Staff Editorial

What we think prospective students should know

By The Polytechnic Editorial Board April 24, 2019

With National College Decision Day a week away, many prospective students are in the same position we were only a few years ago. Whether it’s fervently searching for dorm floor plans, reconsidering majors, or googling reviews of professors, classes, or nightlife, the weeks leading up to May 1 are full of choices that will inevitably shape your life for the next four years.

If you’ve been accepted to Rensselaer, there’s no doubt you’ve already seen—and probably joined—the many outlets of communication for the future Class of 2023 in search of answers for specific questions. Maybe you want to know which gym has the best equipment, which freshman dorm has the largest rooms, or what exactly CLASS is. While this staff editorial may not answer all of your questions, we hope it will give insight into student life here.

As you might have read, the relationship between students and administrators is undoubtedly strained. In short, our student Union is no longer student run, Greek life is facing new policies surrounding recruitment and the freedoms of their organizations, and revisions to the Institute’s alcohol and drug policies that place stronger restrictions and increase minimum sanctions are being implemented. However, the Union is still a hub for student life with its active system of clubs, and there is a sense of unity in knowing we all take challenging courses as students.

If you applied here, you probably know how academically focused the campus is. Yes, classes are stressful, but they are worthwhile and a significant part of what makes RPI alumni so successful. You’ll learn material faster and in greater detail, and will be academically better off than students at nearly any other college.

Dining halls at most colleges aren’t particularly appetizing and RPI is no exception, but Commons Dining Hall is getting a facelift this summer to accommodate the growing student body. Russell Sage Dining Hall is also expanding, and both dining halls will re-open for the Fall semester after their summer renovations. Meal plans are expensive and required for all students during their freshman and sophomore years, even if they live in apartment-style housing with kitchens. The newly renovated facilities may help to alleviate the monotony of on-campus meals. 

On-campus housing is also required for the first two years students spend at RPI, as well as during the Arch—which is now a requirement for all incoming students. Students stay on campus and take classes the summer after their sophomore year, and are required to take a semester off in either the fall or spring of their junior year. Instead of having two successive summer internships, as might be typical of a college experience, one six-month timeframe for an internship or co-op opportunity is required. Exemptions from Arch seem hard to get, even if major-specific classes aren’t offered during the summer. One student expressed that required aspects of the Arch make it seem more for money than students’ personal growth, and right now we’re inclined to agree. 

This is a significant transition, but when the Class of 2023 heads into the Arch, it will be the third summer of the program. It’s entirely unknown how the Arch will play out this summer and impossible to predict further in the future. It will play a significant part of any newly enrolled student’s life.

Most students here are smart, a little awkward, and generally friendly. We have a willingness to help which you might not expect from an institution like ours—rather than compete, students collaborate. We all understand the workload we’re expected to complete, and the attitude is far more centered around making it through together rather than making it out on top.

The unequal gender split is noticeable while walking around on campus and especially in introductory classes. This may become less obvious as you take more major-specific courses—save for computer science—or join clubs.

So, as you make your final decision, keep in mind everything you’ve learned about your potential schools and what they offer. College is the next four years—or more—of your life and you shouldn’t choose lightly. If you come to RPI, expect plenty of opportunities, but it’s not the right school for everyone. Wherever you end up, we hope you enjoy your college years.