College Seminar

What is engineering? What should I do in high school to prepare to apply to an engineering school? What special opportunities are offered at the UMD Clark School of Engineering? How do I pay for college?


Read on to find the answer to all these burning questions and more.

In the evening of January 22, the Chinese American Parent Association (CAPA) held a seminar about the University of Maryland’s (UMD) engineering program and scholarships at Winston Churchill High School. Dr. Bruk Berhane, Director of Outreach and Recruitment at the UMD Clark School of Engineering, was the main speaker. Dr. Berhane, who grew up in Maryland and attended UMD himself, has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering along with other degrees in Education and Engineering Management.


“There’s not a lot we can do without engineering. Engineering has a lot to do with changing the way people function whether it’s artificial intelligence or robotics or virtual reality,” he said. “Everything that’s moving into the future has a lot to do with engineering.”


The Clark School of Engineering was named after Alfred James Clark. “He was going to UMD studying engineering, hitchhiking to campus everyday. He said if I’m ever successful, I’d want to give back to the community, so he did in a big way,” Dr. Berhane said. “Just this past year, we received a 219 million dollar gift from his foundation. That is changing the lives of many UMD students.”


To prepare for applying to the engineering school, Dr. Berhane recommended having a strong interest in math and science, taking the most challenging classes at school, internships or work experience, and extracurriculars as evidence of teamwork, community service, passion, and/or leadership.


Dr. Berhane also recommended taking AP Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and/or Computer Science. Students are not required to take the AP exam at the end of the year, just the class, but can receive college credit with a score of 4 or 5.


Applicants to the engineering school submit only one application to UMD. That application is first reviewed for entrance to UMD. After being accepted to UMD, if the applicant also indicates interest in the engineering school, the committee for the engineering school will review the application again.


There are a total of three possible outcomes for an applicant: the student is not accepted by UMD or the School of Engineering, the student is accepted to UMD but not the School of Engineering, or the student is accepted to both.


UMD, as well as the School of Engineering, looks at a total of 26 factors when reviewing an application. Those factors include high school curriculum, SAT/ACT scores, GPA, awards, AP classes, extracurriculars, essays, letters of recommendation, leadership, community service, internships/experience, and occasionally, gender and race.


However, these 26 factors are looked at differently for different scenarios. For example, many high schools have different GPAs and course options. For this reason, the engineering program compares students from the same high schools, not across schools.


Since the admissions committee highly values rigorous courses, a student with a few Bs in very rigorous classes is more likely to get in than a student with straight As in easier classes. Additionally, the committee looks for an upward trend in grades, both from year to year and from semester to semester. Dr. Berhane assured people not to worry about a B in 9th grade, as long as that B turns into an A by 11th grade.


Last year, there were 6,000 applicants to the engineering school. 1,764 students were admitted and 640 confirmed their attendance. 52% of the admitted students were selected for Honors College, and 21% for College Park Scholars. Honors College and College Park Scholars are “Living Learning Communities”, in which students live with other students of similar passions in their dorms.


UMD’s School of Engineering has over 15 different major and minor degrees, including Bioengineering, Civil Engineering, and Material Science engineering. Additionally, UMD is the only university in the country to offer a Fire Protection Engineering degree, which develops skills and sciences to combat fires. There is also an Undecided Engineering major, where students have three semesters to explore different majors and choose which major they want to study.


The minors include: Computer Engineering, Construction Project Management, Engineering Leadership Development, International Engineering, Nanoscience and Technology, Nuclear Engineering, Project Management, and Technology Entrepreneurship. Completion of these minors require 5-8 additional classes.


The UMD engineering experience extends far beyond the classroom, as UMD is equipped with advanced technology to aid students in their learning experience. To analyze different airplanes, ships, buildings, and more, UMD has a Glenn L. Martin wind tunnel which can blast winds at speeds of 2-230 mph.


UMD also has a neutral buoyancy tank, which is a pool of water 50 feet wide and 25 feet deep that simulates zero gravity. UMD is the only university in the country to have such a tank. “All these technologies, they get to see in practice at Maryland,” Dr. Berhane said. “You don’t have to become a graduate student or a senior, you get to do that the year you are a freshman.”


There are many extracurricular opportunities at the engineering school. One is the Society of Women Engineers, which is student-run and holds meetings and social events for women in engineering. Another is Engineers Without Borders, which helps disadvantaged communities improve their quality of life.


Another exciting activity is Terp Racing, where students design, build, and test vehicles in different competitions. Additionally, there is a ME Design Day, where mechanical engineering students develop prototypes to solve certain engineering problems.


UMD hosts a variety of engineering-based competitions every year. “We compete in things like the concrete canoe: we have a canoe that sits on water that doesn’t fall, that’s made of 100% concrete,” Dr. Berhane said. “We have a bit camp, a cyber camp, coding competitions, hackathons, we have fire tornados that blow up in the air. [There are] amazing competitions, so who wouldn’t want to be there?”


But, you may ask, how do I pay for college? UMD in-state tuition is $26,142 a year (based on figures from the 2017-2018 school year), but can be lowered if a student receives scholarships or financial aid.


There are a few options: personal and family funds, private scholarships, need-based financial aid, and merit-based scholarships. Merit-based scholarships are awarded solely based on academic or creative talent, while need-based scholarships are awarded on the basis of financial need. Funding for scholarships can come from the university itself, grants, industries, state and federal agencies, professional organizations, and community service organizations.


In order to be considered for financial aid, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which allows students to provide information about family earnings, by the priority deadline of January 1. Maryland residents are eligible for Maryland State Aid. Nearly 75 percent of all freshmen receive some form of financial aid.


To be considered for merit-based scholarships, students must apply to UMD by November 1, but there is no separate scholarship application. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents qualify for merit-based scholarships. UMD offers three merit-based scholarships for freshman applicants: the Banneker/Key, President’s, and Dean’s Scholarships.


The Banneker/Key Scholarship is the most prestigious merit scholarship UMD offers to freshmen. According to the UMD website, the scholarship selection committee looks for “potential academic leaders who will enrich and benefit from the campus learning environment”. Applicants are evaluated based on “academic leadership and accomplishments”. Financial need is not taken into consideration.  


All freshman applicants admitted to the Honors College are automatically considered for the Banneker/Key scholarship. Semifinalists are notified of their selection in early February, a few weeks after general admission letters are mailed. They are invited to campus for an interview in late February or early March as part of the final selection process.


There are approximately 400 Banneker/Key semifinalists every year, and 250 are selected as finalists of the full Banneker/Key. All Banneker/Key semifinalists receive one of two levels of funding. The first level provides a “full” scholarship, which includes tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, and a book allowance. The second level provides a partial tuition scholarship ($8,000 for in-state, $12,000 for out-of-state) and book allowance.


The President’s Scholarship provides scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $12,000 per year. The Dean’s Scholarship offers annual merit awards ranging from $1,500 for freshman year or $4,500 per year for both freshman and sophomore years.


Both in-state and out-of-state applicants are eligible for the Banneker/Key and President’s Scholarships, while only in-state applicants are eligible for the Dean’s Scholarship.

The Clark School of Engineering also offers scholarships, awarding approximately 800 scholarships in the 2014-15 school year. There are two major merit-based scholarships: The Benjamin T. Rome Scholarship is awarded to one freshman each year and covers all expenses, as well as a book allowance. The Herbert Rabin Endowed Scholarship in Engineering is awarded to one or two freshmen each year and covers all expenses. Scholarships are also available for current undergraduate engineering students.

Dr. Berhane had a few concise words of advice for high school students, regardless of whether they want to go into engineering: get good grades, get involved, and gain experience.


For more information on the application process, click the following link: https://www.admissions.umd.edu/. For application process information specific to freshmen, click the following link: https://www.admissions.umd.edu/node/205. For more information on scholarships and financial aid, click the following link: https://financialaid.umd.edu/.

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