Parents: Frequently Asked Questions

Here at WPI, we encourage our students to ask questions, and we know that as parents and caregivers, you may have some of your own. Below is a list of some of our most frequently asked questions. If there’s something missing, reach out to paec@wpi.edu.

Parents FAQ

What’s important to know about the academic schedule at WPI?

Academic schedules are posted online. There are four 7-week academic terms (A, B, C, and D) in the regular academic year, as well as two optional summer terms. Each term has a Wellness Day and a Wellness & Rest Day embedded into the schedule.

 

While WPI housing is open during Fall, Thanksgiving, and Spring breaks, be sure to take note of residence hall opening and closing dates (usually a day or two before/after the term start/end). WPI is closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Academic Advising Day is held in C-Term, and is a day dedicated for students to meet with their academic advisors. The Undergraduate Research Projects Showcase is held each April, and is when students present their Major Qualifying Projects (MQPs) to the campus and greater community.

How do meal plans work?

More details on meal plans and dining options around campus are available on the Dine on Campus website.

How does a student obtain housing? How does housing selection work?

WPI guarantees housing for first-year students, and provides housing for upperclass students as well. More details about the housing selection process can be found on the Residential Services website. Housing costs vary based on the residence’s configuration and layout; visit the website for more details.

How do I know what resources are available for students?

From teamwork help and tutoring to guidance on getting an internship and advice on joining clubs and organizations, there are many resources on campus—check them all out on the student resources page.

Bursar and Financial Aid: What’s the difference?

The Office of Financial Aid provides guidance and support to students when it comes to understanding their financial aid package, securing public and private loans, and better understanding the pros and cons of borrowing. The Bursar manages day-to-day billing at WPI.

 

Questions about your student’s financial aid package might be answered in these FAQs; ones that aren’t should be directed to the Office of Financial Aid. Questions about your student’s bill should be directed to the Bursar’s Office.

How much should I expect my student’s bill to be?

This will vary greatly depending on a number of factors; the best way to access this information is through the WPI Parent Portal. When your student is expecting to complete their Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), you may use this cost estimator to get a sense of what to expect.

My student is expecting a refund. How do they get it to their bank account?

Information about setting up direct deposit for refunds is available through the Bursar’s website.

What does Residential Services do?

The Residential Services Office provides support to students who are living in on-campus residential properties. The office’s staff hosts educational opportunities and social events, mediates and supports roommate concerns, assists in decision-making for future housing opportunities, solves housing issues, and connects students on campus with other resources. Encourage your student to introduce themselves to and engage with their RA or Community Director.

I want to talk to my student’s professor(s).

It’s common for parents to want to reach out on behalf of their students, especially to professors during the academic year. However, one of the biggest points of learning in college is self-advocacy, which is why we strongly discourage parents from reaching out directly to professors. College students are learning to take responsibility for their academic path, and part of that is reaching out to professors regarding their classes. If your student is having a hard time academically (or in other areas), encourage them to reach out to the available resources on campus for support.

How do I engage with my student if I think they’re struggling?

As a parent or caregiver, it’s instinctual to want to jump in and fix an issue that you think is affecting your child. College is a time of transition and change, and some struggles are normal and expected. If you think your child is having a hard time at WPI, try to talk with them first, asking if they want or need help with anything. Lend yourself to be an active and empathic listener. Additional parent resources are available on the Student Development & Counseling Center website.

I’m concerned about my student; who should I tell?

If you’re concerned about the immediate welfare of your child or another student, call WPI Campus Police at 508-831-5555. The Campus Police department is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

 

If you’re concerned about your student’s academic performance, current functioning, engagement on campus, or anything else related to their college experience, you may fill out the “I’m Concerned about a Student” form. This form will alert the WPI Care Team, a group of professional staff that meets weekly during the academic year to address the safety, welfare, and academic success of students. It includes representatives from across WPI and focuses on reaching out to students whose behavior has in some way come to the attention of others. The Care Team will then determine a plan of action (if deemed appropriate and needed) that is in the best interested of the student and the campus community.

What is FERPA? What does it mean for me?

FERPA (the Federal Family Education Records Protection Act) protects a student’s educational record and outlines who may access it and how it may be accessed. What this means for you is that if your student is over the age of 18, there are times we’ll need their permission to talk with you. Because we want your student to help manage their WPI journey, we also want them to be part of any conversation WPI faculty and staff have about them with you.

What academic supports are there for my student?
  • Each student is assigned specific advisors to help them on campus. These individuals are a great place for students to start when it comes to identifying the best resources for them.
  • The Office of Academic Advising offers everything from daily Math and Science Help (MASH) sessions and tutoring through the Academic Resources Center to guidance from a professional advisor.
  • The Math Tutoring Center (Gordon Library 302) holds regular drop-in tutoring sessions and is staffed by TAs (teaching assistants and PhD students), PLAs (undergraduate students), and GLAs (graduate students) who are friendly, passionate about math, and ready to help with homework and general studying.
  • The Physics Lounge (Olin Hall) is filled with comfy couches and chairs, and is where physics TAs (teaching assistants) hold office hours to help students.
  • The Writing Center (Salisbury 233) is where trained writing tutors provide individual and team tutoring on course papers, presentations, dissertations, job-related documents—any type of communication project.
How do I support my student’s transition to college?

The transition from high school to college can be difficult for students and families alike, but you can support your student by providing an empathetic listening ear, following their lead in engaging on campus, and allowing them to make calculated mistakes. Personal identity and growth are fluid processes and not all students take the same path. Encourage your student to go to class, do the work, and ask for help.

 

Some students may struggle while transitioning to WPI because of its academic rigor, being surrounded by many likeminded peers, and pressure they may feel for a smooth transition. As a parent or caregiver, first ask your student if they want your help or suggestions.

  • If not, take a step back and be ready to provide support when asked, but step in if you’re seriously worried for their safety or welfare.
  • If yes, focus on practical skills to suggest to your student (how to use a calendar, scheduling their day-to-day, and creating effective study habits, work/life balance, and self-advocacy). Support them in connecting with those on campus who can help model and encourage these behaviors.
How exactly does the IQP experience work?

In their sophomore year, students will usually apply for placement at one of 50+ project centers around the world to travel to in their junior year. While on site, students work in teams of four on a project that aims to tackle real-life problems and challenges where science and technology meet social issues and human needs. More information is available on the IQP website; additional questions may also be answered in a past IQP webinar or in the FAQ document.

 

A program budget list is available under the “Explore” tab on the IQP website, and our cost calculator can also help you and your student plan for IQP travel. Students may also access more detailed program costs in eProjects.

What wellness resources are available on campus?

Wellness resources include Health Services, the Student Development & Counseling Center, and the brand-new Center for Well-being. More details on these and other wellness-related offices and programs can be found on the Be Well Together website.

How can I help my student connect socially on campus?

It can definitely be nerve-wracking to meet new people, but we know that the more connected a student is on campus, the better their grades, and the healthier they are. Here are just a few of the ways your student can find out what’s happening on campus:

 

  • Social Media: The Student Activities Office is on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook—encourage your student to follow their accounts (as well as those of their favorite organizations) for the latest campus happenings.
  • Campus-wide Bulletin Boards and Display Screens: All bulletin boards and screens across campus are regularly updated with upcoming events and activities.
  • Regular Ongoing Events: Several programs and activities are held on a regular basis and are open to all, including:
    • Friday Night Gaming with the Science Fiction Society
    • Central Rock Gym trips every Friday with the Outing Club
    • Saturday night video game tournaments hosted by the Video Game Club from 7pm-midnight
    • Pickleball pickup games on Wednesdays and Sundays
    • LEGO Club build sessions on Sundays from 1-2pm
    • A weekly art time led by the Art and Design Club
    • Cheese Club meets every other Friday at 5pm
    • SocComm hosts various events and movie nights on Saturdays and Sundays

 

If your student needs help getting connected, encourage them to reach out to the Student Activities Office (SAO) on the third floor of the Campus Center or through email at sao@wpi.edu; the team would love to help them find clubs and organizations that meet their needs and interests. ProjectConnect and groups that vary from term to term from the Student Development & Counseling Center are other great connection points; students may reach out to the SDCC at sdcc@wpi.edu for more information.

My student might need to take a leave of absence. Where should I start?

At times, it makes sense for a student to take a pause from WPI. More information on taking a leave of absence may be found on the registrar’s website.