One tip that I will tell anyone who will listen is that you need to be able to find your niche in order to truly be successful here at RPI. You cannot possibly hope to do everything that is going on around campus, but it is important to try as many new activities as possible while reserving enough time in your life in order to study for and do well in your classes. In fact, I spent my first semester finding out what I wanted to do during my second semester. Some hard decisions had to be made about exactly how I wanted to spend my time this semester. Winter Break provided me a good opportunity to, away from the hustle and bustle of life at RPI, finalize some of those decisions.
It involved telling people no when I felt like I was overcommitting myself. As the News Editor of The Poly, a mentor with RPI’s Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education, a member of the Pep Band, the Symphonic Band, and the Clarinet Choir combined take up a considerable amount of time. I also work as a member of the team of Systems Administrators of the Rensselaer Union, a paid position maintaining the Union’s administrative computing system. Yet I would not trade my experiences in any of those activities for the world, even if I am busy all nights of the week and most of the day during weekends.
Saying no to fun things is very hard to do, but it’s necessary to make sure I can do other really fun things I want to do and still succeed here. My main academic goal is to graduate in four years—okay, maybe it might take an additional semester—through the co-terminal program getting both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in electrical engineering. Rough planning of my long–range schedule and discussions with my advisor indicate that my goal is a very realistic one as long as I maintain a GPA above 3.5—which at RPI requires a lot of effort and can be very challenging, as classes will only get harder and more time–consuming.
In any case, I would encourage all students to be as ambitious as possible and to remember that you only have four years here (longer if you decide to stay as a graduate student) as a student, so make the most of it. There are so many opportunities here and connections you can make that will give you a real advantage compared to many others starting off their careers. Of course, make sure to have fun and to live a little too; this is college, after all.