Carnegie Mellon University

Why Writing & Culture?


This is not a Language Arts course.

In this program, you will explore film, art, and culture through historical and contemporary lenses.  You will produce a body of work anchored in what you have learned about digital poetics, about how films are written and made, and how visual design choices express knowledge. You will learn to think critically, express your thoughts creatively, and write effectively for college and beyond.

Curriculum Overview:

Classes are held Monday through Friday, usually 9:30-4, with a scheduled lunch break. Evening and weekend enrichment events as scheduled.

This program provides highly individualized feedback and guidance, drawing on each student’s personal strengths and interests.

Guided by the mentorship and instruction of our highly distinguished faculty members, you will analyze complex, ever-changing problems through astute investigations of culture and society through written text and visual media. You will also learn how to think through design choices for film production, cutting-edge poetic forms, and visual design. You will assimilate these concepts and ideas, using them to fuel your own body of work.

Attendance at readings and events with prominent local artists and authors, followed by discussion and analysis in a small group setting. Students will attend productions through Pittsburgh’s world-class music and theater scene to experience writing in its various forms. These experiences will broaden the way in which students read, understand, and produce written texts.

Investigation of Writing & Culture in a rich historical context across print, visual, and film media, including hands-on visits to the Carnegie Mellon Archives and Fine & Rare Book Rooms. Students will participate in docent-led tours of exhibits and permanent collections at Pittsburgh's many world-class museums. Additionally, students will participate in tours of Pittsburgh film locations to explore the connection between words and visual settings. Visits will be followed by small group discussions and activities.

Mentorship and discussion in a workshop-like environment with distinguished faculty from Carnegie Mellon’s Department of English. Faculty include published creative writers, program directors, literary and cultural studies scholars, and technologists at the cutting edge of digital humanities scholarship.

Access to college-level professional development opportunities, including opportunities to learn from alumni, insights into career paths in English and related cross-disciplines, and mentorship on college application essays from Carnegie Mellon’s Writing & Communication faculty. Additionally, students may request a recommendation letter for their future endeavors.

Program Options:
  • 6-week*
  • Residential OR Commuter**
 *For specific program dates see, the home page.

**In order to be eligible as a commuter student, the parent or legal guardian must have a permanent residence within approximately 30 miles of campus or within Allegheny County. Families who relocate temporarily to the Pittsburgh area are not eligible for commuter status. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Program Schedule:

Make Your Words Count: Writing for Impact (Weeks 1-4)

Each morning, students will engage with the craft of creative writing, selecting the topics of their writing based solely upon their own interests. This course will help students learn how to connect their writing to larger, significant messages, both personal and political.

In the afternoon, students will shift their focus to film to sharpen their critical writing and interpretive skills. Film is not just cameras, actors, and directors, but also scripts and stories that are part of cultural and social contexts. In our approach to studying film and visual media, we focus on writing critically as well as creatively. This course allows students with a variety of interests—social sciences, STEM, humanities, drama—to connect in an interdisciplinary way around film and culture.

Connect with Your Readers: Designing a Lasting Impression (Weeks 5-6)

Students will learn about visual communication and editing to prepare their writing for publication. Additionally, students will use new CMU-developed technologies to notice their written patterns and learn strategies for designing documents. Students will also visit the Fine & Rare Book Rooms in the university library to consider historical contexts for visual design conventions.

Students will meet with guest-speaker alumni who will discuss their own career journeys and the pathways from a humanities and English-focused undergraduate degree. Students will discover ways in which they can take their passion for English and writing and turn it into a viable career.

Students will also produce college application materials (e.g., resume, college application essay).

Humanities in Pittsburgh (Weeks 1-6)

Students will participate in an average of one curricular enrichment event each week, such as viewing a theatrical production or attending a poetry reading featuring international artists. These activities will occur at various times during the six weeks, some during the day and some during the evening.

Eligibility & Application Requirements:

  • 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 at time of application submission.
  • Have an academic average of B (3.0/4.0) and/or have received a B or higher in their last English class.
  • Completed online application
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Standardized test scores (optional)
  • One letter of recommendation
  • Responses to essay prompts
  • Up to 3 samples of your writing (optional but recommended).
    • If applicant’s cumulative GPA is below a B average (3.0/4.0), submitting writing samples is strongly encouraged.

Essays required for the following prompts (300-500 words each):

  1. What do you hope to gain from participating in a Carnegie Mellon Pre-College program?
  2. Why are you interested in studying Writing & Culture?
  3. What kinds of reading do you enjoy most and why?
  4. What writing experiences have you enjoyed most and why?
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