I am an alumnus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a technology university in the city of Troy, in Upstate NY.
I graduated in December of 1990, with a BS in Computer Science.
Alumni from RPI tend to be good students in high school. I continued this fine demographic. I was ranked third in my high school, St. Peter's Preparatory (Prep for short), an all-male Jesuit school in Jersey City, New Jersey. I had relatively lousy SATs (1100) though.
Rensselaer was a lark. I applied without knowing that much about the school. I was all set to attend Stevens Institute of Technology, on the banks of the Hudson River in Hoboken. This would have had the advantage of being close to home (a mere 15 minutes by car) and being highly reputable. In the end, the choice to go to Rensselaer came from the sage advice "You can learn more about yourself by leaving home." With those words ringing in my head, I visited Troy and Rensselaer on a fine, bright day in April 1986 of my senior year in high school. I fell in love with it immediately. The perfect grass on the Rensselaer Union, the students milling about campus. I knew I would go to RPI as soon as I stepped out of the car in front of the admissions building.
While at college, I was involved in several different clubs. I was (first and foremost) a Student Orientation volunteer. I was an editor (and later, editor in chief) of the college's student run magazine, the Engineer. I did a co-op stint at JPL (Pasadena, CA), and promoted the co-op program on campus. In my senior year, I became a DJ at WRPI (91.5 FM). And I was a juggler at the Juggling Club.
In all of this, I learned a lot about computer science and engineering. I graduated in December of 1990 because of my extended co-op, and my inability to juggle more than four courses at a time in junior and senior year. I ended up taking courses in the summer so I could graduate in my correct year (I was a freshman in 1986).
The greatest thing I learned at RPI was that I wasn't the best programmer on the planet. I may have entertained such thoughts in high school, but at college, I learned I was not a great coder so much as I was a competent coder. I learned I was more cautious, which meant I wasn't fast. I also learned that I especially enjoyed helping others learn about computers. This may sound corny, yes, but today I'm highly satisfied helping folks with software at Endeca.
I count the friends I made at RPI as among my closest, and the experiences at college among my richest. Even though it's fast approaching my tenth year reunion at the 'Tute, the images and memories of college continue to be sharp. I remember walking to Hall Hall (my freshman dorm) after the library closed and how quiet the buildings were, before the first screams from folks pulling an all-nighter cut through the sky. I remember Elda's, Sutter's and Holmes and Watson (World Tour '88). I remember the funny routes underneath the Darrin Communications Center where the radio station was located. Midnight movies with UPAC in DCC 308. Recitations with Professor Meiners. Picking up printouts at the Vorhees Computer Center (the "church").
The cohorts that I bonded with weren't in a fraternity, but we partied just the same. I learned absurd drinking games. I took off on road trips to Albany, Vermont, and (once) to Boston. We worked hard at our studies, and commiserated continuously. We were pluggers. I learned (after many years of earning As in high school) that C is okay, and that D stands for diploma. This isn't as cynical as you might think: A C (and a D) from RPI means a lot more than an A from other places.
In the end, I did get that diploma. When I left RPI, I left as I came. One car, straight down the New York Thruway to New Jersey, packed with clothes and books, and now memories.