Carnegie Mellon University

Due to the ongoing considerations related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pre-College program will be offered only through remote instruction in the summer of 2021. Please view the Online Academic Information section below to review the updated program overview, curriculum, and requirements for our online Pre-College Design program.

Online Academic Information:

In a remote setting, students will be committed to the academic experience between the hours of 9AM and 4PM EST, which will be delivered in a variety of methodologies including asynchronous and synchronous instruction.  Breaks are built in, including a one-hour lunch break from 12pm-1pm EST.  Students can expect to work with the same Professors and Teaching Assistants as they would in an in-person setting, with periodic smaller breakout rooms, work sessions, and one-on-one sessions. The curriculum and learning goals remain the same.

Students are also encouraged to work independently outside of class hours, modeling and iterating their ideas as part of the design process.  Access to a laptop with a microphone and camera, as well as the Adobe Creative Suite, are essential.  Ideally students should have a camera that has manual controls (fstop, shutter speed and focus) and shoots RAW, but we can make phone cameras work if necessary. Please note that we have removed the cost of the program supplies and ask that students purchase the items listed below on their own. Students with difficulty sourcing any of these items, are asked to let us know.

Supply List:


Item Description


Sketchbook (letter/a4)



Black Prismacolor Pencil



Fine tip black ink pen (ballpoint, gel, roller ball, etc.)



Medium tip black ink pen (gel, roller ball, etc.)



Fine tip black ink pen (paper mate flair)



Copic Neutral Grey 20%


Copic Neutral Grey 40%



Copic Neutral Grey 60%



Black Prismacolor Art Stix


Newsprint Pad 18" x 24" Strathmore


Tracing Paper 11" x 14"


#1 Knife


#11 Blades, 5pk


Olfa Blade 5019


Foamboard Rabbet Cutter

Approx. 4

Foam board (3/16” thickness) 11x14”


Cutting matte (24x36inch (ideal)  or 11.7X 8.6 (if funds are tight)


30/60/90 Metal Triangle Ruler 10"


  • Required Equipment and Applications. [If anything other than home computer, Internet access and programs supplied by CMU]
  • U.S. Location. The Program is available only to individuals in the United States. Students are required to be physically located in the United States at all times when accessing Program courses and/or activities.
  • The expectation will be students are committed to the academic experience between the hours of 9AM – 4PM (Eastern Standard Time-EST).



Pre-College Design introduces students to the discipline of Design, provides a foundation of skills, and gives a clear idea of what to expect from a college-level accredited program.

Design has never been in greater demand than it is now. Businesses, government, and local communities are turning to designers for innovation and problem solving which has created new roles for designers in every sector of the marketplace. Pre-College Design students will have the opportunity to attend classes taught by full-time faculty where they are given a primer on the design principles and practices that are the cornerstones of the undergraduate School of Design program.

Modeled after the freshman year experience, sessions will consist of studio learning, lectures, critiques, field trips to museums, workspaces, and community spaces, as well as guided work sessions with faculty. Students will be assigned their own personal studio space, providing them with their first foray into “studio life.” By the end of the program, participants will have portfolio pieces that have been critiqued by School of Design faculty. There will also be a showcase that will feature all of the work students completed during the program, for fellow classmates, faculty and parents to see.


The Pre-College Design curriculum consists of expert instruction in the following areas:

Studio Design for Products, Communications, & Environments

Studio courses allow students to experience the iterative process designers use when developing their best solutions. Teachers guide students through the problem-solving process, introducing basic tools (i.e., sketching, diagramming, prototyping) along the way.

Design Drawing

Design Drawing is a different way of drawing than fine art drawing. It is one of the ways designers work through their ideas, and effectively share their thinking with others.  Through guided exercises students are introduced to ways in which they can make their drawings a stronger communication tool, as well as a useful part of the problem-solving process.

Design Photography

In addition to the mechanics of using a camera, Design Photography teaches students how to effectively capture images that convey meaning and tell a story.

Design Research & Problem Solving Methods

Design Research & Problem Solving Methods will serve as an introduction to the way designers gather meaningful data, and to the tools required to apply that data to their design solutions.


To be eligible for the Pre-College Design program students must: 

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residential program).
  • Be a current sophomore or junior in high school.
  • Have an academic average of B (3.0/4.0) or better.

Previous experience in art or design is NOT required.

Application Requirements

The complete application for the Pre-College Design program consists of the following:

  • Completed Online Application
  • Unofficial Transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores (optional)
  • One Letter of Recommendation
  • Responses to the following essay prompts (300-500 words):
    • What do you hope to gain from participating in the Carnegie Mellon Pre-College program?
    • Why are you interested in studying design?

Frequently Asked Questions

Work created in this program may be excellent material to package for a student’ portfolio. At the conclusion of the program, faculty will be available to provide feedback on portfolios.

There is no three-week option for the Pre-College Design program.

Summer 2021 Remote Program - Students are required to have a home computer and internet access.

Summer 2022 In-person Program - Students will have access to computers in the public clusters on campus. Most students find it is convenient to have their own laptops, but it is not required.

Students will need a digital camera and/or a phone capable of taking pictures and may be asked to purchase up to $250 in materials to support class work. These supplies may include items such as:

  • Sketchbook
  • Tracing paper
  • Newsprint pad
  • Pencils
  • Markers
  • Xacto knife and blades
  • Modeling Clay
  • Styrofoam
  • Color Prints