Carnegie Mellon is a private research university in Pittsburgh, PA. The school has programs in the fields of arts, business, and humanities but is most known for computing, engineering, and science. In 2018, Carnegie Mellon put out a statement that said that demonstrated interested would no longer be considered. The acceptance rates are broken out by college/program on their website. With the exception of the College of Fine Arts, the acceptance rate for all other programs ranges from 5-14%.
Their supplement consists of three questions.
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? (300 word maximum)
Carnegie Mellon has done an excellent job phrasing this question. Maybe that’s why it took them until mid-August to upload their supplement. Maybe they shouldn’t do that again :).
Anyway, it’s very clear what they want to know. Your response should include two things:
Your origin story.
In other words, why do you want to study mechanical engineering? Your origin story should match up to a major that’s offered at Carnegie Mellon, but for now, and only for now, don’t worry about tethering your interest to the school. Think about your life and look for signs that an engineering degree was in your future. Did you build things as kid? Did you join a club and learn about your interest there? Was it a class you took, or did you take on a passion project out of school? Whatever it is, tell them that story. It doesn’t have to be something huge, but you do need to write the story as vividly as possible. Set the scene, tell them what happened, and explain how your academic interest came to be. The story should have a beginning, middle, and end. Try not to get overwhelmed and think that you need to have every detail of your future panned out, in fact it’s better if your story reads as a bit humble. No 17 year old is an expert on computer science, and you’ll come off as gross if you try to position yourself that way.
Reasons why you want to study your major at Carnegie Mellon.
This is where you link your academic interests to the offerings at Carnegie Mellon. You could study mechanical engineering almost anywhere, so why Carnegie Mellon? The best way to do this is to find 1-2 upper level classes you want to take, then back those choices up with things from your resume. You need to pick upper level classes because entry level classes are offered everywhere, and are not specific to Carnegie Mellon. Look at the course catalogue and read through everything until you find two courses that you want to learn more about, but already know a little bit about. That knowledge could stem from a high school class, summer courses, online materials, internships, late night rabbit holes, etc. Just make sure you have a solid reason for wanting to take the course other than “it sounds cool.” Then, find a professor that you’d like to work with or a research project you’d like to join. Tell them what makes you a good fit. If there are any other specifically academic reasons you have for applying, you could include that as well.
Many students pursue college for a specific degree, career opportunity or personal goal. Whichever it may be, learning will be critical to achieve your ultimate goal. As you think ahead to the process of learning during your college years, how will you define a successful college experience? (300 word maximum)*
This is actually a helpful exercise for anyone who is applying to college. Your response, if written and researched well, will show Carnegie Mellon that you’re a good fit for the academic culture of the school. We’re seeing more and more schools ask questions like this, and Columbia asked a similar question this year.
To use an example, let’s say wanted to go on vacation so you called a travel agent. You don’t really know where you want to go, but you have a few ideas. You want to go somewhere in Europe, you’d like to spend your days either looking at architecture or visiting well known fashion houses, and every meal should consist exclusively of pasta. Your travel agent would recommend a trip to Italy.
Just like that metaphor, you want to describe the academic culture of Carnegie Mellon without blatantly stating the specifics of the school. If you’re looking for football games every weekend, a booming frat scene, and sunny weather year round, that’s fine, but you shouldn’t be applying to CMU.
The prompt underlines the words process of learning, so you need to figure out what it’s like to learn at Carnegie Mellon. What are the classes like? Do you want to be an intense academic environment? Are you competitive? Do you want to have access to your professors, or are you better off in lecture halls? How do you feel about collaborating?
What you write about should be things that Carnegie Mellon can provide, so think and hard (aka do research) about what you’re looking for. And as a heads up: if the things that you’re writing about don’t ring true to you, it’s okay not to apply.
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.) (300 word maximum)
This question can be looked at a second, shorter common app essay. TKG clients will absolutely be writing about a personality characteristic or trait that they haven’t had a chance to show yet. It’s only 300 words, so we suggest keeping it light and funny. Show them how you think, even if you’re thinking about a fight at the dog park. Tell them about your morning routine or show them how your desk is organized. Your response should come in the form of a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Another option, although we highly suggest option #1, is to highlight something that you feel requires more of an explanation. Just don’t write about anything that you’ve written about in your common app essay or any of the prompts from above.
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