During the fall or spring semester of their junior year, students take part in an intellectual adventure unconstrained by a classroom schedule. Students can take advantage of transformative experiences available off campus, including international travel, internships, co-ops, research opportunities, pursuit of an entrepreneurial idea, and engagement in community service projects.
The Arch Exploration and Planning Course
Preparing for your semester away is a critical part of The Arch experience. Students are automatically registered for the Arch Away Exploration and Planning course during the spring of their sophomore year. This course will leave students with the tools and confidence to leverage themselves to potential employers as they seek their away experience through career fairs, on-site visits, networking, and interviews. This course will encourage students to:
- Introspect about what they really want to do during their semester away
- Develop a search strategy, create a resume, use JobLink, write employer correspondence, and more
- Practice and hone their career skills necessary for finding and securing an opportunity
The Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) is your key to finding an away semester that encourages you to pursue your passion, including:
- A Co-Op
- An Internship
- A Fellowship or Internship in Government or at the Government Research Laboratories
- A Civic Engagement Experience
- A Volunteer Experience (Locally or Abroad)
- Resume Building
- Access to JobLink, our database of job opportunities
- Fall and Spring Career Fairs
- Career Information and Exploration
- Interview Skills and Mock-Interviews
- Network with Employers
Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) Semester Away Checklist
- Get approval from CCPD on your semester away experience and receive instructions on the registration process.
- Get approval from your degree clearance officer.
- Forward a copy of official offer letter and resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Attend a required Arch Away Semester briefing. Visit Joblink for dates.
- Register your away semester experience with the CCPD (required to maintain full-time attendance).
International students participating in the Arch must carefully consider the immigration implications of their semester choices. Please discuss your options with International Servies for Students and Scholars in coordination with the offices involved in approving your experience.
For more information, visit the Center for Career and Professional Development.
Frequently Asked Questions
What resources will students have in obtaining an away semester professional experience?
Students seeking an away semester professional experience (i.e., co-op or internship) will have full access to the resources of the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD). During the summer, the CCPD will continue to operate full-scale as it does during the academic year (i.e., offer appointments, walk-in hours, programs/workshops, etc).
Will the CCPD place students in their desired opportunity?
While the CCPD is diligently engaging with employers and sharing information about The Arch in an effort to generate interest, the staff will not be placing/slotting students into specific opportunities. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the student to conduct a successful co-op/internship search.
When should a student begin looking for his/her away semester professional experience?
Students should participate in The Arch set of required workshops and attend the Spring Career Fair.
For students participating in the fall semester away, they should plan to attend the NSBE/SHPE Fall Career Fair and the CCPD Spring Career Fair to begin exploring options. At the beginning of the fall semester, students should have prepared a professional resume. There will be a series of programs targeting sophomores through the Sophomore Career Experience (SCE) in both the fall and the spring semesters. Students will gain basic job search skills and will be ready to apply them as they explore their many options. A student’s search is typically in full swing the semester prior to the student’s desired away semester.
For students participating in the spring semester away, they should also attend the SCE programming and attend employer information sessions and career fairs at the beginning of their sophomore year. While many students leaving for the spring semester may have secured plans by the end of their sophomore year, most students will make those decisions during the summer and the following fall semester. Keep in mind many employers only visit campus once during the academic year, so don't miss an opportunity to connect with them early on at career fairs, career days, employer information sessions and other employer events. For details, visit, JobLink. New events are added often so keep looking and checking back!
Are students required to complete a co-op?
Students are not required to participate in a co-op to satisfy their Arch semester away.
What is the difference between an internship and a co-op?
A co-op is typically a 6-8 month work experience which includes a semester and a summer. Students who want to participate in a co-op through The Arch would elect to be away during their junior year spring semester and summer. An internship is typically a 3 month experience. Students who would like a shorter experience would elect to have their professional experience semester away in the fall of the junior year. Some employers may also hire a student for the fall semester and invite them back to work the following summer. In those instances, the experience would be considered a co-op.
How do students seek and obtain research, service, entrepreneurship, and self-directed experiences?
For more information, visit the Center for Career and Professional Development.
The Away Semester of The Arch provides students the opportunity to pursue international experiences including research, volunteer work as well as affiliated and non-affiliated study abroad.
Additional information can be found at the Office of International Programs website.
During The Arch, students will participate in a full course of study over the summer, enrolling in at least 12-credits. If taking a leave of absence and not participating in The Arch for a full 12-credits, international students must depart the United States and obtain a new initial status I-20 before returning.
Please see the ISSS Current Students: The Arch website for detailed information about how your semester choice works with your immigration status here.
The Office of Undergraduate Education provides support for students with Arch academic planning and Arch away semester planning.
Arch Academic Programs
Tiffany Powell, Ph.D. Director
Additional Information for Semester Away Options
Office of International Programs
Karen Dvorak, Program Manager
Learn more about International Programs
All Arch students have an exciting opportunity to create/participate in an Individual Learning Experience (ILE) that meets their specific career, educational and experiential learning interests. Every Arch student is unique and therefore are afforded the support to identify how they want to use their away semester. This is what makes the Away Semester "individualized" and independent in nature.
Listen to Learn More-***Individual Learning Experience for ALL- Semester Away Options Webinar***
There are seven (7) ILE options for the Away Semester
- ILE-International Programs
- ILE-Study at Another US Institution
- ILE-Civic Engagement
Note: In each case there will be additional information that will be required. Additional details for each experience in the next section.
* Each Away Semester experience is worth 0 Credit (12 credit equivalence to maintain student status at no cost).
* NEW* ILE Self Design Templates: "Leadership Centric", "Career Centric" and "Covid-19 Research Focus"
The ILE Leadership Centric template will connect with the leaders of WiLD Leaders and utilize the tools in their WiLD ToolKit. The Office of Undergraduate Education has collaborated with them to provide a tailored opportunity specficially for Arch students. Find out more HERE
The ILE Career Centric templates are designed to make your semester away experience a valuable one. We have curated ILE templates to focus on personal development, increasing your marketability as a candidate for future internships, co-ops, civic engagement, and off-campus research opportunities. Templates will be available shortly.
The ILE Covid-19 Research Focus is a self-designed, that focuses on key areas, allowing students to work individually or in teams (2-4), with the guidance and support from faculty advisers to address challenging issues created by, or stemming from, the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout this experience, students have the opportunity to apply academic knowledge while expanding the scope of their your learning in an area that aligns with their goals and interests. See GUIDELINES
We continue to support the traditional approach.."Self Design" (DYO--design your own).
ILE Self-Designed is a completely student curated opportunity that opens up so many new pathways because students get to create their own personalized learning platform. This experience may include, but not limited to, visiting a different state/country and comparing practices to those here in the U.S.; exploring a new technology or providing a service the community that creatively utilizes learned skills/knowledge. The opportunities are endless. The key to this option is to identify specific goals/objectives that enrich professional skills/experiences in some meaningful way. The bottom line, is this is a self-tailored experience and students are encouraged to use this time to innovate, explore and expand boundaries that combine their professional goals/interests.
LISTEN to the support session from 10-19-20 to learn more about the four (4) ILE Self Design Templates/Pathways
All ILE Self Design pathways must complete the Updated ILE-Self Design Form
- Here are some examples of the traditional self-designed ILE plans (Fall Away 2019).
- If you are wondering how to make convert your "ILE Self Design" objectives into some elements that you can add to your resume, here are a few ideas. ILE Self Design and Resume Elements
For additional information, contact: Dr. Tiffany Powell in the Office of Undergraduate Education email@example.com
Students seeking a co-op or internship during their semester away will have access to the resources available at the Center for Career and Professional Development to assist them in their search.
The Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) is fantastic at helping you prepare a resume, practice interview skills, and find a job that suits your interests. Sign up for an appointment with a counselor! Handshake is our system for linking you to companies/opportunities and companies to you. Get signed up now and start your career early.
As an Arch Away Semester option, students can select Study at Another U.S. Institution of their choosing. Implications for financial aid and credit transfer may apply.
If students are interested in taking courses at another U.S. institution, this Study at Another US Institution Form and is reviewed by the Office of Undergraduate Education. It will then be routed to the appropriate academic HUB to determine appropriate course equivalence.
- You should connect directly with the identified college to determine your selected courses (make sure to talk with your HUB to determine if the courses will be transferrable back to Rensselaer)
- You should plan to follow that college's process for enrollment (be sure to let them know you are seeking non-matriculation enrollment)
- Depending on when you plan to attend, follow the college's guidelines for applying
- Make certain to complete the web form listed above.
- Be sure to select "ILE Study at Another US Institution" in SIS.
LISTEN to the support session from 10-26-20 to learn more about this option.
Q: How do I select a school that meets my needs? Is there a list of school available?
No, there is no specific list. It is up to students to identify the schools (community colleges/universities) which offer the courses they need. Contact the school directly and follow the steps for non-matriculation.
Q: How do I let RPI know that I have completed the courses that satisfies my away semester requirement?
Once you have secured this opportunity with OUE, you will be connected to a LMS course for the semester. This is just to ensure you are on track during your away experience. At the end of the semester, you will be required to submit a reflection of your semester. There is a grade of "S" or "U" applied to the experience.
*International Opportunities Available*
As of Fall 2020, international opportunities have been postponed. Please connect with the Office of International Programs for future program availability.
These opportunities are time-sensitive, so a prompt response is necessary. (This section is up-dated as opportunities arise. Contact the International Programs Office directly for specific information.)
In general, there are several International Experiences available. The Arch offers students the opportunity to pursue the following international activities:
Affiliated Exchange Programs
Affiliated exchange programs offer Rensselaer students the opportunity to take regular classes at partner universities worldwide, allowing full immersion with host country peers and integration into the host institution.
Credit: Yes, subject to course approval
Financial Aid: Yes; students who participate in affiliated study abroad will pay regular Rensselaer tuition and may use one of their eight semesters of Rensselaer financial aid, subject to eligibility.
Non-affiliated Study Abroad
Non-affiliated exchanges allow students to identify an international study program that meets their academic needs and personal interests, and to transfer up to 16 credits towards their Rensselaer degree, subject to Rensselaer’s transfer credit guidelines and course approval. Students pay the program costs to the provider.
- Credit: Yes with program/course approval
- Financial Aid: No Rensselaer Aid; Federal Aid is possible for regular semester programs
Affiliated Research and Internship Opportunities
Affiliated research and internship opportunities are available at several partner institutions. These non-credit research experiences will allow students to gain valuable research experience in a wide variety of scientific fields. Students must apply through the Office of International Programs.
- Credit: Yes
- Financial Aid: Possible - contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information.
Non-Affiliated Research and Volunteer Opportunities
Students may pursue research or volunteer opportunities at non-affiliated institutions worldwide. The Office of International Programs will post opportunities that may be of interest to students who are looking for SASA international opportunities.
- Credit: Possible
- Financial Aid: No
The Office of International Programs (OIP) will support students in their search for a suitable opportunity abroad in the fall. Briefings during the summer are required. For details, visit The Office of International Programs.
Powerpoint Presentation: Research as a Semester Away Option
Research Tips from Associate Dean Lee Ligon: How to Find a Research Internship in Science
RPI Faculty Research: The Arch Summer 20's Fireside Chats provide helpful tips for research opportunities/ideas
Away Semester Selection Series: Learn more about the ILE Research Away Semester Option
During the fall or spring semester of the junior year, students take part in an intellectual adventure unconstrained by a classroom schedule. Students take advantage of transformative experiences available off campus, including international travel, internships, co-ops, research opportunities, engagement in community service projects, or pursuit of a self-designed plan.
Students may conduct research in a number of ways---with a national or regional lab/medical facility, or another institution (domestic or abroad) during their away term. All Arch students who select this option should secure off campus opportunities. Students are no longer permitted to work directly on campus during the Arch away semester. (Note: If a student does secure a research opportunity with RPI faculty, the entire assignment MUST be done REMOTELY).
While we understand that it is not always possible, we fully encourage students to have paid opportunities. Arch research opportunities may run for the full fall semester (August-December) or the full spring semester (January-May). Typically, students are not taking classes during the summer following the junior year, so they are open to extend spring experiences through the summer months (as applicable).
Securing Research Opportunities
Students must complete all administrative processes for the Arch program in order to secure any away semester opportunity.
This process includes:
- completion of a web form,
- selection of ILE-Research in the Student Information System (SIS)
- written statement/abstract of the scope of the research project/learning outcomes (300-500 words)
- letter of support (offer letter)--verifying the research opportunity (on company/institution letter head is preferred).
All supporting documents should be submitted to the: Office of Undergraduate Education at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter of Support
A letter of support from the sponsoring faculty on behalf of the student, should include the following:
- Length of assignment and rate of pay (minimum wage is the base; can be higher based on available funding)
- Agreement that assignment/project will be remote
- Expressed support for the student to submit a final report of research project to Office of Undergraduate Education at the end of the semester
During/After the Research Experience
When ILE Research is secured as the “away experience”, students are officially registered for ILE-Research LMS course (0 credit). This course registration maintains matriculation and allows for tethering during the semester. At the end of the semester, students are expected to construct a written reflection/evaluation of their research experience as embedded in the LMS course. A grade of “S” or “U” will be listed on the student transcript. Upon return to campus, students are invited share experiences with the broader Rensselaer community during a reflection/celebration event.
LISTEN to the support session from 10-12-20 to learn more about this option.
Q: How is Time Arranged?
During the semester away research experience, students arrange their remote work schedules with the sponsoring faculty/institution based on the demands of the project. Students can work up to 40 hours each week, during the research assignment. Time sheets are managed by individual departments.
Q: What are some research opportunities available?
*Identify possible research opportunities HERE
Q: Do all research opportunities need to be paid experiences?
If at all possible, we encourage students to have paid experiences. However, unpaid experiences are acceptable.
Q: Who do I contact to gain additional assistance for this opportunity?
Contact Information: If there are specific questions related to Arch Research Opportunities you may contact the Office of Undergraduate Education. Tiffany S Powell, PhD, Director, Arch Academic Program, Office of Undergraduate Education, Email: email@example.com
Civic Engagement is:
A form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in which students give their time, energy, and unique talents to help meet the communities needs in the following areas:
- Non-profit organizations
- Healthcare Facilities
- Government Agencies
- Advocacy Groups
These unpaid experiences are related to a student’s field of study or career interests and are provided by a group/organization external to Rensselaer. These experiences involve supervision by an individual who is knowledgeable in the field, usually, at the selected organization. A minimum of 260 hours must be dedicated to this semester away opportunity.
Contact the CCPD for additional support with this option.
“While working as an asset reliability engineer at SABIC, I gained a better understanding of how industrial mechanical equipment functions. This experience was above and beyond anything I could gain from a textbook and was an invaluable part of my engineering education.”
–Matthew Beaudoin ’19, SABIC
“Working in a hospital, rather than an academic lab, has given me a chance to see firsthand the life-changing effects of the treatments we are developing.”
–Rebecca Wilen ’19, Memorial Sloan Kettering Department of Pediatrics–The Nai-Kong Cheung Lab
“This has been a great experience so far; even in a primarily biomedical setting, I’ve been able to use what I learned in my summer Aero courses.”
–Michaela Bailie ’19, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City
During the 2nd year of study all students are prompted in the Student Information System (SIS) to make selections related to their upcoming semester away term requirement. Students have the option to select Fall Away Term or Spring Away Term. Once a designation has been made, this selection cannot be updated by self selection. Students are to ensure their academic department does not have a pre-determined semester away designation according to their curriculum. The list of curricular designations can be found under Arch Institute Policy section of The Arch website.
In the event a student needs to change their semester away designtion, it must adhere to one of the following reasons outlined:
- Semester Away Experience Secured: Students are encouraged to land an opporutnity by many different avenues and resources provided by the institute. Should a student secure an opportunity in the opposing semester of the current designation, the semester away selection will be updated to pursue the opporutnity secured.
- Academic Matriculation Concern: Students who experience a change in their academic plan of study (e. g., change of major, co-terminal acceptance, probationairy concerns, MLOA etc) may receive a change to their semester away designation, provided it is supported by the academic department.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the name, RIN, current designation and rationale for change. Both rationales require documentation for designation changes. Please ensure that is outlined in the correspondence to The Arch at Rensselaer.
After designations have been changed, the student should be aware it may alter other areas of matriculation such as registration and financial aid. Contact the appropriate offices to ensure there is no interruption of academic study. We are also happy to help in facilitating this process.