CMU Tepper vs UMD for CS

Hi! I hope this is an appropriate place to post this. I’m currently stuck deciding between paying full for CMU Tepper and UMD CS + 50k scholarship (out-of-state btw).

A bit of context:

In terms of what I want out of college, I value good job prospects and a well-rounded and collaborative community. I’m not too big on Greek life or anything, and I really want to go somewhere where I can learn as much as I can both in and out of the classroom. I’m not set on a major yet (I really like both business and CS :sob:). I also have a lot of college credits since I’m graduating high school with an associate degree (60 credits) and I would love for some of these credits to transfer. My parents are letting me decide what college I want to go to, so although they don’t want me to worry about cost, they still want me to consider it in my decision.


CMU is obviously really prestigious, the classes there are amazing, and I oddly don’t mind the hustle culture. I think college is what you make out of it, and I know CMU is high risk but high reward. I’m hoping to get a double major between business and another STEM major. The only thing I’m iffy about is that they won’t tell me how many credits will transfer until over the summer. So I don’t know whether or not I can graduate in 3 years, which is pretty important considering I have to pay in full at CMU.

CMU and UMD cultures are day and night, and I think I’ll enjoy the social aspect of UMD a lot. I love how UMD is right next to DC, which can make a big difference in job prospects and internships. The issue is, UMD is HUGEE and it feels like I won’t be able to find a tight-knit group of friends or receive the same sort of help as I can at CMU. I also feel like if I go to UMD, I won’t have the time to switch majors or explore my interests as much at CMU. But then again, the cost and time would also be less than CMU.

Is CMU Tepper’s prestige worth it?

What do you think I should do in this situation?

Look at your last responses. Well similar thread anyway. May help u

I was thinking that the other poster must be OP’s parent, but I guess not necessarily!

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That’s what I think too.
Too coincidental.

@Super_Moderators, can you opine please?

I would not plan on being able to graduate from CMU in 3 years. Especially if a key desire is to “switch majors or explore my interests”. And don’t count on a lot of your credits transferring. My daughter started at her school with 61 credits. At CMU, it would have been the equivalent of about 26 (73 CMU units)

I would say it comes to a fundamental question of what you want as a major - Business or Computer Science. You can’t really put off that choice, at least as a start. But it’s very unlikely you would be able to transfer to CMU CS if you change your mind.

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This is a tough and complicated decision, because you’re admitted to two top-notch programs (congrats!) but you’re not really all-in for either of these majors.

At CMU, clearly you would not have the option to switch to CS. There are a number of different quant-heavy concentrations within Tepper - I’m guessing that switching concentrations isn’t difficult but I’m not familiar with the nitty gritty of this. Another off-ramp that’s both business and CS adjacent could be the Decision Science major in Dietrich. HOWEVER, I’d be very concerned about combining a desire for flexibility and exploration with a mandate to grind out a challenging degree in three years because of the high cost. That sounds stressful and potentially limiting.

In terms of UMD… I’m confused by this:

Isn’t it CMU where this limitation is more acute? If the need to minimize the number of semesters for financial reasons is driving the push to get out of CMU in three years, why wouldn’t the great financial deal at UMD give you more freedom to take the time you need to explore?

The potential limitation at UMD is that you might not end up liking CS, and it’s not clear whether you’d be able to switch into the business school. This doesn’t sound like a “don’t even ask!” scenario like CMU CS, but not an “open door policy” either. Finding out more about CS alternatives at UMD seems like one of the most important things you can investigate. There is a CS minor, so if you wanted to switch out of the major, you could complete the minor and then major in something else. (And often this can be the best path to a minor, as CS classes at many schools are so over-enrolled that it can be tough to get into them without the preference that being a major confers… but that varies by school and I don’t know what it looks like at UMD in particular.) I’m also curious as to whether a student seeking to switch from one Limited Enrollment Program to another (i.e. CS to Business) would have an advantage, by virtue of opening up a spot in the program they’re leaving.

Overall… if you could afford four years at CMU and the question was “is it worth the money,” that would be one thing; but going in with financial pressure to graduate early front-of-mind seems not worth it to me, especially having to make a decision before even knowing what credits they will grant you. You could easily afford four years at UMD (and if your path turns out to be efficient, you could do a BS/MS or double major in four years rather than getting out as fast as possible). If you hated the “vibe” of UMD, that would be one thing… but you don’t - you find the social aspects appealing. It seems as if your biggest concern is navigating a larger school; but honestly, you will make friends, and faculty will be more than happy to help you if you seek them out. The initial adjustment can be a little more challenging at a larger school, but then it can pay off in terms of the wide range of opportunities and social circles. Plus, your AA means that you’ll be placing out of a number of larger intro-level classes, and getting to smaller, advanced classes more quickly.

So, my opinion is that you should take the fantastic scholarship opportunity at UMD, and plan to spend four years there and milk it for everything it has to offer. Resolve to stick with CS at least far enough to get the minor; by that time you’ll have a better idea what you want to do. (Also, it’s easier to end up in business jobs with a CS degree than vice versa!) At some point, no level of prestige can make up for lacking the time to explore and grow as much as you want to (and besides, UMD CS is plenty prestigious).

So, my answer would be no, Tepper’s prestige isn’t worth it unless you can comfortably allow yourself four years. Graduating early should be a decision that comes much later, not before you even arrive. (My kid who went to Rice found that she was able to graduate early; but she also felt like, at that point, she had “paid her dues” in terms of requirements and lower-division classes, and she didn’t want to pass up the advanced electives that were really the best part of her educational experience.) Time is really the most precious commodity - give yourself the option of the full allotment of time in college. Luckily, your more affordable option is also an enviable admit (and the merit itself - which I assume is a named scholarship - will stay on your resume forever too). My vote is, commit to UMD and don’t look back.


See four year plans for both.


There are clubs and programs at UMD. The student has to make an effort to participate.

Full pay vs full ride scholarship should be a no-brainer. Take the scholarship. I’m a programmer, and I can tell you that CS degrees are ridiculously employable. After about 3 years, employers don’t even ask where you went to school. After about 5 years, your school prestige might get a few nods at a dinner party, but literally no one will care. Credentials are built with hands-on experience.

Also there’s the “prestigious higher salary” myth. East/west coast universities have higher starting salaries because they’re on the east/west coast. In fact, when schools boast about this, they’re literally lying to you. Salaries are only comparable in the same local market for the same job. A 100k starting salary sounds great, except that you probably won’t be able to make ends meet on that salary in most east coast locations. A 75k starting salary in Texas, for instance, can buy you a 3 bedroom house.

Also, I’m hearing “full pay.” Full pay at CMU is atrocious, and parents usually don’t have $400,000 lying around. Is there any debt being passed onto you? If so, then CMU should be scratched off the list. No amount of debt over the federal maximum of $27,000 should even be an option for a bachelors degree. Unless the degree says M.D. next to it, $100,000 in loans is financial suicide.

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Note: OP will be majoring in business at CMU, not CS. So it’s really a choice between majors. The schools automatically follow once that’s decided.


OP does not have a full ride scholarship.

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If you don’t like CS at UMD, you can switch to

which sounds right up your alley.

Have you been invited to any Living learning community or a “Carillon”?

To answer your direct question, no Tepper is NOT worth it.

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I don’t even think most people you’d meet at a dinner party would be any more impressed by CMU than UMD, to be honest.

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Yes, a 23 year old can make ends meet on 100k per year in Boston, NYC, DC etc. Check the median income for these places for a family…

Don’t post ridiculous fake statistics.

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I don’t know - i’m looking at apartments in Ogden Utah and my son’s salary first year (not quite 100K but not far off) and I’m already like - crap, he’s going to save little!!

The poster didn’t say “you can’t save money”. It was “you can’t make ends meet” which is hogwash. Millions of people do it and they aren’t living under a bridge.


Not if there’s a mountain of student loans to pay for.

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