Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?

Reese

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.

Jeff

Some professors DO actually know my name and for good reasons too! My least favorite class by far - CAD. The bane of my existence. Students study however much and whenever they feel pleased to do so. Class participation can be seen in some classes, but is non-existent in others (but iClickers are fun and they keep you awake!). I will hear the occasional intellectual conversation as I'm walking down the hall of the dorm or on my way to class. Some students are competitive, others aren't. Normally I do not spend time with professors outside of class, but I will go to them if on need help.

Jason

My professors all know me by name, as does my advisor. My favorite classes are anything taught by Shawn Lawson and June Deery. Least favorite are the comp sci ones taught by people who can barely speak english. Class participation is sometimes a problem, but overall i find it to be a somewhat competative atmosphere. My major (Electronic Media Arts and Communications) is the best major on campus! Erin (our advisor) is the best advisor EVER! Architecture department is pretty good for the most part too. I've gone to functions and shared drinks with professors before. I found my education was geared more towards learning for its own sake.

Adam

Classes (except freshman year intro classes) are in smaller classrooms, professors are usually very knowledgable, but speaking english apparently isnt really a requirement and causes some problems. Student are competitive and strive to get good grades, many classes are curved. RPI learns to learn, but the name gets you a job.

Sandra

Some of my professors know my name, it depends on the class size. My favorite class was one i took last semester Introduction to Engineering Electronics. I really don't like Calculus II. There is a lot of studying going on at RPI. There is usually homework to do every night, but it is manageable. Class participation is big, most classes are designed to get students to interact with one another to create interest in the subject matter. Very often things will be discussed outside of class. We are all nerds at heart, and even though we may not act like it...our nerdiness comes out sometimes. ex: talking about how a car sliding off an icy road is perfect for a study of the conservation of momentum on a frictionless surface. Students are a little competitive, but we all want each other to succeed, so we help each other out a lot. The engineering department is really the central department on campus. RPI is really know as an engineering school and so it is the largest department. There are so many classes to choose from, but you have an academic advisor to help you know what to take. Some students spend time with professors outside of class, either in the office hours getting help, or on a research project. RPI has high standards of academic learning, they expect a lot of students, but it pays off in the end.

Jessica

I would say the classwork and some students are competitive. RPI is not easy like highschool was. Being an EMAC major where people feel my major is a joke, I still have to work hard. While the grading is harder it pushes you to always pushes you and makes you strive to do better.

Andrea

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.

joe

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.

Lane

My profs try to know my name, and many of them know me personally. That's nice. My favorite classes have always been independent study courses, where I can work on long, envelope-pushing projects. Apart from those, I did enjoy Hypermedia: Art in Fiction with Pat Search. My least favorite class so far has been Multimedia Century, not because of the course or even because of the professor, but because of the classroom environment. I don't "study" study too often, but I strengthen my understanding by applying what I do in class (so highly theoretical courses don't surmount to bupkis). Class participation is much mroe common in small sections. RPI students' conversations are ALWAYS either intellectual or completely stupid, with about a 50-50 split. We are competitive. My most unique class at RPI has been IEE, a 1-credit electronics foundation course. That was a lot of fun. My major is Electronic Media, Arts and Communication, the 2nd-best major on campus. RPI is like Emerald City for EMAC-type folks. Our department is overflowing with ambitious creative types. I tend not to hang out with professors outside of class, but when I do, it is usually due to social or cultural events with some regard to my professors' specialties. RPI's academic requirements are intended to round us out as individuals, and I think it works. Our education is sometimes career-focused, but some majors (like ARTS and CSCI) are highly theoretical.

cody

The academics at RPI are actually very good. The professors all know their fields and teach well, and the departments that lend themselves to a community of exploration (arts, cognitive science) provide one. Just make sure that whatever you want to study actually exists here - don't try to be an English major or anything. You will also hear people complain about TAs that don't speak English. The TAs speak English fine; the problem is that students who say that are too racist to try to understand English through an accent. I am not making this up. Unfortunately, the problem is endemic to the student body.

Ryan

I feel that RPI tends to focus too much on the graduate education than the undergraduate education. Sometimes, the classrooms put me in disbelief as to whether I am actually in a technological campus. Professors are really nice. That is one thing that I like about this school. A lot of professors are really chill and will talk with you about whatever as long as it is somewhat relevant. I wish that the students would get off the books and engage themselves on campus more. This is school is survival of the fittest in terms of academics. Doing other things outside of that seems to be seen as a disadvantage.

Nicole

Most professors in the science and engineering classes will not know your name generally. If you go to office hours and ask lots of questions they may learn it in that situation. The arts classes normally have smaller class sizes, professors learn your names in those classes generally. Students study almost every week night. I don't know any students who ever had the opportunity to spend time with Professors out of class.

andromeda

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.

Alex

Classes are very intense. I hated going through all of the introductory level classes that were huge. But, as you start taking classes for your major the classes get smaller and easier to deal with. We have a lot of great professors here.

Dawson

I personally love the academics at RPI, granted I am not an engineer. The professors here for the most part are great and teach fairly well. This is an intense university that requires a good amount of studying, but not an unbearable amount. There are two main complaints I have about the academics at RPI. First, some of the professors and TAs speak the most broken English you have ever heard. They have thick accents and sometimes just do not know the language well enough to be teaching a class. This is a problem you will encounter at RPI, but with reading the text book, it is not too hard to overcome. Second, the major requirements for some majors are a little messed up and not quite in line with what you would think would be required for that major. Its not too bad, and is more of a problem with some majors then others. Overall RPI has great academics and the professors are very good. Also if you want to do research with professors it is easy to get into and looks awesome on your resume. Once you come out of RPI you will be more then prepared for the job you get.

Erik

The classes are definitely oriented for practical knowledge that can be applied to finding work after school. Professors run the gamut from "pretty incompetent" to "best teacher I've ever met." I find that a lot of them make a sincere effort to learn everyone's name.

Meggles

I am in a small division at RPI, and as an Electronic Media Arts and Communication (EMAC) major all the professors that I have had in my department have learnt my name and remember who I am. The Arts department is one of the smallest, if not the smallest, department on campus. The head of the department is amazing, as a women and a professor. Everyone in the department is encouraging and motivates you as a student to do your best work. My arts classes have always been small, and have been taught by a professor not a TA. My favorite class is a toss up between Intermediate Digital Imaging and Intermediate Video; both classes were taught by excellent professors who encouraged the best work out of me, and where very encouraging towards my projects. As an EMAC major, i have more projects and papers then I have tests and quizzes. It seems to happen that I have projects and papers due around the same time every couple of weeks. It means you have to stay on top of it so you don't fall behind. My friends who are engineers and science majors seem to always studying for some quiz, test or writing some lab report. In my humanities classes participation is common, however, debates and heated discussions are not so much. Intellectual conversations outside of class is not common dinner coversation, but it does happen. Politicals, religion and english literature are not highly discussed topics ever. Computers, sports, games, video games, TV shows and movies, and other random technology conversations are way more common. RPI students i feel are a little more ignorant then general college students on some of the more pressing issues of our time.

Mike

This I don't quite understand. RPI is very prestigious, yet somehow I don't see how this can be true, given the professors here. Many do not speak english well, and do not do any style of teaching other than direct lecture. Big classes and big lecture halls. Some humanities and some other courses have smaller classes where a professor maybe will know your name, but a large bit of it is all up the TA, which is a whole other issue.

Charlie

Yes, professors do know your name, especially if you make the effort. My favorite class has to be Introduction to Management. It was so useful and Professor Wright was amazing. Least favorite had to be Communication Theory - just because the class setup was utterly dull. Students are competitive because it's a competitive environment. I'm an EMAC - electronic media arts and communcations. It's very rare to be able to get my BS instead of my BA - which is one of the reasons I was drawn to RPI.

Adrian

I'm a nuclear engineering student, and the program is really small. In some classes the professors try to learn names, but other classes don't have that luxury. A lot of professors are here more for research, and so sometimes they aren't exactly geared towards helping the students out. But, on the other hand, I got research as a freshman which wouldn't happen anywhere else. A lot of kids are really competitive and get worked up over grades... but basically, you're bound to fail something here. It's gonna happen, and the curve makes it so you'll have a 3.0 anyways.

Rob

In the first couple years the classes are big so professors will most likely not know your name. When you get into your major classes most of the professors are really good and put forth a great effort in getting to know their students.

Chris

If you’re applying to RPI, you probably already know what to expect in terms of class/homework – there’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely manageable. The professors are generally very qualified, but this doesn’t always translate to them being able to teach well. This usually only happens with the upper level professors, but if it happens to you should go to the professors office hours – even if they can’t teach, they can answer questions. If you know the right ones to ask, you’ll do well. The graduate TAs at RPI are notorious for having English as their second language. For most of them it’s not too big of an issue as long as you can get past an accent, but some of them are nearly impossible to understand. Stricter criteria for TAs are being put into place to prevent this from happening any more. Before you leave RPI, you need to take a math class from Prof. David Schmidt. The way he teaches makes complex ideas seem simple and are always done one step at a time so that you know how to solve every problem like the one he’s going over, not just the one he’s working on. He’s also helpful in office hours and holds an audience well, so you shouldn’t be falling asleep during his lectures.

Annabelle

RPI isn't a very intellectual environment. You won't find many students discussing current events, philosophy, or literature here although you will find plenty talking about the servers they set up in their dorm rooms or World of Warcraft. The culture is definitely geared more towards getting a job than learning for the sake of it. Classes in the Humanities and Social Sciences department are fairly small so most of the professors know your name. The Economics department is unfortunately narrowly focused on both Ecological Economics and the Economics of Technical Change. Foreign language classes have been scaled back in recent years despite a push to have more students study abroad.

Laura

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.

Save time. Let us search for you.

Narrow down over 1,000,000 scholarships with personalized results.

Get matched to scholarships that are perfect for you!

START YOUR SEARCH