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Honest Review of RPI After 5 Years

randomdude532randomdude532 33 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
I am the original writer of the “Honest Review of RPI after 2 years” and feel fortunate with how much attention it received and how many future college students/parents reached out to me with further questions. My intention was to provide a very non-bias review based on my observations and common opinions amongst my peers. I believe it is very important for future college students to know what it is like to attend their school of interest without the rose-tinted vision many schools will present to you on visits or in emails.

Now, after 5 years, I have finally graduated and decided to write a detailed follow-up review to my original. I feel the original has held up rather well and many of my opinions about the school have stayed the same, this is the link:

https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/rensselaer-polytechnic-institute/1775840-honest-review-of-rpi-after-2-years-p1.html

I have also seen and experienced a lot more of RPI since then, and feel I can provide a much more complete review now that I have graduated. I will skim over many of the things I feel are still accurate about my old review and going into depth about the new things I have discovered since 3 years ago. I will start with the strengths of the school and work down toward it’s weaknesses, I would also like to apologize ahead of time for my questionable writing skills.

Background: Spent 5 years at RPI getting my bachelors and masters in Biomedical Engineering (BME) through the co-terminal program and was heavily involved with athletics. I spent a summer doing research off-campus, 2 summers at internships in a large biotech company, 2 semesters doing on-campus research and currently have a job with a large medical device firm. If you are interested in knowing more about my background or BME please feel free to message me or comment in the thread.

Social Life: Very little has changed except the guy/girl ratio gets closer to 50/50 (last class was supposedly 60/40?), the class sizes also have been dramatically increasing which makes it easier to find and meet extraverted people on campus. The administration is seriously cracking down on Greek life so access to the parties that they throw has been limited, which is unfortunate because it was a big social scene for a large part of the RPI campus.

The people you meet here will be some of the best friends you ever make without a doubt. It is amazing how much time my friends and I spent whining about how difficult our classes were and how much the gender ratio sucked etc etc, and we now are all graduated looking back like, “wow we had a great time and met a lot of amazing people”. This opinion is held amongst almost all my friends and many of us occasionally wish we could trade in our nice paying engineering jobs to all live together in some dingy house drinking cheap beer again. The student culture that I experienced at RPI was generally amazing, with many friends being way smarter than me willing to help me out in difficult classes. That being said, experience will vary depending on who you surround yourself with. Most people are generally at least a little nerdy but everyone comes from a different background and have different interests which makes it exciting. My only complaint is that there is a certain group of individuals that are overly competitive and are completely opposed being collaborative. It is a decent STEM school so I guess this is to be expected, but watch out for these people.
As I mentioned in my previous review, you have to try to be social as your mom won’t be signing you up extra-curriculars anymore. I was fortunate to meet great people through my freshman dorm and sports team but if you aren’t part of an athletics team you should definitely attend as many extra-curricular or greek life events to see where you like best. Everyone is very welcoming of freshmen which is the complete opposite of culture on many other college campuses.

Academics: It’s tough, but the general rule of thumb is if you study hard then you will be fine. I came in to RPI with something very far from a sparkling high school transcript and did pretty well in the GPA department because I worked my ass off while being involved with a varsity sport. Many of my professors were incredibly approachable and helpful especially during office hours. Most of them were incredible teachers as well as being well known in their respective fields. My only complaint is that there are a few classes which reuse a similar test every year, so the people who have access to those previous tests (we call them backtests) will get an A or B while people left out in the cold won’t do as well. Most people are pretty open with sharing backtests but certain individuals will not be…

At this point we move into the more negative side of my review:

Job Placement/Career Opportunities: To preface this, I believe this is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect to be considered when looking at STEM schools. Career placement ultimately is an indicator of how desirable the school’s graduates are in industry and many people major in STEM fields to be very employable (and make good money too).

The one redeeming quality here is that RPI is a generally well respected school amongst engineering firms. Now to the bad...I could probably write a 10 page article about this to be honest so I’m not sure where to start. First, look at the RPI placement rate. It is 84% after over 12 months post graduation, which basically means that 16% of graduates from the “prestigious” RPI are unemployed. If you look at many peer institutions such as Case Western, URochester, RIT, Stevens Tech, Purdue, WPI, all have placement rates of >94%, that is a significant difference. It is really is difficult to argue against this point, as all these schools use the same exact metric as RPI for placement rates. You would hate to spend that ~$70k/year to go to RPI then not be able to find a job, right? This poor career placement spreads its way into not only full-time jobs but also internship and co-op opportunities for students, many of whom will just bum around over the summer after trying to find professional internships. Personally, all of my internship and full-time job experience was found completely independent of RPI because I was extremely fortunate to have some very strong connections in the industry. Now, I believe RPI has some of the best and hardest working students in the country so, why is the placement so poor?

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Replies to: Honest Review of RPI After 5 Years

  • cfsnowycfsnowy 122 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 123 Junior Member
    Thanks for writing this. Help with job placement has been rumbling around in my head for awhile, and your experience confirmed my suspicions. Placement efforts work best at the academic department level, and ought to be part of a faculty member's job description. A centralized, standalone "Career Placement Center" doesn't serve its students as well as it might, as you discovered. That didn't work for me back in the Dark Ages, and it doesn't work now.

    I'd be interested to know about colleges with good departmental internship/job help, so fire away folks. One that comes to mind right away is Lebanon Valley College.

    Regarding the poor administration, I've come to believe that's the sort of thing that happens when you have a bunch of poorly-educated MBAs trying to run an academic institution like a business. It's also a major factor in why universities have become so expensive: all those administrators with "graduate" degrees have to get paid somehow. I highly doubt RPI is alone in this regard.
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  • randomdude532randomdude532 33 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    You are totally right, my theory is that career "assistance" should run inside each academic department. So like biomedical engineering would have a person dedicated to working with medical device companies/alumni in the field on connecting their students to the right people. People at our career department couldn't even name 3 medical device companies. But it was ultimately shocking to me how little support there was considering the systems that I know exist at many other schools.

    Regarding the administration, I agree with a lot of that but inflated school prices is also probably related to the increasingly inflated size of the school administration. Many of them are completely out of touch with the student body and serve very little purpose but are there because they have some title which can be perceived to serve a purpose.
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  • blevineblevine 851 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 880 Member
    edited July 2018
    Have a son at rpi and an Ivy.
    My son did get an internship offer from the on campus rpi career fair soph year.
    Yes smaller less known employer but great opportunity. Many of the best work is at smaller lesser known companies.

    Other son at Ivy, career fairs are huge but even they report that the vast majority of job offers come from outside the career fair. They advise the career fair should be only a portion of your job search.

    Location and size of RPI is going to limit on campus recruiting, but that will be true of many colleges.
    That does not take away from the quality of education. Yes the admin at roi is bare bones, better they spend the $ on profs not admins. Wouldn’t help that much anyway.
    edited July 2018
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  • randomdude532randomdude532 33 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    @reformedman I appreciate that you support RPI, but frankly, you never actually attended the school. You can "pick-on" whatever points you want but you have one son that has probably attended the school for 2 years...not a great sample size there. After attending the school for 5 years, my opinions on the post above include many common opinions of my peers. Maybe let your first son graduate and get his opinions before sending your next two kids to RPI as well.

    The placement rates I posted are what is posted on each school's career pages that are all publicly available from 2017. Feel free to go look at school's career websites and their placement rates, please post any peer schools that show a lower placement rate (I have looked long and hard for one lower). I agree that it isn't the most accurate of metrics considering you really should be looking a major specific placement rates, but is the reason why I included a more liberal arts school (URochester), public school (Purdue) and tech schools. It shows a clear disconnect of RPI with industry and the placement rates are significantly different. Now, certain majors at RPI have pretty great placement rates, but those majors have great placement rates everywhere such as computer science or electrical engineering. Many of their majors have terrible placement rates in industry...I know many BMEs that have been looking for a job for over a year.
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  • reformedmanreformedman 416 replies28 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 444 Member
    With regard to how my son 'feels' about attending there has nothing to do with my disagreement; I wasn't disagreeing with how you feel about and wrote that some kids like party schools some don't and that's fine. My issue with your post were the data and how they infer a negative impact on a decision for RPI. You could have posted the opinions of every single disgruntled student there and the 'sample size' as you put it would have nothing to do with what the facts are. I was pointing only to statistics.

    I know that you posted the placement rate from 2017 and I saw the 84% posted in my sources as well. The reason I didn't use 2017 in my post which would have actually refuted your position even more, was because I couldn't find stats for 2017 on more of that list of schools. There was more data available in the 2016 sources for them.

    You asked me to go and look at the job placement rates and to see if I could find a peer institution with lower placement rates than that of RPI, did you not read the list I posted? Albeit for 2016, you will see that RPI had 63%, Cornell had 62%, Standford had 50%, and URochester had 39%.

    It doesn't seem you're understanding the intention of my original post so I will try to TLDR;
    I understand the 'fit' of RPI was for you and for many others because you want a different vibe. It can get boring up in Troy.
    I believe that the stats on job placement is a bogus one to try to convince a person that a school isn't worth it's salt.
    Job placement rates at various schools are weighted according to what each teach, types of student agressiveness (alpha or beta types), company networking with career fairs, location of student with industry locations, etc. I believe you can't judge a school by job placement just look at Dartmouth in 2016 with 56%, or Notre Dame at 62% compared to RPI at 63%.

    [note: keep in mind all my data is for 2016 and job placement within 6 months.]
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  • shuttlebusshuttlebus 438 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 439 Member
    @randomdude532 "Now, certain majors at RPI have pretty great placement rates, but those majors have great placement rates everywhere such as computer science or electrical engineering. Many of their majors have terrible placement rates in industry...I know many BMEs that have been looking for a job for over a year."

    One of my kids was thinking about majoring in BME, but was advised by a couple of individuals working in the field that he would be more marketable if he got either an EE or ME degree and then went back for a masters with a concentration in BME. This was five years ago now, but at that time, he was told that kids coming out of undergrad with BME's were having a more difficult job search when compared to the undergrads from other engineering disciplines. Is it possible that BME placement with just a bachelors degree is more difficult everywhere and this situation in not unique to RPI?
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  • randomdude532randomdude532 33 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    edited July 2018
    @reformedman This data was taken directly from the respective school's career websites, the school's career centers are in charge of taking the surveys to produce placement data that you see. For example search "stevens tech career outcomes" or "university of rochester career outcomes" and will link you directly to the source of what you are looking for. The placement rates you posted are not directly from the school's career websites and I have not received any other resource trying to get information on school attendance and if I got a job or not. Which means that the only resource that collects this information is directly from the school.

    @shuttlebus You are completely right, a few of the majors are generally more difficult to employ across the country (like BME) but many engineering schools offer the degree and produce rather high placement rates for them. Just review various school's career websites as I described above.

    I'm not going out of my way to try to discredit RPI here, I loved my time there and wish many of the things I observed and experienced there just weren't true. It is a ~$70k/year private school and does not offer many of the benefits you would expect from a private school of it's caliber while also not offering any of the benefits of attending a larger university.
    edited July 2018
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  • annamomannamom 1304 replies145 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,449 Senior Member
    @randomdude532 thank you for the review. My kid, an incoming freshman, loves the college. However, you confirmed what I suspected. The brother of my kid's friend just graduated with a CS degree and is still looking for work. Not sure whether it is because he is not on Dean's list. He told my kid that that GPA did not matter because of the RPI reputation. I doubt.
    I am also concerned with summer ARCH. I think students normally find internship during the 2nd and/or 3rd summer. With the Summer Arch, they lose the opportunity to get internship during the summer after sophomore year. Now, they can only look for internship during junior year.

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  • Engineer80Engineer80 452 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 452 Member
    edited July 2018
    @randomdude532 - The placement rate for biomedical engineering for the most recent (2017) graduating class at Stevens was 93%, both for full time industry placement and those attending graduate school full time. At six months after graduation for the previous class (2016), across all majors, 97% were employed.

    When I was with Bell Labs, GPA was a major factor in hiring new graduates. That was also the case in the aerospace manufacturers I worked with subsequently. I have seen MIT graduates with 2.6-3.2 averages being passed over in favor of state university graduates with 3.9s-4.0s for example. While the reputation of the school is a definite factor, a blanket statement inferring one will have the same opportunities with a low GPA as one with a high GPA solely because of the perceived reputation of the school is misleading at best and very bad advice.

    https://www.stevens.edu/sites/stevens_edu/files/files/Career/Class of 2017 Outcomes Report_Final.pdf
    edited July 2018
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  • annamomannamom 1304 replies145 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,449 Senior Member
    @Engineer80 the comment about RPI's reputation makes up for a low GPA came from me, parent of a freshman who has doubt about it. I posted previously as well.
    When my kid visited, she heard many kids have low GPA and was told it was expected for an engineering school. She asked her friend's brother, he again told her that RPI reputation would make up for the low GPA as people would know RPI was difficult. However, @reformedman posted the Dean's list and I found out that the friend's brother was not on it and based on my calculation, there were around 1/4 of the student body in the dean's list. The friend's brother just graduated in May with a CS degree and is still looking for job. I told my kid that it was a bad advice.
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  • annamomannamom 1304 replies145 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,449 Senior Member
    BTW, based on what my kid told me, the male/female ratio is 70/30 for the incoming class.
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  • Engineer80Engineer80 452 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 452 Member
    edited July 2018
    If MIT graduates with 2.6-3.0 GPAs were being passed over in favor of state university graduates with 3.9s (and the former certainly qualifies as a "difficult" school - all engineering schools are difficult BTW), then that advice is certainly bad advice.

    Computer science is a very hot field right now - it's hard to believe that one with a CS degree from a good school like RPI can't find a job immediately or even prior to graduation.
    edited July 2018
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  • CTScoutmomCTScoutmom 1925 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,934 Senior Member
    Classes at RPI are tough, but they are tough elsewhere as well. Those schools with 95+% job placement also have "low" GPA students, yet they have jobs.

    My rising Junior daughter wants to study engineering, and currently attends an engineering magnet school (so she knows she enjoys it). Academically, RPI would be fine (I was accepted early to MIT, and ended up choosing to attend RPI instead, my husband is an alumnus as well). We are more concerned with the situation involving the President, and the attempt to take control of the student union. Having attended in the 80's we experienced a well-run student union, that supported a myriad of activities. The heavy-handed tactics of the President make me feel that the culture at RPI could be heading more in the direction of MIT, without quite the same rigor or reputation. The culture was one of the main factors that impacted my choice.
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