Semester Away

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.


Resources and Information

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
Support for Arch Away Semester

Developing the Individual Learning Experience (ILE) Plan


The Training Webinar for developing the ILE can be found HERE

The official ILE Template (referenced in the webinar) is in a fillable PDF format.   

Support for completing the ILE Plan is available. ILE TAs are in Comm + D (Lower Level, Folsom Library)  Sign up to a make an appointment

Research as Away Semester Option

For paid research experiences, contact CCPD. For unpaid and on-campus research opportunities, contact the Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE). For on-campus research opportunities, complete this form and contact the OUE for additional support as needed.

There are other support options across the schools. Be sure to contact the individual Academic HUBS for information about specific dates/times.

Center for Career and Professional Development

Summer Here

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)

Resources Available:

  • 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

For more information on upcoming events, visit the CCPD Events Calendar.

Semester Away

Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) Semester Away Checklist

  1. Get approval from CCPD on your semester away experience and receive instructions on the registration process.
  2. Get approval from your degree clearance officer.
  3. Forward a copy of official offer letter and resume to:
  4. Attend a required Arch Away Semester briefing. Visit Joblink for dates.
  5. Register your away semester experience with the CCPD (required to maintain full-time attendance).

International Students

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

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.

Office of International Programs

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.


International Students

Summer Here
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.

Semester Away
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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Student Testimonials

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


Semester Away Opportunities

Individual Learning Experience (ILE)

Do you have a project in mind that does not align with the other semester away opportunities? Are you creative and have a passion to innovate?

If you answered 'YES" to the above questions, an ILE  is the right choice for you. The ILE is an out of the box, innovative, creative space to make the most of your away semester. While there is lots of room for creative ideas to flourish, there are also guidelines for maximizing this learning opportunity.

An acceptable ILE plan will include:

  • Summary of proposed ILE with clear goals and expected outcomes
  • A detailed timeline for execution of project goals
  • Identification of any challenges or barriers
  • Completion of (4) monthly modules
  • Monthly reporting (4) during ILE as well as a final summary at  the completion

Two types of ILE are:

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.

Self-Designed Experience:  A self-designed Individual Learning Experience 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.

*Writing Support/Workshops*

Support for developing appropriate goals/objectives for the ILE is available by way of training workshops. There are various dates/times available during the summer. Additionally, there are Teacher Assistants (TA) who are available and well-equipped to assist with the development of the ILE plan. Students must attend a training session and must schedule to meet with a TA so that plans are fully developed and reviewed prior to the submission deadline. All final ILE plans must be approved by the ARCH Director of Academic Programs and Vice Provost.

*NEW*: The ILE  Training is now available as a Webinar HERE  and get started with the ILE Template

Schedule a TA session HERE (ILE TA's are  available in the Comm +D (lower level, Folsom Library)  to answer general questions and to assist on your approved ILE plan)

ILE-Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For additional information, contact:

*Students are enrolled in the equivalent of a 6-credit online course to maintain student status at no cost. Students will engage with the course while on their semester away (via LMS) for a grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Failure to actively participate in this course may result in administrative removal and thus have implications for various student loan statuses. 

Co-op or Internship

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 can 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. Opportunities can be paid or unpaid.

On-campus, paid, research experiences allow students to work with Rensselaer faculty and spend at least half of the away term (if the assignment requires additional time, student can continue to work on the research endeavor remotely/off-campus).

Off-campus, unpaid, research experiences can be secured by the student. Complete the Arch Away Semester Undergraduate Research Approval Form to register the on-campus (paid) and off-campus (unpaid) experience.

Students with paid, off-campus research (domestic or abroad) opportunities must contact CCPD to register their away semester experience.

*Students with  International Research Opportunities should contact International Programs Office to ensure they have all the necessary international travel paperwork in order.

Contact Director Arch Academic Programs with additional questions.

Civic Engagement

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
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare Facilities
  • Government Agencies
  • Advocacy Groups

These typically unpaid experiences should be related to a student’s field of study or career interests and to a group 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. 

International Experience

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.

Study at another U.S. Institution

Students can enroll for 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 Director, Arch Academic Programs for initial review. It will then be routed to the appropriate academic HUB to determine appropriate course equivalence.