How To Gain Admission To Carnegie Mellon University

It can be a challenge when you're finishing high school, and the next step is picking the university that'll have you spend another four years to complete your studies and become the person society wants because you're not sure if you've chosen the right one. Heck, you may not even know if the university you'll be enrolled in will let you leave a better person. But you won't have to worry too much if the university you're eyeing to be a part of is Carnegie Mellon University. When you're enrolled there, you can rest easy in knowing you've set a promising future for yourself. 

After all, Carnegie Mellon writes on their website that their institute is “a global research university recognized for its world-class arts and technology programs, collaboration across disciplines and innovative leadership in education. Groundbreaking research and cutting-edge technology that impact the world – happen here. The university’s award-winning, well-known faculty work closely with our students to prepare them for the real world – to get real jobs.” They even add to that the end that “We’re about creating students who will leave here ready to make a lasting impact on society. Carnegie Mellon will give you the option to choose your program. And change the world.” Cool right?

So, if you’re picking this university above all others, then read on and find out how you can gain admissions here.

One of the underrated student bodies in the country in terms of intellect. The impression is this is one of the best schools in the country to focus on academics and be thrown into the interdisciplinary study. 

Every student at Carnegie Mellon chooses a specific major in one of the seven colleges and is required to minor in a college other than their major. This makes every student on campus have particular knowledge in their major and an often unrelated and multidisciplinary edge due to the minor requirement. CMU is an excellent school for students who know what they and you want before they get to college.

1. Learn how Carnegie Mellon selects students and the factors that matter

When it comes to admissions, you need to know how Carnegie Mellon does their thing. Thankfully, they give more details of their process here. Below are a few of the factors that matter:

  • Academic and Artistic Potential

For these factors, Carnegie Mellon looks to see if the student they’re evaluating has academic prowess and artistic talent. They even admit that having these factors will play a significant role in how they’ll decide for you, which means you’ll need to academically strong and artistically substantial for them to consider you in their review. 

  • Extracurricular Activities

For this factor, they’re looking to see if a student has non-academic interests because it plays a vital role in their process. In a way, they want to see if a student exhibits character qualities, such as leadership and passion. It’s also another way for Carnegie Mellon to see if the applicant can contribute significantly to their campus.

  • Criminal History Information 

Unlike other elite universities, Carnegie Mellon requires all applicants to submit any criminal history information as part of their enrolment process. It’s unusual to see this kind of factor, but if it’s here, then you’d better make sure you’re a suitable person with the law before you make your entry here. 

There are other factors to take note of but what you can learn from all this is Carnegie Mellon has a way of making its decisions, so it pays to know all the factors so that when you’re up and ready to submit your application, you’re prepared to be evaluated and get your confidence.

2. Have a deeper understanding of some of the factors mentioned earlier by the dean of admissions

When you read about the factors you’ve just learned earlier, it can be a bit difficult to go with them because you’re not even sure where to go with them. It's vague when you think about it. But don't worry; you can have a deeper understanding of some of them from Michael Steidel, the dean of admissions at Carnegie Mellon. In a post made a few years ago, Michael explained, “High school performance weighs most heavily in our admission decision because it is the most meaningful measure of a student's abilities. We pay close attention to the type of courses taken and to the grades received, and the challenges you've given yourself in the classroom. If you are applying to programs in the arts, your artistic performance will be either the main factor or a significant factor (depending on the program) in our admission decision.” He also explains that students who are interested in learning more about Carnegie Mellon can enhance an application. He even gives out details about a prospective student who can do tours when he says: “Expressing an interest in learning more about Carnegie Mellon can only enhance a student's application. We strongly recommend that students come to the Carnegie Mellon campus to interview a staff member, although it's not required. This adds a personal touch to our evaluation and gives students a chance to ask questions. If you cannot make it to campus, consider talking with a local Carnegie Mellon alumni representative. There are several other ways to show interest and learn more about Carnegie Mellon. Students can come to one of our Turn Tartan Weekends, attend an information program in or near their town, interview in their hometown with one of our staff members or alumni, or enroll in one of our summer programs. Information about a number of these events is included at the end of this section.” He also makes a small mention of how other criteria are considered depending on the course and college you’ll be part of in Carnegie Mellon in the post. 

The takeaway here: Carnegie Mellon can have a bit of a bias with some of the factors. From the academics to the eagerness to learn about them, Carnegie Mellon has a significant consideration for certain applicants. It may not be said out loud, but they're keeping an eye on the applicants who fit their bill. Will you be that prospective student? You bet you are! 

3. Develop your spike

Learning that Carnegie Mellon has a thing for the applicant who’s got diversity with academic prowess and artistic senses does make you think: How can you make a great impression on them? You can get started by developing your spike. What's that? According to PrepScholar here, a point "is what sets you apart from all other applicants. It goes against the spirit of simply being well-rounded. By nature of being unique, you don't fit in with all of the other well-rounded applicants; you do something that truly stands out in a meaningful way." If you need another way to see it, it's all about being the one who's got the spark while everyone else doesn't have it. If your classmate settles for the mediocre, you're aiming for the spectacular. 

But you can't precisely reach this status like it's a walk in the park. It can take a while before you can even get the spike that'll get Carnegie Mellon amazed with you. If you need motivation, you can see the Japanese craftsman as your inspiration. For them, crafting something out of nothing is challenging work. You see them make something, and it's fantastic that they can have it done in less time. But you can never truly understand the pure willpower and perseverance they've had to go through to arrive where they are now. They were able to develop their spike and maintain it for years. If they're able to practice and practice until the point from within becomes one with them, then you can do the same as well! 

4. Prioritize a few areas of interest and maintain greatness

While you're developing the spike with an area of interest that you've got excellent skills for, you can start prioritizing a few regions of interest and maintain greatness in them. For example, if you have five areas of interest, but only two are giving you impressive growth, it's best to prioritize the latter and leave the rest out. 

5. Add a few more extracurricular activities to your arsenal

As you've learned earlier, extracurricular activities are vital to the admission process at Carnegie Mellon, which means you'll need to add a few of them to your arsenal when it comes to your application. Fret not; we have a few suggestions that'll get your application boosted with energy:

  • Do a part-time job

If you’re eager to get it going with the extracurricular, consider doing a part-time job. From being a clerk to being a repairman, having a part-time job while you’re studying will show Carnegie Mellon, you’re the applicant who wants to learn the ways of money and exercise responsibility for your future. 

  • Be an intern

You can also try signing up for an internship and being an intern. It’ll give you a chance to experience what it’s like to have a job for a fixed amount of time, and it’ll also give your application a nice boost because Carnegie Mellon will see that you’re the student. You will take the initiative and make sure to balance out the workload you’ll be doing. 

  • Join an academic team or club

Joining an academic team or club will give you great motivation to excel in your academics even more. From math to science, you’ll have ways of learning beyond your limits. It’s also the right way for Carnegie Mellon to consider you more because they’ll see you’re eager to learn and bring new development to your intellect that will undoubtedly contribute significantly to their campus. Plus, it’ll boost the factor regarding academics as they review your application. 

  • Join a summer class

While your classmates are enjoying free time in summer, you can amp up your chances of being admitted to Carnegie Mellon by joining a summer class where you can boost up your learning and gain experience. It’ll rev up your application because it will show Carnegie Mellon that you’re maintaining your academic excellence in ways most students won’t do. 

  • Be a volunteer for your community.

Exercise your humility and charity with others by being a volunteer in your community. It’ll not only give you a great experience in socializing with others, but it’ll also help you contribute to your community and become part of it. It’ll even make Carnegie Mellon smile a lot because they’re always going for the student who not only helps themselves but also help others. To them, that emits leadership right there, which can be a significant factor in boosting your application. 

  • Get athletic with sports.

Got the itch to shoot the hoops, hit the rackets, or do anything athletic? Try going it on with sports. Besides being more physical and getting fit, it’ll show Carnegie Mellon that you’re an applicant who values teamwork and leadership as part of their person. It’ll also give them a glimpse of who you are and how you can be an excellent fit for the campus. 

6. Give Carnegie Mellon a tour online and offline

As mentioned earlier, Michael Steidel has stated that learning more about Carnegie Mellon can only enhance your application, so consider taking a tour of the campus. You can find more details here. You'll not only see the mechanics for conducting a virtual tour, but you can also plan group visits and download a PDF guide. Yes, Carnegie Mellon is encouraging prospective students to know them from the ground up. 

7. Select the course you’d like to study at Carnegie Mellon while also learning more about the schools that hold them

Got all the factors and did the other things you need to be considered? Sweet! You're now ready to pick your course. You can start thinking about which direction is right for you by heading here. You’ll be amazed that Carnegie Mellon lists down the courses based on the respective colleges. While you’re at it, you can learn more about the colleges that the courses are part of and get an idea of the additional requirements you might need. It’s a mammoth of details, so pluck out some time to learn about the university you’re eager to get into. 

8. Collect the requirements you’ll need for applying

When you’ve picked your course, you can get on with it and get the requirements you’ll need for enrollment at Mellon. The details are all here, but you may have a view of the essentials below arranged nicely courtesy of College Vine: 

  • 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)

You’ll need SAT or ACT scores from your junior or senior year for the standardized testing score reports. You'll also need to take note that depending on the course and college you picked, you’ll be required to submit high school curriculum requirements. Hence, it pays to take note of the college in the course catalog, so you have a better idea of what you need to submit alongside the essentials. 

9. Look at the SAT and ACT scores along with the GPA that Carnegie Mellon wants to see

As part of your application requirements, you’ll need to submit SAT or ACT scores but only from your junior or senior years, which means taking them too early won’t do you any good. Though it's not clearly said, you're going to need a good GPA also. Carnegie Mellon doesn’t say how much all these scores factors in their admission process, but looking at the data Thought Co has here, it sure matters a lot:

CMU SAT and ACT Scores

As you can see above, your SAT score must be above 1490, and your ACT score must be above 34. As for your GPA, you need to be on or above 3.8.  It’s going to take a lot out of you to achieve the scores shown here, so your next step will be scoring significantly. Fret not; we'll show you the ways to get there. 

10. Score significantly on the ACT and SATs 

You’re now going to need to be prepared and ready when you’re about to tackle the tests. It can be intimidating, but with the tips and things to remember below, you'll do just fine: 

  • Practice the tests 

You’ll want to practice the tests until you’re comfortable with them. From understanding the question types to knowing how long you have to answer them, being at one with the tests will help you out because when you’re ready to tackle the real ones, you’ll feel confident in knowing you can answer them with finesse. 

  • Learn more with the app versions

Another suitable way to learn more is by applying what you've learned with the app versions. Unlike the traditional practice tests, the app versions can provide you with questions seen on tests from previous years. It's a great way to prepare yourself for the new types that'll pop out. It'll also give you a chance to see whether or not your practices have helped you out.  

  • Read the official guides.

When you've got the time and money, get yourself the official guides as well. It might cost you, but it'll be a significant investment because the official guides can give you insights you don't see anywhere else. They’re "official," which means the people who make the SAT and ACT give out hints on how you can ace them.  

  • Join a tutoring class

You can rev up your skills with the tests by joining a tutoring class. You’ll not only learn more stuff that can help you with the difficulties, but you’ll also gain insight from the experts who tackled the tests and how they did their part in getting the scores they were able to achieve. 

11. Raise the roof with a better GPA

Getting the excellent scores Carnegie Mellon wants to see is one thing; achieving a 3.8 GPA is another. While you're prepping up for the tests, you're going to need to show Carnegie Mellon you're no slouch when it comes to your academics and that you're not all talk about it. If you're concerned about how you can get the GPA that'll impress them, you can get through smoothly with some tips here: 

  • Set primary goals and reward yourself

An excellent way to get your GPA higher than most is to set significant goals for it and rewarding yourself when you've achieved them. For example, if your primary goal is getting high grades in math, you can set the goal that you'll tackle your weaknesses, and when you've achieved them, you can reward yourself with a good cup of coffee. 

  • Don’t exhaust yourself so much. 

While it's honorable and dignified to get better grades than everyone else, it pays not to exhaust yourself so much. You know these: the all-nighters, sacrificing relaxation time, being a school-a-holic… you need to separate your personal life and school life. You might look like a freak if you think science will suddenly help you take a dump in the bathroom, so don’t exhaust yourself so much, okay? 

  • Map out a study schedule

Since you'll be doing a lot of things to get yourself up and running for higher grades, you're going to need a significant schedule to help you out. An excellent way to do this is dedicating a few hours in one day to map out how you'll study. Write them down on paper or online and adhere to them as much as you can. Start small and slowly expand it. In time, you'll have a schedule that'll not only help you build the prowess for grades but it'll also give you a chance to see where you can grow your spike and do the other activities that'll help you boost your application. 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

When you find yourself in a pinch, leveling up your academic skills for higher grades, you can ask for help. Yes, you don't need to be afraid and think asking for help is a weakness. It can be a strength for you because you'll be able to learn from others and let them teach you their ways on how they got their grades. You can also ask tips and tricks from classmates with high GPAs and learn the ways of the academically strong.

12. Check out the acceptance rates of Carnegie Mellon

While SAT and ACT score results have been optional since 2017, the University of Chicago is still hard to apply for primarily because they've been known to be super-selective when it comes to admitting students. You could even say that making the SAT and ACT score results optional may have made it harder for a prospective student to get accepted. If these numbers are any indication, it may get even harder:

CMU Acceptance Rates

The acceptance rate from 2017 was as high as 22%. It went down to 15% in 2019 but was able to gain a rise to 23.7% in 2020. But before you get your hopes up here, it's been projected that in 2021, it'll go down to 13.57%. You also have to remember that the rates are a combination of the students admitted into the different colleges under Carnegie Mellon. What does it mean for you? You'll have to be competitive and vigilant because your factors alone won't aid your application. You still need to do a little more work to get Carnegie Mellon's attention truly.  

13. Level up your application  

When you’ve picked up the rest of the requirements, you’re now ready to create your application and profile. But you have to level it up and make sure it’s already boosted and revved up for Carnegie Mellon. Stumped on how to do this? Here are the things you can apply:

  • Answer the essays spectacularly.

As part of the requirements for application, you’ll be writing your response to the supplemental essay questions with your application. It's essential to take this part seriously because it’s one of the factors in Carnegie Mellon’s admission process that’ll determine whether or not you deserve to be with them. If you need some hype-up to answer the essays without breaking a sweat, check out College Vine’s guide for answering the previous essays here.

  • Concoct your story riddled with the character qualities they seek from you

When you’re creating your profile, it pays to organize your story and fill it up with the character qualities that Carnegie Mellon wants from you. Remember the factors that we talked about earlier and the biases toward students who want to know more about them and other things? Make sure to include all that you’ve accomplished while making it look so elaborate that Carnegie Mellon would be making a mistake if they even reject you right from the get-go. 

  • Chat up with the experts

Once you’re nearing your application’s completion, have a chat with the experts and let them what they think. You'll not only gain insight on what can be added, removed, or changed, but you can also see what they can suggest for you and give you the elements for further improvement. 

  • Be sure to submit the additional requirements that the specific section wants from you.

As you’ve learned earlier, Carnegie Mellon’s courses are spread through different colleges, and a lot of them have some specific requirements you need to submit with the essentials. It'll be a big boost because it'll not only show Carnegie Mellon who you are, but they'll see that you're a responsible student who will stop at nothing to achieve a goal. 

14. Submit everything, cross your fingers, and hope for the best

Once you've got it all under wraps, make that submission, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. It's not a guarantee you'll get right in, and you can already see the acceptance rate is relatively low that you got to hope. So it's all in a matter of patience.  

Not Accepted? 

You waited for quite some time, and the results are finally with you. The result? Rejection! After all that you’ve done, Carnegie Mellon decides you’re not fit for them. Does this mean all hope is lost? No, not yet because there are still other options to pursue, not the usual type. It’s no guarantee you'll get in, but you've already tried applying, so trying them out won’t be too much of a hassle. Here they are: 

Alternative Option A: Go to another college and transfer to Carnegie Mellon later

You can try applying for a different college and transferring to Carnegie Mellon later. The requirements for sharing are here. You'll be happy to know there are enough details on the page to keep you occupied but don't be too excited because the transfer acceptance rate is 7.26%, according to Campus Reel. It’s much lower than the acceptance rates for regular applicants, which means you have to make your application appealing to the point that Carnegie Mellon won't give you the "no" sign for a second time. For a case like this, you can make use of your time with the other college and build up your character so that when you're ready to apply as a transfer student, you got what you need. 

Alternative Option B: Apply again after finishing a gap year

Another option is re-applying after finishing a gap year. What’s a gap year? It’s the year between graduating high school and applying for college where you won’t be doing anything academic. It’s a riskier option to take because when Carnegie Mellon sees that you're trying again, they may assume you didn't do much on your time and will reject you still. But doing a gap year can be beneficial because, as College Vine says here, the pros of doing a gap year can include gaining professional experience, broadening your perspective, and making a difference. You can think of it as another way of growth and achieving the factors that they want to see from you. Add to the diversity they so long from a student, and they just consider letting you in when they see your application is bridled with the things they've sought after. 


It can be tricky when you're looking for a university that will give you the power to be a significant contribution to society. That's why with Carnegie Mellon, you'll be pleased to know when you graduate from them, you're armed and ready to contribute significantly to the world. With the various colleges under them that offer courses that can challenge and enrich students with knowledge and intellect, maintain, and you’re their rank amongst the elite. The other spectacular things that make them whole are why many students sought to apply for them. It's tricky to be accepted into this school, but with the guide we've got for you, you may just see Carnegie Mellon being your place of comfort in the next few years!