Campus Visit Debriefing: University of Maryland

As a foil for my visit to Hood College, my second campus visit was to a public, national, research university: the University of Maryland on June 18, 2015.

University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland

Fun fact: During final exams, one of the events on the McKeldin Mall (a central spot on campus) is a "puppy palooza" where students can de-stress by playing with puppies.

Ease of application: UMD does not accept the Common App.  Its unique application will be available online in August.  The admissions office considers 26 factors in admission, which include the expected items such as test scores and an essay and the more unexpected items such as "breadth of life experiences."  The priority application deadline is November 1.  Ninety percent of Maryland's acceptances are issued to students who apply by the priority deadline, so don't delay!  Students who file by this deadline are considered for the Honors College and the College Park Scholars programs.  Additionally, the priority deadline allows the admissions office to issue appropriate merit scholarships based solely on your numbers: GPA and test scores (a sliding scale of merit awards was implied; the average student who received a merit award had a weighted GPA of 4.4 and a combined CR + M SAT in the low 1400s).  The good news is that students will hear back by late January with UMD's admissions decision, giving them plenty of time to consider Maryland before the May 1 attendance decision deadline.

Overall impression: Big.  So, so big.  In what ways is it big?

  • 36,000 total students.  Of these, 26,000 are undergrads.  Of those 4,000 are international students from about 100 different countries.
  • A campus tour that lasted over an hour and didn't even touch "North Campus" gave the impression of a big school.  My tour guide did point out that certain programs and schools have buildings clustered together (e.g., all the engineering buildings are together), so you really don't have to walk across campus a lot.  ...This is all well and good if you stack your class schedule.  But what if you don't?  What if you live on the opposite side of campus?  What if you're not sticking to just one program but are taking a more diverse course load?  You really can't get away from the fact that this place is large in terms of practical, feet-to-pavement travel.  Speaking of feet-to-pavement: both the admissions counselor and the tour guide noted that the sidewalks across the mall (and at other places on campus) were not paved until the school determined the paths students were most often taking (based on the trodden grasses).  The fact that "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line" was highlighted multiple times on my visit implies, to me, that students are concerned with how to shorten the time it takes them to get around such a big campus.
  • Big opportunities.  If you can get into the program/school/major you want (there are over 90 choices), Maryland wants you to enjoy and make the most of your time.  The variety of internships, service learning programs, studies abroad, and research opportunities is virtually endless.  And if there is a learning experience you want to have that doesn't currently exist, ask for it.  UMD's president is making your experience a priority.  And it doesn't hurt having major hubs like DC and Baltimore close by, not to mention Philly and NYC just a train ride away.  Think of all the networking and interning opportunities out there!
  • Big 10.  Can't leave that out, can I?  Sports are big at Maryland.  If you want that big-school, big-sports, big-pride experience, Maryland will give it to you.

Honestly, there is a lot I could say about Maryland because there is a lot going on over there!  Big schools bring diverse opportunities for students to make the college experience their own. If I were to write a tagline for this visit, it would go something like this: "Maryland is your oyster, if you can get in."  They offer a ton of stuff, but they also want to be perceived as very selective (and getting more selective every year).  If a big state school is on your radar and Maryland is within your acceptable radius, it's worth a visit!