A public research university offers students unique academic experiences and exceptional career opportunities. In the state of Maryland, two schools of such kind exist: UMD, College Park and UMBC. They are related to one another alright, but these non-profit public learning institutions are different from one another in so many ways.
While UMD has 41,200 students and UMBC only has 13,767 students, the former has a lower acceptance rate of 44%. UMBC’s acceptance rate is 61%. UMBC also has more than 100 majors despite having a small 530-acre campus. UMD, which has a large 1,335-acre campus at College Park, has over 90 majors only.
Both UMD College Park and UMBC are a part of the University System of Maryland (USM), which is composed of 11 schools throughout Maryland. This means that both UMD College Park and UMBC have shared governance that includes numerous system-wide representative bodies under the same chancellor and USM administrators.
Other schools that are a part of the USM include:
- Bowie State University
- Coppin State University
- Salisbury University
- Towson University
- University of Baltimore
- University of Maryland, Baltimore
- University of Maryland Eastern Shore
- University of Maryland Global Campus
- University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
In this article, we will put the spotlight on UMD College Park and UMBC. If you are planning on applying to only one of them, keep on reading to get to know both better, which is crucial in the decision-making process.
Overview of UMD College Park
Put simply, the University of Maryland (UMD) College Park is the flagship school of the USM. It is one of the country’s leading public research universities. Currently, it is home to more than 40,000 students.
UMD College Park is a regionally accredited school. It is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), which is under the US Department of Education. The school’s accreditation was reaffirmed by MSCHE back in 2017 — its accreditation status is reviewed every eight years.
Established in 1856, UMD College Park is the largest university not only in Maryland but also in the Washington metropolitan area. It doesn’t really come as a surprise since its campus measures 1,335 acres and houses over 350 buildings.
UMD College Park offers more than 90 majors. Some of the most popular are Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Biological Sciences, Economics and Finance. The school is also known to have some of the country’s most recognizable and successful athletics programs.
Being a party school, UMD College Park has over 800 fraternities, sororities and clubs. As a matter of fact, according to the Princeton Review, it is the 17th best party school in the US.
UMD College Park is a moderately selective school, with an acceptance rate of 44%. As a test-optional school, it does not require its applicants to submit their SAT and ACT scores. The net price of going to UMD College Park per academic year amounts to $18,459 (in-state, off-campus).
Check out the podcast interview of UMD student, who chose UMD over Northwestern:
Overview of UMBC
Like UMD College Park, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is a part of the USM. And similar to UMD College Park, UMBC is also a public research university. Over 13,000 students are attending it today.
UMBC is a regionally accredited school.
The accrediting body responsible for the school’s accreditation is MSCHE, which is one of the only six accrediting agencies recognized by the US Department of Education. The regional accreditation that IMBC has is considered more prestigious and widely accepted than national accreditation.
Established in 1966, UMBC was the last school to become a part of the USM. It is one of the smallest, too. UMBC’s campus size is only 530 acres, and it houses 70 buildings.
Despite being smaller campus size-wise than UMD College Park, UMBC offers more majors — more than 100. The school is well-known for majors such as Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Psychology, Social Sciences and Engineering.
Unlike UMD College Park, UMBC is not a party school. Still, its students have more than 200 fraternities, sororities and clubs to choose from.
Also, Baltimore County (where UMBC is located) has a number of lounges and bars that UMBC students may visit each time they would like to unwind and hang out.
With an acceptance rate of 61%, UMBC is a moderately selective school. It also does not require the applicants to submit their SAT and ACT scores since, just like UMD College Park, it’s a test-optional school. The net price of attending UMBC for one academic year amounts to $$17,887 (in-state, off-campus).
Check out the podcast interview with a student, who preferred UMBC over Vanderbilt:
UMD College Park vs. UMBC: A Quick Comparison
Most students apply to anywhere from eight to 12 colleges and universities. Applying to more schools can help increase one’s chances of getting accepted to at least one school.
However, it can also take up time and, in many instances, money — the average cost of applying to a school is $43.
It’s because of this why it’s a more sensible move to apply to no more than five to seven schools.
With so many choices, it can be challenging for many students to keep their list of schools to apply to short and sweet.
Sometimes, taking a look at a quick comparison of different schools is enough to give you an idea of which should stay on the list and which should be crossed out, thus helping to keep your list more manageable.
Let’s take a look at a table comparing UMD College Park and UMBC on various factors:
|College Park, Maryland
|Number of students
|Public or private?
|For-profit or non-profit?
|In-state tuition (2020-2021)
|COA (in-state, on-campus)
|COA (in-state, off-campus)
|Out-of-state tuition (2020-2021)
|COA (out-of-state, on-campus)
|COA (out-of-state, off-campus)
|Students receiving grant aid
|1280 to 1470
|1180 to 1360
|29 to 34
|24 to 29
|Number of schools/colleges
|Number of majors
|More than 90
|More than 100
|Number of faculty and staff
|Median salary after 10 years
|More than 800
|More than 200
|NCAA Division I
|NCAA Division I
Based on the table above, you will find it easier to choose between UMD College Park and UMBC according to certain factors, be it the campus size, number of students, acceptance rate, or student-faculty ratio.
However, it’s not really recommended to decide based solely on what you saw in the table above. In many instances, it’s a good idea to take a more in-depth look at each of the schools you have shortlisted.
As they say, never judge a book by its cover, and getting to know a school more will let you know whether or not it’s the right one for you.
Keep on reading if you want to get acquainted with both UMD College Park and UMBC better!
First things first: Always take college ranking guides with a grain of salt. College rankings are based on subjective criteria.
So, in other words, what’s exceptional for one company that dishes out rankings may be unexceptional for another. Although many students check them out, ranking systems are not well-respected in academia.
There is one phenomenal college ranker out there, and it’s none other than you!
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should steer clear of ranking guides. Especially if you are torn between two or more colleges and don’t know what to do, you may use popular college rankings as starting points.
Let’s take a look at the ranking of UMD College Park and UMBC by seven different companies:
|US News and World Report
|QS World University Rankings
|Ranking Web of Universities
Based on the table above, it’s clear that UMD College Park consistently ranks higher than UMBC. The differences between the rankings of the two Maryland-based schools are substantial, too.
The only time when the two are almost neck and neck is on College Choice’s ranking for the 15 Best Colleges in Maryland in 2021.
Just because UMD College Park always ranks higher than UMBC doesn’t mean that it’s the school for you.
It’s also important to consider other things.
For instance, if you are not that confident with your admission essay, GPA, and SAT and ACT scores, it’s a good idea to consider applying to UMBC. That’s because, as indicated earlier in the table comparing the two schools, UMBC has a higher acceptance rate — 61% vs. 44%.
Many students find it daunting to apply to very selective colleges. That’s because they fear that their chances of getting accepted are very small, especially if they apply together with bright students. When it comes to determining the selectivity of a school, the acceptance rate is taken into consideration.
As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the acceptance rate, the more selective the school.
The most selective US schools accept lower than 15% of all applicants. According to US News and World Report, some of the most selective schools, based on the fall 2019 entering class, are the following:
|Curtis Institute of Music
|California Institute of Technology
|University of Chicago
|Alice Lloyd College
Luckily, both UMD College Park and UMBC have acceptance rates that are considerably higher than the acceptance rates of elite US schools included in the table above.
With an acceptance rate of 44%, UMD College Park is a moderately selective school. The same is true for UMBC, which has an acceptance rate of 61%. But between the two and based on the acceptance rates alone, it’s clear that it can be easier for any student to get accepted to UMBC.
But just because the acceptance rate of UMBC is higher doesn’t mean that you will surely get accepted. Similarly, just because the acceptance rate at UMD College Park is slightly lower doesn’t mean that you will not get accepted.
To get accepted, you should meet or submit all admission requirements. They include the application form (both UMD College Park and UMBC accept the Common App), transcripts, letter of recommendation, and admission essay. Similarly, you should also impress the admissions officers.
Currently, both UMD College Park and UMBC are test-optional schools, just like many other US schools. So, in other words, submitting your SAT or ACT scores may or may not be done.
According to a 2021 survey, up to 71% of high school students say that it’s not likely for them to go to college because it costs too much. Many undergraduates are quitting college, too.
It cannot be denied that the cost is one of the most important considerations when it comes to choosing a school.
There is no point in going to the perfect college if you cannot afford to go there in the first place. Making matters worse is that many students take a look at the sticker price only, overlooking the net price in the process.
Put simply, a school’s sticker price is the total expense per year. It’s also called the cost of attendance (COA).
Tuition, books, room and board — these are the things that make up the sticker price of a school. In many instances, also included are other fees that the school may charge its students.
When applying to a school and your budget is an important decisive factor, don’t just focus on the sticker price. It’s a much better idea to put emphasis on the net price, which is what you will end up paying.
The net price is the cost of going to school with the scholarships, grants, and aids deducted from the sticker price.
Needless to say, the sticker price is always higher than the net price.
In the table above, for instance, it was stated that the sticker price of going to UMD College Park is $27,807 (in-state, off-campus). On the other hand, the sticker price of going to UMBC is $27,118 (in-state, off-campus).
The figures mentioned are not the amount of cash that students applying to this school will have to shell out. That’s because receiving financial aid will lower the sticker price, giving way to a lesser net price.
With the average financial aid at UMD College Park amounting to $9,348, the cost of going to the school will drop to $18,459 (in-state, off-campus). With the average financial aid at UMBC amounting to $9,231, the cost of attending the school will go down to $17,887 (in-state, off-campus).
To help make going to college easier on the pocket, many schools offer institutional aids. Unlike federal aid that comes from the federal government, institutional aid comes from the colleges or universities themselves.
Also called university-based aid, institutional aid is actually a grant or scholarship, which, unlike a loan, doesn’t have to be paid back.
For instance, I know many families with children in both universities and some have received better scholarship in UMBC, and some in UMD. So, it does make sense to make decision which school is more affordable only after receiving an aid package from both institutions.
They may not be on the top of many college ranking guides alright, except on College Choice’s ranking for the 15 Best Colleges in Maryland in 2021, where UMD College Park ranked 3rd and UMBC ranked 5th.
However, it cannot be denied that both UMD College Park and UMBC are good schools. As a matter of fact, they are regionally accredited schools, which means that they were able (or continue) to meet or surpass the high standards set by the regional accrediting bodies that gave them their accreditation.
UMD College Park offers more than 90 majors. Back in 2019, some of the most popular majors for the school’s graduates are Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Biological Sciences, Economics and Finance.
Besides over 90 majors across 12 colleges, UMD College Park also offers more than 80 minors.
On the other hand, UMBC offers more than 100 majors. Some of the most popular majors among the school’s 2019 graduates include Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Psychology, Social Sciences and Engineering.
UMBC also offers more than 70 minors and nearly 40 certificate programs.
When it comes to figuring out whether students are happy with their academic life, the freshman retention rate is considered. Put simply, the freshman retention rate is the number of freshmen students who return to the same school the following academic year instead of transferring to another school.
The freshman retention rate is an important number. That’s because it indicates how many freshmen students are happy enough to go back to the same school and enroll as sophomore students.
On average, the freshman retention rate of most US colleges and universities is 75%. If UMD College Park is on your list, you will be happy to know that the school’s freshman retention rate is 95%. On the other hand, the freshman retention rate of UMBC is 87%. Both freshmen retention rates are impressive.
Just Before You Apply to UMD or UMBC
Both UMD College Park and UMBC are respected public research universities and a part of the USM, whose 11 campuses are spread across the state of Maryland.
Although these schools have certain things in common, there are also many things that set them apart. It’s because of this why you may have a hard time deciding whether you should go to UMD College Park or UMBC.
If you live in Maryland, I strongly suggest applying to both and if possible tour both campuses to get a better feel. In the end, I know many students chose UMBC because they like smaller schools, and many chose UMD because of higher rankings.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.