How to get into Carnegie Mellon University 2024: Acceptance Rate & Tips

Carnegie Mellon University, or CMU for short, is steeped in technological innovation, theatrical performance, and design. But the university has plenty else to offer as well, including a highly selective undergraduate business program.

With a beautiful campus situated just outside of downtown Pittsburgh, CMU thrums with inventive energy. The university’s world-renowned School of Computer Science has produced some of the most eminent academics and business leaders in the world, facilitating the formation of burgeoning tech companies like DuoLingo. Its extensive graduate research programs often create opportunities for undergraduates to engage in sophisticated projects they’d be unlikely to find anywhere else.

Cohon University Center of the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Photo by Dllu, link, under CC license

The entrepreneurial spirit also influences the business program, with hotbeds like the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship renowned for bringing together future CIO and CEO teams. And though the university has a reputation for being intensely academic, CMU students are proud of their quirks and happy to throw themselves into unique traditions like Buggy. The Tartans pride themselves on both unabashed geekiness and intense collaboration.

But just how hard is it to gain entry to the crown jewel of Pittsburgh? Well, it’s extremely hard. For the Class of 2025, just 17.5% of students were admitted out of an applicant pool of 26,189. And these admitted students had astonishingly strong academic track records nearly across the board. Fortunately, Carnegie Mellon is all about the data—so there’s plenty to share.

Here is how the most recent incoming class at CMU looked:

GPA

Colleges/ProgramsGPA
College of Fine Arts3.77
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences3.87
Engineering3.91
Information Systems3.89
Mellon College of Science3.92
School of Computer Science3.95
Tepper School of Business3.88
Intercollege Degree Programs3.90
Note: First Year Student Admitted Averages

SAT/ACT scores

Colleges/ProgramsSAT-ERW*SAT-M*ACTE*ACTM*ACTC*
College of Fine Arts700-740730-78034-3530-3433-34
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences740-770790-80035-3634-3534-35
Engineering740-771790-80035-3635-3635
Information Systems740-760780-80035-3635-3635
Mellon College of Science740-77080035-3635-3635-36
School of Computer Science770-78080035-363635-36
Tepper School of Business730-760790-80035-363534-35
Intercollege Degree Programs750-770780-80035-3634-3535
Note: First Year Student Admitted Averages

And this is the competition they faced in order to get there:

2020 Application Statistics

Colleges/ProgramsApplicationsFirst-Choice ApplicantsAcceptance Rate
College of Fine Arts School of Architecture50044334%
College of Fine Arts School of Art74053123%
College of Fine Arts School of Design68346611%
College of Fine Arts School of Drama2,79820974%
College of Fine Arts School of Music81247031%
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences5,7243,06326%
Engineering9,8246,10120%
Information Systems1,65553724%
Mellon College of Science66143,72422%
School of Computer Science8,3296,6817%
Tepper School of Business3,2952,04723%
Intercollege Degree Programs1,0419537%
Total42,01527,11317%

The numbers are daunting to say the least. But they don’t always give the full picture. And they’re representative of macro trends in worldwide education that are outside any single person’s control. That’s why it’s more effective to first understand these numbers in context, then use your time to focus on preparing your own personal application as best you can. 

What do you need to apply to Carnegie Mellon?

In order to apply to CMU, you will need to complete the Common Application, which includes three short-answer essay questions for the Carnegie Mellon Writing Supplement. The university has decided to continue its test-optional policy for the 2022-2023 cycle, but the admissions department makes explicit note that they will factor your scores into their decision if you choose to submit them. And given their averages, you will need to submit very strong scores indeed to make this worth your while.

If you are committed to attending CMU as your first choice university, and are applying Early Decision, you can apply in the Early Decision 1 binding application program by November 1. Carnegie Mellon also offers an Early Decision 2 deadline of January 3. It’s worth noting that if you are applying to some programs—particularly those in the performing arts—you may not be eligible for these Early Decision application schemes. In this case, or in case you prefer not to be bound to CMU, you will need to submit your application by the university’s one Regular Decision deadline, which is also January 3. 

As you complete the Common Application for CMU, you will need to submit the following materials:

For more detailed information, especially on special program-specific requirements, check out CMU’s comprehensive page on Undergraduate Admission Requirements and make sure that you are fully prepared to submit your application to the program of your choice.

What is Carnegie Mellon looking for?

Carnegie Mellon really wants students who really want to be at Carnegie Mellon. What does this mean, though? Don’t all schools want this?

Yes, but CMU has a particular position. They are not in a highly sought-after location, yet they are competing with institutions in Boston and the SF Bay. Many students don’t have a chance to visit campus. Many applicants apply because they know of the STEM opportunities, or other offerings, but don’t have a specific motivation for studying at CMU versus another university in the same echelon.

Thus, though CMU is particularly keen to find students oriented toward teamwork and intellectual eccentricity, they are also analyzing each application for convincing signs of Fit. And Fit, for them, is not only about the character of the student, but about how much the student really understands the impact they could have at CMU and how the college will help them get where they want to go after they graduate.

To maximize your chances of admission, dive deep into research on the school’s opportunities. Look at where CMU is investing its resources: labs, projects, new faculty hires. Speak to current students about life in Pittsburgh. Envision yourself in a rapidly rebounding Rust Belt city. Consume the university’s YouTube videos, social media posts, news stories, and more. Then, connect every exciting detail to your own desires, or principles, or talents.

CMU values demonstrated interest highly, and puts emphasis on recommendation letters. That said, though the university gives the option to submit three recommendation letters, the committee will only take two of these into consideration in their review. For more details on how CMu assesses applications, check out the university’s page on Admissions Consideration

Whatever your individual angle might be, show that you will be proactive in launching new projects with new partners while on campus. Whether they are in business, engineering, design, drama, or another field entirely, CMU seeks students who have an intense drive to pursue answers to big questions or solutions to influential problems alongside their classmates.

How can you get into Carnegie Mellon?

There are a variety of ways a top high school student can approach applying to CMU so as to maximize their chances of admission. The specific decisions of what to highlight and how to make it unforgettable boil down to individual life stories and circumstances that have shaped you into who you are today. That crucial piece of the application—the storytelling—can only come from intensive reflection and earnest hard work. 

However, there are certainly decisions you can make to position yourself to submit a profile that bolsters your personal story and provides you top ratings on several of CMU’s criteria:

If you’re able to demonstrate your connection to Carnegie Mellon’s distinctive offerings, achieve an outstanding GPA in the hardest classes, engage meaningfully with personal interests and community problems, and take charge of your own goals by acting on your principles, you’ll set yourself up to submit an application that will impress the CMU Admissions Committee. None of this is easy, but if you’re deeply motivated to be at Carnegie Mellon, use every tactic we’ve listed above in order to show it.

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