What Does it Take to Get Into Carnegie Mellon University?

Strategies by School
February 20, 2020
At Carnegie Mellon University, Students Are Challenged To Think Beyond Themselves And Bring Their Ideas To The World Stage…

As one of America’s premier research universities, Carnegie Mellon has gained a reputation for teaching the next generation of creators, educators, leaders, and entrepreneurs. Studying at this celebrated university is more than just an education; it’s the first step in your journey to share your unique contribution to the world.

Students at Carnegie Mellon are encouraged to follow their dreams, but are  always reminded of Andrew Carnegie’s words: “My heart is in the work.” With seven distinct schools and colleges each providing a foundation for success, students follow their passions while getting involved in on-campus events and initiatives that matter. Alumni choose to get to work in a variety of ways: from painting soup cans to brainstorming the #hashtag.

For those who dream of not just learning from the creators of the future, but becoming one of them, Carnegie Mellon University offers a strong starting point for your education. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this storied university and what you can do to improve your chances of becoming a hard-working Tartan!

What You’ll Find In This Article

Carnegie Mellon's Ideal Student

As a prestigious research university, it comes as no surprise that Carnegie Mellon, while it uses a holistic approach to evaluate applications, takes your academic record seriously during the admissions process. The average GPA and standardized test scores for an incoming freshman at Carnegie Mellon look like this:

  • GPA: 3.8
  • SAT: 1510
  • ACT: 33

These scores reflect the competitive and selective nature of Carnegie Mellon’s admission, however, they do not tell the full story. The university believes that there’s no one calculation to find the perfect future Tartan, and therefore takes your “bigger picture” into account when reviewing your application.

Like many universities, Carnegie Mellon wants to admit students who will enhance their campus and share in the ideals of the university. A few values can be used to describe the ideal Carnegie Mellon student; the type of student who would thrive on this fast-paced and hard-working campus.


With hard work comes integrity, and Carnegie Mellon seeks to nurture this value in all its students, staff, and faculty. A commitment to transparency, ethics, and responsibility makes the school a strong example for students to follow. The ability to hold yourself to your own personal standard is a valuable skill in both work and life, and building integrity is a great way to drive personal growth.

  • Think about a time when you did the right thing even when it wasn’t an easy or popular choice.
  • In what ways do you hold yourself accountable for your own actions, good or bad?
  • When was the last time you learned a difficult ethical or moral lesson, and how did it change you?


Carnegie Mellon understands what many creators and academics realize: that inspiration can come in flashes when least expected. Even in science, math, and nonfiction, creativity is vital for driving innovation. Students who nourish their creative spirits through work, musing, and innovation bring a new level of richness to the school.

  • When was the last time you took an unconventional angle to solve an issue? How did your unique take affect the outcome?
  • Imagine the last time you faced a sudden challenge in the middle of a tight deadline. How did you innovate to solve the challenge?


Carnegie Mellon encourages students and faculty to go beyond a normal career or project and instead  dedicate themselves fully to their passions. From doing deep dives into your favorite subjects to losing yourself in a state of focus during a research project, you’ll be driven to dedicate yourself to your studies at Carnegie Mellon rather than complete them out of obligation.

  • Is there a certain mindset or ritual you use to get yourself to commit to something new and big?
  • Consider how you’ve shown dedication during high school, whether through an after school job or your involvement in sports.


With a devotion to changing both the Pittsburgh community and the global stage, Carnegie Mellon University looks to fill its freshmen class with students driven to make an impact. Here, students go beyond championing causes to become vehicles for change. Commitment to global causes, from inequality to sustainability, showcases the empathetic core of the college.

  • When was a time when you sought real change that impacted those around you?
  • How would you use your education from Carnegie Mellon to reshape your profession?


With over 80 majors to choose from, students at Carnegie Mellon University have a wide variety of options to tailor their education to their passions and future careers. From the Mellon College of Science to the world-renowned Tepper School of Business, there’s no shortage of excellent programs designed to challenge and inspire students.

Some of the most popular majors at Carnegie Mellon include:

  • Information Technology (Ranked 1st nationwide)
  • Computer Science (Ranked 3rd nationwide)
  • Performing Arts (Ranked 10th nationwide)
  • Business (Ranked 11th nationwide)
  • Architecture (Ranked 12th nationwide)


The ideal student at Carnegie Mellon is driven by a purpose larger than themselves: to contribute to the greater world, innovating and bringing fresh perspectives to their professions.

At this beloved research university, you’ll be able to cultivate a character of ambition among a student body just as passionate about their studies as you are. If you’re driven and have a work ethic that your friends are envious of, your time at Carnegie Mellon will be spent with like-minded faculty and peers.

What You Need To Get Accepted Into Carnegie Mellon

As a respected research university, Carnegie Mellon has gained a reputation for excellence and selectivity. With an acceptance rate of 17%, admission into Carnegie Mellon will depend on far more than your academic scores. Before you sit down to fill out your application, make sure you have everything you’ll need on hand: from your list of extracurricular activities to your thinking cap as you write your essay.


Students are asked to submit their applications using the Common Application. This easily navigated website is used as a catch-all for hundreds of universities, which means you should take time to get comfortable with filling out the Common App before you begin. It can take a bit of time to get used to working with the app, so you should begin filling it out well before your deadlines.

Carnegie Mellon Universities has several deadlines you should be aware of: the early decision deadline is November 1st, and the regular decision deadline is January 1st.


Students are required to submit their official transcripts as well as their standardized test scores. Additionally, students for whom English is not their first language must present their TOEFL or IELTS scores.


In addition to asking you to write the Common Application essay, Carnegie Mellon asks three questions that you must answer briefly. As these questions are designed more to get to know you rather than testing you on your knowledge of the university, focus on your unique story and perspective when answering the supplemental questions. Like your essay, your short answer responses should be to the point yet powerful, not wasting any words to brag about things already listed in your application.


Carnegie Mellon asks that your school counselor fill out an evaluation form. Make sure to ask your counselor with plenty of advance warning before the deadline, as nobody likes to be rushed and they may be busy with other students’ college needs as well.


There is a nonrefundable application fee of $75 to apply to Carnegie Mellon University. However, students can receive a fee waiver if they meet the guidelines for economic hardship on the Common App.


For students applying to the Schools of Drama and Music as well as the Schools of Architecture, Art, and Design you will need to send in additional supplemental materials.

Carnegie Mellon's Campus Life

Often ranked as one of the most diverse colleges in America, Carnegie Mellon’s vibrant campus is home base to nearly 7,000 undergrad students. The benefits of this diversity extend far beyond the sharing of ideas, cultures, and empathy. On-campus, students have access to state of the art learning facilities, student resources, innovative housing, and premier dining.

However, above all else, campus life at Carnegie Mellon University is distinctly American in its diversity and thriving innovation. Over time, this university has cemented itself as a center for both storied traditions and original new ideas.


Situated in the buzzing city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon’s campus has stood as a center for innovative learning spaces and stunning architecture for over 100 years. Two perpendicular lush green lawns form the backbone of the campus, the Cut and the Mall. From here, students can take in the view of the main campus and easily walk to many of the main schools and buildings.


Nearly 18% of students decide to go Greek at Carnegie Mellon. With 23 chapters to be involved in, students learn firsthand the real-world applications of leadership, service, and community engagement. Students give back to their local communities with good works undertaken through the hard-working Greek houses.


From traditional residence halls to apartment-style living, students have access to a wide range of housing situations across campus. While some residence halls are restricted to certain groups, like the Woodlawn Apartments for upperclassmen or the Scobell House for freshmen boys, there are housing styles to suit every type of student.

When it’s time to eat, there are plenty of options throughout Carnegie Mellon’s main campus and throughout Pittsburgh’s thriving food scene as well. On-campus, students can grab a burger from the Carnegie Melon Cafe or grab a salad from Create, in addition to many other options.

Student transportation is taken seriously, with student safety being number one above all else. An extensive system of buses and safe parking help students get around campus whenever their schedule requires.


Opportunities abound at Carnegie Mellon both inside and outside the classroom. Students can choose to join one (or several) of over 280 organizations on campus. From broadcasting on college radio to weekly screenings with fellow movie buffs, there are plenty of ways to get involved between study sessions.

For those who’d rather represent the Tartans in more physical ways, there’s plenty of varsity sports to cheer on or represent in. From a respected men’s tennis team to the high-energy women’s basketball squad, you can be sure to find plenty of action on the court after class to build school spirit and let off some steam cheering for the home team.


In a show of school spirit and creativity, a long-standing tradition at Carnegie Hall has revolved around “the Fence.” Students who paint the fence between midnight and the sunrise must then stand guard as long as they want their paint job to remain.

From Application To Career: What You'll Experience At Carnegie Mellon


Because Carnegie Mellon University takes a holistic view of college admissions, you can work to highlight parts of your high school record beyond just your academics. Look for places where you can connect your passions, extracurricular activities, and past experiences to the values of the university. Work to make your application tell the story of who you are as a person and how that makes you perfectly suited for a university full of driven, creative workers.


Your essay should be specific; if you could write the same essay and change a few words around for any other research university in the country, you’re not tailoring your essay to Carnegie Mellon. Draw inspiration from past and present students and be unafraid to express yourself passionately yet clearly.


As you study alongside ambitious peers and expert faculty, you’ll begin to unlock your full potential. Carnegie Mellon University is set up to offer you all the support, resources, and understanding you need as a student to reach new heights you never dreamed possible. With the support of your peers and the backdrop of state-of-the-art facilities, your time at Carnegie Mellon will be years of growth, learning, and new experiences.


When you find yourself among the long list of Carnegie Mellon alumni, including famous names like pop artist Andy Warhol, producer Ted Danson, and actor Billy Porter, your future is truly in your hands. With the foundation given to you by your education at this renowned university, you can leverage yourself into fields of nearly endless possibilities.

Common destination careers for Carnegie Mellon alumni include companies such as:

  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Capital One
  • Facebook
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Uber
  • Apple

Your Future At Carnegie Mellon

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” - Andrew Carnegie

At Carnegie Mellon University, you’ll learn more than just how to be a great leader in the style of the hard-working namesake philanthropist; you will learn what it takes to make an impact on the world around you. With a strong foundation and the values of the university ingrained in you, you will learn to collaborate with others on the world stage to drive real change.

These lofty ideals are both inspiring and intimidating. However, many high school students have already made great displays of their dedication, empathy, and leadership potential; they just aren’t sure how to make those matter on their Carnegie Mellon application.

If you’re having trouble expressing your unique contribution to the world in your application to Carnegie Mellon, please reach out to our WeAdmit counselors. We’ll work with you to tailor your application to this unique institution and your unique story. From working with you through the finer points of your essay to helping you map out your tour of the campus, we’ll help you achieve your dream of studying at a university where you feel truly energized.

Are You Ready To Put Your Heart Into Your Work As A Goal-Driven Tartan?



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.