CMU Business/IS vs UMD CS (OOS with President's Scholarship)

Hello, all, my DD applied to most colleges intending to study business (preferred major) but she also applied to a few in CS (alternative major if business major does not work out). She is struggling to make a final decision between CMU’s Tepper Business major(possibly switch to IS or double major business/IS) and UMD’s CS (direct admit, OOS tuition but awarded with a President’s Scholarship for 4 years). CMU will cost about $85-90K per year and it will likely take 4 years to graduate with a total cost close to $340-350K. UMD allows many dual enrollment credits to transfer and she can probably graduate in 3 years with a total cost of $150K ($50K per year after scholarship).

Between CMU and UMD, CMU has a better name recognition (though she is not in CMU’s elite SCS program) and it will give her opportunity to transfer major (business to IS )or double major as she desires and CMU’s career service support is probably better as it is a private college with more resources for students. UMD’s CS program is strong (top 20 based on the popular rankings) and seems to have a good reputation for graduates to land decent CS jobs in east coast or to a certain extent, nationwide, including some high tech firms. However, it may be overcrowded due to many aspiring CS students.

She is concerned by the vibes in CMU due to the stereotypes of CMU being heavy workload, one of the most depressed campuses, nerdy etc despite it being a top tier university. UMD has a very different vibes as a large state college in a less competitive environment (UMD CS may be still a tough program to study), but it is a big campus easily getting “lost” with large classes and students competing for resources. Cost of attendance for two schools are almost $200K difference. She is also thinking of going to a good MBA program to pursue business as a future goal, however, it may change. Parents are willing to support her financially regardless of her choice.

Your thoughts on college selection are much appreciated, probably based on school reputation, program strength, future career opportunities, and lastly ROI. What would all the wise people choose in such situation?


Congrats!! Exciting choices!
Considering ROI, campus vibes, being directly admitted to CS at UMD?
Choose UMD. Save the $. Graduate early or add a major or study abroad.

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See CMU Tepper undergrad outcomes


I do think CMU is a special place and worth the $$ but IS and/or business aren’t CS and I’m saying so for CS.

I’d also say that CS is going to be a butt kicker regardless of which school your student attends. And business isn’t considered an overly difficult major (especially vs. an engineering or CS) although this can differ by school. So in this case UMD might be more difficult than CMU.

If you have an interest in CMU and you can afford it (and you say you can) you might ask to speak to a student ambassador or two and confirm your suspicions. Sometimes reputations don’t equal reality.

But the major thing, to me, would be - what do you want to study - CS or business? You have two different academic paths - choose the path the student wants to follow.

Best of luck.

Business vs CS. This isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Does she have a preference? Even a small one?

I would pick UMD. Cost and probably easier to switch majors if she decides CS isn’t her path. Did she get into an Honors program? I would think 3 years is doable if she has AP/DE credits. S20 will graduate a year early at GT. Made internships and Co-OP’s easier to navigate.

CMU for CS would probably be worth it but not Tepper. Great program but not $200k better. Especially if grad school is on the table. CMU was/is a grind for CS/EE but that was many years ago. I’m assuming it hasn’t changed but for Tepper that could be different.

Good luck. No bad choice here.

Before school application season, DD felt she would aim for a career in business world, like consulting (MBB etc), interacting with people/variety of projects/flavors, she felt more exciting doing that. She took some CS classes before but did not feel it was her true passion doing coding in front of a computer all day long, but will do it if “push comes to shove” thanks to CS being hot major due to good employment prospect and high pay (not sure if it is still true any more :grinning: That is why she applied to both business (majority schools) and a few CS schools depending on individual school. She only applied business at CMU and CS in UMD.

Since it is not an apple to apple comparison between the two schools with different majors, which makes selection more challenging. Additionally, CMU’s Business or IS has decent reputation based on conventional wisdom in popular rankings, but they do not have stellar reputation as CMU’s CS, nor do they seem to have great financially rewarding career based on the student employment outcome (good jobs for CMU’s new business graduates but with relatively low ROI due to CMU’s high cost). Parents can afford the tuition but also want to look into the selection from the ROI angle. Is it worthy going to CMU comparing the costs of two schools? For sure, the college tuition is eye-popping expensive and it does not guarantee success.

CMU’s CS is great, but it is not for fainted heart. Do you really need to go through all the stresses/mental health issues studying there to get CMU’s CS credential/prestige for a successful IT career? Will UMD’s CS program rigor enough to provide good foundation for either graduate school/MBA or employment opportunities for companies(FAANG)? Any personal insight? For most IT jobs, it seems that UMD CS is a good enough name.


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I think you are overthinking this.

Everything you write says to me - don’t want to do CS.

Few schools are “better” - based on rank. That’s a US News things.

There are some stretches though - an MIT or Cal Tech will bring you more in engineering.

A Penn Wharton will bring you more in business.

Will an Indiana bring you more than say a Florida in business or Maryland - ehhhhh - maybe in a few niche things, but no, not really.

Tepper is good but business is not CS.

Your concepts are all wrong - you want to know will UMD provide good enough concepts for FAANG. Yes - but will so many colleges - and you cannot make a decision based on FAANG. That’s just foolish. That’s a small portion (and by the way, they are laying off like crazy - you don’t know the market in four years).

In regards to MBA, your college or major will have little to do with getting into a great program - but your work experience and GMAT will - and the work experience doesn’t have to be FANNG vs. a local or small company - and doesn’t have to be tech vs. non tech. In other words, you can go to Youngstown State and still have a great shot at top B Schools.

So I think you are basing this decision on all the wrong things.

What does your student want to study? If CS, then UMD. If a business discipline, such as accounting, finance (even computational), operations - then go to Carnegie Mellon.

From an ROI POV, UMD is the choice here.

But not if the student doesn’t want to be a CS major.

And this is why you are way overthinking and overanalyzing - in my opinion.

I would find out what the student wants - and take the rest of it out - because they have to be there for four years, day after day - and if the student is in the wrong major, wrong environment, they are far less likely to succeed.

Good luck.


If she wants business and doesn’t have a passion for CS then UMD CS makes no sense. Why torture yourself for 4 years? Can she transfer to business at UMD? Definitely worth a phone call.

Btw UMD CS is top notch. Probably in top 20 or close to it if you’re into rankings.

What other schools accepted her? Might be good to share for comparison.


I’m not sure this is even an option given that she didn’t apply to, and hasn’t been admitted to SCS. I know they allow internal transfers but my understanding is that it’s pretty hard to transfer into SCS.

Yes (and side note: Google founder Sergey Brin did his undergrad at UMD). As @chmcnm said it’s a top 20 program - around #15/16 as per USNWR and a bit higher in other rankings. But this also means that the program is hardcore. Not well suited for someone not into programming and getting into the theoretical aspects.

So I think your daughter really needs to decide which major she truly wants. You’re really picking between majors here, not schools, because depending on the major only one of these schools is the automatic right answer.


First of all, internal transfer to CMU SCS is nearly impossible from other CMU schools/colleges. OTOH, transferring to another CMU college in order to major in IS is very much doable from Tepper. If your daughter is looking for “a successful IT career” as generally understood, an IS degree from CMU is more than sufficient. In fact, a CS degree would be an overkill. I personally know a few CMU IS graduates with successful careers in IT and IT consulting. However, if your daughter is looking for more than a career in IT, especially if she is interested in some specialized areas in CS, she should choose UMD CS instead. CMU IS wouldn’t provide the same opportunities.

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It doesn’t sound like she’s got enough knowledge about business (or what careers in CS look like) to make a decision now- which is totally fine. Does she have ANY acceptances where she’s not committing up front? Tens of thousands of kids switch majors every year because the discipline turns out NOT to be what they thought it was- and in your D’s case, it sounds like neither of these options is a great fit for where she is right now.

Can she switch from Tepper to Arts and Sciences? Can she switch out of CS at UMD and into Arts and Sciences?

I think there’s a lot of putting the cart before the horse here. Your D is obviously smart and talented- why not take freshman year to figure things out before declaring a major?

UMD CS attracts some pretty hard core kids btw… it’s not a program where you can phone it in if you don’t really love the material. And I think Tepper is going to bore the pants of a kid who isn’t exactly sure what an undergrad business degree is all about- not a lot of coasting, it’s not as intense as CS at CMU but it ain’t a walk in the park. And if she struggles- which of course is quite legitimate, especially if she isn’t sure it’s what she wants- consulting will likely be off the table.

Unless you’re leaving a lot of stuff off here (passion for accounting, loves supply chain and all its complications) Tepper seems like an odd choice.

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All good points from all. Outsiders have better and clear view of situations than the insiders who are tangled and struggle to set decision making priority right. Overthinking and overanalyzing as one pointed out is not an understatement and the concerned parents are trying to plot out different outcomes based on school selection and potential changes in the future due to major change etc. Future uncertainty and unknow do not help the decision making. We are making decision based on best educated assumption.

A few clarifications.

  • transfer to CS in CMU. If CMU is selected as a school of attendance, DD will not likely try this almost impossible path transferring to CS. Instead, she may focus on transferring to IS, which is an interdisciplinary major with both technology and business components into it, which may fit her thinking of an IT consulting career or SWE type of roles. Great CS program in CMU, but it is designed for certain students who are very driven, nerdy or with combination of personal traits that will thrive or enjoy such challenges. Not sure if it is worthy the mental stress for 99% of students who will end up just doing day to day software engineering type of IT jobs.
  • DD’s future career plan and major selection may change, partially due to lack of knowledge or personal experience. Not unusual as it happens to many young students. I think she would be fine with both business and CS given some time for adjustment. She probably has the intellect or “smartness” to handle either major. CMU afford her some flexibility to try different things or double majors, but with stiff price tags $$$. UMD’s flexibility may be limited. Main reason for choosing UMD is its CS program, 3 year graduation and lower total $ amount. She is thinking a MBA right now if she goes to UMD. The money she saved at UMD will afford her a good MBA program if tuition does not go up every year like crazy.
  • Peer pressure. Some peer pressure from others for going to UMD instead of CMU due to perceived difference in ranking, reputation, selectivity, “eliteness” etc, especially when others you think of less capable are going to schools better ranked. However, try to tell her that she has to be true to herself. We all have similar life experience but will eventually turn out to be as good as others or even better. Your life is what you make of it.

What other options does she have? You realize that the three year grad option at UMD gives her zero wiggle room academically… she’ll be thrown into the deep end of the pool immediately. I’m worried that you have miscalculated the rigor and competition of the program at UMD!

It is way too early to be thinking MBA so I’d take that off the table, you have enough factors to contend with!


For what it is worth, my friends who graduated with CMU IS degrees in the 90s were the first to get job offers when we were in college and continued to have interesting and lucrative careers. Perhaps other schools have caught up in the intervening years, but it was a great program and one I would always recommend to anyone who enjoys both disciplines.

I know many people who had STEM degrees and got an MBA funded by their employer. In fact, some work experience was actually preferred prior to getting an MBA.

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Again, you are way overthinking.

And you have to take career out of it as most have no idea what consultants either do - and there’s so many within so many fields.

And grad school isn’t relevant because you need work experience.

Graduating in three years is good if ready and can get an internship - but it might also give you less flexibility. My son started a sophomore (engineering) but still took four years due to cost sequencing.

If she wants to be in IS and not CS, then I wouldn’t go to CMU but that’s me.

And since she’s not in CS, that eliminates CMU.

If nothing else, UMD gives you flexibility. She can try CS (she’s in) and if she hates it, move to something else.

Her career will not be decided at 20/21. It may start differently than you think but it won’t be decided.

As for peer pressure, that’s great - but your kid has to live her life - and it’s gone the minute you step foot on campus - rank, pedigree, and all that.

But you really need to take out all the analysis - it’s quite simple - what does she want to study and where can she do it?

Good luck.

Yes. She can also try switching to business. I looked it up.

But it’s not easy:

Admission to the Smith School is highly competitive and based on a holistic process. We are searching for a diverse, engaged, and academically talented pool of students.

There’s this program which may be of interest to OP’s daughter:


Has OP looked into UMD allowing student to switch major now to Smith business from CMNS CS? Website says to inquire with Admissions even before orientation, to see if possible.

I wouldn’t bank on your daughter graduating in 3 years and certainly hope you won’t pressure her to do so. Realistically, that probably means it’s more likely a $350k to $200K comparison.

I happen to think think there are very few colleges worth paying full price for but CMU is one of them for CS and maybe for Tepper and IS, also. Tepper has a computational finance major that might appeal to her. In general, Tepper’s curriculum seems more quant focused than many other B schools. And Tepper kids land quite well. Has she visited each place? met some of the students?


Hope she can finish it in 3 years, though finger crossed.

Computational finance major in CMU may be as competitive as CMU CS. Yes, Tepper’s program is quant heavy, unlike other B schools. Still not sure if the graduates’ employment outcome stand out dramatically better than others. Any personal experience?