Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
About RPIAcademicsResearchStudent LifeAdmissionsNewsTour
The Office of Graduate Education, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Office of Graduate Education


Advisement and Plan of Study

Choosing an adviser

If you have not identified an adviser in the admission process, you should ask your department to assign a temporary adviser in your first semester. Most departments hold mandatory advising sessions as a part of their department orientation. You can also conduct an online search of the faculty websites. Taking a course taught by a faculty member in an area of interest to you is also a good idea. Speak with current students, look for advisees past and present, and ask others in the department about faculty. Set up a meeting with the professor, explore research interests, and ascertain whether the professor is willing to act as your adviser.

We recommend that you locate an adviser by the end of your first semester.

Later, if you would like to change your adviser, handle it professionally. Set up a meeting with your current adviser and communicate your new goals and interests to him or her. Tell them about your new adviser and why the association seems more academically compatible.

Your Graduate Plan of Study

The graduate program is affords each student an opportunity to plan a course of study suited to his or her own objectives. To assure a coherent program in accord with the student’s maturing capacities and aims, each student is to maintain, with the adviser’s assistance, a Plan of Study for the degree for which he or she is studying.

The Plan of Study should be submitted during the student’s second full-time semester. To be considered valid, the Plan of Study requires the approval of the adviser and the designated departmental person. The Plan of Study is to be prepared on the forms provided by the Office of Graduate Education. Upon approval by the adviser and the designated departmental person, the department will transmit the original to the registrar, with copies going to the Office of Graduate Education, the student, and the adviser. The student should also keep a copy for himself or herself.

Each student who has filed a Plan of Study should register in the usual manner and in accordance with the plan. If there are any significant changes, a revised Plan of Study must be submitted promptly following the same procedure outlined above.

Reporting poor academic performance

If you receive a grade of a "C" or less in any course, the Office of Graduate Education will contact your department or adviser, who in turn will ask to meet with you. They must prepare a report on your overall academic progress for the Office of Graduate Education, (OGE). A single "C" grade will rarely result in dismissal from the program, though it may prompt your department and OGE to set conditions you must meet in the next semester to continue in the program.

Changing your degree (change of status)

You can obtain a Change of Status form through the Registrar's Office, your Department, or the Office of Graduate Education. This form is used for a variety of academic situations, including change in degree. Your department, OGE, and at times also Health Services or the International Services for Students & Scholars Office (ISSS) must approve the form before the Registrar's Office can update your student file with the new degree information.

Funding contingencies

If you don't finish your thesis by the May completion date, you can submit your thesis by the August completion date. You may then attend the graduation ceremonies the following year. (For example, if you finished in August 2003, you may attend the May 2004 Commencement ceremony.)

If you don't finish your thesis by the August deadline, you will need to register full-time in the following fall semester in order to graduate. Full-time students must register for a minimum of twelve credits, and pay full tuition costs and fees. Part-time students must register for at least one credit at the part-time tuition rate and also pay student fees if applicable.

If faced with financial hardship, the Rensselaer Union has an Emergency Student Loan fund where students can request a cash loan. Your bursar account must be in good standing to be eligible.

If there are circumstances that cannot be accommodated by the loan fund, you may seek campus employment in a non-academic position, or work outside of the institution. International students are restricted to only campus employment, and only that of a non-academic nature. Under no circumstances can you be employed on a part-time basis for work that would normally be performed by a teaching or research assistant.

Leaves of absence

You should contact the Office of Graduate Education about taking a leave from your graduate program, and always discuss the leave with your adviser and department beforehand. A leave of absence covers one semester at a time, with a maximum two-year limit. If you take a leave of absence, the Registrar changes your student status to "Inactive." This means that you forfeit your campus privileges, including housing, meal plans, email, and library access. In most cases, the time limit to completion of your degree is not changed by a leave of absence. Your department and the Office of Graduate Education will review your file before readmitting you from a leave, assuring that all admission criteria have been satisfied.