University of Maryland

The quad at the University of Maryland is beautiful and mirrors the quintessential American university campus portrayed in Hollywood movies. Brick academic buildings line the perimeter, an elegant fountain serves as its focal point, and the majestic library crowns the hilltop.  During my visit to Maryland, students were enjoying the beautiful fall day hanging out with friends, sunbathing, and riding bikes through the gentle, rolling hills. This suburban campus is located in College Park, Maryland, just 25 minutes from downtown Washington, D.C. Shuttle buses transport students to many campus locations, downtown, and the metro station. However, our tour guide, like many UMD students, opts to ride a bike to help navigate the sprawling 1,200-acre campus.

Maryland is a large state university with 26,000 undergraduate students. Approximately 75 percent of students hail from Maryland. However, the student population is diverse.  Students come from all 50 states, and more than 50 percent of the student body is comprised of students of color. UMD students appear laid back and down-to-earth. Most students were dressed in jeans and t-shirts, while others were wearing red Maryland t-shirts showing their school spirit.

marylandCognizant of its size, the University offers opportunities for its students to make a large university smaller.  Freshmen can take advantage of one of the Living and Learning Communities. This program assigns groups of freshmen enrolled in the same core academic classes to a common dorm.  The goal of the program is to provide a living and learning environment that fosters the opportunity to make close relationships. Our tour guide Leah told us that this was a fantastic experience. As a junior, she still considers the classmates she met freshman year to be among her closest friends.

In February 2022, UMD initiated a new strategic plan that focuses on four pillars.

Reimagined learning

  • High impact learning
  • Collaboration within multidisciplinary topics

Tackling Humanity’s Grand Challenges

  • Multi-disciplinary approach to learning and problem-solving
  • Taking advantage of DC
  • Shared discovery

Investing in People and Communities

  • Creating an inclusive environment
  • Mental health initiative to support rising need among students

Partnering to Advance Public Good

  • Creating more partnerships to increase benefits of people around campus

We were hosted in the Thurgood Marshall Hall which houses the new building of public policy and the Do Good Institute.  UMD is committed to ensuring that kids get positive educational experience and their expectation that they do good with their education. They have also invested $3M in technology.

As we toured campus, one of my fellow counselors asked how much the idea of “Do Good” has trickled down to the student body.  Our tour guide gave a few examples: providing menstrual products for free in the bathrooms, and protesting on campus, but overall, she felt like students who were part of the public policy program were more aware of the initiative than others on campus. 

Honors College and Living and Learning Communities

The Honors College at the University of Maryland is a 4-year program that offers high-achieving students seven exclusive living and learning communities.  

1.         Advance Cybersecurity Experience for Students

    Approx. 75 students/year

ACES educates future leaders in the field of cybersecurity through rigorous hands-on learning, multidisciplinary curriculum, collaborative projects, and interactions with industry and business leaders.  ACES includes a two-year living-learning program and a complementary two-year upper-level advanced program of study.            

2.         Design Cultures & Creativity

The DCC program studies the relationships between society and technology.  Students explore the relationship between emerging media, society, and creative practices.   Topics are wide-ranging, including, identity, connectivity, social justice, art design, and all things creative in an era when digital media links us on an unprecedented scale. Students create a capstone presentation after two years and then have the opportunity to take honors seminar courses during the rest of their undergraduate education.

3.         Entrepreneurship & Innovation

The EIP program encourages students to explore their entrepreneurial passions and develop the mindsets, skills, and relationships necessary to create innovative ideas to today’s problems.  Students will work with faculty and mentors who have all launched entrepreneurial ventures.  Students are required to live together for two years and will create a capstone presentation after these two years.  

4.         Gemstone

Gemstone is a four-year research program that engages students in an undergraduate research experience through a multidisciplinary team approach (8-12 students/team). Current teams are researching environmental issues, advances in health care, community well-being, improvements in hybrid vehicle technology, and many other topics.  Projects and thesis papers are presented to faculty at the end of the four years.  

5.         Honors Humanities 

Honors Humanities explores how great ideas empower personal development and social change.  Students from many majors join this community to develop practical, career-sustaining skills in analysis, persuasion, and human relations.  This program encourages internships and study abroad experiences.  The Humanities students pursue individual creative, research, or service projects.  Capstone projects will be presented after two years.

6.         Integrated Life Sciences

Integrated Life Sciences seeks to inspire, educate and launch the careers of students interested in the life sciences, molecular genetics, biochemistry, biomedicine, physiology, ecology, and bioengineering. These students have enhanced opportunities for research internships on campus and at federal research institutes, and service-learning experiences related to environmental sustainability, health care, and science education. This program requires one year of mandatory housing and students must have a full year of college-level biology prior to entering the program. Students can apply to this program for their sophomore year and is very common for students who are pre-med.

7.         University Honors

University Honors is the most flexible honors program, giving students the freedom to create their own Honors curriculum.  Students choose from over 130 honors courses and are able to customize their education based on their academic and career interests.   University Honors is the only honors program that will accept transfers as well as freshmen.

All honors programs at UMD are four years and require students to take 14-18 honors credits.  The students who are in programs with a capstone/thesis presentation after two years remain in the honors program and are able to take honors seminars during the remaining years.


Admissions take a holistic approach taking into account 26 quantitative and qualitative factors. Admissions seek to identify students who will enrich and benefit from campus learning environment and contribute to community in terms of:

  • Academic success
  • Enriching the diversity of the student body
  • Adding new perspectives to curriculum and scholarly pursuits
  • The ability to learn from different perspectives
  • Intellectual engagement and the desire to develop skills
  • Students who will Do Good in the world

Most accepted students have more As than Bs in a rigorous high school curriculum.  They take a lot of time getting to know the various high school profiles so they can make informed decisions.  Since joining the CommonApplication, the academic profile rose dramatically. 

A prospective student must apply directly to one of the 10 colleges within the University.  Engineering and Business are considered Limited Enrollment Programs (LEP). Computer Science is exceptionally competitive and exploding with students.  Admissions officers review first for acceptance to the overall university but if a student applies for a LEP, then their application will go through a secondary review.  If they are admissible to LEP, they get admitted to the program but if they are not qualified, students will get accepted into Letters and Sciences.  Once at UMD, students can transfer into an LEP if they meet the requirements. 

It is not surprising that political science is popular with the UMD’s close proximity to D.C. Journalism and media studies is strong and housed in the state-of-the-art journalism building.

Admissions encourages all students to apply by the November 1 early action deadline. Students who apply by November 1 will automatically be considered for the Honors College, College Park Scholars Program, the myriad other scholars communities, and merit aid.  No additional application or supplemental essay is required to be considered for these programs. However, students applying after the November deadline will not be considered.  Historically, 85 percent of the student body is selected through the early action deadline.

maryland2Student Body

Students take advantage of research, leadership, and internships on and off campus.  Many students find off-campus internships in nearby D.C. in government, cultural centers, museums, and businesses. Study abroad is popular and encouraged.

Students at UMD are active outside the classroom as well. There are more than 800 clubs and organizations on campus to join. While I was there the marching band was practicing for the upcoming game.  Greek Life is strong, with 42% of the student body affiliated with sororities or fraternities. Frat Row is located across from the main quad and appeared to be full of activity.

School spirit is strong at the UMD, and students are proud of their Div. I sports teams.  Attending Terrapin games is easy, with on-campus football and basketball stadiums. Other athletic fields and facilities are well appointed and easily accessible, including a nationally recognized state-of-the-art gym open to all students complete with cardio machines, weights, and exercise classes.

Surrounding Area

The town of College Park is within easy walking distance of the University and has everything a college student could want or need.  Fast food, coffee shops, yogurt shops, and bars line the streets. Students who live on campus say there is no need for a car. Washington DC is approximately 30 minutes away by public transportation or car.


The University of Maryland is a great choice for the student who wants a large university with a big sports culture, strong Greek life, close proximity to D.C., and vast internship opportunities. While on campus, be sure to participate in a long-standing Maryland tradition of rubbing the nose of Testudo, the large bronze terrapin mascot; it is said to bring good luck!

University of Maryland

College Park, MD 20742,

Phone 301.405.1000


University of Maryland
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