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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions Fall 2014

Q: What are my chances of getting a Teaching Assistant (TA) after I arrive?
A: Getting a TA after arrival is very unpredictable. Last fall, 2 students were given a TA after they arrived on campus and 14 were given TA's in the spring. To apply for a TA, you should bring updated resume copies with you showing pursuit of the MS in IT (and your concentration if you already know it.) You should plan to arrive several weeks before classes start since there is required special training for TAs that usually happens about a week before classes start. Once you are here, I will give you the contact information of other departments that will accept resumes. Departments do not want them in advance since they don't know *if* they will have openings.

Q: What is the possibility of getting a Teaching Assistant (TA) after one semester?
A: It does happen. This spring, 14 students got Spring TAs. Our department's IT awards are given for both terms so we have no spare awards in the Spring. There are many self funded students both in our department and particularly other self-funded students for the MS in Electrical, Computer & Systems Engineering, that the competition to get any assistantships that do happen to open up is very high.

Q: Do I have to prove funding for 2 or 3 semesters of study to obtain my I-20?
A: RPI requires proof of a minimum of $64,680 (This is and estimate for the The AY 2014/15). Since many master's students stay for 3 terms, the Admissions Office usually does not issue I-20's when the documents provided show the minimum only. They look individually at the amount of money and type of sponsorship a student presents and then they make their decision about whether or not the student will likely be able to fund 3 terms. You should present the most amount of money you have available to you - even if it is from several sources. If you have been approved for a loan, you can show a combination of the loan approval amount and a bank balance.

Q: The Admissions Office has asked for my diploma. I am not yet done with my degree. Will that hold up my I-20?
A: No, it will not delay the I-20. You should plan to mail an official copy of the final courses and grades and the diploma itself as soon as you get it....OR .... many students bring final grades and diplomas with them. It is OK to give the official final results after you arrive here.

Q: Am I locked into the concentration that I put on my application?
A: Absolutely not. Many, many students change concentrations after they arrive and get detailed advisement from me and from current students.

Q: When do I need to confirm my intention to join RPI?
A: As a practical matter to have time to get your visa, I would suggest confirming no later than the end of April. We have confirmed students after that date, but it is a bit of a gamble to work everything out in time to get on the plane. The confirmation form is on-line at:

Q: How do I get my I-20?
A: With your Admissions packet from the main office was a sheet titled: Graduate Enrollment Checklist. This gives the details of how to prove funding and get the I-20. Bank statements must be dated within 3 months of your request for an I-20. So if you sent bank statement back in November, you would need to provide updated ones.

Q: What is the availability of on-campus jobs and other financial aid?
A: Some of our students do take jobs on campus, e.g. in the library, food services. However, the amount of money earned is quite small since pay is hourly - it can buy some food but it is not enough to pay tuition. The Director of International Student Services monitors who qualifies. There is no other type of partial financial aid available to Graduate Students.

Q: Am I required to complete the degree in 2 terms if I do Not have a Teaching Assistant (TA) position?
A: It is the students choice to complete the degree in 2 or 3 terms. Students without full time work experience are encouraged to stay for 3 terms so they qualify to do an internship after the first two terms. Students with work experience have been successful in getting job offers based on their prior work experience and the fact that they will complete the MS in IT at RPI. The decision is also a matter of resources....if you can afford 3 terms, that's a very user-friendly way to do the degree.

Q: How much do internships pay? Are they guaranteed?
A: Usually, internships are a percentage of an annual salary, depending on how many weeks or months you work for the company. The amount varies but I would say a typical amount would be a split of 50-60K. Interns typically want to go home for a month after exams end, so they end up working for at least two full months. Frequently, interns get relocation money it actually works depends on the company's policies. Internships can be as short as two months or extended (if the company agrees) for up to 11 months and 3 weeks. It need to be less than a year, so it counts as your Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and not the Optional Practical Training year (OPT) that you can do after you complete the degree.

Internships are not guaranteed but we have not had any students who wanted one and did not get one. We only admit highly qualified people.

Q: Do I have to pay for the whole year in advance?
A: No, billing is done by semester. If you stay for 3 terms, you pay separately for each term. There is a monthly payment plan available. It is described on the "Bursar's" site here:

Q: How much is the average living cost?
A: Living costs vary greatly by how many roommates you have, what type of apartment you choose, etc. Troy is a small town with plenty of student housing so rents are usually reasonable. The Indian Student Association and the Chinese Students Association may be able to help with ideas or

Q: How do I get from the airport to Troy and where would I stay for the first few days?
A: Usually, the ISA or CSA can help with this. Someone helped those members when they arrived and it is expected that continuing members will help new students in turn.

Q: How difficult is it to complete the course in one year?
A: To take 5 graduate courses each term is quite a load. Most likely you will be in class or studying and writing papers, doing projects for some part of most nights and most week-ends. The amazing part to me is that you do this for a total of only 9 months and you have a master's degree and a good probability of getting a job in the US. This does not mean you won't have some fun. The student population from India and China is quite large here and you should expect some diversion too. Remember my earlier comment though...if you don't have work experience, the 3 term program with an internship is a better bet since you can take 4 courses per term and even complete two concentrations over the 3 semesters.

Q: When are the Career Fairs held and what does the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) do to help me get a job?
A: The first big Career Fair is usually the last weekend of September and another big one is the middle of February. The Center for Career and Professional Development has a wealth of information and resources including information on both career fairs:

Q. How well do international students do in placement? Is their help with placement?
A. We have enjoyed nearly a 100% placement of our international students including the group that graduated in December 2013. Most international students do find their jobs using the services of CCPD where companies post their openings and interview on campus as opposed to applying directly to companies. The average salary for our 2013 graduates, most of whom were internationals, was $99,000.

Q: Does RPI defer admission?
A: Rensselaer does not "defer" admission. Students need to re-apply, pay another application fee, and get reviewed again for admission. The purpose of the re-apply part is to have updated contact and activity information, e.g. to know what the student will be doing during the extra year. You would NOT need to repeat transcripts, tests, references. You will need to submit a new Statement of Background and Goals and a new resume to reflect what it is you do with your next year. One additional new reference is required also - again with the idea of having someone with the most recent contact with you comment on your current abilities. The recommended time to submit the application again would be by the end of December - and by then you will have a better idea of what to put in the new Statement and what your updated contact information will be. The purpose of getting reviewed for admissions again is that we want a certain size class and, for example, if we got triple the number of applications next year, we would take the top group. However, assuming about the same number of applications, students who were previously admitted are very likely to get admitted again.

Q: Tell me more about financial aid?
A: The only funding we offer is a Teaching Assistantship that fully covers tuition and provides a salary for the first two terms of the program. TA's stay for 3 terms and fund the last term themselves. As you can imagine, the competition is very high for these awards. The MSIT program does not offer any other form of financial aid. Most MS IT students will self fund the degree as an investment in their future careers with every expectation that they will get a great return on that investment. We continue to have nearly 100% placement of our graduates including our international students, so we know it is working.

Q: Tell me more about work experience?
A: It is not required. About half our incoming students will have some. The other half will enroll right after finishing their bachelor's degree.

Q: Tell me more about supplemental materials.
A: The end of the calendar year will not have as much effect on the processing of mailed credentials as will the fact that thousands of pieces of paper arrive and are scanned into the on-line system during late December and throughout January. You should be able to check the status of your application on line. We expect to make most of our admissions decisions by the end of February and our financial aid decisions by the end of March.

Q: Can I change programs after I arrive?
A: The decision rests with each department with final approval by the Dean of Graduate Education. So, while it sometimes happens, you can NOT count on it being approved and you need to be fully committed to the program you first choose in case the second department or the Dean will not allow the change.

Q: I missed the published application deadline, can I still apply?
A: The published deadline by the main Admissions Office is January 1st. You can apply after that and your application will still be processed but it is important for you to have all your materials here - both the on line submission and the mailed items, e.g. your transcripts, before the end of January to ensure the best position to compete for admission and financial aid. We suggest that you try to get all the materials here before the end of January. You must submit the application itself, your goals statement, and your resume on line. Your recommenders can also submit their references on line or you/they can choose to send them in sealed envelopes with any other credentials like transcripts that you are mailing to RPI. Once you apply on line, you can check the status of when materials are received on line as well.

Q: What can you tell me about the course listing?
A: For the most part, the courses you see on the RPI web site are the most recent offerings. Having said that, there are two other considerations for you. Each term, RPI professors create new courses usually around the very latest research and practice in their fields. These courses are not in the catalog.

Q: Can I do an independent study?
A: For some very lucky students with advanced backgrounds, there may be the possibility of independent study with faculty. This is entirely at the discretion of the faculty and NOT something you can fully count on doing, but some students every term are able to find a match with individual faculty. This generally does not occur in the first term - more likely after the student is here and has some record of achievement here.

Q: Can I transfer courses?
A: The MS in IT accepts transfer for only the one "elective" course in the program and does not accept transfer for the core courses (like Database Systems) or the concentration courses. All transfer credit is subject to approval by the department and also the Dean of Graduate Education.

Q: I had been an active student in Rensselaer's MSIT program but I took a few semesters off. My status at Rensselaer was changed such that I could not register for the current semester unless I re-applied as an incoming student. What do I need to do?
A: The "re-apply" process here at RPI is basically that the student fills out a new application, pays a new fee, submits a new reference, a new Statement of Background and Goals, a new resume and any transcripts of study taken since they applied the first time. The only things the Admissions office does not require them to repeat are recent transcripts and tests, unless the test scores are out of date.

Q: Can you share some common web site links that prospective students visit?
A: Below are some common links
Link #1: Programs and Degrees Offered

Link #2: Application Instructions and Link to Online Application

Link #3: Additional instructions for international applicants

Link #4: Sources of funding for graduate students

Q: How can I find details on faculty interest and research?
A: You will be well served to visit the department's website and read about their programs and faculty. Once you have determined the faculty engaged in research in your specific area of interest, you should contact the faculty and start a dialogue with the faculty. Should you be reluctant to contact the faculty directly, contact Lessa Shear ( who will be happy to help facilitate the connection.

Q: How can I get additional information and materials via the mail?
A: Please complete the inquiry form so we can provide you additional important information concerning Rensselaer graduate programs.

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