How to Write the Carnegie Mellon Supplement 2018-2019

Carnegie Mellon is private university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania known for its science and technology programs. In 2017, the school’s acceptance rate was 13 percent.

“When we‘re connected to others, we become better people,” said Carnegie Mellon University‘s Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture. At Carnegie Mellon you‘ll have the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse community of scholars, artists and innovators. Given the students, faculty, staff and resources that have been available to you as a student, how have you collaborated with others, in or out of the classroom? Or, what lessons have you learned from working with others in the past, that might shape your experience in the future? (250 word maximum)

Almost every supplement we’ve blogged about this year has a similar question about diversity or acceptance and we want to know why this question is so long.  

Anyway, the nature of this question should be a big signal to anyone reading this. We find ourselves amidst a very important political moment and national divisions. Historically, colleges have been at the heart of the revolution. Now is not the time to be apathetic about current events or politics. Most colleges have a ~certain political leaning~ and Carnegie Mellon appears to be on the bandwagon.  

This question indicates to us that they are looking for one thing in a candidate: collaboration. So, think of a time when you collaborated with people who are different from yourself and tell a single story, with a beginning middle, and end. One note: diversity could be as simple as people who have different viewpoints from your own. Just be cautious not to flag your privilege. The lessons should be interwoven throughout the story.

Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time – what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study? (200 word maximum)

The first paragraph of your response to this question should include the origin story of your passion or interest. If you’re applying to other schools that are similar to Carnegie Mellon, you should be aware that they are probably going to ask you a similar question, and the origin story route is a good way of thinking about your response to similar prompts within other supplements.

The story does not have to highlight a big, earth-shattering revelation. In fact, the simpler, the better. A lot of kids think they need to have this life-changing moment where they realized they wanted to become a doctor. The thing is, you’re 17. We know that to you, it probably seems like you’ve grown a lot in your notions and beliefs over the years, and you have, but trying to convey the profundity of your life choices to someone 20 years older than you (i.e.: the admissions person reading this essay) is going to come across as naïve, or worse, arrogant. The goal here is to go for self-awareness.  

So, the story could really just be, “I was interested in Zika and couldn’t stop researching it. I went down this crazy rabbit hole and talked to everyone I know about it for several weeks.” The story should be really specific and consist of a clear beginning, middle, and end.  

Consider your application as a whole. What do you personally want to emphasize about your application for the admission committee’s consideration? Highlight something that’s important to you or something you haven’t had a chance to share. Tell us, don’t show us (no websites please). (200 word maximum)

What they are telling you here is that you have 200 words to talk about literally ANYTHING. If you’re our student, you are answering this question by bringing up something new that’s going to stand out. We would likely recommend the ‘something new’ be something funny. It should be simple, specific, and humanizing, almost in the style of a Common App essay response. If you’re not working with a professional consultant, just highlight something you feel needs more of an explanation.


Need some help writing great essays? Reach out to us here. We are experts at helping students answer supplements.