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Undergraduate Admission

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Admission Consideration

Building a Class with Tartans of All Kinds

At Carnegie Mellon, we select our first-year class from a large group of very qualified candidates. We don’t use a calculation to choose who to admit because calculations can’t take into account all the factors we consider when making admission decisions. No single grade, factor, score or activity will automatically gain or deny you admission to Carnegie Mellon. We treat every applicant as an individual, taking great care to make our admission decisions fair, thorough and sensitive. We’re interested in students who can be successful at Carnegie Mellon while taking full advantage of all the university has to offer.

Students having fun, standing together during the Craig Street Crawl.

What We Consider

Our admission process reflects Carnegie Mellon's values and core competencies, including diversity, equity, inclusion, collaboration, communication, community engagement, concern for others, self-directed learning and critical thinking. We recommend that you think creatively about how your experiences in and out of the classroom showcase these characteristics. We also encourage you to consider how to share your experiences and aspirations so the admission committee can learn more about you as an applicant, student and person beyond a list of accomplishments.

Academic and Artistic Potential

Our admission process is designed to select a highly talented, diverse undergraduate population with high aspirations who will succeed at Carnegie Mellon. If you’re applying to academic programs, your high school talent and/or potential will be a significant factor in our admission decision because it’s the most meaningful indication of your motivation and abilities. We pay close attention to your curriculum rigor, the grades you’ve earned and the work you’ve accomplished. We’re interested in seeing that you’ve challenged yourself within your secondary school environment. If you’re applying to programs in the fine arts, your artistic performance will be either the main factor or a significant factor (depending on the program) in our admission decision.

Recommendations

We closely review your secondary school counselor’s evaluation and your teacher’s recommendation. If you're applying as a first-year student, we require two letters of recommendation: one from a high school counselor and one from a teacher. While we’ll accept a third recommendation from a teacher or other recommender, we require our committees to consider only two recommendations in the decision-making process.

When choosing a teacher to write your recommendation, be sure to choose someone who can speak to your academic abilities, achievements and broader personal characteristics. It doesn't have to be a teacher in the academic area you're applying to; rather, it should be the teacher who knows you the best.

If you're applying as a transfer student, we require one letter of recommendation from either a faculty member/professor or an academic advisor. While we’ll accept two additional recommendations, we require our committees to consider only one recommendation in the decision-making process.

Standardized Testing

Standardized test scores add to our knowledge of your ability, but we don’t make decisions simply on the basis of test scores alone.

Carnegie Mellon University extended our test-optional policy through Fall 2022, removing SAT/ACT standardized testing requirements. Students who are unable to take either the SAT or ACT or choose not to submit their standardized test scores will be considered equally for admission along with those who submit scores. Please see our fall 2022 FAQ for more information.

Please also note that SAT Subject Tests are neither required nor recommended, and these scores won’t be considered in our admission review process.

Activities, Experiences & Passions

Your non-academic interests, including extracurricular accomplishments, part-time jobs, hobbies and community service also play a very important role in the admission process. We also consider leadership, motivation, passion and perseverance, concern and advocacy for others, and other experiences when making admission decisions.

Our students make Carnegie Mellon an exciting campus. The positive qualities and diverse experiences you bring with you will enrich our community. By looking at this non-academic information, we develop a sense of your personality, motivation and social responsibility.

Essays

We also consider your Common Application essay and your responses to the Carnegie Mellon Common Application Writing Supplement. The Writing Supplement includes three short-answer questions:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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).

Your short answer responses shouldn't exceed 300 words each.

While there's no such thing as the perfect essay, the best essay you can write helps us learn about you! We want to know more about your passions, goals, aspirations and experiences to gain a deeper understanding of who you are beyond your transcript. While role models, mentors and family members may have played a critical role in your life, don’t forget to write about you. 

Finally, it’s important to recognize that you apply directly to a college or school within Carnegie Mellon, so we encourage you to use part of your essays to describe your academic interests and goals.  If you want to learn more about our wide range of programs, you can check out our visit opportunities to attend an information session or schedule a one-on-one meeting with an admission counselor.

Criminal History Information

Carnegie Mellon does not collect or review criminal history information as part of the admission process. However, individuals who are admitted to Carnegie Mellon will be required to disclose any past criminal conviction as part of the enrollment process. Learn how Carnegie Mellon considers criminal history information.

Striving for Access and Equity in Admission

The mission of Carnegie Mellon University includes the cultivation of a diverse and inclusive community. Our undergraduate admission process is committed to reducing or eliminating advantages that have been inherent in the admission process. The goal is to provide a more equitable, level playing field where all segments of our applicant population have the same opportunity in the admission process.

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Our Admission Paradigm

Demonstrated Interest Not Considered 

We do not consider demonstrated interest in our admission paradigm. Demonstrated interest is a term used in undergraduate admission that describes the ways in which a prospective student shows a college that they’re interested by visiting campus and submitting additional materials that aren’t required in the application.

As a result, we do not consider a campus visit or communication with the Office of Admission or other members of the Carnegie Mellon community when making admission decisions. Also, we do not accept supplementary submission of materials, including:

  • Resumes
  • Research abstracts
  • Writing samples
  • Multimedia demonstrations of talents
  • Maker portfolios

These extra materials haven't been useful in making our admission decisions and allowing optional materials has deterred some people from applying. Applicants have space on the Common Application to list accomplishments and involvement for the admission committee’s consideration. We encourage students to use this space to share the extracurricular facets of their high school experience.

Our Application Process

Shorter Essays, Non-Evaluative On-Campus Sessions and Refocused Alumni Efforts

We’re working hard to move our admission application process in a more inclusive direction.

  • We changed our long application essay to a series of short essays to better understand student context, unique talents and interests, as well as special considerations candidates would like to bring to our attention.
  • On-campus sessions are not evaluative, but rather are counseling sessions to help students align their interests with our programs. 
  • We do not offer alumni interviews in advance of admission decisions and have refocused alumni efforts to connect with admitted candidates instead.

Yet even with these changes, there's more work needed on our part to achieve a more inclusive process.

Issues surrounding standardized testing, for example, are complex in a research university like ours, and while we’re no longer requiring or recommending SAT Subject Tests, we’re hoping there is more we can do.

Our Waiting List

Designed to Give Everyone the Opportunity to Respond

Efforts to support access and inclusion extend to our waiting list process as well. Like many other institutions, we are inundated with demonstrations of continued interest and additional recommendations, mostly from well-resourced or well-advised applicants. 

Our waiting list process is designed to give everyone who is interested in remaining on our waiting list the opportunity to respond about their uniqueness by sending us a paragraph at the appropriate time, only when we know there are additional places to fill. 

We request only the paragraph and do not consider:

  • Letters of continued interest
  • Extra recommendations
  • Expectation of campus visits
  • Lobbying efforts including phone calls and emails  

Details about the paragraph are included in the information made available to all students offered a place on our waiting list when admission decisions are rendered in March. We don't provide the exact topic in advance since we want to avoid having students work on it needlessly in the event we don't end up admitting candidates from our waiting list.

Even with these changes, there's more work needed on our part to achieve a more inclusive process. Issues surrounding standardized testing, for example, are complex in a research university like ours, and while we’re no longer requiring or recommending SAT Subject Tests, we’re hoping there is more we can do. All told, we're working hard to move our process in a more inclusive direction.

Learn more about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CMU