If bigger really means better, then the University of Maryland, College Park must be a great place to go to school. With more than 34,000 students roaming the sprawling campus and an abundance of learning opportunities at every turn, it would be difficult to find an endeavor that is not available at the state's flagship university.
College Park's schools of education, business, engineering and computer, mathematical and physical sciences are all highly ranked, and its championship Terrapins basketball and football teams have greatly enhanced the school's national reputation. Throw in a stellar, 17-acre performing arts complex, , which hosts the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and jazz combo the Yellowjackets in six different theaters; a reputable student newspaper, The Diamondback, (where TV journalist Connie Chung got her start); more than 300 student clubs and organizations, and proximity to Washington, D.C., and what more could a student want? Georgian architecture? It has that, too!
In all the ways that College Park is huge, though, it has also found a way to keep some things small. Specialized programs like University Honors, Gemstone and College Park Scholars provide small communities for students and offer them opportunities and challenges according to their academic and career interests. The Hinman CEOs program encourages and supports entrepreneurship. Resident students also can choose to live among those who speak languages other than English.
Dating to the 1850s, the university comprises 1,500 acres. The first class had 34 students, including four sons of Charles Calvert, a former governor of Maryland and the third Lord Baltimore. Past presidents include a son of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
But the university's early leaders could never have envisioned campus life today. There are more dining options than you'll find at the average mall. And when it comes to recreation, choose from activities such as martial arts, squash, saunas, weight training, badminton, volleyball and Ping-Pong, housed in four different facilities around campus.
Distinguished faculty members include Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winners, as well as such luminaries as Ronald Walters, professor of political science, and David Driskell, professor emeritus of art. And opportunities abound for community service, independent study, foreign study, research and internships.
With all this, it's no surprise that lots of young people want to enroll. Admission to College Park has become much more competitive in recent years. The Admissions Office says it receives approximately 20,000 applications for 4,000 spots in each freshman class.
Those fortunate enough to attend College Park must complete a CORE liberal arts and science studies curriculum in addition to fulfilling the requirements of their major. CORE constitutes about one-third of an undergraduate's courses and consists of courses designed to achieve the following: Basic competence in writing and mathematics; exposure to a variety of disciplines including the arts and humanities, social and natural sciences, mathematics and history; advanced study in a desired field outside the major and an appreciation for cultural diversity.
At any college, big or small, it's up to the student to carve out an experience that's enriching, challenging and rewarding. At a huge university like College Park, the menu of choices might seem overwhelming to some. But for those who enjoy the stimulating atmosphere and can find their niche, it can be a smorgasbord where no one is left wanting.