What is Carnegie Mellon’s Acceptance Rate & Admissions Requirements?

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Carnegie Mellon’s acceptance rate is 17%. What does it take to get in?


Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University is well-known for programs such as engineering and performing arts. It also boasts several famous graduates, including Andy Warhol, Holly Hunter, and Kurt Vonnegut.


Carnegie Mellon celebrates a wide range of skills and passions through its nine schools that admit undergraduates:


  • College of Engineering
  • College of Fine Arts (CFA)
  • Dietrich College of Humanities and
  • Social Sciences (DC)
  • Information Systems (IS)
  • Mellon College of Science (MCS)
  • School of Computer Science (SCS)
  • Tepper School of Business (TPR)


The also offer many unique interdisciplinary programs, such as:


  • Bachelor of Computer Science & Arts (BCSA)
  • Intercollege Degree Program
  • Bachelor of Humanities & Arts (BHA)
  • Intercollege Degree Program
  • Bachelor of Science & Arts (BSA)
  • Intercollege Degree Program
  • Integrative Design, Arts and Technology


Wondering how to score a spot at this top 30 school? Here’s what you need to know, from application logistics to how to optimize your profile.


Want to learn what Carnegie Mellon University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Carnegie Mellon University needs to know.

Applying to Carnegie Mellon: A Quick Review


To submit a complete application, you’ll need to send the following:


  • Common Application
  • Carnegie Mellon supplement
  • Official high school transcript
  • Official standardized testing score reports*
  • Secondary School Counselor Evaluation
  • Teacher Recommendation
  • Pre-screen, audition, or portfolio review (Schools of Drama and Music only)
  • Portfolio and creative materials (Schools of Architecture, Art, and Design only)
  • Academic portfolio and transcript consistent with state guidelines and a list of all textbooks used (home-schooled applicants only)
  • Proof of meeting all requirements for an official high school diploma (due by the end of May of graduation year) and an official final transcript, GED, or certificate of completion from your local school district or state board of education (due by July of the year of matriculation)


*Standardized testing requirements:


You must submit SAT or ACT scores from your junior or senior year (writing and essay not required). SAT Subject Tests are recommended for different colleges and programs. If English is not your native language, you must also submit the TOEFL or IELTS.


Curriculum Requirements


High school curriculum requirements vary depending on the school you’re applying to. For example, the College of Engineering requires fewer years of high school math than the School of Design in the College of Fine Arts. Be sure to verify that you’ve met these requirements before applying.


Also, know that Carnegie Mellon won’t consider supplemental materials unless they are required for your particular school and are submitted through the proper channels.


Carnegie Mellon Acceptance Rate: How Difficult is it to Get In?


Carnegie Mellon is very selective; for the class of 2022, the university had a 17% acceptance rate for 43,169 applicants. Ultimately, 1,573 students enrolled. In 2017, it accepted only four out of 5,609 students off of the waitlist. It’s important to note that CMU has a priority waitlist; to be considered a priority, you must inform the university that it is your top choice and you will enroll if offered a slot.


Standardized test scores and GPA vary by school. For example, the middle 50% range composite SAT scores for the College of Fine Arts is 1330-1510, and 1480-1560 for the College of Engineering. The average GPA of accepted students for these same schools are 3.77 and 3.92, respectively. For other colleges’ stats, visit this page.


You might notice that for non-STEM majors, Carnegie Mellon does not have particularly stringent academic or extracurricular requirements for admission.

For STEM and particularly computer science, Carnegie Mellon is exceedingly competitive across academics, extracurriculars, and the essay. It is basically the most difficult college for admission outside of HYPSM, Columbia, and UPenn in these fields.

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Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

So, How Does One Get Into Carnegie Mellon?


Highlight your strengths and passions: CMU values self-motivated students who can identify their strengths, as evidenced by the first essay prompt in its supplement:

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?”(300 words)


CMU wants to see that you have developed an interest over time and are not choosing your course of study on a whim. Your passion and dedication for the subject should come through in the essay.


Emphasize collaboration: Additionally, CMU seeks students who are able and eager to work with others. This is apparent in its third essay prompt:


“When we’re connected to others, we become better people,” said Carnegie Mellon University’s Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture. At Carnegie Mellon you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse community of scholars, artists and innovators. Given the students, faculty, staff and resources that have been available to you as a student, how have you collaborated with others, in or out of the classroom? Or, what lessons have you learned from working with others in the past, that might shape your experiences in the future? (300 words)


In this essay and throughout your application, you must demonstrate that you’re a team player. CMU emphasizes community building and looks for students who share its values.


Showcase your uniqueness: Carnegie Mellon also wants students with unique backgrounds, so diversity is also an important element of your application. The university notes that it welcomes applicants with nontraditional backgrounds, such as veterans and adult students. Whether or not you see your background as diverse, you should emphasize what makes you different: special talents, interesting experiences, and so on.


Choose the right school: Finally, you should apply to the school that is most consistent with your demonstrated interests and goals. In other words, don’t just apply to a school with a higher admissions rate and lower SAT scores because you believe your likelihood of acceptance is higher. Many of the schools with higher admissions rates are self-selecting, meaning the applicant pool is largely filled with students who have a demonstrated passion for the niche. Additionally, some schools weigh the academic profile more heavily than others, while others take into account factors such as a portfolio or audition. If you wish to transfer internally once you have matriculated, you must undergo a formal transfer process, which varies by school.


What If You Get Rejected?


Before you apply, make sure your final list is well-balanced among safety, target, and reach colleges. This will increase your chances of being admitted to a good-fit school.


Being denied admission is disappointing, but it’s a tough reality in college admissions. It’s important to take a step back and regroup. If you get rejected from Carnegie Mellon, here’s what you can do:



Take a gap year or apply as a transfer: If you had your heart set on Carnegie Mellon or received bad news from the other colleges on your list, one option is to take a gap year and reapply next admissions cycle. Keep in mind that this is risky, and it’s often better to accept a spot at another college and take a gap year there. If you do decide to take a gap year, make sure you have a productive plan for the year. You might undertake a research project, volunteer, study to improve your SAT scores, or take classes non-matriculated at a local college. You can also consider transferring after you’ve matriculated elsewhere, although the acceptance rate for transfers is low; in 2017, for example, 825 students applied to transfer to Carnegie Mellon, and 57 were accepted for a transfer admissions rate of 6.9%.


Keep it in perspective: Even if Carnegie Mellon was your top choice, chances are, you’ll find a way to make a college that did accept you work. College really is what you make of it, and if you put effort into adjusting to another school by joining clubs, working hard in your classes, and cultivating a social life, you’ll likely find that you can make a fulfilling college experience for yourself, even if you end up at a college that wasn’t your top choice.


To learn more about applying to Carnegie Mellon, read these posts:


The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Carnegie Mellon

How to Write Carnegie Mellon University’s Essays 2018-2019


Curious about your chances of acceptance to Carnegie Mellon? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.