Student Stories

Experience at University of Maryland Baltimore County With Vikas Bansal

Hi guys and girls!! I am writing this article as a tribute to all those students who shared their experiences when I desperately needed them.

I am a graduate student and research assistant in Computer Science at University of Maryland Baltimore County currently in second semester. I boarded the flight to this wonderland on July 30 and believe me I had no idea what kind of “Butterfly effect” this decision would bring in my life.

You need to bring at least two things with you (along with loads of food)

  • Belief in yourself
  • Readiness to do hard work.

Someone has rightly called it the “Land of opportunities” but be careful, they won’t come at your doorsteps. You will have to go out and grab it.

On Campus jobs

Number of part time jobs depends on campus. If you are really serious about getting on campus jobs then I would recommend going to campus much earlier than semester start date. (Although you can’t enter USA no sooner than 30 days before start of classes but try landing on 29th day.)

I was very keen to get one so I landed on 30th July and semester start date was August 28.

Meet seniors who are working on-campus as soon as you reach.

Try contacting them even before you arrive, though Facebook (Yes! It can be useful also ;-)).

Lots of openings pop up in fall semester only, about which, seniors working there have better knowledge.

I started contacted seniors before reaching. I dropped resume everywhere in campus.

Library, usually, is the most common place to work for students. I got lucky and got one in library even before starting of the semester.


Well this is something everybody dreams for but doesn’t work hard to actually get one.

Funding is given in three forms:

Teaching Assistantship

Mostly given by department with admission letter.

Rarely do they give TAs after admission.

Although TAs change every semester but in my opinion there is no fix criteria for that (you can’t really rely on this).

Research Assistantship

This depends on professor. Most of the RAs are given in second semester only.

You need to work hard under a professor for first semester to get one of these.

While working in Library for first semester I worked under a professor. And finally he rewarded me with RAship in second semester.


They are usually not funded but monthly pay is good. Given by department with no fix criteria.

Next – Top 10 Financial Aid Public Universities in USA

So the bottom line is that yes it is sometimes tough here but the best things in life never come for free.

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  1. hey, vikas really motivating, it will be nice if there are more people from different schools that can post this kind of helpful information on the site.

  2. Hi Vikas,

    Nice post and good to know you got funding:-):-). I am a Student of Electronics and Communication Engineering in the process of doing university research : what all to apply to and all that stuff.Will you recommend UMBC for Electrical Engineering?To your knowledge are there enough projects and activities in the EE side as well?
    Also is Baltimore an expensive place to live in?

  3. if a student is pursuing just MS..what are his chances of getting an RA in the second sem? especially if he/she has opted for non-thesis..and kindly elaborate a bit on “graders” as you mentioned..
    Thanks in advance.. 🙂

    1. Hi Tanya, Well RA positions are meant for students who are generally completing their thesis based Masters programme. You could be a RA at some other department but such chances are very low. You can try for a TA instead at your own department. Chances solely depend on the availability of such positions in your department.

  4. Just so that everyone would know: Library jobs usually mean shelving books. If they see that you are smart and responsible you will get desk assignments which means working at the circulation desk checking out books and clearing the records of the returned books. Since all universities now have automated systems for these functions which use bar codes and optical scanners (as they do in supermarkets), the job is easy. If you get night shifts (try for these), you will get time to read and do some of your class work at the desk. As a foreign student, you are not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week. Universities usually pay more than minimum wage (at least, they used to in my days) which is $7.25 per hour. They will deduct federal taxes (State and City if they apply) and FICA (Social Security). Most of you will not fall in the taxable income bracket; so, you will get a complete refund on your taxes when you file your returns at the end of the fiscal year (before April 1). If you get about $120 a week after taxes, that will cover your food (especially if you are a vegetarian and cook your own meals) and laundry and sundry expenses like soaps and razor blades and such. A number of posts on this blog site has already given tips about shopping and saving. But, as advised by Vikas, get a graduate assistantship by the second semester. You don’t want to get stuck in a library job. Most importantly, if you see that you are in a job that is not related to your field of study and it is affecting your studies, quit or at least, reduce the number of hours. Remember: you are there primarily to STUDY and get a Master’s and a PhD in your chosen field. Your purpose in being in the U.S. is NOT to survive on minimum wage jobs. GOOD LUCK to ALL.

  5. Hi Vikas
    I have applied to UMBC for MS in biotechnology. I just wanted to know around what time Will you get a reply from them about our admission status. They haven’t really contacted me after sending my application. Please let me know

    1. If your application is complete then it might take 2-3 months before you get any decision. I applied in December and got my admit in mid March.

  6. Hi, so if I get an admission should I go there in the hope of getting funding in the 2nd semester? That’s what happened in your case right?

    1. Well, hope is enough to ‘motivate’ you, which, you definitely need. Result, which is funding as per your post, depends on many factors like your choice of the professor(should be a funded professor) and your willingness (just willingness, not some rocket science) to do hard work under him for free in first semester. If you follow this then you MIGHT(very good probability) get funding. Nothing is certain.

  7. Good one. Why “butterfly effect”? Relating to Kutcher’s flim, I thought it was going to be a tale of how you are so busy and tired you wake up and you dont realise where you are :-/

    1. This is from wiki:
      “the phenomenon whereby a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere”.
      So in this case my decision to study in US was that small change (that I decided to study in US rather than in India) that has already started bringing large and lifelong effects in me and people connected to me.
      Hope it makes sense. If it doesn’t then don’t bother and enjoy rest of the experience.

  8. Hi Vikas,
    I just wanted to know that how’s the undergrad academics there, as i was looking for studying engineering from UMBC. It would be nice if you provide certain information about undergrad scholarship for international student, Indian association and reputation of the school.

    Thank you in advance!!!

    1. In undergrad, Computer Science and Biotech are one of the best in country. Reputations is more than decent. Indian association is present but I don’t see any reason why you would ask about them. No idea about scholarships in undergrad.

      1. Hi Vikas, its nice to have a fellow UMBC student on this blog too. My name is Alex and i am in the cyber security masters program. Getting jobs on campus can be really tough as their are very few positions for so many students. By the way, if anyone is interested in knowing more about the cyber security masters program in UMBC, please let me know.

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