Michael - University of Maryland - Class of 2014
Hometown: Baltimore MD
High School: Private
GPA: 4.2 (weighted)
Major: Finance and marketing (formerly business)
Goal: Work in finance, then start a business
Freshman Year Update
I really love the size of UMD, and though some may think it's too big, it really isn't. I can get across campus in 15-20 minutes. The living and learning aspect of the Honors College is great because I know everyone on my floor and thus social life is a lot easier. Also, I share classes with a lot of the kids in my program so we can study together. I really love how close the school is to Washington D.C. (just a quick Metro ride away). And I actually like that it is close to home. I can go home with relative ease and see my friends who are there.
Sophomore Year Update
My sophomore year has been great so far. Joining a fraternity has introduced me to a ton of new friends throughout Maryland. I've declared my major (double in finance and marketing) and begun a minor in technology entrepreneurship. I still love this school since I am paying much less than nearly all of my friends, and I like what I am studying. My career goals have shifted from starting a business immediately after I graduate to working in the finance industry and saving enough money to start a business later.
I am very excited about a career as an entrepreneur, so I searched for college business schools with strong undergraduate programs. I studied Business Week's list of top business schools and selected some of those schools for my application list.
Going into business
I looked for business schools whose undergraduates had high average starting salaries, high job placement ratings, and good student/teacher ratios. I also looked for a strong reputation in entrepreneurship and marketing. I wanted schools with some prestige, such as Wharton. I avoided schools that were too technical for me such as Carnegie Mellon or MIT, and gravitated towards schools that would provide a good social life and were relatively close to where I live. I also didn't want a school that was huge. In the end, however, I was more than willing to give up any of these qualities in order to get into a good business program.
A great program at a great price
My early rejection from Penn's Wharton School was hugely disappointing. However, I reminded myself that Wharton has one of the hardest programs in the world to get into and that I shouldn't beat myself up over it. I also realized that Wharton's prestige had dazzled me, and I had not really considered how well it fit my goals. Most of its graduates focus on finance and go straight to Wall Street, which was not what I wanted. So I was able to get over it quickly.
I chose University of Maryland because I was accepted into its Entrepreneurship and Innovation Honors Program, which is exactly where I wanted to be if Wharton didn't work out. Over two years, students learn how to run technology startup companies and create their own businesses. The program is also a living and learning program, meaning that all 140 freshman and sophomores in the program live in the same dorm so that they are around like-minded people at all times.
The price tag helped too. Even without the scholarship they offered me, it is still the cheapest school among my choices because of in-state tuition. The scholarship just made it even more attractive as a great school for a small price.
My ups and downs
I was accepted into UMD's general honors program, but I wanted to attend the honors program that was specifically focused on business. So I sent them my first semester senior grades and highlighted parts in my resume, such as the small businesses I have started and the business-related extra curricular activities I participated in. That did the trick.
The hardest part was accepting UMD as my school. Prestige was very important to me, so going to a public college was hard to accept. But I realized I'm paying the same amount in four years as some of my friends are paying in one. I am also attending the most prestigious undergraduate program at UMD.
What I learned
When it comes to Ivy League schools and big-name schools, it seems like grades really matter just to get you into the final selection pool. I wish I had worked harder to get top grades starting my freshman year.
I would advise future college applicants to not put all their eggs in one basket. I would've been stuck and stressed once I got denied by Penn if I did not have the options of going to UMD or Emory.
The money factor
I have a $5,000 per year scholarship and my family can afford the rest (which is only about $15,000 more).
ROAD TO COLLEGE
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Student Stories - 2014
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