Taking advantage of opportunities at mid-tier private schools and/or top-tier state schools

Hello Everyone. I am a senior who has just submitted applications to 13 schools and about to finish my last 3. This post will be asking for input about what undergraduate opportunities to look for and take advantage of at mid-tier private schools and top-tier state schools. But first, I’ll give a bit of personal background.

I applied/will apply to the following schools in the following order:

  • University of Maryland - College Park (Target Safety and In-State)
  • Columbia University (Long Reach, already Rejected)
  • UC Berkely (Reach, Out of State)
  • Rice University (Reach, Free App)
  • Washington University in St Louis (Reach, Free App)
  • Fordham (Safety, Free App)
  • Cornell (Reach)
  • Jonhs Hopkins (Reach)
  • Princeton (Long Reach, I did it because I loved the essay prompts)
  • Carnegie Mellon (Target Reach)
  • Georgia Tech (Target Reach)
  • University of San Francisco (Safety)
  • Rensselaer PI (Target)
  • U Mich (Reach)

I’m majoring in either Architecture, Civil Engineering, or Materials Science.

So, I’m pretty much assuming that I will end up at University of Maryland College Park. It is my most realistic and affordable school. Yes, I could get accepted to Georgia Tech or CMU, but from an affordability standpoint, going to UMCP with 5-10k instate tuition at a #20 nationally ranked engineering program makes the most sense. I’d really only choose Princeton, Johns Hopkins, UMich, Cornell, or potentially GT over UMCP, and it’ll come down to finances.

In order to set myself up for great professional opportunities after a 4 year degree or for great grad school options, I am looking for guidance on what types of opportunities I should seek and take advantage of at schools like UMCP, UMich, or Fordham. If you feel like commenting about any of the other schools I mentioned, feel free to do so, but I’m mainly looking for general advice. Thank you!

USF does not have civil or materials engineering, and its architecture major is not a BArch program.


UMD CP is a strong program that will set you up well in any of your intended majors.

Here’s what we told our daughter who is a chemical engineering student at Purdue.

  • Join two groups/clubs in your freshman year. One just for fun that makes you happy, one related to your major. (You can potentially add more second semester but start with no more than two because classes will be challenging!).

  • Take advantage of the career center. Go for your first visit the first month you are on campus. Have them tweak your resume (even if you think there isn’t much on it), and help you practice your 5 minute elevator pitch.

  • Go to every job fair that is relevant to your major. Talk to as many companies as possible, even as a freshman, so you can practice and get more confidence in interviewing.

  • Go to your professors’ office hours. The better relationship you have with your professors, the easier it will be to get LORs later or establish a research position.

  • Try to gain as much work experience as possible via internships or co-ops.

  • By second year, start looking for leadership opportunities.

Specific to UMD CP - I’m going to assume that you have very competitive stats based on the schools you are applying to. You will probably be admitted to honors or scholars at UMD CP. Take advantage of all that has to offer. It can make the path to leadership and research positions easier to obtain.


Thank you for your detailed response. This was exactly the response I was looking for.

As for stats, I have a 1460 (750 math) SAT and 3.96/4 gpa; do you think I could get honors or scholars with that? I know UMD has a lot of really good in-state students who choose UMD CP over Ivy League schools for financial reasons, so i’m not sure.

Right. That was the one I recently recieved a free application email for xD. Still need to look into it a bit

Go to EVERYTHING you can manage, even out of your comfort zone. You are going to be getting a university education, not attending a trade school. There will be performances, poetry readings, art exhibits, debates between the Dalai Lama and a senior official from the Pentagon (just making that up) about the use of force vs. pacifism.

This is your opportunity to grow as a human being, not just to build a resume. The classes I took outside my major (over 40 years ago) still resonate with me-- and really made me who I am as an adult. The lectures, concerts, etc. I attended exposed me to things I didn’t know about before showing up on campus. The people I got to meet, hear, interact with- really opened my eyes to worlds and opportunities and problems and situations.

No matter where you end up- commit yourself to becoming an engaged “citizen” of your campus.


UMD has a number of living/learning communities. If you don’t get honors or scholars, which I think your stats do put you in the ballpark, there are a other programs that you should be offered admission. They will all provide pathways for engagement.

I also agree with Blossom about taking advantage of lectures, concerts, and courses outside your major. Definitely a big part of your growth and development as a human being.


I know a young man who graduated from UMD as a Chemical Engineer 2 years ago. He was not in Honors or Scholars. He was not even a direct admit to ChemEng, he did an internal transfer. He got Internships and a good job after Graduation. After about a year there, he was recruited by another company for another, even better, job.

There’s no reason that YOU cannot be successful at UMD.


Why did you apply to so many schools? Especially schools that won’t fund you if you’re so concerned about costs?
Im going to address your California choices.

UC Berkeley is a publicly-funded university using taxpayer dollars to educate its residents. If you are a non-resident you pay full fees of $65K per year. This is not cheap and their scholarships usually do not apply to non-residents.

The University of San Francisco is running about $69,000 per year. The University of San Francisco is in a very expensive city. Believe me I speak from personal experience as noted by my checkbook. If you are concerned about cost, this cannot be a safety. A safety is a school that is affordable and that you’re willing to attend. If you can afford $69,000 a year without scholarships then it’s a safety.

Stick with your current in-state school that appears to have a lot of benefits.
UMD-CP sounds better and better.

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It is not a safety if it does not have the academic programs you want. Nor is it a safety if it is not assured to be affordable.