Hello to the entire Rensselaer community! A very special greeting and welcome to all incoming first-year students, whether RPI is your very first college or your fifth.
For me, the biggest thing that I love about RPI is the literally hundreds of opportunities students have to get involved with various activities and events on campus. I truly believe that there is a place (or many places) here where every student will not only feel welcome, but may even have some of the best times of their lives. I assure you that this is true for you too, but the only way you will find your place is to put yourself out there beyond your comfort zone for a day or two and try some brand new experiences. You might just find that you could change your life.
A quick side note: while the main focus of my piece here will be to urge incoming students to get involved, it is really for anyone on campus who feels a need for more likeminded people in their lives.
Rensselaer is a unique environment due to its diverse community that is, at least in my opinion, neither too large or too small, in the vein that there is enough room for everyone to have their voice heard but at the same time enough choices for various types of people to find their place. I implore you to take advantage of this as soon as you arrive here in the fall.
If you still don’t believe me that no matter who you are, you are in the right place, I will share my story of how I went from “just” a freshman like you to where I am today.
I arrived here last fall with the usual first-year anxieties fears and excitements, you’ve probably got them too. I also came here with a so-called “plan” for myself and how my four years here would play out. However, my plan was suddenly derailed when all the NRB day trips I had planned to attempt to sign up for were full. Instead, I went on a trip involving something I had little knowledge of, and at the time even less interest in. That trip was The Poly’s Press Pass.
I found that I loved being involved with producing and publishing media content for campus more than most other things I had ever been involved with in my life. By my fifth week at school I had already raised controversy across campus with an opinion piece, had many of my photos published, and had begun to take on an entire section of the paper.
You’ve reached this point and now it’s become clear: The entire article is just a big huge recruitment push for The Poly.
But actually, it is the farthest thing from that; this is just my story. Yours will and should in all likelihood be drastically different from mine. I just want you to believe that your story is here waiting for you and don’t come to campus twice as worried as before because you’re not going on the “cool” trip or living on the “best floor.” All you need to remember is that there are more than 1,500 other new students in the exact same boat as you, and beyond that there are many among the just under 7,000 students here at RPI who probably enjoy similar things to you—things you may have never done before or never even heard of before. All you need to do is come and be yourself and put that self out there. The rest will come naturally, it usually does.
Your calling might be Greek life, or maybe a service club, or it could be a club that doesn’t even exist yet. The whole “We have over 200 clubs here on campus and if you still can’t find one you like you can make your own,” isn’t a line simply used to recruit students. New club creation really does happen and more often than you might think. Yes, it is a ton of work, but if you’re passionate about this new activity it won’t seem like it. Among the small sample of students I have encountered in my first year here, two of my friends have created clubs that are in various stages of development.
Many could be concerned that getting overly involved in any activity will negatively affect their schoolwork. While I know that this is definitely possible, I also believe that if you do not pair classwork with other activities you will not gain nearly as strong time—management skills as your peers that do. For me personally, I did drastically better in school second semester when compared to first even though I was taking much harder classes and was now tackling a senior staff position at The Poly.
If you have a single takeaway from reading this, let it be that you will belong here at Rensselaer; you probably just don’t have a single inclination of that right now. One way to find your inclination may be talk to your Student Orientation staff member; there’s good chance they will be able to point you in the right direction. After that, make a promise to yourself that the Activities Fair is now a mandatory event for yourself. Finally, have your RPI story start at day one of your time here even if you feel the farthest thing from comfortable, otherwise you may struggle to start chapter one down the road.