How to Get Into Carnegie Mellon: Admissions Stats + Tips

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What’s Covered:

 

Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University is a research university with a reputation for excellence in areas like STEM and performing arts. Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the university houses seven schools and colleges with undergraduate programs:

 

  • College of Engineering
  • College of Fine Arts
  • Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Heinz College of Information Systems & Public Policy Management
  • Mellon College of Science
  • School of Computer Science
  • Tepper School of Business

 

CMU counts Ted Danson, Michael Chabon, Judith Resnik, Andy Warhol, and Holly Hunter among its alumni. Hoping to join their ranks? Here’s what to know about admission to this premier university.

 

How Hard Is It to Get Into Carnegie Mellon?

 

For the class of 2025, 26,189 students applied, and 4,524 were accepted, for an admissions rate of 17.3%.

 

While CMU’s acceptance rate is incredibly low, your chances of admission could be higher or lower, depending on your unique factors.

 

Use CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator to better understand your chances of acceptance. This tool takes into account factors like GPA, test scores, and extracurriculars and gives you tips on how to improve your odds.

 

Average Academic Profile of Accepted CMU Students

 

GPA

 

CMU’s average high school GPA for the freshman class is 3.85. Approximately 32% had a GPA of 4.0.

 

SAT/ACT

 

CMU is currently test-optional. For the class of 2025, 76% of students submitted SAT scores, and 35.2% submitted ACT scores.

 

The middle 50% range for SAT scores was 700-760 (ERW)/760-800 (M). For ACT scores, it was 33-35.

 

Class Rank

 

Of those submitting class rank (45.5%), 88.5% of students were in the top 10% of their graduating high school class, and 99.7% were in the top 25%.

 

What is CMU Looking for?

 

“The world needs more people like you,” says CMU. “The furiously curious kind. The deeply driven kind. The kind who wants to make life better for all humankind.”

 

Carnegie Mellon employs a holistic admissions process when reviewing applications. For STEM majors, particularly those in computer science, extremely strong academics, extracurriculars, and essays are a must. Admission is less competitive for non-STEM majors, however.

 

According to the university, “diversity, equity, inclusion, collaboration, communication, community engagement, concern for others, self-directed learning, and critical thinking” are a priority. “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,” it notes.

 

Rigor of coursework, in addition to your grades, play a large role in the admissions process. That means you should be engaging in high-level courses, the most challenging available to you. 

 

Bear in mind that each school or college has its own criteria. For example, the College of Fine Arts will evaluate your artistic performance in your specialty, while the College of Engineering prioritizes STEM coursework and extracurriculars.

 

NB: The university does not consider demonstrated interest.

 

How Carnegie Mellon Evaluates Applications

 

According to the 2020–2021 Common Data Set, CMU considers these factors “very important”:

 

  • Rigor of secondary school record
  • Class rank
  • Academic GPA 
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Volunteer work
  • Work experience 

 

These factors are “important”:

 

  • Standardized test scores
  • Application essay
  • Recommendation(s) 
  • Talent/ability
  • Character/personal qualities
  • First generation
  • Alumni/ae relation
  • Racial/ethnic status

 

And these are “not considered”:

 

  • Interview
  • Geographical residence 
  • State residency 
  • Religious affiliation/commitment 
  • Level of applicant interest

 

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

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.

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into CMU

 

1. Achieve at least a 3.85 while taking the most challenging classes available.

 

Many selective schools like CMU use the Academic Index, which combines your academic metrics such as grades and GPA to form a single value, to ensure applicants meet their minimum standards. It’s important to clear this threshold by having at least the minimum GPA at CMU — 3.85 — and being in the top 10% of your class if your school ranks, as the majority of students are.

 

Remember, too, that Carnegie Mellon also wants to see you taking an exceptionally challenging curriculum, the most rigorous available to you. This will help separate you from other talented students. (Here’s some guidance on how many APs you should take.)

 

If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA, so the easiest way to increase your Academic Index is to get a higher test score.

 

2. Aim for a 1560 SAT and 35 ACT.

 

You should aim for scores in the 75th percentile of admitted students at CMU, although anything with the middle 50% range (1460-1560 SAT/33-35 ACT) is acceptable.

 

In light of COVID-19 test-optional policies, we advise students to take standardized tests if they can safely do so and submit them if they are at least the 25th percentile of admitted students. Get recommendations on whether or not you should apply test-optional using our free Chancing Engine

 

While CMU does not say that it superscores, it does say this: “If you choose to submit scores, we’re interested in the general pattern of your scores but will give the most weight to the highest score you’ve received on any of the exams.”

 

Want to improve your SAT/ACT score? Check out these free CollegeVine resources:

 

 

3. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”).

 

“By looking at this non-academic information, we develop a sense of your personality, motivation and social responsibility,” CMU says. 

 

The 4 Tiers of Extracurriculars offer an outline of how to formulate your extracurricular activity plan. You should aim for at least a couple of Tier 1-2 activities — the most exceptional and rare — along with a handful of the more common Tier 3-4 activities.

 

Find a consistent “spike” — area of passion — for your activities, no matter the tier. This means one or two areas of focus, around which your extracurriculars should be grouped. This is especially true at Carnegie Mellon, where students focus on specific passions at particular schools or college. 

 

For example, you might demonstrate your passion for music by playing in your all-state orchestra or ensemble, usually a Tier 1-2 activity, along with playing for your school’s orchestra and performing locally. You might also teach lessons, probably a Tier 3 activity.

 

4. Write engaging essays.

 

“The best essay you can write helps us learn about you!” CMU says.

 

Essays are the best way to share your personality and voice with the adcom. This year, Carnegie Mellon has the following prompts in their supplement:

 

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).

 

“We want to know more about your passions, goals, aspirations and experiences to gain a deeper understanding of who you are beyond your transcript,” CMU says. For more guidance on how to write these essays, review our CMU essay breakdown

 

5. Apply Early Decision.

 

Carnegie Mellon doesn’t publish its Early Decision acceptance rate, but generally speaking, these rates are higher than the overall admission rate. That’s because schools like CMU want to admit students who will attend, and ED plans are binding. CMU offers both ED I and ED II.

 

It’s important to remember that you are required to attend CMU if you apply under an ED plan and are admitted. This provides a number of advantages, including a boost in your chances of acceptance, but there are also some disadvantages. For example, you won’t be able to compare or leverage financial aid offers.

 

CMU also has an Early Admission plan for “highly qualified” high school juniors. (Learn more about this plan.)

 

6. Ask for recommendations from teachers who know you well.

 

CMU requires a recommendation from both a school counselor and a teacher. These recommendations play an important role in the admissions process.

 

When considering the teacher to ask, select someone who can attest to both your academic abilities and your personal qualities. According to the university, this doesn’t need to be a teacher in your academic area but rather the one who “knows you the best.”

 

7. Apply for the right school or program.

 

Carnegie Mellon is divided into several colleges and schools, each of which considers different factors and has separate requirements for admission.

 

Don’t apply for a program you don’t really want to pursue because you think it will be easier to get in — the adcom will likely see through this. Also, keep in mind that the schools have different criteria for evaluating students, so your profile won’t make sense if it doesn’t align with what that college is looking for.

 

How to Apply to CMU

 

Deadlines

 

Early Decision I*

November 1

Early Decision II/Regular Decision*

January 3

Early Admission (Juniors)

January 1

 

* Early Decision 1 is not available for acting, directing, dramaturgy, music theater or the School of Music.

** RD deadline for Schools of Drama and Music: December 1. Early Decision 2 is not available for the Schools of Drama, Music, Design or Art.

 

Application Requirements

 

  • Common Application
  • $75 application fee
  • Official high school transcript
  • Official standardized testing score reports (currently optional)
  • Secondary school counselor evaluation
  • Teacher recommendation
  • Common Application essay
  • Carnegie Mellon Common Application Writing Supplement
  • Pre-screen, audition, or portfolio review (School of Drama and School of Music only)
  • Portfolio and creative materials (Schools of Architecture, the School of Art, and the School of Design only)

 

NB: There are additional application requirements for the College of Fine Arts.

 

Learn more about Carnegie Mellon

 


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.

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