RPI of old(one view), note to those considering technical institutes in general.

@EightiesParent Thank you for you thoughtful reflections. I attended undergrad in the early 80s (not RPI) and much of what you say resonates. If you read some recent threads here you will see some comments about RPI of the past, when you attended, being a solid peer of MIT and Cornell among others, vs now where some question its rank, quality, cost and value. What was the perception in the 80s, and if you are in a technical field, how is it viewed now. Any other insights would be appreciated.


I too wonder things have changed with even institutions like RPI trying to survive.

An under-looked aspect of RPI in relation to colleges with more balanced curricula might pertain to entering scores on the math portion of the SAT. At this time, even RPI’s rarefied math range registers pretty similarly to that of top liberal arts colleges. For students who have an interest in quantitative fields such as math, chemistry and physics; see the benefit of an association with intellectual peers; and value teaching, it seems that colleges outside of the tech-focused group might offer an appealing alternative.

@Spark2018, when I attended in the 80’s, RPI indeed did have a more prestigious reputation than it does currently(though, it’s still pretty highly regarded), in fact I turned down an Ivy to go there. What I’ve gleaned since is that RPI was not the only such technical school to have a reputation for a grim educational program. Those who did it on the level truly did achieve something, yet many of my RPI friends who studied hard and did well at RPI do not harbor especially warm feelings for it. While I’m in tech, I’m not close enough today to the hiring of recent grads to know what the current view of RPI is. However, about 10 years ago my company hired a recent RPI grad, and he was highly thought of by his managers and peers. My former employer, a large, well known networking company, still regularly recuits there.

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What is the difference compared to a student in a top engineering school within a comprehensive university?

@TomSrOfBoston LOL when I saw you pop up. Let’s cut to the chase … Yes, Northeastern is a great school, no doubt. When we were applying their your insights were of great assistance.

I think the comments of EP apply equally to any STEM major. As an engineering major in the 70’s at Ohio State we were required to schedule a non-credit engineering orientation class that met for about 5 times. It was there in a lecture we got the talk, “Look to your right. Look to your left. Only one of you will graduate with an engineering degree” I understand this was not unique to OSU but it was uncannily accurate.

@EightiesParent no one should pay to go to a school you described.

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As @EightiesParent mentioned, many students who wanted to leave, has too lousy of grades to transfer to a relatively comparable college.

What CollegeGrad79 is referring to is called failing in. Students end up staying to get a degree, any degree, whether they or not they like the field or are miserable/happy. It can be masked by only reporting avg GPA and sophomore retention measured by returning for the second year.

Hadn’t heard of the term “failing in.” Had quite a few friends who did though.

i knew a lot of folks back in the day (mid-80s) that “failed-in” and indeed that was what we called it. i think the overall environment in most schools is more student friendly than it was way back then. There is much more info available on-line and schools have had to become somewhat gentler in their approach because of it. It’s also much easier for a current student to at least consider transfer than it was pre-internet. Now a student can do leg work all online and at least see if they would be accepted as a transfer . .

@eightiesparent @spark2018 Your beliefs about RPI quality don’t appear to be supported by actual rankings. I’m not sure if this is good or bad but you give the impression that RPI is sinking-at least relative to its standing in the (I’m guessing here) 1980s. I don’t think the actual ratings which are based largely on reputation support that amount of swing.

In 1983 it appears that US news did not rank RPI-perhaps they only ranked the top 25 schools. At that time they were ranking CalTech at 12, CMU at 13 and MIT at 10. in 1996, apparently the first time RPI made the list (which was apparently extended), RPI was ranked at 39 but the following year it disappears, suggesting that it fell below the top 50. It reappears the following year at 48. From then until 2004 it hovered in the 40’s. MIT and CalTech stayed mostly in the single digits while CMU was mostly in the low 20s although it occasionally fell to 28. Between the years 2008 and 2015 RPI had an average rating of 42.75-with ratings as high as 41 but hitting 50 once (2012). During that same interval, MIT averaged 5.9, CalTech averaged 7.1 and CMU averaged 22.9.

Reputation is notoriously hard to change quickly. I don’t think RPI’s reputation has tanked. In fact I think it has gotten a bit stronger. It is highly ranked regardless.


Tech schools like RPI can appeal to those students who really want a school that is more singularly directed in tech and the sciences. I knew students who felt they finally found a place for themselves when they arrived at schools like RPI, MIT, Harvey Mudd, Cal Tech, Stevens, etc. They found a larger core of people like themselves with similar interests. Some of them had suffered terribly in highschool because they did not fit into the mainstream culture and these school provided a haven of sorts to them.

There can also be a camaraderie to get through the intense curriculums these schools have, when there are so many students all on the same track. With those schools that have a large variety of offerings, it can be a distraction, temptation, problem to be in the other courses of study, taking those courses with the same sort of students and issues that were problematic.

These schools, however, are rigorous and have a type of culture that is not for everyone. And if you don’t do well at college, your transfer options can be limited Schools like RPI often have steep grading curves. Non tech majors may still not meet the desires of some students who really want out of the environment and into a more mainstream general education type school.

@lostaccount Please read my other posts. I’m out here defending against what I consider suspect criticism.

Has anyone in this thread heard of the Square Root Club? At the Toot, it was when the square root of your semester GPA was larger than your real GPA. For non-STEM folks, this means your semester GPA was less than 1. For those who took Complex Variables, it could only be worse if your GPA was imaginary.

I remember helping my fraternity brothers and in some cases pledges either avoid or get out of the square-root club. (In the 80’s).

@StudentsR1st We were just telling our son last week about the test files all the frats had in the late '70s.

@CollegeGrad79 I thought the bad tests were just as helpful as the good. At some point houses were told requiring pledges to show us their tests and attend study sessions was hazing. It singled out the pledges. We did support each other and sometimes a few houses would work together.