Wellesley College vs UMD College Park for CS

Hi everyone! Hope you all are doing well. Currently I’m deciding between these two schools… and feeling very torn :sweat_smile:

I’m entering as a CS major right now, though I’ve been doubting lately whether it’s really the path I want to pursue.

Wellesley pros:

  • women’s college, liberal arts, incredible alumni network
  • small class sizes, amazing relationships with professors
  • tight-knit community, residential (and beautiful!) campus
  • relationship with MIT (can cross-register to take classes there)
  • lots of opportunities for academic exploration across different subjects
  • looks like it would have more opportunities in terms of different academic departments should I choose to pivot away from CS

Wellesley cons:

  • more expensive (enough financial aid for it to be doable, but still a significant difference)
  • very far from home (and a bit cold!)
  • stress culture and intense workload pressure (students I’ve spoken to don’t seem to have much time to get involved in clubs/extracurriculars, especially if commuting to MIT for classes or working a work-study job)
  • CS department is apparently very academia/PhD route focused and does not have a lot of support for students going into industry
  • social/friendship culture seems a little… cold from the outside?? hoping that this is an inaccurate impression on my part

UMD pros:

  • closer to home, better price (wouldn’t have to worry about finding work-study jobs or whether financial aid would hold up year-to-year!), warmer :sweat_smile:
  • CS department seems a lot stronger than Wellesley’s (minus the MIT boost), with a lot more options and opportunities across different areas
  • Honors College: I was accepted into the Honors Global Communities Living-Learning program (get to take some unique political science and data science courses) which seems like a super cool opportunity
  • I enter with a lot of AP credits which seems like it would free up my schedule a lot
  • more relaxed environment, academically and otherwise, social scene also seems a bit warmer

UMD cons:

  • large state school (not liberal arts, a lot of classes with large sizes, less accessible professors, easy to get lost in the crowd, a bit less my vibe)
  • not really a “tightly knit community” aspect
  • seems like it lends itself less to academic exploration across fields, less opportunity if I were to pivot away from CS (in addition, my parents think that with CS being one of UMD’s strongest departments, it would be silly to switch into a department that’s not as well ranked–which makes it feel more constricting)
  • doesn’t have alumni network like Wellesley’s

Thank you for reading, and I’ll greatly appreciate any thoughts and comments you can give me!

Nice problems to have:

So I don’t know the answer - but Wellesley and MIT aren’t close - so I’d wonder, how many take advantage of cross registration?

As for having more academic departments should you decide CS isn’t for you, think again. You are talking about UMD vs. an LAC - and access to majors Wellesley won’t have. Now not all majors can be easily transferred to, etc. but I’d say the statement would be false.

So I’m reading your write up and I assume you don’t want to be in academia and you want to be in industry. So I’m already thinking UMD.

But let’s look further.

UMD is large - yes - and it’s not a liberal arts. Well, that’s not true - now is it classified by the mainstream as an LAC - no. But do they offer the liberal arts - yes and likely every bit as an LAC.

Less accessible professors. Interesting. Have you been to a class or office hours? Have you emailed or asked for help? What I’m saying is - you’re making an assumption - they may even be more accessible than Wellesley - you just don’t know. I’d say this - every professor is different - there are some responsive and some not so responsive. You’re making assumptions and you may be right or you may not be - or more likely, there’s some on both sides.

Tight knit? How do you know - have you been to school, did you join a club or make friends? It may be just as tight knit as Wellesley. It will certainly give you more opportunities to find your tribe vs. a limited amount of people.

Alumni networks - overrated. Even the behemoths like Penn State.

I think you should go to UMD - and I think you make a lot of assumptions that you don’t really know to be true but based on perception or desire, you note them to be true.

Now let’s be clear - Wellesley is a top LAC and if you want an LAC, it’s a fine school. But given your desires and where you think you want to be, UMD is much stronger. And if you pivot from CS, you’ll still have options.

Wellesley has little name recognition and frankly but frankly that doesn’t matter.

My point - if you’re a go getter and aggressive, even if you pivot to business or something else from CS, you’ll have every opportunity for a successful life out of UMD as you do Wellesley.

Yes, the experiences are far different - but it’s clear from your write up, that UMD is the right choice here.

Best of luck.


Agree with @tsbna44.

I’ll just add a couple more things…

But you’re in a living learning program that has its own dorm and own set of activities. So you will be in a tight knit community.

it actually does, especially for CS.

UMD has other highly ranked departments: engineering, business, pol sci (proximity to DC is a big plus). I’ve heard math is pretty strong too. So you’ll definitely have opportunities to switch majors, or do a minor, etc.

Ultimately, go where you think you’ll be happiest.


It’s hard to go wrong choosing an in-state school, especially when it already has a reputable CS program. Plus, it offers a great deal of options and flexibility if you decide to switch majors. Most students will switch majors at least once.

Also, there are tons of clubs and diverse people, which gives you the choice to be in a “tight knit” community or have anonymity. In a small liberal arts school, you kind of get the culture you get. If you don’t “fit in” the clique, it makes for a miserable 4 years of college. I recommend UMD all the way.

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I guess I can add something about UMD. My D and her husband are both somewhat recent graduates.

From UMD’s website, it looks like they have about 128 different Majors and about 81+ Minors.

My D was in University Honors and had a Major and a Minor. She made a point of getting to know the Professors in both. She also met with her Faculty Advisor on a regular basis.

After Graduation, she got a Faculty Staff Member position at UMD for the following school year. Shortly after she returned to UMD to work, she got an email from one of her former Professors (who heard that she was back on Campus) offering her a job grading papers for a Senior Seminar that he was teaching. She accepted, since she could do this in the evening, and it would not conflict with her other job.

All this happened because of her initiative. UMD is a large school. My D had some large classes. But it also had a lot of opportunities. Some were obvious and some had to be sought out.

I don’t know anything about Wellesley but I think ALL colleges offer opportunities and getting to know Professors matters.

It’s all up to the student

Good Luck.


I will agree with others that UMD has great opportunities to find friends , clubs, majors. My D20 is in College of Information Studies, which a decade ago was more for graduate studies in library science. Its fastest growing major has been Information Science, and there’s another new major on social data. Some switch from CS to Info Sci. You’re not locked in to CS by any means.
You could do a major with applied math or data science, start a masters early, many options.

Or see new BA for emerging creatives as well,

PS another of my Terps was in Honors College /humanities , it was a great experience, & I’m confident it will offer quality, small courses, interaction with faculty, & inspiring & talented students.

Whether you come from the Top-ranked women’s college or a top-ranked national university, you’ll do very well professionally.
It looks like everyone jumped on the UMD bandwagon but I’ll be a contrarian. :slight_smile:
I’d say Wellesley actually has an advantage because it’s got more resources per student (for instance, even if your courses are more “academic” you can count on summer internships thanks to their career center and very tight-knit alumna network, which you’ll hear from as soon as you accept admission).
You can add courses, minors, or majors without restrictions.
(It’s cool there are 120+ majors at UMD but many are restricted-access or competitive-access).
However UMD CS is such a behemoth with many concentrations, researchers, connections to the industry in the VA/MD/DC area, that whatever you want to do, you can. The fact you’re in a LLC should also make things smaller, though you’ll definitely have huge classes your first 2 years so if you want discussion-based classes and direct personal contact with professors it’ll be harder to do. “Seeing the professor during office hours if you want to” is totally different from the type of contact you have with professors at a LAC, but I’m guessing you already know that. UMD is a huge state school, there’s no way around that. Being in the Honors LLC will alleviate things and thus may give you two different environments, sometimes that of “impersonal state school” and sometimes “small group”.
Wellesley will have a common culture shared across all dorms and majors, it’ll be more tight-knit.
(BTW I know from direct experience of kids who went there that Wellesley students routinely take 1 of their 4 courses at MIT or other colleges in the network so if that’s something you’re interested in, yes it’s possible).

All in all your summary of the differences is good.
I’d choose based on where you’ll feel more comforable.
Wellesley’s competitive, overachieving culture is real. UMD will let you balance your schedule more - CS classes that require 12 hours of hw a week and random classes that require as little as 4 hours of hw will be possible, not at Wellesley. Same thing with the tight-knit community v. huge school+small group.

Have you spent a day shadowing a student or emailed a student in CS at both schools? If not, there’s still time (for UMD and for emails/social media/email) if you hurry.

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Agreed Wellesley is a fine school. I based my eval - less on the schools and more on the what OP wrote - her perceptions, etc.

But yes, Wellesley is a fine option if OP chooses.

I disagree with a few of your points, but I mostly disagree with this. Wellesley is a very strong brand and is quite well known. A lot of LACs do suffer from lack of name recognition with the general population, but I don’t think Wellesley does. It arguably has the strongest name recognition of any LAC. It is the preeminent women’s college in the world. People know it.

I have no opinion about where the OP should go, but lack of a strong and well known brand name for Wellesley should not be in the calculus. IMHO.


We’ll disagree then :slight_smile: But I’d say the same about Emory, WUSTL, and then some selective LACs like Colby, W&L, Carleton, Hamilton, etc. It doesn’t mean they’re not wonderful btw.

I think Wesleyan is a strong name and others confuse. I think if you asked 100 people about Wellesley, maybe five would know and more than 5 would think you’re talking about Wesleyan.

But - it’s ok - we can disagree - the LACs, especially top level, are fantastic and if OP chooses Wellesley, I hope it’s because what it offers but not because she’s afraid UMD doesn’t offer something if otherwise UMD would be her choice.

I felt like her write up preferred UMD but she feared some things that aren’t necessarily true.

Good luck to OP.

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Fair enough. To be clear, I’m not saying that more than five would be really clued in about Wellesley or super informed about it. But having heard of it? I mean, it’s been used in pop culture so many times … it’s referenced in movies and TV shows, and there is a Julia Roberts movie set there and the movie’s plot is pretty much about Wellesley during the 50s. I mean, I know people who don’t know or care anything about college who at least would recognize Wellesley … “Oh yeah, isn’t that an all-womens school?” That sort of thing.

I’d say way more than five in a 100 if we’re just talking about “heard of it.” OTOH, if we’re talking about really understanding that it’s a powerhouse, etc., then sure, I agree, that’s probably a different percentage.

PS: I also agree with you that Wellesley and Wesleyan get confused all the time. We joke that it’s the “Wellesleyan problem.” :slight_smile:


However, for OP: no one who hires for internships or jobs would have trouble knowing that Wellesley is a powerhouse. And, as I said, students who accept a place in a Wellesley class are immediately put in contact with a local alumna and offered mentoring (from which many contacts can spring). You don’t have to worry someone will think you attended a podunk school and will penalize you for it. Quite the contrary.

(BTW I think a random study showed the “average person” knows the name of their state flagship, the names of whatever universities are winning in sports that matter in that state - football/basketball/hockey…, if they live near a college, that one… and Harvard+MIT. That’s it.
So, choosing a university based on random people is not the right strategy. The US is a HUGE country with thousands of colleges, so unless you’re interested in them like CollegeConfidential posters are :wink:, most people wouldn’t really care thus know nothing about them all.)


U Md. Cheaper, stronger comp sci, closer to home. A flagship state U will have many, many other major options, should you choose to switch out your major. Wellesley is far from mit, would take you at least an hour, more like 90 min each way on public transit, really too far for classes there.

My D was considering Wellesley this April and visited. She wouldn’t have taken classes at MIT if she had chosen Wellesley (she is so very much not STEM-y, lol), but we did talk to a number of students who do (and who go there for parties, as well). In comparison to the access to other colleges at the The Claremont Colleges, it’s a hassle, but Wellesley students have a bus that picks students up right on campus about a dozen times a day during the week and drops off at MIT…the schedule says it takes about 50 minutes, so it would still take some planning. Shuttle Bus Schedules | Wellesley College


Curious how the decision went, good luck at either.


I did end up going with UMD - super tough choice though!