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 National High School Game Academy.

Online Academic Information:

In a remote setting, students will experience the same academic curriculum as in-person experience.


First three weeks (all times Eastern; everyone works Eastern Time)


11am – 2pm classes

2 pm – 3 pm Lunch

3 pm – 6 pm Classes

3 hours Homework each night



Approx. 2-4 hours of homework per weekend

On Saturday at the end of Week 3, a REQUIRED Mid-term exam (presentation) broadcast to all parents


Second Three weeks:


11 am – 2 pm team workshop

2 pm – 3 pm lunch

3 pm – 6 pm team workshop

3 hours teamwork each night



Approx. 8 hours of teamwork per weekend

On Friday of the last week a REQUIRED Final Exam (presentation) broadcast to all parents.



Students are required to be present for all classes and team workshops.



  • 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.
  • Students are required to be present for all classes and team workshops.



The National High School Game Academy (NHSGA) allows dedicated high school students to experience the modern video game development experience by teaching skills and best practices used in the best game development studios. This program is a rigorous and demanding six-week experience.

NHSGA encourages students interested in art, music, design, and software development to apply for this interdisciplinary program. Students will be encouraged to expand their own creative possibilities in a unique blend of left- and right-brain college-level work. Every student accepted to the program will be expected to contribute to every area of development. Carnegie Mellon University’s teaching philosophy is that all students learn by doing, and the NHSGA enthusiastically embraces that philosophy; every student learns all the skills needed to develop video games.

Sharing methods and paradigms used in Carnegie Mellon's Masters of Entertainment Technology (M.E.T.) graduate program, the NHSGA focuses on an exciting blend of hands-on team projects combined with traditional lecture and discussion. Through classwork and projects, NHSGA gives all students a taste of state-of-the-art video game development and provides instruction in the collaborative skills required for success in college and beyond. The curriculum is designed to elevate the students’ rigor and discipline and prepare them for the college experience. 




During the program, students begin by attending classes which teach them the core skills they’ll need. Every student takes classes in every discipline (art, software development, audio, game design, production, narrative). During the second half of the summer, the students are divided into teams based on a combination of their area of interest and their skills as demonstrated in class. No student is guaranteed any particular role on any team. We assign roles with the goal of creating the best possible teams for the current project. One student on each team is chosen to be the team’s producer. All students receive deep instruction in all areas and will be ready to perform any role on the team to which they're assigned.


In the first three weeks of the program, class instruction consists of daily lectures and workshops centered on crucial skills needed to build a video game. Topics include Programming in Unity, 2D art, 3D art, project management, storytelling, game design, animation, and sound design/music composition. These all receive equal weight. Homework is assigned in every class, and the NHSGA instructors evaluate the homework in order to assess student competence and assign the students to their teams in the second half. A typical class day includes 5 hours of classes and 2-3 hours of homework. During the first three weeks, students have assigned homework every night. After the game project work begins, teams often work 8-12 hours every day driven by their own enthusiasm to complete a project they will be proud of. This is not a requirement of the program, but it is our observation of most students’ desire to make the most of their opportunity while in the NHSGA.

Collaborative Projects

Over the last three weeks of the program, student teams first work on a one-week project to better understand how games are created and then new teams build an original video game. In this project the teams are selected by the faculty to maximize each student’s potential for success based on our observations of their performance. This game is an all-original idea, playable on a PC or Mac, designed to become a portfolio piece the student could use in the college admission process. This project begins with a pitch process where the team presents three ideas to the faculty. One is selected and the team builds it from scratch, using the expertise they acquired in their classwork combined again with daily hands-on mentoring by the faculty.



 To be eligible for the NHSGA program students must:

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residental program).
  • Have an academic average of B (3.0/4.0) or better.
  • Have a strong interest in the entertainment industry (film, video games, tabletop games, music, etc.) and one of the following areas: 
    • Software Development
    • Game Design
    • Visual Arts or Graphic Design
    • Sound Design or Music Composition
  • Demonstrate the ability to succeed in creative, collaborative coursework and/or projects.




Application Requirements

The application for the NHSGA program will consist of the following:

  • Completed Online Application
  • Unofficial Transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores (optional)
  • One Letter of Recommendation
  • Response to the following essay prompt (300-500 words):
    • What do you hope to gain from participating in the Carnegie Mellon Pre-College program?
  • Response to one of the following NHSGA short answer questions (300-500 words):
    • Tell us about your favorite game. Why do you like it?
    • Tell us about a time you worked within a team.
    • Tell us why you would like to participate in the NHSGA.
    • Tell us about something you are passionate about (outside of school and gaming).
  • Sample(s) of your creative work of all types (videos, music, images, art, writings, poetry, etc)
    • Students must submit at least one portfolio piece that demonstrates their passion and ability in one of the following areas: 
      • Software Development
      • Game Design
      • Visual Arts or Graphic Design
      • Sound Design or Music Composition

Frequently Asked Questions

The National High School Game Academy classes are held on our satellite campus at the Entertainment Technology Center. Students are transported by bus to and from their classes every day.

If a student is interested in computer graphics, they may be interested in a variety of areas. Computer graphics may be included in the National High School Game Academy, Pre-College Design and/or some of the computer programming classes within Summer Session. It is important to note that while computer graphics may be included in all of the programs, it will not be the sole focus.