How to Get Into RPI: Admissions Data and Strategies

April 18, 2022

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, most often referred to as RPI, is a private research university in Troy, New York that caters to around 6,300 undergraduate students. Future aerospace, chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineers flock to RPI for its top-ranked programs, as do a good number of computer science and business students who wish to take advantage of the school’s strengths in those respective areas. With so many elite academic programs, it’s little wonder that the most recent incoming freshman cohort possessed average SAT scores above 1460 and a 3.9 high school GPA.

Given that RPI is a very selective institution, it is important for future applicants to be aware of:

  • RPI’s Class of 2025 acceptance rate
  • RPI’s Class of 2025 ED acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, GPA, and class rank of accepted RPI applicants
  • Admissions trends at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • The demographics of current RPI undergraduates
  • RPI’s yield rate
  • How RPI admissions officers evaluate candidates
  • Tips for applying to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • How to assess whether applying to RPI is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)

Many students applying to RPI may also find the following blogs to be of interest:

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.

RPI’s Overall Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025

This school does not release admissions-related data in as timely a fashion as we would like. At this time, the most recent official data comes from the Class of 2024 which saw 57% of the 16,661 applicants gain acceptance.

RPI Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Rensselaer is a school that gives a significant edge to those who apply via binding early decision. In the last cycle, 413 of the 588 applicants were admitted, which equates to an acceptance rate of 70%; the regular decision figure was 55%.

There are two rounds of Early Decision at RPI. The ED I deadline is November 1 and the ED II deadline is December 15.

RPI Admissions – SAT, ACT, GPA, and Class Rank

Those who enrolled in the Class of 2024 (again, most recent data available) had an average high school GPA of 3.6. Fifty-five percent placed in the top decile of their high school class, 87% were in the top 25%, and 95% were in the top 50%. The median SAT score for enrolled students was 1380 and the median ACT composite score was 31. The school did announce that the Class of 2025 sported an average SAT of 1463, the highest in school history.

Admissions Trends & Notes

  • RPI has renewed their temporary test-optional policy for those applying in the fall of 2023.
  • 154 entering Class of 2025 freshmen received the Rensselaer medal, a merit scholarship offered to outstanding math and science students.
  • Incoming 2021-22 students hailed from 41 states and 12 countries.
  • The acceptance rate was only 47% prior the onset of the pandemic for the Class of 2023.

Who Attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?

Let’s look at the demographics of current RPI undergraduates, beginning with which U.S. states have the greatest representation on campus:

  1. New York
  2. New Jersey
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Connecticut
  5. California
  6. Pennsylvania

As at any selective university, competition is toughest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). If you hail from a less populated state like Hawaii, the Dakotas, or Montana, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances.

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of current undergrads was as follows:

  • Asian American: 17%
  • Hispanic: 11%
  • African American: 5%
  • White: 44%
  • Two or more races: 5%
  • International: 16%

The breakdown by gender of all current undergraduates is notably split in favor of men:

  • Male: 69%
  • Female: 31%

With female students at RPI being somewhat of an endangered species, one would assume that it is easier to get into the school as a female applicant. Yet, for the Class of 2024, the male and female acceptance rates were an identical 57%.

International students make up 16% of the degree-seeking population at RPI. The greatest number of students hail from the following countries:

  1. China
  2. Canada
  3. India
  4. Saudi Arabia
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. Vietnam

Yield Rate

RPI’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was an extremely low 15% last year. This is due, in part, to the fact that RPI is competing with the same pool of students as many other elite STEM-oriented institutions. As such, the university considers “demonstrated interest” (more on that in a moment). For comparison, other comparable private institutions have the following yield rates: Purdue (23%), Georgia Tech (38%), and Carnegie Mellon (37%).

How RPI Rates Applicants

There are four factors that RPI ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores. The next tier of “important” factors includes: the essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, and character/personal qualities.

Straight from the RPI admissions staff:

  • “While there is flexibility to change your major once you are here, you are encouraged to be as specific as you can when you choose a major (or school) on your application. If you are interested in the Architecture, Electronic Arts, Music, or Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program, we recommend that you apply directly to that program. Students interested in the Accelerated Physician-Scientist (B.S./M.D.) Program must apply directly to that program.
  • “Rensselaer strives to create an inclusive environment that develops true intellectual, geographic, gender, and ethnic diversity in its students, faculty, and staff. Its commitment to diversity is focused on engaging the best talent available and preparing students to work, communicate across cultural boundaries, and emerge as leaders in the global community.”

Additional Tips for Applying to RPI

If you plan on joining the roughly 17,000 RPI hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • RPI weighs “demonstrated interest” as “considered” in the admissions process. Therefore, you will be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit (in non-pandemic times), contacted an admissions officer, etc.
  • A teacher recommendation is required. For tips on requesting a letter of recommendation, check out this blog.
  • RPI will be asking you for a mid-year report, so make sure to keep your grades up throughout senior year of high school.
  • Certain majors require applicants to submit portfolios through Slideroom.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by RPI. In the 2021-22 cycle, there were 2-3 prompts for each applicant:

1) Why are you interested in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute? (250 words)

2) Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences (300 words)

3) Those looking to study Architecture, Electronic Arts, Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences, Music, or Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication will have to pen an additional essay, stating their reasons for selecting that program of study.

 Should I Apply to RPI?

For a school with a 50-60% acceptance rate, RPI is extremely selective. If RPI is your aim and you don’t have grades and test scores in their 75th percentile range (if electing to submit test scores), make sure to also have a rock-solid backup plan. All students need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in conjunction with an admissions professional.