I would like it to be. We have lab classes to get you into the material, but as for engineering classes, professors read off their lecture slides, maybe do an example or two and then leave. There's no discussions in engineering lectures because they're trying to throw as much information at you as possible. You then have to learn it yourself after class. I know that some engineering departments put on more events to let you students interact with their professors outside of class more than others. The ECSE department does no such thing, and most of the professors are focused on their research and their grad students take precedence over undergrads.

Alex

Teachers are tough, but it's a good education. Not!!! Most professors are foreign and have thick accents that throw off many average everyday American kid that comes here.

Matt

A very good academic program in both engineering and business. The engineering program provides challenging classes that cover all aspects of engineering. Also they require humanites and social science classes balance out the math and science courses.

David

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.

Kristin

Academics at RPI are tough..if you don't do your work you will never make it. Depending on your major professors may know you by name, my major almost all the professors I have had knew my name during the class. A great thing about RPI though is how career oriented everything is, when you come out of RPI you are among the top recruited college students in the country.

Gabrielle

As a freshman, RPI students take a pretty standard curriculum. Most of the first year lectures are quite large, so the experience that each student has in that class is mostly determined by their individual behavior. The professors may or may not know your name depending on how much you participate in class, whether you ever attend office hours, or stay after class to ask questions. The great thing about RPI's professors is that they are always willing to meet with any of their students, regardless of their level. All of the professors at RPI hold office hours, and encourage students to attend. The trick is to actually go... most students do not. However, if you are having trouble in a class, office hours are not the only option. Free tutoring in almost any subject is offered 5 evenings a week. There are also teaching assistants who hold office hours in addition to the professor's office hours for many classes. RPI students often tend to form study groups for any and every class. There are such a wide variety of people at RPI, that it is not difficult at all to find a friend to help you with a subject. And, chances are, you'll be able to help them with something else.

Zac

Some of the classes can be pretty tough but it feels pretty satisfying to survive a semester. Depending on your major, you may have room for some electives. Listen to what people say about their courses and their professors and take classes that seem interesting. Also, if you have questions, ask your advisor or someone that knows what they are talking about.

Christie

A lot of the professors and TA's don't speak clear english. There are also some classes, like gen calculus and diff eq hat really shoudl be standardized more because I feel like I had some harder teachers and it effected my grade in comparison to my peers negatively. and if you were one of those smart kids in high school who never had to study, you are in for a rude awakening if you think you can do that here. That was me, thinking I could read the night before the test and I'd get it like in high school... not here, or any engineering school for that matter.

Jon

Class sizes vary on what you're taking. If you have Math 101 chances are that you're going to meet in a lecture hall. However, for said Math 101 you get smaller classes about once a week with TAs where you get to go over lecture material and ask questions one on one. Conversely, if you are taking a higher level course that is major-specific chances are you will be in a smaller classroom with your professor with more familiarity. As far as I can tell, most professors hold regular office hours and promote people going in to ask questions. Beware the workload; one needs to say diligent with his or her studies as most class paces are pretty fast and it's easy to fall behind if you are not careful.

Mel

I am on a first-name basis with almost all of my professors! Architecture is focused around a studio-based education: while we do take 3 to 4 other classes every semester (ranging from structures, to architectural history, to environmental and ecological studies), everything somehow trickles back into or is woven into studio. Studio is where the magic happens, and it's also where most architecture majors will spend the majority of their time. As everyone at RPI knows: the lights in the Greene building are always on. Outside of class, architects are in studio. And outside of studio, architects are either drinking or in bed. The education at RPI is geared toward toward becoming fluent in your major, and then based on what kind of a relationship you have with your topic of study, you can take your education in any direction desired. Regardless of major, it is important to understand its application in our world today, and RPI has a worldly focus unlike any other school I know. Every major studies how various applications and research can change and improve the world in which we live. In architecture, all of our studies have a central theme of sustainability, and it is clear that if we don't embrace a sustainable and intelligent-rammification-oriented approach to our learning and practice, we're not going to get far. From my own experience, RPI graduates are snatched up very quickly. There are several job fairs every year and the list of attending representatives is always impressive. As an architect, I've never had an issue getting a good summer internship and even with the shitty economy, employers are always happy to work with an RPI grad. In general, a good reputation precedes the name. Faculty and alumni are also play a big role in getting graduates, and other students, jobs, internships, and research opportunities.

Vick

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.)

Dylan

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.

Rina

Some professors know me by name. The professors that know you, you will come to love. My favorite class is probably differential equations so far but freshman year is always the most boring out of the years. Students always have intellectual conversations outside of class and they can be fun. The students here are very competitive. I spend time with my professors if I need help with coursework and so on.

Courtney

the professors here are very good compared to other colleges. Some take the time to know your name but some have too many classes. I get the feeling like my teachers care if I do well, im not just a number. 85% of the classes I have had have been good in my opinion. The teachers are easy to understand and explain the material well. Sometimes the workload is overwhelming but I know I am getting a great education so its all worth it.

Mike

This school has a great reputation. It is definitely a challenging and time-consuming workload, especially as you get higher up. Many professors and T.A. are foreign and sometimes hard to understand, but you get used to it.

Heather

There are very few classes with larger lectures, really just classes like Calculus 1 or Chemistry 1. The teachers are very willing to help students outsid of the classroom and office hours are posted online. People ask questions and give answers in classes, and if the lecture is really thought provoking there is more participation. After a really interesting Calculus 2 lecture the conversation may continue to the dining hall and be discussed over a nice lunch. There are a lot of intellectual people on campus, with varied interests. The courses are challenging, but most students don't struggle too much. There is drop in tutoring availible and all TAs have office hours.

Kate

its hard, but worth it. you have to know, or learn, how to balance time. the main problem with the academic aspect of rpi is that there are a lot of foreign professors. and TAs. but if you can get past that they're there for you whenever they need them, and most actually take an interest in what your planning on doing, and how your doing in their class. there's always research options, and there are so many plans here to help anyone who is struggling. plus in all freshmen dorms there is a learning assistant that can help, or direct you to who can help you. its really nice. plus there is tutoring for free, and there are extra lectures called supplemental instruction that help reiterate what you've learned in the class that week. so really the academics are better than most. and i've never had a problem getting help when i needed it, or even wanted it.

Jason

More so than most liberal arts or larger universities the specficity of major and studies is something I really enjoy about RPI. All the students that are there are very driven and interested in their respective studies. As a result the Academics are not so much a drain as they are a life style. Especially in the architectural field the academics and general conversation tends to overlap frequently. Even general conversation about the architectural career is very previlent between students and faculty and as a result you learn to truly enjoy your academic stay at RPI.

Pat

The academics are really good here. Most professors are really nice even in the big freshman lectures and are happy to talk with you and help you out. TAs are hit and miss, some are actually more helpful than the professor but there are quite a few who haven't figured out English yet. I've had a couple professors who have had horrible accents but for the most part its not a problem. After sophomore year, the class sizes get fairly small (<25) with the exception of the big majors (mechanical, civil, electrical). As a materials engineer, I am on a first name basis with a lot of professors in the materials dept. For the most part the students aren't competitive. We all try to help each other out and you really get to know the people in major well because of that. The management and humanities departments are a total joke though and basically exist for athletes and people who can't handle engineering but don't want to transfer. As far as studying goes, there is a lot of work but most people don't let it rule their lives (we aren't Cornell students).

Julian

Prof sometimes know your name, all depends on how persistent you are to gettin help from the professor. i have no favorite class. Um theres so many nerds here and kids that just stay in their rooms all day and do lots and lots of studying and whatever else they do. Yea RPI students are pretty much all very smart. RPI is a school where you come to put in 4 years or so of hard work so that itll pay off when you leave, its not at all like your typical state school. Job placement is like close to 100%.

Rob

My favorite classes are also some of the hardest offered at RPI: Human Physiology and Organic Chemistry; I enjoy a challenge. The students are competitive, but not to the point where one student won't help a fellow student who doesn't understand the material as well. The students are competitive in the sense that they are all going for the same goal, a good GPA and a good job out of school. I've never had a problem with any professors. They are all very understanding and happy to help if you know how to ask for it.

Jesse

Heavy duty math and science. lite on humanities and social sciences

Isaac

I don't think I have too much to say about academics. So far my classes have been alright. There are obviously those few classes that everyone absolutely despises. In RPI's case, Chem 1, Physics 2, Calculus 2, and pretty much any other class that ends in 1 or 2 (I only listed those classes that I attended myself). Once you get into the higher level classes, the material gets harder, and the profs get a little bit more flexible and friendly... emphasis on little bit. My personal favorite class as of yet is Computer Music. We basically sat around in a computer music lab full of G5 macs, mixing boards, and midi keyboards and learned how to use everything. It also helped that the prof was kind of crazy. Also, a lot of what I've said is subjective and possibly flat-out wrong. Believe me at your own risk.

Dylan

Are hard as hell.

Casey

I came for the nuclear program. Every class is intellectually stimulating and I do like my professors.RPI is very much geared toward both getting you a job, and graduate school.

mikey

The academics at RPI are decent. It looks very good to graduate from the school however, the main priority of all professors is research and as a result they aren't the ideal professors you may picture teaching you at the collegiate level. The students however are competitive and if the class is curved you may have to work harder than you have on any class you've ever taken.

Jacob

The professors at rpi vary from great to terrible. I havent encountered any horrible professors yet but know of some who are ver hard and other that are impossible to understand with there broken accents. Choice of professor is key in picking a class as some professors deliver more help and are much more lenient with there grades. Its a good idea to ask older students before enrolling. The academics can be challanging as most is test based being a mathamtical school but it is fairly easy to coast at times between test as access to answers is to homework is very easy around campus. The hard work pays off as i know many seniors who went into second semester with job offers in there back pocket and also know many sophmore and juniors plus some freshman getting paying internships for the summers that pay starting around 14-15 and up.

Carl

Academics at RPI are very good. You required classes for freshman and sophmores are generally large lectures(~100 poeple) but your electives and usually much smaller(~25) and your professors know who you are. As you get to your junior and senior year your specific major classes tend to get smaller. For my major, materials engineering, there is 25 people in my class so thats the max people in any materials class. Class participation is common, and professors like to converse with students and impart their knowledge on them. Students do have intellectual conversations outside of class as it is a very intellectual institution. Students can often get research for a professor, kind of like a work study, and its good for a resume. The education, especially in engineering is geared toward getting a job and being successful at it.

Whitney

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.

Danielle

the classes tend to get very large, which discourages from an equal professor-student interaction. also, most professors tend to be under the assumption that because you are taking the class, you definitely have prior knowledge of the subjects (like computer programming) and they skip over all introductory topics. what they dont realize is that even non computer science majors have to take the class, and most have no idea whats going on because they have never done anything like that before. students most often have to look towards friends or english-speaking TAs for help, as professors are often foreign and EXTREMELY hard to understand.

Matt

Academics at RPI are pretty good. They seem to balance the right amount of work with free time. The nice perk is that most students aren't very competitive so there is a cooperative feel to your studies. In addition, many companies really respect the RPI education, making it fairly easy to get a summer job if you do well. The professors are mostly available as they hold office hours and seem to be willing to help. However, one thing to note is that there have been a lot of clinical professors leaving to expand our strong research foundations, which may hamper the classroom in the long run. The effects of this have yet to be seen though.

Jillian

Within the architecture department, you get really close to your professors, since you spend so much time around them, both in and outside of school. The architecture building is the only one that has people continually working 24/7, and apparently the only academic building with a liquor license. If you are an architecture student, you don't sleep. It's as simple as that. You get really close to your classmates though, and the work is lots of fun.

Kristin

Academics at RPI are hard. What do you expect? The school is one of the best places for an engineering degree and their hard work ethics spread through every discipline. Your professors will know you and you will know them fairly well by the end of the semester. If you take the time to email them and communicate with them, or talk to your TAs about your class performance you will do better. The school is very big on networking, so use that and network throughout campus, find back tests and information on professors- it is useful. Students aren't necessarily competitive, but they all strive to do well. Some it comes easy for, but most work for the grades the get. The requirements, at least for engineering, don't leave time for much, but you are required to have some electives in there so a Psyc minor is always one people tend to lean towards. RPI is geared to what you will need in industry, not just theory stuff. Even in Calc II and Diff Eq it is set so you use your math skills towards real life engineering problems you would solve.

Tony

In the beginning, getting to know professors is difficult because the core classes are pretty huge. Afterwards, the classes become smaller and if you talk to your professor good relationships form between you two. RPI students all talk about classes outside, while partying...really annoying. It is definitely very competitive and difficult if you are not on top of your classwork.

Kelly

Professors knows my name because i stand out. I am one of few blacks student in the architecture department. My favorite class are classes that are not in my core curriculum such as electives. My least favorite class are my core classes. Students study 24/7 at this school. In my field class participation is encourage. RPI student have too many deep intellectual conversation about anything from robots to dungeon and dragons. Student are very competitive about their school grades. The most unique class I've taken is Studio. I am part of the architecture department. I am a second architecture student. My major is really though because it is so time consuming that if you don't have the passion you won't survive. I spend little time with professors outside of class but there are some that goes out their way to try to know you as an individual. David Bell is one of those professors that i'll always remember. The academic requirement is pretty demanding but fair sometimes. The education in the school of architecture is geared toward getting a job. You have to want to succeed in order for you to be better at what you do.

Steve

Most professors don't speak english. If you're an engineer you'll get a good education though. Having "Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute" on your resume is solid gold when it comes to finding a job.

Torry

the academics are amazing at rpi

Tanya

There are some really phenomenal professors here, and some that are not so great. The one nice thing is that if you are looking for help, there's always someone who can at least point you in the right direction. You get out of it what you put in.

Michael

When's the last time anyone took a tour of the business school which has ranked top 40 in the nation? RPI does not paint a very accurate picture of themselves when they advertise to incoming students or community members. If I desired to learn from an organization that said one thing and did another, I would attend classes at the White House.

KJ

Some professors are not too good at explaining, but the academics are very good and many of the classes are very interesting.

Jay

really good

Amy

The academics at RPI, assuming that RPI has what you are studying, are awesome. Favorites are Existentialism, Drugs Society and Behavior, General Psychology, Anarchism and Democracy, Utopian Literature, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. Professors get to know you by name and in the small discussion based classes, everyone really gets to know each other well. RPI students generally have intellectual conversations outside of class, related or unrelated to class material. No one is too competitive about their grades, though everyone studies a lot. Students are more likely to work together to tackle a tough problem, than compete against each other to see who can get it right first. I'm an Electronic Media, Arts, and Communications major, and for that, RPI is both good and bad. RPI is much better than an art school because RPI has the technical background for animation software, coding, MAX/MSP (audio/video software), and related aspects that all go into things like game design or making electronic music. However, there are virtually no fundamental art classes. Basic drawing is one of the only 'traditional' art classes offered, and you certainly won't find printmaking, pottery, or photography here. There are very few requirements for a core curriculum and no courses are specifically required for the core curriculum. Many students find this very satisfying, as they can get right into their major and choose classes such as Technical Writing to satisfy a humanities core requirement. They can also choose to take electives that interest them and use those electives toward their core curriculum. Unfortunately, a great deal of liberal arts education is lost due to this, and someone must really struggle to be well-rounded in their education.

Jamie

As a Chemistry major, the classes tend to be fairly small, except for the large General Chemistry lecture. The professors invariably learn your name and will interact with students outside of the classroom. Many of the professors actively recruit undergrad students for research opportunities. The chemistry club hosts a research forum and participates in outreach activities to the community, as well as inviting speakers for meetings. Many of the classes are difficult, but are essential to getting a well-rounded chemistry background. Grad classes can be taken by undergrads meeting the pre-requisite requirements. Students are fairly competitive, but there tends to be a mix of students (sophomores, juniors, seniors) in many of the classes, so it's a cooperative-competitive environment. The curriculum is ACS certified, which is attractive to both employers and graduate schools. The curriculum allows for either job or grad school opportunities, depending on a student's desires.

Michele

I've found a few professors who I've become very friendly with and have helped me out many times. Mostly - it's up to the students to get to know a professor and be more friendly if they desire to be. If anyone is interested in graduate school, building ties with professors is a very important part of that and you have to take some of that into your own hands. There are some teaching styles which I prefer over others and course layouts that I think can be revamped, but either way, the material is not going to be easy and there needs to be effort on the students' part to learn as much as they want to learn.

Blake

I graduated in Communication with a concentration in Graphic Design. It's basically like EMAC, but I got out of taking introductory Photoshop, so that's why I did it. All my classes (except math ones) were less than 30 people, so Professors knew who I was. My favorite professors were Sara Tack and Paul Miyamoto. I learned the most from them and it has helped me grow as a designer. My favorite classes were taken from these two professors. My least favorite classes were taken with Audrey Bennett. I didn't learn anything or gain anything from her classes. Class participation was essential to being a designer, it's probably different for a lot of other majors here. I never studied too much but I pulled a lot of all nighters the day before projects were due. RPI's graphic design programs needs time to develop into something stronger. They also need better (more critical) full time staff in that department.

Terry

Surprisingly, many professors do get to know your name, especially in courses unique to your field. My favorite class is chemical process control. The material is fun (IMO), and the professor teaches very well and is very helpful with homework and humorous at times. Least Favorite Class: Computer-Aided Design (CAD): taught via video lecture (using word "taught" loosely, and the head TA of the class (we didn't have a professor) didn't even know anything about CAD, and I will never use that stuff. Students study regularly, but it definitely isn't enough to kill anyone's social life. One thing I love about RPI is that most students here enjoy intellectual conversation about their fields and current events and many topics. Most unique class I've taken: Music Theory II -- we listen to music and write our own works. The ChemE curriculum is difficult but interesting. Classes are all graded via curve. Despite this, ChemEs here are actually not competetive and help each other out (Ivy League Students' jaws drop). RPI's requirements are very rigorous but not unrealistic. It takes hard work and determination and, honestly, a positive attitude and pride and enjoyment in one's work. The ChemE curriculum prepares students for a wide variety of jobs, and is definitely aimed at professional preparation.

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