Current Students: The Arch

The Arch is a unique approach to education that provides flexibility in the semester schedule, allowing students to pursue professional and personal development opportunities that prepare them to meet the multifaceted challenges of the 21st century.

For general information about The Arch, go here: info.rpi.edu/the-arch

This page was last updated on: May 19, 2022.

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Summer Here

During The Arch, students will participate in a full course of study over the summer, enrolling in at least 12 credits. As The Arch is a required component for graduation from Rensselaer, ISSS will register all F-1 students in SEVIS during your Arch Summer.

  • This means that we are reporting to the federal government that you are enrolled as a full-time student during this semester (which means you are taking at least 12 credits) and are maintaining your F-1 status.
  • You should not drop below 12 credits during the summer session, as that may cause a negative future impact since your Rensselaer transcript will not match your SEVIS registration data, which implies that you were not maintaining your F-1 status.

If taking a personal leave of absence and not participating in The Arch for a full 12 credits, you must depart the U.S. and work with ISSS to learn about your options to maintain your immigration status upon your return. If taking a medical leave of absence that has been processed by the Student Health Center at RPI and not participating in The Arch for a full 12 credits, you can remain in the U.S. for treatment if required by your doctor or can depart the U.S. to obtain treatment.

Please meet with an ISSS advisor during Open Hours to discuss your options before you leave if possible, otherwise communicate with us via email so we can advise you.

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Important Considerations

Leave of Absence

If taking a leave of absence, regardless of the reason, you must work with ISSS to plan options to maintain your immigration status. By taking a leave of absence, this can impact your options to maintain your immigration status.

Work Authorization Requirements

International students cannot start any off-campus employment inside the U.S. (co-op, internship, “volunteer” work, etc.) until after they have obtained work authorization from ISSS.

  • The process for you to obtain work authorization takes approximately two weeks from when ISSS receives your Semester Away information.
  • We will notify you via email when a new I-20 has been issued with your work authorization.
  • If anything is needed before then, ISSS will be in contact via email.
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Semester Away

Students must choose a semester away and will plan a specific experience to occur during this time. Preparing for your semester away is a critical part of The Arch experience.

An Arch Institute Policy was signed on September 23, 2019 for all Semester Away experiences to be considered the equivalent of full-time. You can view the policy here: https://rpi.box.com/v/archmemo092319

This policy supports international students, as it permits ISSS to register you in SEVIS to report that you are considered the equivalent of a full-time student, and that you are maintaining your F-1 status during your Semester Away. This allows you to take your annual vacation during the summer session instead of during your Semester Away.

For the next semester (Fall or Spring), you will need to be enrolled full-time and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status.

  • Exception: If the next semester is your final semester and you are eligible to be part-time, you can request part-time approval through the Part-Time Enrollment (RCL) Request on this page: https://info.rpi.edu/isss/isss-forms
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Semester Away Experience Options

Click the red + sign to expand each section.

If you do not intend to return as a full-time student for the spring/fall semester after your Semester Away, you need to speak with an ISSS advisor for guidance.

You will be eligible for your next annual vacation the summer following your Away Semester (except for Study at Another U.S. Institution - see section for more details).

ILE - Civic Engagement

General Information

For details about Civic Engagement within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities and click the ILE - Civic Engagement option.

Your Civic Engagement opportunity may require work authorization. Contact ISSS before you accept an opportunity for guidance.

If ISSS determines that your work experience requires Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization, you cannot begin your work until after you have received a new I-20 with CPT from ISSS.

  • Your position must be related to your field(s) of study to request CPT.
  • The process to issue the I-20 with the CPT authorization can take up to 2 weeks after approval from the other departments.
  • If you are physically inside the U.S. and your employer is outside of the U.S., you may still need CPT authorization to start work.

How to Submit Your Experience

For a visual overview of the process, click this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ARCHcivicengagement

  • Step 1: Student Action in SIS - choose Civic Engagement in Arch Away Selection tab and submit (do not submit choice until offer is issued)
    • Civic Engagement is an unpaid experience with a duration of at least 260 hours. 
  • Step 2: Student Action - submit resume and offer letter to CCPD in Handshake
  • Step 3: Student Action - complete Arch Briefing through CCPD
  • Step 4: CCPD & Academic Approval - plan is reviewed by CCPD and Vice Provost (no student action needed unless emailed)
  • Step 5: Immigration Approval - plan is reviewed by ISSS and we will send you an email for more information so check your RPI email
    • If CPT work authorization is needed, it will be issued at this point and instructions to download the new CPT I-20 will be sent to your RPI email
  • Step 6: Student Action - update Local Off Campus Address (SC) in SIS to reflect where you will reside during Semester Away, even if outside the U.S.
  • After Semester Away Starts
  • Step 7: Complete all LMS assignments
ILE - Co-op or Internship

General Information

For details about Co-op and internship within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities and click the ILE - Co-op or Internship option.

Your work experience can occur inside or outside of the U.S..

  • If your work experience is inside the U.S. or you are physically inside of the U.S., ISSS must provide you with a new I-20 that has Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization on Page 2. You cannot begin work until after you have received this new I-20.
    • Your co-op or internship must be related to your field(s) of study to be eligible to request CPT.
    • The process to issue the I-20 with CPT authorization can take up to 2 weeks after approval from the other departments.
  • If your work experience is outside of the U.S. and you are physically located outside of the U.S., you do not need to obtain any work authorization from ISSS.

How to Submit Your Experience

For a visual overview of the process, click this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ARCHcoop-internship

  • Step 1: Student Action in SIS - choose Co-op or Internship in Arch Away Selection tab and submit (do not submit choice until offer is issued)
    • A Co-op is employment for 6 - 8 months
    • An Internship is employment for about 3 months
  • Step 2: Student Action - submit resume and offer letter to CCPD in Handshake
  • Step 3: Student Action - complete Arch Briefing through CCPD
  • Step 4: CCPD & Academic Approval - plan is reviewed by CCPD and Vice Provost (no student action needed unless emailed)
  • Step 5: Immigration Approval - plan is reviewed by ISSS and we will send you an email for more information so check your RPI email
    • If CPT work authorization is needed, it will be issued at this point and instructions to download the new CPT I-20 will be sent to your RPI email
  • Step 6: Student Action - update Local Off Campus Address (SC) in SIS to reflect where you will reside during Semester Away, even if outside the U.S.
  • After Semester Away Starts 
  • Step 7: Complete all LMS assignments
ILE - International Experiences

For details about International Experiences within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities and click the ILE - International Experiences option.

ILE - Research

General Information

For details about Research within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities and click the ILE - Research option.

Research at Rensselaer is considered on-campus employment. International students automatically have on-campus work authorization from the start date on their I-20 and do not require additional authorization.

Your research experience can occur inside or outside of the U.S..

  • If your research experience is inside the U.S. or you are physically inside of the U.S., ISSS must provide you with a new I-20 that has Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization on Page 2. You cannot begin work until after you have received this new I-20.
    • Your research must be related to your field(s) of study to be eligible to request CPT.
    • The process to issue the I-20 with CPT authorization can take up to 2 weeks after approval from the other departments.
  • If your research experience is outside of the U.S. and you are physically located outside of the U.S., you do not need to obtain any work authorization from ISSS.

How to Submit Your Experience

For a visual overview of the process, click this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ARCHresearch

  • Step 1: Student Action in SIS - choose ILE Research in Arch Away Selection tab and submit (do not submit choice until offer letter is issued from RPI professor leading research or off-campus employer)
  • Step 2: Student Action - submit Research plan and offer letter to Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE)
  • Step 3: Academic Approval - plan is reviewed by OUE and Vice Provost (no student action needed unless emailed)
  • Step 4: Immigration Approval - plan is reviewed by ISSS and we will send you an email for more information so check your RPI email
    • If CPT work authorization is needed, it will be issued at this point and instructions to download the new CPT I-20 will be sent to your RPI email
  • Step 5: Student Action - update Local Off Campus Address (SC) in SIS to reflect where you will reside during Semester Away, even if outside the U.S.
  • After Semester Away Starts 
  • Step 6: Complete all LMS assignments
ILE - Self-Design

General Information

For details about the Self-Designed Experience within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities and click the ILE - Self-Design option.

Please note that for international students, entrepreneurship is not an option available for you to pursue.

How to Submit Your Experience

For a visual overview of the process, click this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ARCHselfdesign

  • Step 1: Student Action in SIS - choose ILE Self Design in Arch Away Selection tab and submit (if working, do not submit choice until offer is issued)
  • Step 2: Student Action - submit plan to Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE)
  • Step 3: Academic Approval - plan is reviewed by OUE and Vice Provost (no student action needed unless emailed)
  • Step 4: Immigration Approval - plan is reviewed by ISSS and we will send you an email for more information so check your RPI email
    • If CPT work authorization is needed, it will be issued at this point and instructions to download the new CPT I-20 will be sent to your RPI email
  • Step 5: Student Action - update Local Off Campus Address (SC) in SIS to reflect where you will reside during Semester Away, even if outside the U.S.
  • After Semester Away Starts 
  • Step 6: Complete all LMS assignments
ILE - Study at another U.S. institution

General Information

For details about Study at another U.S. institution within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities and click the ILE - Study at another U.S. institution option.

You will need to work with the other U.S. institution to determine if they require you to have your SEVIS record transferred to them from RPI (so you can be issued a new I-20 from their institution).

If your SEVIS record will remain at RPI, you will be registered in SEVIS as if you are attending RPI.

  • For the next semester (Fall or Spring), you will need to be enrolled full-time and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status.
  • If the other U.S. institution requires documentation from ISSS to confirm that you are a current F-1 student and are maintaining your status at RPI, please submit a request via email to ISSSoffice@rpi.edu
  • You will be eligible for your next annual vacation the summer following your Away Semester.

If your SEVIS record is transferred to the new U.S. institution, you will need to work with ISSS to plan out the process and timeline for your return to RPI.

  • You will be required to apply for a new I-20 with ISSS and have your SEVIS record transferred back to RPI. Please contact ISSS for guidance on your SEVIS Release Date for your SEVIS record to return to RPI to ensure that your timing is appropriate. 
    • * Note: This process is for immigration purposes, and does not require you to apply for readmission to RPI, as you are still considered an RPI student while on your Semester Away.
  • You will be required to enroll as a full-time student (taking at least 12 credits) for the semester you return to RPI. Consult with an ISSS advisor before scheduling your SEVIS Release Date so we can advise you.
  • You must complete one semester at RPI before you are eligible to take an Annual Vacation in the summer. If you are a Spring Away student, make sure to contact ISSS for guidance on how the transfer of your SEVIS record impacts your Annual Vacation.

How to Submit Your Experience

For a visual overview of the process, click this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ARCHstudyUSschool

  • Step 1: Student Action in SIS - choose ILE Study at another US Institution in Arch Away Selection tab and submit
  • Step 2: Student Action - submit plan to Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE)
  • Step 3: Academic Approval - plan is reviewed by OUE and Vice Provost (no student action needed unless emailed)
  • Step 4: Immigration Approval - Plan is reviewed by ISSS and we will send you an email for more information so check your RPI email
  • Step 5: Student Action - update Local Off Campus Address (SC) in SIS to reflect where you will reside during Semester Away, even if outside the U.S.
  • After Semester Away Starts 
  • Step 6: Complete all LMS assignments
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Early Arch

International students can request to participate in the Early Arch. By participating in Early Arch, your semester away may not be in your junior year, so you must discuss your plan with ISSS in order to maintain your immigration status.

For more information how to request participation in Early Arch, see this link: https://info.rpi.edu/arch/general-information/#EarlyArch

After you have been approved for Early Arch, please come to meet with ISSS during our Open Hours with ideas for your semester away, so that we can provide options on how to maintain your immigration status.

You can find the ISSS Open Hours here: http://bit.ly/ISSSannouncements