Registration at Rensselaer The Hidden Curriculum, Episode 5 | Class of 2024

Wait... haven't we already done this...?

Yes, you can still find an incredible amount of relevant information in your Major-Specific Registration Guide from the summer! You will want to review that guide (especially all of the following bullet points) as you prepare to register for your spring courses in November 2020.

  • Information on your Major Template
  • AP, IB, and other Transfer Credits
  • Your Humanities, Arts and Social Science (HASS) Core
  • "How to Register" (including 5 easy-to-follow steps and information on time tickets, registration holds, creating mock schedules, and using SIS)
  • Useful Resources: College Catalog, Advising Handbook, SIS, YACS, Academic Calendar

PS: If you have changed your major, or are thinking of changing your major, the Major-Specific Registration Guides are a great way to learn about your new major and your new SoE Hub Advisor! You can find their contact information right in the guide, or on the SoE Hub website.

And, don't forget to bookmark all of these resources in your "Academic Advising" folder on your browser. Help your future self!

So, what are we going to cover in Episode 5?

  1. The Registrar's Office (Forms, Deadlines, Holds, Summer Classes, etc.)
  2. Academic Requirements (HASS, Professional Development, Free Electives)
  3. Adding to your Curriculum (Minors, Duals, Graduate Programs)

So, let's make you a pro at your academic requirements!

Registration at Rensselaer... and the Registrar!

The Registrar's Office

Meet Casey Redden, one of your wonderful staff members in The Registrar's office! She explains what the Registrar's Office does and how they can support you. Watch now!

In addition to what Casey shares with us in the video, the Registrar's Office is also responsible for...

  • Processing forms: Pass/No Credit, Transfer Credits, Change Major/Minor, etc.
  • Assigning and informing you of your registration date and time
  • Managing waitlists for courses on SIS (though some waitlists are managed by the departments)

As mentioned, the Registrar's website is full of resources that will support you with your academic responsibilities and requirements. Learn more in the next video!

Registrar's Office: Forms

Registrar's Forms

In other words, "how to get things done!"

Academia is some pretty official business, which means you will always need a paper trail as you are making formal requests. What forms do you need to know right now? How do you use them? What should you know before submitting them to the Registrar's Office?

Well, let me tell you!

We covered some best practices in the video, but here are some more tips to ensure you are on the right track!

  • Sometimes professors will send you an email with their consent rather than signing the form. Most of the time, this is enough for the Registrar's Office, but you will always want to double check! We suggest saving their email "signature" as a PDF and attaching it to the email with the form that you will send to the Registrar's Office.
  • Use email etiquette when reaching out for help with forms! Include your full name, RIN#, and use proper spelling/grammar.

Once you have collected all signatures, and filled out the form correctly, you can email your form to registrar@rpi.edu! At the moment, The Registrar's Office has no in-person drop-in hours, but their whole team is monitoring their email account.

Now, let's talk about the 'how,' 'where,' and 'why' for the forms you will need to know over the next 4 years.

Just as we did with the Authorization Form (above), you will find videos on the following forms throughout Episode 5.

  • Change of Major Form
  • Late Add/Drop Form
  • Minor Approval Form
  • Pass/No Credit Form
  • Transfer Credit Approval Form

Time to get organized!

We know this is a lot of administrative details to keep track of! Take the time now to visit the Registrar's website (button below) to bookmark the forms in a safe place. This way, you will not have to wait for someone to reply to an email with a copy of the form you need and you can just download it on your time. By doing this, the whole process will move much faster and you'll have more control.

You may also want to bookmark our YouTube Playlist (button below) where we have collected each of the "form videos" from this episode. Having this playlist on hand could be useful when you are filling out these forms for the first time.

Registrar's Office: Upcoming Deadlines

Registrar's Upcoming Deadlines

In other words, "strategic planning!"

In Episode 4, you discovered how you are supposed to know about important dates and deadlines through the Registrar's Academic Calendar and each syllabus you have for the courses that you are in. By now, you should be familiar with LMS, and other tools used to keep you on track with your assignments and academic responsibilities.

Next, we are going to talk about the upcoming Fall 2020 deadlines that you need to be aware of and how you can utilize them to have a successful semester.

It's all about strategic planning!

Drop Deadline

Drop Deadline for Fall 2020: October 23rd

Drop Deadline for Spring 2021: March 19th

Dropping a course is the act of removing a course from your schedule. If you drop a course before the Drop Deadline, it's like it never happened!

Reasons to drop a course include:

  • You are at risk of failing a course
  • You're not interested and it's not required for your major
  • You're changing majors and it's no longer required
  • You're overloaded on credits (over 18 credits) and need to reduce stress

Advantages of dropping a course:

  • You now have more time to focus on your remaining courses
  • You can maintain your GPA
  • You may reduce stress and support your mental health

Disadvantages of dropping a course:

  • You may fall one course behind in your curriculum requirements
  • If the course you drop is a prerequisite for another required course, it could cause a problem with course sequencing
  • You might fall below full-time status (below 12-credits), which impacts financial aid
You should never drop a course without first talking with your Academic Advisor! It is important to know the impact of dropping the course. Sometimes the impact is small, but sometimes the impact is much bigger. As long as you are aware of the details, you can make an informed decision in regard to dropping the course.

How do you drop a course?

  1. Log onto SIS
  2. Click 'Register/Add/Drop'
  3. Click on the course title and use the dropdown menu to select 'Drop via Web'
  4. Scroll to bottom of page and press 'Submit' to drop class
  5. Double check your schedule to confirm that the course was dropped!

If the course no longer appears on your schedule in SIS, you have successfully dropped it. However, there may be a lag with LMS. If so, you can reach out to the professor of the course so they can remove you manually.

Special Note: If you have a Registration Hold(s) on your account, you will not be able to drop a course through SIS. Email the Registrar’s Office (registrar@rpi.edu) and they will remove the class for you. Then, be certain that you click the link on SIS to see what you need to do to remove your hold! You will want to do this before you need to register.

Can you drop a course after the October 23rd Drop Deadline?

“It is the policy of the Institute that no petitions be accepted for the retroactive dropping or adding a course except under extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control.” - RPI College Catalog, Policies

This includes:

  • "Events and situations that are unexpected and beyond the student’s control"
  • "Most need documentation from the Dean of Student’s Office for Approval"

Students cannot “Late Drop” because of:

  • Failing or low grades
  • Change of Major
  • Suggestions from faculty, family or friends

What is the process to Late Drop?

Watch the video below to find out!

Special Note: you will have to petition to ALAC for both a Late Drop and a Late Add. You will want to be prompt in communicating with all parties involved with the Late Add/Drop process so you do not fall further behind schedule.

Pass/No Credit (PNC) Deadline

Pass/No Credit Deadline for Fall 2020: November 20th

Pass/No Credit Deadline for Spring 2021: April 16th

"A student may take up to four courses as Pass/No credit." - College Catalog, Policies

Courses that can be taken Pass/No credit are:

  • Free electives
  • Up to two courses in the science core, unless explicitly required by name
  • Up to two courses of the HASS Core
  • You may PNC your HASS Inquiry course and/or your 4000-level requirement (as long as you are not using it toward your Communication Intensive requirement or your Pathway).

The Pass/No credit cannot be used for:

  • Courses required by name in the student’s major (check your Major Template)
  • Courses required by name for a minor
  • HASS Requirements: Communication Intensive, or courses used to fulfil your HASS Pathway

How do you apply Pass/No Credit on a course?

Watch the video below to find out!

You can find more information on dropping a course and using Pass/No Credit in the College Catalog.
Registrar's Office: Holds

Registration Holds

Registration Holds will prevent you from registering for next semester's courses. This happens because there is something that you still need to complete for a department or office. Once you finish the task, you will be able to register for courses.

It is crucial that you keep checking your SIS account every day the week before registration to see if any holds have been added to your account.

Common holds for a first-semester, first-year student include:

  • Health Center Hold: Incomplete health services form requirements or modules
  • Bursar Holds: Applied based on the status of your bill
  • Financial Agreement: Simple hold that is added to your SIS account every registration period

We touched upon additional Registration Holds during your Registration Guide in the "How to Register Section." If you are looking for a refresher on 'holds' please revisit your guide and head to 'Step 4!'

This spring, you will have a hold on your account called the SAM Hold. To remove the SAM Hold you need to meet with your Academic Advisor. This will happen annually and it is a requirement. Find more information in Episode 9!

Registrar's Office: Transfer Credits

Transferring Credits to Rensselaer

Don't forget! We provided you with videos and information on transfer credits within your Major-Specific Registration Guides over the summer! Think of the 'AP, IB, and Other Transfer Credits' section as your "starter kit" to understanding how transfer credits work at Rensselaer. You can always revisit that content if you need a refresher, and we encourage you do so, especially if you are considering winter break or summer classes at another college.

If you'd like that refresher now, or if you are new to learning about transferring credits to Rensselaer, feel free to revisit that guide by clicking the button below.

Transferring credits now that you're on campus!

Now that you're on campus, we would like to introduce you to our colleague Robert, the transfer credit hero from the Registrar's Office. He took a moment to share his insight, advice, and best practice tips for bringing your credits over to Rensselaer.

Whether you are still working on transfer credits from high school, or if you are planning on winter/summer courses, you will grateful for his guidance!

Watch now...

Summer Courses

Over the summer, many students across the nation will attend community colleges or other 4 year colleges as 'non-matriculated students' to take summer courses. This is a very popular option for rising sophomores since it keeps you busy, engaged, and academically productive in a summer where it is less common to secure a career-related work experience.

If this is something you are interested in, you must ensure that the course you plan to take will transfer successfully to Rensselaer. If the course is not equivalent in content, even if it has the same title as an RPI class, then it will not transfer in the way you want it to. A common example of this is transferring in Physics courses: if you take a course elsewhere called Physics I, but it is algebra-based, you would receive no credit because RPI only accepts calculus-based physics courses.

Do not take a course at another university without first seeking approval from your advisor and/or the related academic department! You risk not being able to transfer the course back to Rensselaer, which is upsetting for everyone involved!

How will you know if you can transfer a course back to Rensselaer?

What is the actual process to transferring credits back to Rensselaer?

Add these links to your "Academic Advising" bookmarks folder in your browser!

Special Note: If you think you might want to take a summer class, the best time to start preparing is in the spring semester! It's closer to when schools will release their summer course options. Next spring, plan to set up an appointment with your SoE Hub Advisor to discuss taking a summer course if that is something you're interested in. We'll walk you through it!

Next Up! What do you need to accomplish to apply for graduation?

Understanding your Graduation Requirements

Your requirements, your responsibility!

What do we mean?

How do you know exactly what courses you need to take in order to graduate?

  • Major Templates: provided by your academic advisor and department
  • 4-Year Plan of Study: created by you with the support of your academic advisor
  • College Catalog: a 'contract' between RPI and you through The Registrar's Office
  • DegreeWorks: degree progress software through the Registrar's Office and ALAC

As you can see, there are a few resources, but our favorite in The SoE Hub is your Major Template combined with a functional 4-Year Plan of Study!

Let's take a deeper look at all of these resources...

Major Template:

  • A semester-by-semester guide of all the courses you need to take for your major.
  • You must take all courses named on the Major Template (which will include selecting courses to fulfill all elective credits).

While we did introduce you to Major Templates over the summer, we wanted to give you a little more information and show you other places where you can find your cohort's Major Template. As always, you'll find life a little easier if you know where to go to find the resources you need rather than having to wait on someone to answer your emails.

Check out the video below!

(And for insight on how helpful the SoE Hub's website can be).

Special Note: If you are currently an Undeclared Engineer, you may be unfamiliar with Major Templates - this is fine! Watch the video above for more information, or visit one of the Major-Specific Guides to learn more. Once you are ready to declare, or have narrowed down your options, your SoE Hub Advisor (Kristin) will ensure that you have all materials needed to understand your graduation requirements.

4-Year Plan of Study:

As mentioned, you will begin working on your 4-Year Plan this coming spring semester. Based on what you have accomplished in your first-year (fall courses, transfer credits, AP scores, etc.), you will plot out the remainder of your semesters based on your major's requirements, prerequisites and corequisites. You will use your Major Template and the College Catalog (AY 2020-2021) to support the development of your 4-Year Plan.

College Catalog:

You first learned about the College Catalog in your Registration Guide over summer. Each cohort has their own Catalog based on the year they began at Rensselaer (as opposed to a graduation year).

As you began this year, your College Catalog will be the Academic Year of 2020 to 2021.

Make sure you bookmark your catalog in your "Academic Advising" folder!


DegreeWorks is the degree planning software provided and maintained by The Registrar's Office and ALAC. Episode 8 of The Hidden Curriculum is all about DegreeWorks. Stay tuned!

Graduation Requirements: HASS Core

HASS Core Requirements

Don't forget! We gave you a break down of your HASS requirements over the summer. Now that you are on campus, go back and take a look at that section of your Major-Specific Registration Guide. Many students will select a second HASS course for spring semester.

Below you will find a worksheet that helps to outline all of your HASS Core Requirements. As an engineer, you have a 20-credit HASS requirement. All other schools/majors have a 24-credit HASS requirement.

You must fulfill all of the requirements outlined in the Major-Specific Registration Guide's HASS video and the worksheet below in order to graduate. Use them both to ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of what you still need to accomplish within your HASS Core. Make sure that you make a plan for completing these requirements with your Hub Advisor either this fall, or next spring.

Have a look now, and see if you can start filling in the blanks!

Email your SoE Hub Advisor if you would like a PDF or Word Doc version of this document.

Graduation Requirements: Free Electives

Free Elective Requirements

As you learned in the new Major Template video above, every engineering degree has 12-credits of Free Elective Requirements. This is exactly how it sounds! You can use these 12 credits for anything that you like. Options?

  • Declare a minor
  • Take additional technical electives beyond your majors' requirements
  • Take additional HASS courses, beyond your 20-credits required for HASS
  • Explore any courses that sound interesting to you (management, astronomy, music, etc.)

How can you break down the 12-credits?

Any way that makes sense or works for you!

  • 3, 4-credit courses
  • 4, 3-credit courses
  • 12, 1-credit courses
  • 2, 4-credit courses plus 1, 3-credit course plus 1, 1-credit course
  • (You should be getting the idea at this point)

Any number that equals 12 credits before you graduate!

Graduation Requirements: Professional Development

Professional Development Requirements

This is a School of Engineering requirement!

How you complete your Professional Development Requirement (PD) will depend upon your engineering major. This video breaks down how you can find the Professional Development courses on your Major Template so you know what to look for and what is expected of you for graduation.

Your PD requirement does have you take a 2-credit HASS Course - STSS-4100. This HASS course is a requirement outside of your 20-credit HASS Core Requirement. What this means, is that by graduation you will take a minimum of 22 required HASS credits. Though, you're always welcome to take more!

Changing and/or Adding to your Curriculum!

Minors, Changing your Major, Duals, Co-terminal

Now that you know how to use the College Catalog, you can easily explore all your options! So, what are the options?

  • Minors
  • Duals
  • Changing or Declaring your Major
  • Co-Terminal Program
  • EngMBA

Kristin explains more below!


In addition to what Kristin shared in the video, here are other important details about minors that you need to know before declaring:

  • Engineering or Science Minors: You cannot use one class to fulfill both a named engineering requirement and a named required course for your minor. As we say, "no double dipping!" In this situation, you cannot officially declare the minor, or you'll need to work out an alternative course with your minor's department to fulfill that requirement.
  • HASS Minors: You can easily build a HASS minor out of your HASS Pathway requirements, as stated in the video. Many students complete a HASS minor with little additional effort. In HASS only, you may "double dip."

How do you declare a minor?

Adding a Dual

As stated in the video, a dual is the merging of two degrees into one degree. Here are a few examples of some existing duals:

  • Design, Innovation and Society + Mechanical Engineering
  • Aeronautical + Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical + Computer Systems Engineering
  • Computer Systems Engineering + Computer Science
  • Civil Engineering + Sustainability Studies
  • Civil + Environmental Engineering

If you are looking to add a dual that is not on the above list, you likely will have to create the dual. Before you will be able to declare this new dual, you will need to have all departments/schools approve what you create to ensure that you have included all graduation requirements. Keep in mind, if a dual does not currently exist, it might be that way for a reason! The majors may not 'play nice' and required courses from both majors may occur at the exact same day/time of the week (especially when the majors are not within the same department). Students who find themselves in this situation may have to drop one half of their degree, or graduate late.

Some majors will not allow duals with their degree, such as Biomedical Engineering. In these cases, a minor will be a great choice if you are really interested in adding a little more to your curriculum.

Co-Terminal Program

"Rensselaer's Co-Terminal Program provides undergraduates the opportunity to pursue graduate degrees while maintaining their undergraduate Rensselaer funding." - Find more information by clicking the button below.

This means that you can add a graduate program to the end of your Rensselaer education and earn two degrees in ~5-years! If you are looking at an unfriendly dual, or have a wide range of interests, the co-terminal program might be the answer.

You will have to apply to the co-terminal of your choice, which means you will need meet a certain GPA requirement by your Junior year (when you apply).


Similar to the Co-Terminal Program, Rensselaer also offers an additional graduate level program for those of you who are interested in earning an MBA through our Lally School of Business.

Different than the Co-Terminal Program, the EngMBA will require you to participate in some extracurricular requirements during your undergraduate studies. Additionally, the EngMBA team will support you in finding a business-focused internship the summer after you graduate with your engineering degree and before you start your MBA graduate work. Awesome!

This is a great program for those of you who are hoping to one day rise to leadership roles in your career field, and/or if you are interested in the business-side of the engineering industry.

If this sounds interesting to you, plan to take Introduction to Management (MGMT 1100) in your spring semester, and make an appointment with your advisor. There is a special EngMBA Major Template that you will need to follow starting in your sophomore year, and you will be assigned an additional advisor from Core Engineering.

You should also click the button below for more information on the EngMBA and the Lally School of Business!

Change (or Declare) Your Major

The first three semesters for all engineering majors are very similar! That means it is super easy to start as an Undeclared Engineer and transition to a major, or to change your major if you realize there is a better option to meet your career goals.

Have a look at the video below to see the process for changing or declaring your major.

Next Steps for Making a Change?

Now you know how easy it is to change your major, or add a minor, in your first-year! If this is something you are considering, you should reach out to your SoE Hub Advisor to start the conversation, so you can make an informed decision.

Now, it's time to talk about next steps!

Consultation Month

Now that you have a deeper understanding of Registration at Rensselaer it's time to put that knowledge to practice! Every semester you will have a Consultation Period, where you meet with your Academic Advisor to discuss your upcoming semesters, all the information from this guide, and more!

How do you prepare?

When is it?

What does it look like?

And, that's all folks!

Complete Episode 5

Don't forget to take the mandatory quiz that let's your advisor know you have completed your requirements!

The School of Engineering First-Year Advising Hub

3306 Ansell Lounge, Jonsson Engineering Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute