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.
Arch Away Exploration and Planning - Zero Credit Administrative 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 fall and 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
Research as Away Semester Option
Students may conduct research in a number of ways---on campus with Rensselaer faculty, with a national or regional lab, or another institution (domestic or abroad) during their away term. In general, research opportunities can be paid or unpaid.
Typically, research can include but not limited to: working in a labs, conducting experiments, developing prototypes, gathering background research for a literature review, etc. The scope of the work is determined in collaboration with the faculty and student for a specified time period.
For on-campus research, faculty are expected to compensate students for their time. On-campus, paid, research experiences allows students to work with Rensselaer faculty and spend up to half of the away term directly on campus (the number of weeks can vary but not to exceed "half" on campus, up to 40 hours a week, at minimum wage rate but can be higher as supported by funding). If the research assignment requires additional time on the project, student may continue to work/be paid for remote/off-campus service, at the discretion of the sponsoring faculty.
Other expectations include: (this letter should be sent directly to the Office of Undergraduate Education by the faculty member or student)
A letter of recommendation from the sponsoring faculty on behalf of the student, stating an agreement to the following:
• Providing a half semester experience, 40 hours per week, at least at minimum wage rate.
• Providing careful oversight and that the project is feasible.
• Supporting the preparation of a poster for the Undergraduate Research Symposium the following (or current) spring.
Can students receive credit for their research experience?
No. As it relates to credit, Arch Away Semester students cannot receive credit for a research experience. Students are technically “away” (not living on campus, not taking classes at RPI). The students are not paying tuition, thus, we cannot provide them with any credit.
Does a student have to complete all weeks (half time allotted) for a paid on campus research experience? Does the time have to begin at the beginning of the semester?
No. A student can work less than than the half semester time allotted on campus, but it cannot exceed the half-point (equivalent weeks vary depending on the semester).
The research experience can begin at any point during the away semester but should not exceed half of the semester or the regular end of the semester (ie: mi- December for fall; mid-May for spring).
There are other support options across the schools. Be sure to contact the individual Academic HUBS for information about specific dates/times.
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.
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To learn how this fits into an ILE-Self Design Arch Semester Away Opportunity, contact Dr. Tiffany Powell at: email@example.com
Students are working diligently to secure opportunities for their semester away experiences. Our goal is to ensure we support students in these efforts while continuing to offer equity as it relates to the fall and spring away terms. During registration period in the fall term, students access their SIS account and select a preference for the semester they would like to pursue a semester away experience (fall or spring). Students will be notified of their confirmed semester away by the end of fall term. For a list of programs that require the student to take a specific semester away, visit the Arch Institute Policies. Whether a student receives their first preference or is placed into the opposite semester away per equity needs, the semester away designation cannot be changed by the student. Below are the procedures for granting a semester away change:
1) Degree Completion: Student must identify a degree completion issue, such as change of major or plan of study changes (dual major added/dropped, Minor added/dropped) that would prevent on-time graduation.
2) Semester Away Opportunity: Students should have documentation of the opportunity secured in the opposing semester before changing the current semester away.
Procedure: An academic advising hub or Faculty advisor should email firstname.lastname@example.org confirming the student’s need for the change. Once that has been received, the student’s status will be updated in SIS. The registrar will be alerted to issue a time ticket if warranted.
Semester Away Student Testimonials
“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
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.
The Away Semester can be focused on one of seven (7) different options.
- *Self-Design (design your time to focus on a personal goal/interest of your choice; may include entrepreneurship, affording students to develop a business idea, test the market for need/interest, etc.; may even integrate several of the other options listed below). *All students are initially in this category.
- Internship (semester long experience working with a company to gain practical and applicable experience in your field)
- Co-Op (a 6-8 month work assignment that allows for practical and applicable experiences in your field)
- International Programs (connect with our affiliate and non-affiliate international programs. The Study Abroad Office will assist for this option.)
- Study at Another US Institution (take courses at another college--ie: community college, to satisfy a few course requirements. This option requires connection with academic advisor/HUB to ensure transfer equivalence).
- Research (work with professors on campus for half of the semester, and support the endeavor on your own for the rest of the semester)
- Civic Engagement (opportunities to work on service projects for community organizations. There is a 260 hour commitment for this option.)
Note: In each case there will be additional information that will be required. The Office of Undergraduate Education will route initial plans to the appropriate department, who are equipped to will assist students further with the finalization of all plans.
* Each Away Semester Plan is worth 0 Credit (12 credit equivalence to maintain student status at no cost).
Self-Designed Experience: A self-designed ILE opens up so many new opportunities 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 technological platform 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 opportunity and students are encouraged to use this time to innovate, explore and expand boundaries that combine their professional goals/interests.
Entrepreneurship Experience: Choosing an ILE in entrepreneurship allows you to take a new product or service idea and conduct market research to validate the need for the idea as well as de-risk the commercialization process were you to decide to build a business around it. Whether it is a new technology or a plan to educate underserved isolated communities, the market needs to be tested BEFORE you build your idea.
Imagine adding the following to your resume:
- Ideated a solution to an unmet need in the XYZ market.
- Designed and tested experiments to de-risk the launch of a new product
- Added Lean tools to my growing cadre of tested resources used to solve critical problems.
Here are some examples of self-designed ILE plans (Fall Away 2019).
Updated ILE-Self Design Form HERE
For additional information, contact: 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! JobLink is our system for linking you to companies/opportunities and companies to you. Get signed up now and start your career early.
Students may conduct research in a number of ways---on campus with Rensselaer faculty, with a national or regional lab OR at another institution (domestic or abroad) during their away term. Opportunities can be paid or unpaid and based on the specifics of the research project.
For on-campus research, complete this form: Arch Away Semester Undergraduate Research Approval Form after there has been an agreement from an RPI professor to support this experience. Students will receive follow-up steps from the Office of Undergraduate Education.
- On-campus, research arepaid experiences, which allow students to work with Rensselaer faculty and spend half of the away term on campus working on a research project. The specifics of this option are based on a pre-arrangement agreement between aculty and student.
- Additional information for this option can be found HERE
For off-campus, research experiences must be secured by the student. Contact: Office of Undergraduate Education for additional information on how to proceed with this option.
- Students with International Research Opportunities should contact International Programs Office to ensure they have all the necessary international travel paperwork in order.
Contact: Office of Undergraduate Education with any additional questions.
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.
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.
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 must be completed and submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Education for initial review. It will then be routed to the appropriate academic HUB to determine appropriate course equivalence.