Now that summer is over, how did the ARCH program go?

Just wondering if there are any firsthand comments from students or parents of students about how things played out? Thanks!

I’m a current mechanical engineering student who just did arch and have fall off and here are my experiences:

-tried to get an internship, applied to 64 places with absolutely zero success (like hundreds of other students)

-was forced into an individual learning experience instead of having a normal break semester where you don’t have to report back to the school, the arch people then lost my paperwork and did not contact me for 2 months with an email that threatened to remove me from registration for spring classes.

-the “recovery semester” option for an away semester was removed, despite what the administration previously said. I need to work on away semesters to help pay for living expenses and having to portray my dead end job as an “individual learning experience” was sub optimal.

  • certain classes are not compatible with the condensed schedule, regardless of class size. lab based courses such as electronic instrumentation ( which was condensed from 16 weeks to 6 weeks) where incredibly stressful and there was simply too much material to cover in the time frame, let alone to asses students understanding of it. The quality of learning was lower than a normal semester.

-The hours of campus facilities where compromised, gym hours and library hours in particular where restrictive and difficult to work around. Sage was the only open dining hall, and since someone decided that everyone on campus, including a multitude of youth camps, should have lunch at the same time, there was rarely any space at all to sit down and eat. Also,having to be on the meal plan for an extra semester genuinely sucked.

  • there where no study days for final exams for the arch
  • campus moral was depressingly low, i think making the arch mandatory was the prime cause. I am certain some people could genuinely benefit from the program, but having to go to rpi over the summer is just not a good time, especially in conjunction with the decimation of the already weak social environment by the alcohol ban and greek life mess. In isolation , imagine any school banning booze and making you come to school over summer, its honestly some bad 80's movie tier stuff

@rpijuniorish Thank you for your response. I’m sorry your experience was so negative. My daughter is a senior this year so we are just trying to gather info as she starts applying to schools. I appreciate you taking your time answer! Do you know if the school is taking into account the students experiences and trying to make changes?

I dont know about specific steps, but the same inherent issues with arch seem to still be present for next summer. The program is still mandatory and near impossible to get an exemption for unless you are ROTC or an athlete. However, they MAYBE could get rid of 6 week courses and have better facilities hours, but that probably wont happen. This type of administrative mess seems pretty common in most colleges, but the negative impact on student life and quality of learning is unusually large and I wish I had received more accurate information from RPI in regards to the arch. My advice would be not to completely discount RPI on your college hunt, but if you choose between RPI and a comparable school for a STEM field, I would highly advice going to the other school because RPI just doesn’t really offer anything special other than a hard to pronounce name, exorbitant tuition costs, and a unusually pitiful social environment.

@travelfamily I was at an RPI open house event last weekend and went to a panel on ARCH. They did talk about a few issues raised above (meal plan options, building hours, TA availability evenings and weekend) that they are working on improving next summer. They also mentioned a few things like working with local Troy landlords to have a 6 month lease option instead of 12 months. It sounds like they are trying to address many of the issues that weren’t ideal this summer. They did two small scale pilot programs, but this was the first year of full implementation, so there are going to be areas of improvement. They have done several surveys (pre and post) of the students.

@MA2012 If you believe everything the RPI administration says, you are in for a big surprise. They have rarely followed up on their promises for the past decade and have been shady to say the least. Has anyone acquired statistics on the placement rate of the first Arch? This info will not be released cause placement was <30% into actual co-ops or else they force you into an on-campus individual learning experience (not paid of course and you have to pay for another semester of housing). Arch was, without a doubt, a disaster on many fronts and the fact they aren’t making it optional for another 3-4 years to work out the kinks is beyond me. Meal plan, building hours and TA availability are the least of Arch’s concerns when they can’t work out housing, course schedules or co-op placement.

@randomdude532 What are students doing to get co-ops and internships? Colleges don’t “place” students into positions. It’s up to the student to seek out opportunities. The career center is there to help with resumes, interviews, networking, career advice, and leads. But ultimately, it’s on the student. No one will hand you an internship, co-op, or job.

It doesn’t sound like the internships are well planned for the fall semester. At my daughter’s school, most internships or co-ops ran from June (or even May) through Dec and the student returned for the next semester in early Jan, or from Jan to Aug and the student returned in Aug for the fall semester. The school had a schedule for the co-op programs so the it was possible to do 2-3 full co-ops and graduate in 4 years plus one summer (many students took longer because they liked their co-ops and stayed longer before returning to school) The goal was at least 7 months, usually 8. RPI students have to take classes in the summer so those internships are only 4-5 months. I can see why employers aren’t lining up to take student interns just for the fall semester when they can get students from other schools for 8 months.

My D’s co-ops run on semesters - one semester on, one semester off, so a Fall semester wouldn’t necessarily be problematic but it depends on the course sequencing for one’s major how that impacts graduation. That said, D’s able to add an extended summer term to her 3 term co-op so she would could technically work an entire school year consecutively (spring, summer, fall term of her junior into senior year) which wouldn’t be possible at RPI. Unfortunately ARCH was one of the reason she declined her admission to RPI.

@MA2012 We were also at the RPI open house last weekend. My husband went to the ARCH session while my daughter and I attended the Women at RPI session. He came away with similar information. He also felt that the woman speaking about co-ops and internships gave the impression that they do not find you these positions. They provide career fairs, resume help, etc… but you do the work of finding your own position yourself. I don’t know if this is typical or not for other schools. I do know that 3/4 of the women in the Women at RPI did have co-ops or internships. The one who didn’t was a physics major (as my daughter would be) and she did on campus research. But, of course, I do understand that they are presenting us with the students who have the best, most successful stories. My daughter left the school feeling conflicted on her feelings toward the school. It is still in the running along with 8 other schools, so she will have to weigh all the pros and cons come decision time. I do feel like collecting all the good and bad stories wil be beneficial in helping her make a decision- best to go in with eyes wide open.

@twoinanddone RPI semester away can be fall or spring, so one could go Jan-June or even Aug for a longer co-op. Fall could work for research, study abroad or a shorter co-op or internship position. I’ve seen reference to 3-4 month co-ops as well as 6 month, so it will vary by company.

Schools which require a co-op, study abroad etc usually do more to place students than those schools in which it is optional. From what I have read RPI is still treating it as optional when it is semi-required. By semi-required I mean RPI claims ARCH allows students to seek co-ops and study abroad opportunities. In fairness RPI offers other self-growth opportunities, including going back home and either volunteering or getting a job unrelated to one’s major. Given that work-study is unlikely for students choosing to do research on their “away term”, they should be paid and have any associated tuition waived. For example 4 credits usually equates to 12-16 hours of work per week. RPI should not charge for these credits if the student is doing the research as part of their “away term”. Additionally there should be funds available to pay students so the “away term” is at a minimum cost neutral (no cost to student). Arch should not be a way for RPI to get more $ from students than the no-Arch alternative.

@StudentsR1st I think your expectations are unreasonable. My D’s school requires an experiential learning activity for graduation (research, study abroad, internship, or co-op). Students must make that happen however. No one is going to give them that needed experience. They will receive guidance from the appropriate departments in securing opportunities if they seek it out, but that’s it. It’s not any school’s responsibility to find you an internship or co-op.

@itsgettingreal17 I’m a parent out here with a 10th grader. RPI is a school on his list to consider. The ARCH co-op process comes across as not ready for primetime. A comparable school is Northeastern, which has a co-op requirement. Take a look at how well-developed their process is:

My sense is that they do not share a hands-off attitude of, “It’s not any school’s responsibility to find you an internship or co-op.” It appears they invest heavily in helping students get co-ops.

Of course, NEU has been at it for years, so they have their game down. My point is that there really is more that RPI can do, and I hope they work to help students land their co-ops. I hope to see increasingly positive reviews of ARCH in the next couple years.

Most universities will make employers aware that they are offering a co-op program and design career fairs around hiring for co-ops. Students currently there said employers are leaving the RPI career fairs because they now can’t hire their expected summer interns (due to Arch), and most employers can’t randomly make available co-op opportunities for a very specific time frame. There are ~1500 students that need co-ops and the RPI administration/career center should have been working with industry the past 2-3 years to make employers aware and make positions available.

@travelfamily they will only present to you the most successful of students, particularly those of whom found something to do for the summer arch because that is the big question parents and potential students are asking about. 4 students is not a large sample size, ask for statistics on what placements the arch students had.

Also, you can’t just spend a semester working your normal summer job if you don’t find a co-op/research. You must register for some type of “learning opportunity” which often involves staying at RPI making $0, paying rent for a summer, working on some bs project you have to design with 0 guidance (no professors). I can imagine many families can’t afford this if they weren’t expecting the expense.

@randomdude532 : Can you give more information about the on-campus research project option? Does this mean students work 40 hrs/wk for free? I know with many funding agencies it is possible to get funding for undergraduate participation based on work-study salaries. Do such students have to live on campus or can they live in Greek Houses or off-campus? Do such students need to participate in the meal plan? Why do you say they are bs projects? Is there a paper required at the end? Do any of the off-campus learning experiences require a paper?

Thanks for your input.

@MA2012, We were also at the RPI medalist open house last Saturday and we went to the ARCH session. I actually stayed after the meeting was over and talked to all of the students on the panel without the school officials present. They all either did internships or research at the university. They mentioned a few inconveniences but overall they said they all benefitted from the ARCH experience. We also spoke to the kids who volunteered on the dorm tours and they all seem to just embrace it without too many complaints. I was told by the kids that when they take the semester off, the only accounting of their time is by writing a paper on what they did, what they learned and how they benefited (no grades). If you go on study abroad program, you have to pay your own and you pay no tuition at RPI for the semester you are away and all the scholarships will be available when the student returns back.

You have to take 12 credits to be a full-time student during the summer. Some kids did this in 6 weeks and some did the entire summer. I was told you could transfer some of the AP class credits towards your summer ARCH, but I am not sure how true that is. Something we have to check if my daughter decides to go here.

Overall, my daughter liked the school and the students we talked to. The only disappointment was we couldn’t speak to any of the club or varsity sports kids.

We liked the campus but were not impressed with Troy.

So I guess the question is what are the benefits of the ARCH program? Students are giving up their big earning summer between soph and jr year and perhaps taking a non-paying co-op or research job fall of jr year. How is this better than other internships or co-ops offered (but usually not required) at other schools?

Really great and civil discussion about ARCH on this thread. On previous threads it got a bit heated (myself included). Like many here I’m optimistic. Yes ARCH has areas to improve and those who have it in the first few years (my student summer '20) won’t have the perfect version, well … welcome to life. If you are looking at RPI your are likely STEM, which means you thrive with working through problems and challenges.

Big fan of posts by @lnrjsp @itsgettingreal17

I just made an account so that I could comment on this post. I’m currently an Aeronautical Engineering student at RPI class of '21. I did the ARCH this summer and am trying to find a co-op for the spring. One of the biggest issues I had with this program was not having my normal summer job. The summer in previous years has been my way of “living” through the next 2 semesters. With RPI’s curriculum, it’s very hard to balance a job and your academics. Another thing is that a lot of companies don’t offer co-ops in the spring so that limits what I’m actually able to apply to. I’ve had friends who had luck finding internships for this fall, but I also have friends who have gotten screwed over because of it. I think the school needs to be more involved with companies to help get students these opportunities. For example, our career fair is this friday and Boeing just dropped out of it. I’m not sure if this is because of the ARCH, but Boeing only offers internships during the summer months. There’s a lot that the school needs to figure out if they want to get positive results and feedback.