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What’s so special about UMBC?

Think back to your junior year of high school, around this time of the year. By the time the bus took you home, it was already starting to get dark out. You had two books to read that night; one in a language you only vaguely understood. You aat dinner at your desk and by the time you fell asleep, you still hadn’t gotten everything done. In four or five hours you had to do it all again.

Somewhere, despite your lack of sleep, your piles of homework and your efforts to still have some sort of social life, you found time to apply to college. Maybe you found time to read through a book of college rankings; maybe you were predestined to attend the school where your parents worked. However you did it, you found time to figure out what mattered to you in a college and you decided that UMBC met those criteria.

For most four-year students at UMBC, this narrative should sound familiar. Choosing which university to attend is a tough decision, perhaps the toughest that many high school students have had to make so far in their lives.

So what was so attractive at UMBC to that seventeen-year-old with caffeine jitters? Many students are attracted by UMBC’s small size, or the diverse student body. It’s also a common stereotype that students end up at UMBC because they ‘didn’t get in to College Park.’ To find out if any of these assumptions ring true, The Retriever spoke to several students about why they picked UMBC.

Venu Peddibhotla, a freshman biochemistry major, decided to attend the university because of the financial assistance that UMBC offered him. “My biggest reason [to attend UMBC] was the money,” said Peddibhotla. “This was the cheapest option for me, so that’s why I came.”

Peddibhotla also describe the emphasis UMBC places on academics and the importance of that in his college experience. “I really like the academic nature of the university. A lot of kids are very focused on their studies,” said Peddibhotla. “Overall, I think it contributes to an intellectual environment and brings out the best in everyone.”

Peddibhotla isn’t the only student who valued the academic atmosphere at UMBC. Alex Nobleman, senior psychology major, enjoys the small class sizes, which are beneficial to his learning.

“The thing I enjoy most at UMBC is probably smaller class sizes compared to other colleges,” said Nobleman. “I like the fact that I can be in class with twenty or thirty people instead of two hundred.”

Despite the fact that seventy-five percent of UMBC’s students live on campus, the university has never been able to shed its label as a commuter school since its founding.  However, that might not be a bad thing. UMBC’s value as a commuter destination has attracted many students who cannot afford to live on campus, or who prefer not to.

The diversity on campus is also important for many students. Walking around The Commons at lunch, under the flags of the world, you will find people of different backgrounds mixing together. At some schools, the population is much more homogeneous. For Andrew John, a junior biology major, this aspect has always stood out. “I like that it’s diverse and that there are a lot of people from all over,” he said.

So, it seems that some of the stereotypes of UMBC (its size, its “nerdiness”, its diversity) are actually the things that attract students to the school in the first place. For these reasons, and many others, nervous high schoolers keep on visiting, exploring and applying to UMBC. What makes UMBC a special place is that those students and other learners from all backgrounds, decide to enroll.