UMBC is an up and coming school. It is small for a state school which gives it some of the feel of a private school at a public price. Nearly all of my classes were under 30 students, the upper level courses in my major were typically not more than 25 students, some as small as 12. The physical sciences have larger lectures. It is about 10 minutes drive outside of downtown Baltimore. Baltimore is a great city and its inexpensive. There is very little within easy walking distance of the school itself so a car is a necessity. It is 10 minutes from the airport, in between some major highways so its easy to get around. The campus shuttle is ok, and it goes to the mall and downtown and some other places a few times each day.
The campus is pretty overall and improving but still shows that it began as a very utilitarian expansion for UMD's College Park campus. The several new buildings are very attractive inside and out. UMBC is becoming a first rate research University, the President is very well liked and has built up relations with local businesses, Biotech, Defense, Computers, Government, and Financial sectors especially in place of a large donor base. Academically it offers quite a bit, particularly for science, engineering, and technology majors. I can't speak to most of the other majors.
The major downside to UMBC is the social atmosphere. It is a geeky school, about 50% commuters, no Greek houses (yet) and Reslife is very tough on the residents. I recommend living on campus freshman year to meet people and then moving off campus, either to the very inexpensive immediate area, or the many cool places to live at reasonable prices in Baltimore which is what I would have done if I was doing it over again.
There are many social groups on campus though. If you want to party, you certainly can but mostly it will be off campus at nearby bars or in the city. If you just like to hang out and have a few beers, then campus is fine. People are not anti-social but they do tend to be busy, science/eng majors have a lot of work and so it seems to the easier majors that the school is anti-social because they don't party as much.
The social atmosphere needs some work and Reslife and Student life need to be willing to take some risks, for instance leaving the campus bar open later and more often, and running a late night shuttle to pick people up downtown for a safe ride home.
IS professors were mostly good and some of them were great. The program is challenging and well designed for the most part, and there are a lot of group projects. It is far more technical than many IS programs that are typically in Business Schools whereas UMBC has theirs in its Engineering School.
There is an excellent first year seminar program that I highly recommend. You pick from a list of seminar courses that typically fulfill a general requirement and you end up a very discussion oriented small class, often with some of the most sought after professors and in some cases, top administrators. My course was with a Dean, an assistant dean, and the head of student life and was very interesting and personally valuable.
The school has a good undergraduate research program in many majors, a decent internship program, and a top notch jobs website that launched this year. I went to many on-campus interviews with big companies including GE, IBM, Legg Mason, S
UMBC has become very well respected in Academia and among the local business community, engineering and science majors are getting well paying jobs and going to top gradschools.
If you are interested in Computer Science, Engineering or Information Systems or a physical science and you want to save money on undergrad and live in MD, then UMBC is a good choice. If you want to take a liberal arts major or a business major and plan on partying a lot, you might want to look elsewhere. The social atmosphere is improving but it is going to take several years and probably some personnel changes in Reslife to really make changes.
Sports is not a big deal here. As a certain physics professor likes to say, "Our basketball team can read." but there are many club teams. Our lacrosse team is good and our chess team is among the best college chess teams in the world.
I would go here again. I would not have lived on campus after the first year though. I had an internship with a well known company my last semester, got multiple job offers as well. I highly recommend the January ski trip to Quebec with GWU and the summer white water rafting phys ed class.