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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions Fall 2015

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 copies of your resume copies showing pursuit of the MSIT (include 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, you will be given 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 TA positions. The MSIT program's awards are given for both terms so we have no spare awards in the Spring. There are many self funded students in the MSIT program and other departments on campus, so the competition to get any assistantships is very high.

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 are no other types of partial financial aid available to Graduate Students.

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 MSIT 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: 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: 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 $66,600 (This is an estimate for the 2015/16 academic year). 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. Some 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 the program advisor and from current 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.

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. 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 too, how 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 strongly encourage you to attend both the career fair in the Fall and Spring.

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: 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 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.

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 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 2014. Most international students do find their jobs using the services of the Career Center where companies post their openings and interview on campus as opposed to applying directly to companies. The average salary for our 2014 graduates, most of whom were internationals, was $96,000.

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 online 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 online. Your recommenders can also submit their references online 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 online, you can check the status of when materials are received online as well.

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.

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: and
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 them. Should you be reluctant to contact the faculty directly, contact Lessa Shear ( who would 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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