Staff Editorial

What the class of 2025 wants to know

By The Polytechnic Editorial Staff September 21, 2021

The following are a mix of questions asked by first-year students who participated in The Polytechnic’s Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond event and some we as a staff think every student should know. Student questions were answered in real time and later abridged into this article.

Campus life

What are places to eat besides Commons?

The renovations to Commons and Sage have certainly helped expand the options on campus, but Troy’s restaurant scene is one of the best around, and if you don’t venture downtown to sample the cuisine at least once, you’re missing out. Amante’s and Big Apple have the best pizza, while Little Pecks and Whistling Kettle are cute cafés perfect for a first date. Muddaddy Flats Quesadillary, burrito burrito, and K-Plate are other staff favorites.

Our go-tos for frozen treats are Dutch Udder Craft Ice Cream, gelato from DeFazio’s grocery, and Snowman (who you may have seen on TikTok). Former Grand Marshal Advaith Narayan ’21 lists some of his Troy restaurant recommendations in a Top Hat from last September. Cooking in your dorm is also a great option, as long as you don’t set off the fire alarms.

What’s the counseling center like?

The counseling center works best for minor stressors like trouble focusing in class, fitting in, or adjusting to a new environment—things every first-year deals with. If you find this stress too much to bear, give the counseling center a call, they can help!

Of course, as the center is staffed by licensed psychologists, they are equipped to help students with mental illness, but it can be difficult to find timely help. Appointments are often backlogged and an intake appointment is mandatory regardless of previous diagnoses. However, the center is no longer as understaffed as it was; psychiatrist Dr. Anita Chiu was hired, and drop-in counseling has been added as an option for students.

If you or a friend need immediate help, there’s a counselor-on-call you can contact through Public Safety’s emergency line: (518) 276-6611.

How safe is Troy?

During daylight hours, Troy is safe. Campus is well secured and well lit, and the Blue Light System is in place in case of an emergency. However, if you choose to walk off campus at night, don’t walk alone. After dark, avoid the area around Prospect Park and South Troy entirely. As an additional safety measure, the RPI Alert system is in place to notify you of any out-of-the-ordinary activity on campus, from weather events to break-ins to shots fired, so you can know exactly where to avoid.

Are there tunnels on campus?
Yes, and you’ll find them eventually. They’re convenient for when it’s really snowy or windy outside as they link the DCC, JEC, and JROWL, but there are plenty of places to discover on campus that we think are more interesting. There’s a campus exploration guide online (we won’t tell you exactly where), and if you manage to find the mythical EMPAC shower, let us know.

I went to the Activities Fair, but I couldn’t find the club I wanted! What should I do?

Start your own! Former president of the Union Caitlin Kennedy ’20 outlined the process in detail in a derby. Club operations have changed substantially in the past year, so if you need help in this process, email the E-Board’s Club Operations Committee at

How do I use Discord? What servers should I join?

Discord is a popular communication platform that RPI students frequent which allows users to join servers, send messages in text channels and create voice and video channels. Click here for different RPI-affiliated servers.

Academic life

Are physical textbooks a requirement?

While a physical textbook may not be required for a class, it might be worth it to buy a physical copy of a textbook secondhand—either online or from an upperclassman—if you know that you’ll be using those concepts going forward in your academic career. However, it’s more than possible to get by with an e-book, or to (hint, hint) not buy a textbook at all.

What’s coterm? Is it a good option for me?

Coterm is a way to fast-track a graduate degree alongside your undergraduate education—and keep your undergraduate financial aid. A majority of RPI’s master’s programs are available through this time-saving route, and your graduate degree doesn’t necessarily have to align with your undergraduate one (though it may be more convenient that way). The choice to pursue the coterm program depends entirely on your future plans, and you should tailor your degree(s) to prepare you for these goals. At the end of the day, the coterm application isn’t due until the first semester of your senior year, so don’t let it stress you out as a first-year.

What’s the deal with the VPN?

RPI has heightened its cybersecurity in the wake of a cyberattack this Spring. If you find yourself off-campus, like over a break, many RPI-specific online functions like accessing email now require use of the VPN, which can be difficult to set up. Follow these comprehensive instructions provided by the IT Services and Support Center if you haven’t already.

Administrative affairs

Is it true that the school is in debt?

Compared to its peer institutions, RPI has a poor credit rating: a BBB+ from Standard and Poor’s. This downgrade from A- happened in 2017, and RPI’s credit outlook changed from “Stable” to “Negative” in April 2020. While the pandemic was the reason for the 2020 change, RPI’s high debt burden was cited for the 2017 decrease. To read more about this topic, visit Renew Rensselaer.

Why do people not like President Shirley Ann Jackson?

We answered a very similar question in our What the Class of 2023 wants to know article. In a nutshell, many students, especially upperclassmen, feel like our voices have been and continue to go unheard by the President and her administrators. President Jackson has been at Rensselaer for over two decades, three times longer than the average tenure of her peers, and her pay has topped the list of highest-paid college presidents for several of those years. We wish her relationship with students and our concerns reflected this level of experience and compensation.