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Carnegie Mellon fulfilled, then horribly crushed, the dreams of 800 budding computer scientists

The lucky ones.

Carnegie Mellon University accidentally accepted about 800 students to its computer science masters program, only to retract the offer hours later.  Gawker earlier today published  two emails the university sent to applicants. The first offers admission to the program, and the second—more than six hours later—reads, ”Earlier this morning, we mistakenly sent you an offer of admission to Carnegie Mellon’s MS in CS program. This was an error on our part.”

In an email statement, Carnegie Mellon spokesman Ken Walters tells Quartz:

About 800 applicants to the Master of Science in Computer Science program in CMU’s Computer Science Department on Monday were erroneously sent an acceptance letter via email. This error was the result of serious mistakes in our process for generating acceptance letters. Once the error was discovered, the university moved quickly to notify affected applicants. We understand the disappointment created by this mistake, and deeply apologize to the applicants for this miscommunication. We are currently reviewing our notification process to help ensure this does not happen in the future.

The school is ranked first in US World and News Report ‘s computer science graduate program rankings. This is not the first time that students have received false acceptances from an American university—in December  Johns Hopkins accidentally sent acceptance emails  to almost 300 applicants who had been rejected days earlier. Sometimes the faux acceptances come in the form of financial aid emails, which happened with  Fordham  (paywall) and UCLA . MIT , Vassar and UC San Diego have also had slip ups.

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Carnegie Mellon University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide 

Early Decision: 

Carnegie Mellon University 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 3 short essays of 300 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s):   Why ,  Short Answer

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?

So many factors go into shaping your educational experience: course selection, professors, classmates, campus culture, even the city where you’ll live. Think through how each of these will affect you and jot down some examples of what you’re looking for in each. Do you value a professor who is accessible via office hours? Do you focus well in a stadium-seating lecture hall? Are you excited to start a small study group for your Shakespeare: Comedies and Romances  literature course? Additionally, do some research on their website and show them that you value what they specifically have to offer. Give them a peek into how you learn and help them visualize you as a thriving student in their community.

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?

This prompt sounds simple enough: describe what you want to study and why you like it so much so that you’re willing to dedicate four years of your life to it (at the very least). While you might be tempted to get technical or poetic in your response, your reader will expect you to connect your intended major with some prior experience and/or passion. In other words, tell a story. Lucky for you, we would have advised you to start with an anecdote anyway. The most personal, memorable essays spring from concrete descriptions of your lived experience. What excites you and why? When was the last time you got drawn down a Reddit rabbit hole – and what was the topic? While you don’t need to drill to the origin of your interest in a given topic, try to zero in on some formative experience: the best TED Talk you ever watched, the first time you spoke to your new friend in ASL, that one time when you shadowed an EMT and saw what it’s like to help people in need! Your story should showcase your unique connection to your chosen course of study. And don’t forget: CMU asks what passion OR inspiration led you to choose this area of study. You can also talk about a particularly powerful book you read or a life-changing experience that set you on this path. Just make sure to use details to bring your story to life.

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).

This prompt is a kind of free for all opportunity. Much like Common App’s prompt #7 , CMU is giving you free reign to write about any topic under the sun. If you’re overwhelmed by all the potential possibilities, don’t fret. Instead take a breath and ask yourself: What doesn’t admissions know about me yet? What do I wish I’d had more space to write about on my resume or activity list? If you’ve written a supplemental essay for another school about a particularly rewarding activity, this is an excellent place to tweak and recycle that essay. Almost any essay that you have already written in response to supplemental essay prompts for other schools will be applicable here, as long as it doesn’t address what you want to study or how you work with others. If you haven’t already drafted any others supplemental essays that would fit here, feel free to seek inspiration in the prompts for other schools (ideally the ones on your list). Worst case scenario, revisit your personal statement brainstorming notes and think about the topics that you almost wrote about. Can you write about any of those memories or stories in 200 words?

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Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts & Advice

September 8, 2023

carnegie mellon supplemental essays cmu

When applying to a school like Carnegie Mellon that only accepts 11% of applicants, it’s important to keep in mind that the other 89% of applicants will ultimately be denied admission. Many of these rejected individuals will have straight A’s in high school and/or SATs in the 1500s. Those applying to certain programs—computer science, for example—will face even more harrowing odds. We don’t bring up this harsh reality in an attempt to crush your dreams or deter you from applying. Rather, we want to impart to prospective CMU applicants the need to maximize every component of your application. The aim is to ultimately shine just a touch brighter than your well-qualified competition. This includes the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into Carnegie Mellon University? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into Carnegie Mellon: Admissions Data and Strategies  for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

The three 300-word essays required by Carnegie Mellon give applicants the chance they need to separate themselves from the throngs of other extremely talented and deserving CMU hopefuls. Below are CMU’s supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.

Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays – #1

Required – (300 word limit)

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?

Here, CMU is asking you to share your story of how you became interested in your selected discipline. You can structure the narrative of this essay as a soup to nuts chronicling of your entire journey toward your discipline of interest. Contrarily, you could share one or two vignettes that illustrate your burgeoning passion for engineering, history, French, computer science, business, psychology, etc. As you begin the prewriting phase, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your first strong memory relating to your future area of study?
  • What fills you with wonder?
  • What books have you read on the subject?
  • Do you consume podcasts or documentaries related to your passions?
  • Have certain online or print publications helped to fuel your interests?
  • What subtopics of your prospective discipline most intrigue you?
  • Did a teacher excite you about this topic or was it a parent/relative or outside mentor?
  • How did you seek our subject-relevant opportunities outside of the high school classroom?

CMU Supplemental Essays – #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.

There’s a lot to unpack in this prompt before you even enter the brainstorming phase of the essay-writing process. First they want to know a bit about your goals in earning a CMU degree. These goals could be:

  • Degree-oriented
  • Career-focused
  • A combination of two or all three of the previous options.

Given that CMU requires you to apply to a particular college within the larger university, you likely already have a reasonably strong notion of what discipline you hope to study. You’ll definitely want to share everything you already know about the degree you aim to earn. Additionally, you’ll want to discuss how that fits into your larger life plans.

Next, you’ll want to take note of the fact that “learning” is mentioned twice in this prompt, a solid indicator that CMU is sincerely interested in how you will take advantage of the unique learning opportunities available to you at their instruction. While not required, you should consider discussing items such as:

  • CMU-specific academic programs , professors, or course offerings.
  • Undergraduate research opportunities .
  • Study abroad programs .
  • The classroom environment at Carnegie Mellon— class size , laboratory settings, etc.
  • Campus organizations that will help you continue your learning outside of the classroom.

In short, generic thoughts about how you envision engaging in the learning process throughout your collegiate experience are perfectly fine, but school-specific detail can take an essay from good to great.

CMU supplemental Essays – #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)..

After completing your main Common App essay and the first two CMU essays, is there anything that you have yet to share that is absolutely elemental to who you are as a person/student? Without the benefit of an in-person interview, it may feel like you never fully had a chance to connect intimately with a Carnegie Mellon admissions officer. You have a burning sense that you have not communicated the full you, your true essence, your je ne sais quoi, your…you get the idea. If you feel something important about yourself has yet to be communicated elsewhere in the application, then CMU Prompt #3 is the answer to your prayers.

Consider that the admissions reader is already familiar with your academic history, activities, and awards. What don’t they know, or, what could they understand on a deeper level? This could be a particular skill or talent, or something about your character or personality. This one is intentionally open-ended, so use this space to share your most cherished accomplishments or most winning attributes. The university itself is inviting you to “brag” here. We recommend obliging, by presenting the equivalent to a “closing argument” at the end of this admissions trial.

One example of what not to do would be to say, “I work as a camp counselor in the summer” if that was already listed in the Activities section. Another no-no is deciding that the admonition regarding linking to websites doesn’t apply to you, because, well…they simply have to see your art exhibit or performance on stage in Oklahoma! last year. We promise that it is better to take CMU at their word that they prefer that you describe it. This remains true no matter what “it” is.

How important are the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays?

CMU rates the essays as being an “important” factor in their evaluation process. The essays are listed alongside recommendations, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, first-generation status, and race/ethnicity. The only factors ranked above the essays as being “very important” are: GPA, the rigor of high school coursework, class rank, extracurricular activities, work experience, and volunteer work.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

Lastly, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote  today.

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How to Write the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays: Examples + Guide 2023/2024

carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What are the carnegie mellon supplemental essay prompts.

  • How to write each supplemental essay prompt for Carnegie Mellon
  • Prompt #3: "Additional information" essay

If you combined a robber baron, a classic fruit, and an extra “L,” and somehow ended up with a top 25 university with an especially strong engineering program, you’d obviously name it Carnegie Mellon.

Carnegie Mellon’s supplemental essay prompts can feel more wide open than those for many other schools, stymying some students at first, but also offering an opportunity for students to differentiate themselves from other applicants.

The below guide will help you move past initial roadblocks.

If you want to get a clearer sense of what Carnegie Mellon is looking for, you can explore an extensive, by-the-numbers look at its offerings, from enrollment and tuition statistics to student life and financial aid information on its Common Data Set . And for insights into how the university envisions itself and its role, and how it wants to grow and evolve, read its strategic plan . Reading through this will give you a strong idea of what CMU values—and may offer nuggets you can sprinkle into your essay.

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)
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? (300 words)
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). (300 words)

How to Write Each Supplemental Essay Prompt for Carnegie Mellon University

How to write the carnegie mellon supplemental essay #1.

This is a standard “Why Major” prompt. For a larger guide to “Why Major” prompts, click here . Below is a condensed version.

One possible approach:

Think of this as a quick origin story.

Step #1: Imagine a mini-movie of the moments that led you to your interest and create a simple, bullet-point outline.

Step #2: Put your moments (aka the “scenes” of your mini-movie) in chronological order, as it’ll help you see how your interests developed. It also makes it easier to write transitions.

For CMU’s essay, try one scene per short paragraph.

Step #3: For CMU, you’ll likely want to include a specific thesis that explicitly states your central argument—in this case, what you want to study and why. This thesis can come at the beginning, middle, or end of your essay.

Once you have those pieces, you have a few structural options:

A. A hook that thematically sets up where you’ll take us, and ideally shows an aspect of your intellect/personality. (If you do this, it can be stylistically effective to bookend—to end the essay by linking back to what you opened with.)

B. An initial moment that sparked your interest.

C. Your thesis.

The moments of your mini-movie, illustrating both the development of your interest and some of your core values.

One option: Go narrower—perhaps link to specific aspects of CMU that will help you continue on your path toward a future goal.

Another option: Go wider—name the road you hope to follow ahead (for example, career path, organizations you’d like to work with, the greater value/implications of studying what you want to).

It’s important to note that, unlike at many schools, at CMU, it can be difficult to change majors (some departments don’t allow you to switch into their programs at all).

And last, a quick tip: Be sure this essay is consistent with your personal statement if you’ve mentioned aspects of your major/career there.

Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay Example #1

At heart, I’m both regulatory bureaucrat and capitalistic entrepreneur.  Coming from a small business-owning family, I’ve grown up finding ways to one-up the competition, from boosting website search ranking with unconventional SEO to negotiating with book suppliers to cut costs. After all, our rent depends on our profits.  However, I also hold enormous respect for regulation. I vividly remember seeing my second grade classmate Nelson sprawled on the asphalt in front of the Chinese school we attended, accidentally run over by his teacher. I later discovered that afterschool was unlicensed: no safety training, no inspections, nothing. Years later, when my mother opened her own afterschool business, I filed the licensing documents and installed government-mandated guardrails. Though burdensome, regulation is crucial.  The afterschool industry taught me the inseparability of business and policy, but also sparked my curiosity concerning how political economics can leverage that relationship for maximal social benefit. In my Democratic Party internship, I examined how to incentivize below-market-rate housing construction without reducing overall supply. At FBLA Nationals, I delivered a presentation on management practices to reduce oil spills, increasing profits while meeting environmental standards. CMU strikes me as surprisingly similar to the afterschool industry: an environment where learning occurs through doing and where business and policy can be explored in tandem. I’m excited by the new Economics and Politics degree, which would allow me to take Tepper’s and Dietrich’s classes concurrently. I’d love to attend the Washington Semester Program, applying my education to policy at a greater scale than I am currently. And I’m intrigued by electives like Coffee and Capitalism, using my favorite drink as a microcosm of commerce and geopolitics.  Whether I become a leader in the afterschool industry or an elected official regulating it, I know CMU will enable this Capitalist Bureaucrat to catalyze purposeful impact.  — — —

Tips + Analysis:

Hook the reader. Notice how the first line performs a few functions here. First, it pulls us in and makes us curious what exactly they mean by this claim. Second, it shows some of the author’s personality, as there’s a slight wry humor to the juxtaposition (both in the self-effacing nature of referring to themselves as a bureaucrat, with its cultural connotations, and in the joining of two things that tend to be viewed as diametrically opposed). You’ll notice that the other example essays for this prompt hook us as well, giving us a quick sense of who the author is. 

Show the development of your interest through moments that connect to core values. Each paragraph provides details that show both intellectual and emotional links to the student’s chosen field, and that link to their core values (community involvement, integrity, etc). And they do a nice job of increasing the degree of the student’s interest and involvement (e.g. internship, FBLA Nationals), illustrating their dedication. Bonus points here for raising the stakes by mentioning their family’s rent is in part dependent on their work. 

A narrower ending—how CMU can help with the next steps. Above, the student has clearly thought about how CMU can help them on their path forward. (If you choose this option, be sure to avoid repetition with the next prompt.) 

Below are three more sample essays.  

Example #2:

How would our world change if we could print any image or text onto any surface with just a small portable printing device and a mobile app? Designing walls, tunnels, roads-- all these jobs would become effortless. To make my vision into reality, I created an Augmented Reality & Machine Learning app as well as a handheld printer prototype at Cornell's Computer Systems Lab last summer. My application harnesses the motion detection data and on-device deep neural networks to determine the surfaces surrounding the smartphone camera's view. Afterwards, the user can tap and drag an image on the camera screen of the smartphone to "prop up" an image onto any detected surface. Using the handheld printer, the user can print the virtually propped image onto the actual wall. I’ve grown more enthusiastic in my work every day because I’ve seen how innovative mobile apps can magically merge virtual objects into the real world for billions of smartphone users. The combination of data collection, analysis, and implementation of computer graphics and machine learning in my project has intensified my interest in Data Science. From analyzing the refugee crisis in the Middle East to detecting tumors at an early stage, the benefits that three quintillion bytes of data every day can provide are endless. As a Statistics and Machine Learning student at CMU, I look forward to continuing my project with deep neural networks and mixed reality, as well as discovering other interdisciplinary applications. Courses such as Modern Regression and Statistical Computing will help me use scientific methods to draw meaningful insights from data.  As the unprecedented increase in scale and importance of data revolutionizes a multitude of industries, Carnegie Mellon’s groundbreaking Statistics & Machine Learning curriculum and research opportunities will support my ambition for making a genuine impact in the world. — — —

Example #3:

When I was young, I drew planes almost everyday. Planes with three, four, or even eight turbines. Planes with multiple wings and two fuselages. My planes were impossible according to the laws of physics, but I tried to create them anyways.  In middle school, I became fascinated with building planes. After watching hundreds of hours of FliteTest on YouTube and building their kits, I was ready to create my own. My first idea started with a single wing. I drew up a 3’ 4” long wing on a sheet of foam board and, after drawing three more prototypes, I assembled it. Then, I wired the two servos and a single 2280kv Radial 2218 brushless motor. On its maiden flight, I threw it into the air and it went straight into the ground. Too much weight in the front, Kanishka. Back to the garage.  In high school, I became captivated with cars, more specifically hydrogen and electric cars. I created a Hydrogen Car team to compete in a hydrogen fuel cell endurance race. I learned how to make a fuel cell more efficient. Ambitious, I worked tirelessly to get to the world finals. I devised a way to use the motor’s thermal energy and convert it into electrical energy, making our car more efficient.  I am a creator. The laws of physics often hinder my creativity, but I keep trying to push the limits of what is possible.  In college, I hope to combine my research in hydrogen fuel cells and airplanes to design a new type of plane that isn’t electric or combustion based. I want to major in mechanical engineering to accomplish that. With a minor in AI, I’ll learn how to use neural networks to manage energy consumption in complex systems. — — —

Example #4:

One question + two statements + three sounds = Success. “Want to build a computer?” “Pass me the screwdriver.”  “Configure the BIOS.” *BEEEEP... ptung-ptung...* That is how I built my first computer with my dad. I was 10.  Computers have been a part of my life from a young age, but it wasn’t until later that I began to realize the degree to which computers can be used to solve the world’s major problems. This past summer at the Beaver Works Summer Institute at MIT, we were asked to brainstorm a problem to solve. Because of my Keratoconus surgery and my knowledge that worldwide blindness is projected to expand exponentially by 2050, my goal is to create artificial sight for the heavily visually impaired. Currently, bionic eyes, which cost over $150,000, allow a person to see only bright flashes of light; I hope to create an affordable device that allows the blind to see as if they had natural 20/20 vision.  A fully functional artificial eye requires the melding of many different fields of knowledge, such as the ways in which neurological nerves interact with circuits, the precise robotics needed to install the functionality of a high-resolution camera into a small package, and the artificial intelligence required to understand the habits of a specific human being. I have begun to learn how to utilize artificial intelligence, and I know I will continue expanding my understanding of A.I. at the collegiate level by majoring in Computer Science. Through my numerous difficulties with vision and my computer-centric upbringing as an engineer, I am determined to allow the blind to see again. What problem in the world today can you solve? Bionic eyes cost over $150,000. I can make a difference. *BEEEEP... ptung-ptung…* One question + two statements + three sounds = [Student], Engineer — — —

How to Write the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay For Prompt #2

This is one of those prompts we find “nutritional,” in large part because we’ve had some students who, before this prompt, had never thought before about what exactly “a successful college experience” would look like.

A few key things here:

Spend some time really investigating this. Give yourself space to think expansively. You can think in terms of career if you like, but also take some time to explore aspects of personal growth: Who is the human being you want to become? Are there ways that CMU can help you further develop your values?

Treat some of this essay as a "Why us?" —what does CMU offer that helps you on your path to becoming the human you want to be? Get specific. Show its admissions counselors that you’ve done your research and have thought about why you and the school are a good fit.

You’ll again want something thesis-ish in the essay, though you can build toward it rather than leading with it.

Here’s a sample essay:

My mouse hovered above the "Publish Website" button. The event-management website I developed (Gsca.us), which serves thousands of users in the Indian-American nonprofit I belong to, was about to go live. Filled with anticipation, I looked up at the small team that helped me with the website: the 65-year-old Chairman of GSCA and the 21-year-old college student who helped design the banners and logo for the site. Collaborating with an array of people from all ages, backgrounds, and experiences runs through my years developing software, engaging with my community, and conducting research projects.  Therefore, at Carnegie Mellon, I look forward to learning in an environment conducive to group learning. The fact that the walls and windows of many buildings are whiteboards, and that students carry around markers to collaborate and share ideas is a learning method that I resonate with. The different perspectives I will gain through working in groups, and exploring interdisciplinary coursework will be invaluable towards my overall intellectual development.  Outside of the classroom, I'll contribute to the variety of Indian cultural events - including Holi, Diwali, and Garba - supported by CMU OM. As a GSCA volunteer for the past 6 years, as mentioned above, my experience anchoring large events that serve thousands of Asian Americans, developing websites and social media publications, and raising funds for natural disasters and underprivileged students means I'll be able to contribute to similar events at CMU. Also, I am excited to engage in the 1000plus Day of Service to positively impact the Pittsburgh area through community service events.  By participating in CMU OM and 1000plus Day of Service, I will ultimately learn more about my own culture and character while serving my campus and surrounding city. Additionally, studying interdisciplinary courses in a collaborative setting will culminate in my successful college experience. — — —

Tips + Analysis

Hook the reader. Starting to notice a trend? As with the samples above, this essay dives in with a specific moment that gets us curious, and also immediately communicates aspects of identity and values (“serves thousands of users in the Indian-American nonprofit”).

Use details that connect to core values. For example, 65-year old Chairman, 21-year old college student → varied collaboration, community engagement, effective leadership.  

Show how you want to grow, and how a successful college experience plays into that growth. Students carrying around markers → collaboration and intellectual development. Engagement with Indian cultural events → greater engagement with and understanding of their own culture.

Get specific about how Carnegie Mellon fits the college experience you’re looking for, but keep the focus on you. The “Why us?” elements of the essay above get nice and specific about CMU, but they are always linked back to what the student is looking for, and why they and CMU fit well together.

Below are three more sample essays.

I escape English class with excitement and anticipation, bolting towards the school cafeteria to begin organizing the ingredients. Last year, I established Cooking on the Stove (COTS), a club where members could connect through common culinary interests. Through COTS, I discovered how to empower my classmates with a collective drive to experiment and test our creative recipes together. In a different realm, at the American Society of Anesthesiologists conference, I presented my internship data science project to anesthesiologists from across the globe. Navigating through the convention center, I was entranced by the thousands of presentations and products transforming the medical field. When presenting next to other researchers at the conference, I felt part of a global movement to overcome medical problems of every variety.   Building connections like these will be an important goal for me in college. On a personal level, I hope to establish COTS at Carnegie Mellon, cooking together with other food fanatics. Off-campus, I’d participate in study abroad with CMU’s chapter of Global Medical Brigades, where I’d get to know the students I travel with and others across the world who share my interests.  On a professional level, my college circle would start with research. In particular, I hope to work with faculty in improving the quality and accessibility of healthcare solutions across the world. By working in the Disruptive Health Technology Institute, I will connect with renowned faculty to develop innovative healthcare technologies that will shape the future. While strong academics set the stage for a good education, the true experience is defined by the network of people that I build along the way. In this network, growing individually becomes synonymous with growing together. — — —
At heart, I’m an inventor. In college, I want to take project-based classes and research to apply my learning. At CMU, I’ll be able to conduct research regarding energy at the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation. With professors like Jay Apt working there, I hope to find a way to make thermoelectric plates flexible and work under fewer temperature constraints.  I also want to pursue interdisciplinary activities and courses related to cooking. Every fall, I experiment with different recipes to find the right balance between nutmeg and vanilla extract in my pumpkin pies. At CMU, I can learn more about the science behind spices in Special Topics in Culinary Mechanics class, a unique class that combines engineering and food. I want to understand what is happening to the tissues and cells when a piece of meat is soft versus when hard.  I am eager to continue racing and competing at a more advanced level. Racing allows me to learn through pouring hours to explore an idea and then implement it. The mistakes I make introduce me to new topics. I aspire to be the lead engineer of the CMU racing team. Here, I would challenge my engineers to use AI and sensors to find where energy is getting lost through excess heat or sound. By utilizing every bit of energy, we can reduce weight and increase power.  I enjoy creating tangible, innovative products and designs because they force me to go beyond the classroom. At CMU, I’ll use the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship to be part of the VentureBridge Program. There, I’ll be able to avoid common startup mistakes, recognize an ideal audience and market, and build a successful product.  College, for me, is a chance to bring my ideas to life through research, racing, and creating.  — — —
I hope to help the blind to see. My ambitious goal requires an equally ambitious undergraduate learning plan. There will be milestones to meet and communities of learning to foster.  In addition to my goal of helping the blind, I also intend to develop an algorithm that can create a fully-functional program through speech, using code generation and natural language processing. The Small Undergraduate Research Grants program will help me take the initial steps toward succeeding. The ultimate goal of this system would be to enable a layperson to create professional-grade software just by stating the intent of a program in an English sentence, which would liberate incredible ideas. The types of problems people could solve would not be limited by money, networking, or education. Taking tangible steps toward achieving this goal is integral to my idea of a successful college experience.  I also look forward to joining a community of engineers. From a young age, I’ve worked with those around me to create, design, and innovate. At Carnegie Mellon, I will become involved in organizations such as the Computer and Data Science clubs and will continue to be active in the competition math community through the Math Club. In addition, I intend to pursue a joint major in Statistics and Machine Learning, and take a secondary major in Human-Computer Interactions. Through my clubs and classes, I will foster a community of engineers: they will help me advance my ideas, while I in turn help them nurture theirs. I know my college experience will be successful when, through my coursework as a part of my major, and through my interactions with my community of engineers, I have taken steps towards achieving my milestone of creating a language-to-code translator as well as my ultimate goal of allowing the blind to see. — — —

How to Write the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay For Prompt #3

Now we’re wide open. Having the option to write about anything can be both exciting and daunting—with the myriad elements that make up you, how do you narrow it down? If you’re feeling adrift, here are some options. 

Before you start writing, take some time to zoom out and think about your application as a whole—between your main statement, your Activities List, your Additional Info section, and the above prompts, what parts of you is CMU seeing, and, importantly, is there anything they aren’t seeing that they maybe should be? 

A couple ways to approach this: 

A values scan—look through the elements of your application and think about what core values are being illustrated. Are there any of your core values that you’re leaving out? 

The “ Everything I Want Colleges to Know About Me ” exercise (which is useful to have done for any of your applications, not just this CMU prompt).

We’d also recommend thinking about taking the Super Essay approach—are there supplements you’ve written for other schools that could fit nicely here, with modification as needed?

For example, many schools have essay prompts that ask about communities to which you belong, or Stanford has its “What is meaningful to you and why?” prompt. Those essays can frequently fit nicely with this CMU prompt as well.

Ultimately, think of this essay as a way to show another core aspect of how you’ve become who you are.

My room’s got all the necessities--bed, desk, closet, posters--but there’s another desk with a PC, a microphone, a cassette-player, and an assortment of gadgets decorated with knobs and displays. I’ve gradually put my recording studio together over the years--including building the computer from scratch and working jobs to buy sound equipment. In the process, I’ve grown so familiar with it, it’s become a sanctuary--a place where I don’t have to worry about grades, breakups, insecurities.  As for Fortaleza, Brazil--its homeness wasn’t so immediately apparent.  I once believed that despite learning English from the ground up and struggling with several Americanisms, my Brazilian identity was just a matter of geography. But returning to Fortaleza this year showed me the tethers I was blind to. While browsing a crafts market, I met an elderly gentleman selling cordéis : booklets of long, narrative-driven lyrics musicians purchase and interpret. He told me he wrote them himself, and offered to play a song. And so, listening to this haunting, droning hymn, I looked through the various tales these authors had conceived… stories of Brazilian heroes, thieves, princesses. At that moment, I understood something—I’m not a musician for just any reason. This spirit of poetry, this faith in art and storytelling… it’s in my blood. Even in my home studio in Washington, I feel an energy being channeled from Fortaleza, through my fingers, into the music. As sambista João Bosco puts it: “with so many leaving/on the rocket’s tail/our motherland wept/on the soil of Brazil.” — — —

Discovery and growth. One thing we like about this essay is that we see the writer go on a quick voyage of discovery. They experienced a moment of insight that has been key in their development. One nice way to approach this prompt is by thinking about insights that have been pivotal to your growth. 

Tell them by also showing them. The prompt asks you to tell, not show, as in don’t give CMU a link to a website. But still show its admissions counselors you. You can do so through essence objects and details. Essence objects can help to infuse the essay with quick touchstones of character and values. For example, building the computer from scratch and working jobs to buy sound equipment show dedication and resourcefulness. The cordéis show us a sense of cultural value and identity.

The Super Essay approach. This essay was originally written for another school’s prompt regarding a community the student belonged to. With fairly few changes, it can work nicely for this CMU prompt as well.

I recognize quoting Einstein is beyond cliché, but one of his musings was definitive for me: “if I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.” I’ve always been unwaveringly passionate for music--but Einstein’s observation cemented my passion for astrophysics.  There’s an immediate connection between science and music--when recording, I often use graphical analysis to balance frequencies, trigonometry to determine microphone placement, and wave mechanics to gauge acoustics. But I think it goes deeper. The Greeks believed creativity wasn’t creation--it was discovery . This implies art is indistinguishable from science, as both are deeply explorative ; and it aptly fits the connection Einstein alluded to. Musicians speak of artistic trances--where inspiration seems to strike from the ether--and scientists speak of the proverbial apple falling on Newton’s head, of Archimedes’ “eureka!” I’ve realized these catharses are identical--chord progressions come to me just as intuitions for quantum phenomena do.  Despite this similarity, choosing between physics and music means sacrificing part of my identity. So does choosing between passions for Brazilian sociology, investigative journalism, and philosophy. But by the time I graduate college, I hope to feel educationally fulfilled, and fulfillment isn’t isolationist--apples fall on physicists’ heads, but they also fall on musicians’, sociologists’, and philosophers' heads.  So, I dream of pursuing these fields unbounded by requirements: studying sociology while receiving a formal music education and researching quantum gravity. Although I don’t know what my apple’s going to be, I know that pigeonholing myself will only lead me farther from the tree. — — —

Example: #3

Every weekend I swim from a shark: kicking frantically, surrounded by ice cold ocean water, I am in survival mode. Except in reality I’m treading lightly as to not splash the fellow swimmers in a warm 10x7 meter pool while my five-year-old student, Marcus, follows closely.   After he had several unsuccessful attempts at finding an instructor who met his level of energy, I was able to cater to his needs as an autistic child. So every lesson, humming the Jaws theme, I am proud of gaining his trust and engagement while teaching him a serious life-skill. My relationship with Marcus has propelled me forward in my role as a Water Safety Instructor.  When I was on the swim team, I never received more than a participation ribbon, but I won lifelong friends and support. So when I hung my own racesuit up to dry, I knew I wanted to help others join the community too. As soon as legally possible, I became a certified instructor and now spend my weekend mornings teaching. I have worked with first timers to competitive swimmers, three-year-olds to middle schoolers, parents buried on their phones to those practically jumping in the pool, and everyone in between. With each interaction, I have learned to trust my intuition and value compromise. This community has taught me how to work with and support anyone, a skill I will carry for life. I have finally earned the gold medal for empowering new members of the swimming community. — — —
The first session of “A Galaxy of Stars: Modern Data in Stellar Astrophysics” ended and our teacher handed out the first homework assignment, encouraging us to work together. Taking his advice to heart, an hour later fifteen students crammed into a hot dorm room and got to work.  We shot questions back and forth:  “Who understands how to use parallax measurements?” “Did anyone else figure out the code for a stellar color-magnitude diagram?”  Everyone brought talents and unique perspectives to the challenge the homework presented, and before we knew it, the work was complete. So we got to talking, and the “astrogang” was formed. Sitting in this humid dorm room, I realized I had found my people. There was Maria who knew all about stars from her telescope, Luca the coding wiz, Noel who loved math more than anyone, and me, the go-to for physics. Everyone in the group was so engaged and excited about science and learning, just like me, and that was an experience I had never had before. Every day after that, we met up to work together, play ping pong under the sun, and scrimmage soccer down by the river. We debated politics, discussed astronomical theories, and compared cultures, each of us learning from what the others shared.  As the astrogang, I’m certain we would have expanded our research beyond the stars to encompass black holes or dark matter. But even now, scattered across the globe, we will always be the kid scientists who look to the sky for answers, and I hope that I will meet other students who will continue what the original astrogang began. — — —

Special thanks to Andy for writing this post.

Andy CEG

Andrew has worked as an educator, consultant, and curriculum writer for the past 15 years, and attended Stanford and Oxford, earning degrees in Political Science and Drama. He feels most at home on mountain tops.

  Top Values:  Insight/Growth | Truth | Integrity

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carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

4 Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay Examples (2023)

Ryan

If you want to get into Carnegie Mellon in 2023, you'll need to write responses to CMU's writing supplement that help you stand out and get accepted.

In this article, I've gathered 4 of the best CMU essays that worked to hopefully get you inspired to write your own stand-out essays.

I've also included this year's supplemental prompts for CMU and some ideas for getting started.

Let's get started.

What is Carnegie Mellon's Acceptance Rate?

Getting into Carnegie Mellon is more difficult every year. Last year, 42,015 students applied to CMU and only 7,143 students were admitted.

Which means Carnegie Mellon University an overall acceptance rate of 17% , or in other words less than every 1 in 5 students get admitted each year.

And admissions into certain programs like Computer Science or the School of Drama is even more competitive, with acceptances rates of 7% and 4% each.

Carnegie Mellon Acceptance Scattergram

That's a comparable admit rate to the most selective Ivy League schools like Princeton University for example.

To have your best chances of getting into CMU, you'll need to write great essay responses. Below are 4 of the best examples of CMU essays to help improve your essays and get accepted.

What are the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Prompts for 2022-23?

This year Carnegie Mellon requires students to write three short essays of 300 words each.

Here are the Carnegie Mellon University writing supplement prompts for 2022. The questions on this page are being asked by Carnegie Mellon University:

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 word maximum)

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? (300 word maximum)

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). (300 word maximum)

Carnegie Mellon has used these prompts in past years.

And below you'll find several examples of essays that responded to these prompts. I've also included some personal statement essays from admitted CMU students.

4 Carnegie Mellon University EssaysThatWorked

It's safe to say students who get into Carnegie Mellon write interesting and creative application essays. Or at least these ones did.

Here are 4 of the best Carnegie Mellon essays that have helped students get admitted.

Carnegie Mellon Essay Example #1

Carnegie mellon essay example #2, carnegie mellon essay example #3, carnegie mellon essay example #4.

Prompt: 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 max)

When I was younger, I faced a lot of negative emotions including anxiety and low self-esteem. For a long time, I felt alone and as if no one understood how I felt. My self confidence was at an all-time low when I started taking psychology. All of a sudden the negative emotions I was feeling started making sense. I was suddenly able to understand how people were wired and why others treated me a certain way. I in fact was able to feel empathy for my aggressors after understanding that those who treated me negatively often faced struggles of their own. Most importantly, I felt as though something out there finally understood me. Because psychology offered insight into my own behavior and helped me to understand others, I was eventually able to overcome my insecurities.

In the future, I would like to help others do the same. No matter where I end up, understanding why people behave a certain way and being more considerate and empathetic for others will only help me thrive. Mental health is a growing issue in our society. The world we live in is a confusing place filled with pain, but psychology provides a way to determine the cause of this suffering and how to change it. I never want anyone to feel the isolation and sorrow I felt when I was younger. I want to help others become compassionate and unconditionally loving not just toward others, but to themselves. Even if I only make a small change in the world and affect just one person’s life, I would like to pursue that.

Prompt: 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). (300 words max)

I recall entering the intimidating world of high school as an exorbitantly introverted, stereotypical Asian girl. My father urged me to assert myself and attempt new activities I wouldn’t have typically participated in. I didn’t want to be disappointed in twenty years by the things I didn’t attempt in high school, so I decided to pursue my long-time dream of becoming a cheerleader. I had always admired the optimism that cheerleaders had, and I was at a point in my life where I needed more positivity.

I faced obstacles trying to join the team. An Asian cheerleader? But Asians were supposed to be smart and cheerleaders were dumb! I broke racial stereotypes by becoming the first Asian cheerleader in my high school.

When I made the squad, I was exposed to individuals which whom I did not ordinarily traverse paths. I stepped outside of my bubble and met girls who were extremely extroverted and seemed to be in a constant state of elation. They taught me how to spread positivity throughout my daily interactions and taught me to use optimism as a strength in facing the hurdles of life. These were qualities I would have never learned from a textbook.

My parents had possessed strong reservations about me joining and feared I would meet girls who weren’t motivated in academics. This was false. Many of the girls were brilliant and creative in ways my regular friend group wasn’t. All avenues of life met there on that team.

Cheerleading was the rain and sun that helped a small seed like me bloom into a flower. It delights me knowing that I gained social skills and made friends I never thought I could gain. Cheerleading has changed my perspective on life and joining that family is one of my greatest treasures.

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 experience in the future? (300 words max)

Because it took some time for me to pass my driving test, I was unable to get a traditional job at the same age as the rest of my peers. I had another friend who was also unable to drive. To fund our shopping addictions, we started our own business, "Velour Slimes," where we sold slimes of a diverse number of scents and textures. The experience gave us a taste of entrepreneurship and the elements of what it takes to run a successful business. One of those elements was collaboration.

Going into business with a friend can get ugly, even with a small scale operation like ours. One of our most grueling conflicts was deciding whether to spend our first profit paying off our debts or buying new materials to make more slime with. Neither of us were transparent with our goals, or on the same page. We let our conflict escalate to the point where we could not look at each other. Eventually we solved our issue by effectively communicating together. By being honest with each other about our ideas and concisely supporting our arguments with evidence, we were able to understand each other and find a balance. In the end, we compromised. We spent half of the money paying off our debts and the other half on more materials to create even more slimes.

This experience brought me closer to my friend. We were able to strengthen our relationship while becoming more understanding and considerate of each others’ feelings. I discovered empathy is deeply necessary in improving the negative aspects of modern day society. If we were all a bit more empathetic, the world would be a more pleasant place. For that reason, I try to continuously improve my own compassion.

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Prompt: Why Carnegie Mellon? (650 words max)

With a strong background in computer science and communications, I hope to incorporate both into a future career of building data systems, conducting research, and consulting for organizations that serve underrepresented citizens.

Why This Essay Works:

Specific details and anecdotes will almost always be more compelling than less specific ones. In this essay, the student does a great job of including specific, "nerdy" details, such as "an association test between melanoma associated variants and survival outcome." These details demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of an area and make your essay more engaging.

This essay does a fantastic job of addressing real-world problems and emphasizing the "bigger picture" impact of their studies. Rather than just explaining what they want to study, this student explains how their education will help them have an impact on the world. Make an argument for what problems you see in the world and how you could potentially help solve them.

For "Why Us?" college essays, one of the most important parts is to reference unique aspects to the school. Almost all colleges have strong academics, great faculty, etc. So instead of referencing those points, reference what makes the school unique and different. In this essay, the student talks about "CMU's Technology Consulting in the Global Community" program, which is both highly specific to CMU and relevant to their own interests.

What They Might Improve:

In general, you should avoid simply listing your achievements. This student has many remarkable activities and experiences, but it comes across less interesting because the first half of the essay is simply describing these accomplishments.

For "Why Us?" essays, it is also a good idea to reference the values the school represents. Each school has a different "culture" and type of student body, and admissions wants to know how you will fit in.

If you're trying to get into Carnegie Mellon, here are 4 of the best essays that worked. Read example answers to Carnegie Mellon's writing supplement for 2022 and see how other students got into CMU.

What did you think of these Carnegie Mellon essays?

Ryan Chiang , Founder of EssaysThatWorked

Want to read more amazing essays that worked for top schools?

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carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

Princeton Admitted Essay

People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is... uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable...

carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

MIT Admitted Essay

Her baking is not confined to an amalgamation of sugar, butter, and flour. It's an outstretched hand, an open invitation, a makeshift bridge thrown across the divides of age and culture. Thanks to Buni, the reason I bake has evolved. What started as stress relief is now a lifeline to my heritage, a language that allows me to communicate with my family in ways my tongue cannot. By rolling dough for saratele and crushing walnuts for cornulete, my baking speaks more fluently to my Romanian heritage than my broken Romanian ever could....

carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

UPenn Admitted Essay

A cow gave birth and I watched. Staring from the window of our stopped car, I experienced two beginnings that day: the small bovine life and my future. Both emerged when I was only 10 years old and cruising along the twisting roads of rural Maryland...

Over 200 more admitted essays like these...

Learn the secrets behind outstanding application essays.

College essays are confusing. And it's not your fault. You're not taught how to write them in school.

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Carnegie Mellon University Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

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Not sure how to approach the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts? CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the CMU supplemental essays will show you exactly how to write engaging Carnegie Mellon essays and maximize your chances of admission. If you need help crafting your answers to the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts, create your free  account  or  schedule a no-cost advising consultation  by calling (844) 343-6272.

Carnegie Mellon  Supplemental Essays Guide Quick Facts:

  • Carnegie Mellon has an acceptance rate of 17%— U.S. News  ranks Carnegie Mellon as a competitive school.
  • We recommend answering all CMU supplemental essays comprehensively and thoughtfully.

Does Carnegie Mellon have supplemental essays?

Yes. In addition to the main essay prompt in the  Common App , you’ll also have to answer additional Carnegie Mellon essays. Three of the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts are required, while the final prompt is optional.

Need some help writing your Common App essay? Get great tips from our  Common App essay guide .

What are the Carnegie Mellon essays?

The Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays are available on the  Common App site . You can also visit the  Carnegie Mellon admissions page  to view the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts as well as a full list of application requirements.

How many essays are required for Carnegie Mellon?

There are three required Carnegie Mellon essays in the 2021-2022 Common App. There is also one optional prompt to explain circumstances surrounding test scores. We recommend that most students just answer the first three Carnegie Mellon essay prompts. Students should only complete the fourth Carnegie Mellon essay prompt if they have extenuating circumstances related to standardized testing.

How do you answer the Carnegie Mellon essays?

The Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays can make a huge difference in admissions. To help you maximize your admissions odds, we’ve provided each of the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays below.

In this guide to the Carnegie Mellon essays, you’ll find a breakdown of how to approach each of the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts as well as tips for creating an application narrative that will stand out in admissions.

Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays – Question 1 (Required):

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). (300 word maximum)

You may notice that this Carnegie Mellon essay prompt feels similar to some of the Common Application Personal Statement prompts. The good news is that if you’ve already completed your Personal Statement—which you should do before writing any CMU supplemental essays—this Carnegie Mellon essay prompt should be relatively straightforward. The bad news, however, is that you’ll need to be careful to avoid repeating information from your Common App essay. You might think of this prompt as a second Common App essay—that is, it should enrich the rest of your application by providing crucial insight into your identity.

This Carnegie Mellon essay prompt is your opportunity to show a different side of yourself–something that you have yet to highlight in your other materials. Although the prompt encourages creativity, when it says, “tell us, don’t show us,” it means just that. Do not include links to external resources, even if they show something you could never say with words. If you were hoping to include links to an artistic portfolio, don’t worry! Although this CMU supplement essay might not allow it, CMU has a  separate program  for those who wish to apply with an art portfolio.

Use dynamic, descriptive language

The instruction to not “tell” the admissions team rather than “show” them extends only as far as this CMU supplement essay prompt says it does. When they say, “don’t show us,” they simply mean, “no links.” This instruction does not mean that your CMU supplement essay has to be matter-of-fact. You can still paint a compelling picture with your words!

While your chosen topic should enrich your overall candidate profile, this topic does not necessarily need to relate to the rest of your application. This is your time to cover some new ground! If you’re struggling to come up with a topic for this CMU supplement essay, go back and look at the topics you considered (yet didn’t select) for your Common Application personal statement. What topics intrigued you most, even if you didn’t end up choosing them? What elements of your identity will help you enrich the CMU community? Do you have a niche hobby or interest? A unique personal story? This is an excellent time to talk about any of those areas.

If you still can’t think of a topic, spend some time brainstorming the things that matter to you. Make lists of your interests, identities, hobbies, and other key characteristics. Your CMU supplemental essays should show the non-academic side of you, so take advantage of this opportunity! You can also draw inspiration from prompts you’ve answered for other colleges (so long as you don’t repeat information from your Common Application or other Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays).

CMU Supplemental Essays Key Questions:

  • Is the topic of your first CMU supplement essay authentic?
  • Does your essay avoid repeating information found in your other Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays?
  • Do you avoid including links to external material?
  • Does your first CMU supplement essay enrich the other parts of your application?

Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays – Question 2 (Required):

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? (300 word maximum)

Out of all of the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays, this one might be the most complex. Let’s break down this Carnegie Mellon essay prompt together!

This prompt uses the framework of learning to ask how you will define a “successful college experience.” As you approach this Carnegie Mellon essay prompt, think about how you define this prompt’s two key concepts: learning and success. Both of these topics are vast—learning can come both in and out of the classroom, and success can’t be measured by just one metric. Think about your hopes for your future and what you hope to learn in college. How will Carnegie Mellon help you achieve these goals? The strongest CMU supplemental essays will answer all parts of this prompt.

Like your other Carnegie Mellon essays, you might start this CMU supplement essay by brainstorming. Make lists for each of the following questions: Why do you want to go to college? What is your “ultimate goal”? How do you define learning? How do you define success? Finally, how can you use this CMU supplement essay to show why you belong at Carnegie Mellon?

In your other Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays, you might have addressed your educational and career goals. This CMU supplement essay, however, lets you think about these goals in a broader sense, focusing both on academic and non-academic aspirations. A good approach is to break the essay down into two sections: one where you talk about your concrete career goals and how CMU will help you achieve them, and another devoted to the less inherently academic question of your “ultimate goal.”

Let’s start by discussing your academic goals. To recap: this CMU supplement essay asks about your “ultimate” goal for your  academics  and future  career . Think about what interests you and how CMU will help you engage with these interests. For example, you might discuss CMU’s opportunities for undergraduate  research . Better yet, you could discuss how CMU’s variety of  centers and institutes  enables cross-disciplinary work. Be as concrete as possible. The best Carnegie Mellon essays will illustrate in specific terms the reason why CMU—and CMU alone—will help you achieve your academic and career aspirations.

Define “successful college experience”

Now, let’s shift to the less academic side of this prompt. Start by thinking about the following questions: why do you want to go to college? What do you hope to get out of CMU? How do you define a “successful college experience”?

Think about what you want out of your college experience and how CMU will help you attain it. Maybe you want to forge relationships with your peers through one of CMU’s many clubs and organizations, or maybe you want to meet your future writing partner in a CMU economics lecture. Use specific details to emphasize why your “successful college experience” should be at CMU.

If you’re struggling to define a “successful college experience,” try thinking about your future–a future where you’ve presumably attained your “ultimate goal.” In twenty years, what will you remember from your college days? Will it be the exhilaration you felt watching your peers  play basketball or baseball ? Or the memory of reconnecting with your Scottish roots at  Spring Carnival ? Do some research on CMU’s specific offerings, and use this essay to discuss why these offerings will enrich your life on campus.

Of all the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays, this is the place to visualize your ideal college experience as well as the many ways you might “learn” at CMU. At CMU, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from those around you both inside and outside the classroom. The “ultimate goal” you describe in this CMU supplement essay, therefore, should extend beyond classes alone. Use the second of the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts to show how CMU will give you the tools to become the kind of professional, person, and community member you hope to be.

  • Do you describe your “ultimate goal” in both a professional and personal sense?
  • Does your essay define your idea of a “successful college experience” at CMU?
  • Do you use specific details to explain why CMU will help you attain your personal and professional goals?
  • Does your essay add context and nuance to the other elements of your application?

Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays – Question 3 (Required):

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 word maximum)

You should begin this Carnegie Mellon essay prompt by choosing an intended major from Carnegie Mellon’s  offerings . Do your research—you don’t want to spend 300 words gushing over your passion for studying zoology when Carnegie Mellon doesn’t offer it as a major. However, you can discuss how your experience as a volunteer at the  Central Park Zoo  developed your interest in pursuing Biological Sciences at the  Mellon College of Science .

For this CMU supplemental essay, think about the experiences that have fostered your interest in a given major. Did a specific moment make you realize a passion for a given field? Or did a set of experiences help you develop an interest over time? What other factors have influenced your academic development?

Start with a story

To give some insight into how I would approach this Carnegie Mellon essay prompt, here’s a snippet of an essay I wrote when I was applying to colleges.

“My fascination with the stock market all began at the tender age of seven. A flurry of red and green numbers and arrows emerged on my TV screen accompanying the words S&P and Dow Jones. ”

This excerpt is only two sentences, but I used the remainder of my response to explain how I later joined a youth investment program, won a stock trading competition, and became the treasurer of two organizations. In essence, I would use this anecdote to show how I became interested in my chosen field, then use the following sentences to reveal how I nurtured this interest throughout high school. Finally, I would tie everything together with a statement like  “That day in 2008 changed my life; I still have the same set of encyclopedias, but now I am ready to embark on a future in finance beyond the pages.”

Keep in mind that this CMU supplement essay should focus on you rather than on CMU. By painting a clear picture of your academic development, you can help admissions officers envision who you’ll be on CMU’s campus. Don’t worry if you don’t directly connect your interests to CMU’s programs in the third of your CMU essays; however, if you have the space, feel free to include one or two sentences about how you would develop these interests at CMU.

  • Does CMU offer the intended major you discuss?
  • Do you use an interesting anecdote to explain how your interests in this major developed?
  • Does your essay show how you’ve actively nurtured this interest over time?

Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays – Question 4 (Optional):

When it comes to deciding whether to submit standardized test scores, occasionally applicants want us to better understand the individual context of their decision. If you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity, please share any information about your decision here. This is an optional question for those who may want to provide additional context for consideration. (150 word maximum)

In most cases, students should complete all “optional” prompts to maximize their admissions odds. But for this CMU supplement essay, you should respond only under one condition: you have extenuating circumstances surrounding your test scores.

Essentially, this prompt lets you explain any circumstances surrounding your test scores. This can be particularly useful if external factors influenced your ability to study for or take standardized tests, particularly given the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you chose to omit your score under Carnegie Mellon’s  test-optional policy  for Fall 2022, were unable to take the exams, or scored lower than you would have due to unforeseen circumstances, this prompt lets you elaborate further. However, you should only fill it out if you have a legitimate reason.

Don’t use this Carnegie Mellon essay prompt to describe how you tend to procrastinate on TikTok or Netflix. However, if you had to work full-time to support your family during COVID-19 or lost a family member to the pandemic, you may well use this prompt to help contextualize your scores for the admissions team. Regardless, with only 150 words to work with, ensure that you convey your thoughts concisely and clearly.

  • Do you clarify any extenuating circumstances that influenced your test scores
  • Does your essay provide essential context for understanding your test scores (or your decision not to submit them)?
  • Does your essay reflect well on your commitment and work ethic?

Are the Carnegie Mellon Essays Important?

As with all school-specific supplements, the CMU supplemental essays are a critical component of your application. However, don’t let that scare you! Strong Carnegie Mellon essays can make a major difference in admissions, particularly if you have lower grades or test scores. A well-crafted set of Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays will help your application stand out to admissions officers.

Think of every Carnegie Mellon essay prompt as an opportunity. The CMU supplemental essays are your chance to address the admissions team on your own terms. At the end of the day, what do you want your readers to know about you? How can you use the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts to tell them why you belong at their school?

Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

Completing the CMU supplemental essays can seem daunting, but don’t let them discourage you from applying. At the end of the day, the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts are not intended to trip you up. Rather, view each CMU supplement essay as an opportunity to further introduce yourself to the admissions team.

Use this Carnegie Mellon essay prompts guide to help you approach each CMU supplement essay with confidence. After completing your CMU supplemental essays, make sure to revise—you might even ask a counselor, advisor, or other trusted adult to help you proofread for spelling, grammar, and clarity. Good luck!

carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

This 2021-2022 essay guide on Carnegie Mellon was written by  Juliana Furigay , Columbia ‘23. For more resources on the college admissions process,  click here . If you need help crafting your answers to the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts, create your  free account  or schedule a no-cost advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

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Undergraduate Admission

Undergraduate admission requirements, your application checklist.

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Required Application Materials for Undergraduate Admission

Common application, $75 application fee*, official high school transcript**.

Please review our Academic Requirements .

  Standardized Testing Scores  

If English is not your native language, this includes the TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo English Test .

Secondary School Counselor Evaluation

Teacher recommendation, common application essay, common application writing supplement.

This includes three short-answer questions

*Carnegie Mellon accepts fee waivers from students who meet one of the indicators of economic need as outlined on the Common Application.

**Transcript and graduation requirements: A high school diploma or equivalent is required for admission to Carnegie Mellon (for applicants who are 17 and over). Applicants should submit official transcripts from all secondary schools attended, and enrolling students are required to submit an official final transcript as well. Applicants who have received a high school equivalency diploma are required to have their official High School Equivalency Examination (GED) scores sent to the Office of Admission in addition to official transcripts from all high schools attended.

Additional Requirements

For all applicants.

If admitted, you must provide proof of meeting all requirements for an official high school diploma by the end of May of the year of graduation. You must also submit an official final transcript, GED or certificate of completion from your local school district or state board of education by the end of July of the year of matriculation.

For Home-Schooled Applicants

You should submit an academic portfolio or transcript that’s consistent with your state’s guidelines and a list of all textbooks used.

For College of Fine Arts Applicants:

For the School of Drama or the School of Music, you must arrange a  required pre-screen, audition or portfolio review . For the Schools of Architecture, the School of Art or the School of Design, you must submit the  required portfolio and creative materials .

Supporting Documents and Supplemental Information

Carnegie Mellon doesn’t accept supplemental submissions, such as resumes, artwork, portfolios, recording or websites. We encourage you to use the Common Application, along with the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays, to highlight experiences or activities that have enhanced or defined your personal growth during high school. Carnegie Mellon won’t accept updates from applicants after January 15 but will continue to accept documents and updates from high school counselors after that point.

Please note that mid-semester grades or transcript updates should be reported by your high school counselor throughout the admission process. For applicants to the College of Fine Arts, please refer to our  information for College of Fine Arts applicants .

Where Am I in the Process? Portal

Applicants, please note that you'll need to register for the Where Am I in the Process? portal in order to receive your admission decision and financial aid offer, so please review the  Terms of Service  prior to applying. The Where Am I in the Process? portal service is intended for individuals at least 13 years old; if you intend to apply and are not at least 13, please  contact the Office of Admission .

Instructions for DACA, Home-Schooled, Cyber and Non-Traditional Applicants

Applying as a deferred action for childhood arrivals (daca) student.

Carnegie Mellon welcomes applications from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. Follow the instructions for either first-year or transfer applicants and review the admission requirements noted at the top of this page. We accept College Board and NACAC fee waivers for the nonrefundable application fee. If you need an application fee waiver, you should contact the Office of Admission.

Please also be aware of this additional information:

  • When completing the Common Application, you should apply for either first-year or transfer admission as an international student. You’ll do so by selecting “Other (non-US)” as your citizenship status.
  • You may be eligible for institutional financial aid and must apply for financial aid in order to be considered.
  • To apply for institutional financial aid, you must complete the CSS Profile and provide either federal tax returns or documentation of household income to College Board IDOC. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) isn’t required for DACA students. If you need a CSS Profile fee waiver, you should contact the Office of Admission.
  • At the time of admission, Carnegie Mellon may request DACA documentation to confirm your status in order to process your financial aid accordingly.

If you have any questions or concerns about the application process, please contact the Office of Admission .

Applying as a Home-Schooled or Cyber Student

Carnegie Mellon welcomes applications from students who have been schooled at home or online. In addition to the information below, please be sure to follow the instructions for first-year applicants and review the admission requirements noted at the top of this page.

To apply to the university, you must:

  • Submit a completed Common Application.
  • Submit a syllabus or course descriptions of the work you’ve completed prior to applying. This should include a list of all textbooks used for your coursework.
  • Submit a transcript of grades and/or evaluation of your work that’s consistent with state guidelines.
  • Submit a recommendation from a counselor, a representative of your state board of education, your home school association or other person of authority.
  • Follow the instructions for required testing based on the college and program you’re applying to.
  • Provide proof that you'll have met, by the end of May of the year of graduation, all requirements for an official high school diploma.

If admitted, you will also need to submit an official final transcript, GED or certificate of completion from your local school district or state board of education by the end of July of the year of matriculation.

Applying as a Non-Traditional Student

Carnegie Mellon welcomes applications from students with non-traditional academic backgrounds, including prospective students who are seeking a second bachelor’s degree, and those who are interested in a first bachelor’s degree several years after graduating from high school.

To apply for a second bachelor’s degree if your first degree is from Carnegie Mellon:

  • Complete the Common Application.
  • Arrange to have a copy of your Carnegie Mellon transcript sent to the Office of Admission by February 15, if you’re applying as a transfer, or by January 1, if you’re applying as a first-year student.

To apply for a second bachelor’s degree if your first degree is from another college or university:

  • Follow the instructions for transfer applicants .

To apply for a first bachelor’s degree if you’re from a nontraditional background:

  • Submit an essay explaining what you have been doing since graduating from high school.
  • Submit a recommendation from a counselor, teacher, colleague or advisor who can speak of your potential for success at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Note that campus housing is only available for traditional-age college students.

Applicants from the Veterans & Military Community and ROTC Applicants

Carnegie Mellon provides services to veterans and their dependents who are eligible for Veterans Education Benefits under the Montgomery G.I. Bill, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. Visit the Veterans and Military Community website  for more information.

For questions and additional information regarding military and veteran applicants, please contact Mike Danko, ROTC Veterans Affairs Coordinator, at @email  or 412.268.8747.

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship information:

  • Naval ROTC — hosted by Carnegie Mellon
  • Air Force ROTC — hosted by University of Pittsburgh
  • Army ROTC — hosted by Three Rivers Battalion

Before you can rush to the edge of what’s known, you’ve got some paperwork to do.

Take a look at what’s required and make note of important deadlines for applying. For detailed guidance, download the 2024 Carnegie Mellon Application Instructions Booklet (PDF) (opens in new window) .

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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Carnegie Mellon Essay Prompts

carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

Carnegie Mellon is one of the nation’s top universities. With a 14% acceptance rate , CMU surely gets top applicants each year. If you want to rise above the rest, the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays are your chance.  Carnegie Mellon’s prompts touch on different aspects of your background, interests, and goals. They are a great way to show off more of your personality and enthusiasm for the school. Planning strong examples to weave throughout your essays is key to success.

We will walk you through each prompt and offer tips on how to craft stellar responses for each of the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays!

Also see:  How to write an essay about yourself

“ 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) ”

Say you are interested in Computer Science. Well, you would not be alone, given it is Carnegie Mellon’s top major. Fortunately, this question invites you to back up your chosen area of study with a reason that is distinctly yours. For example, you could discuss your obsession with Guitar Hero as a kid and thus how video games are made. This inspiration for why you want to study programming makes this response personal and unique. 

Note that this prompt says a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time. Talk about the origin of your interest, then trace the ways you have further cultivated it. What started as a Guitar Hero fascination then led you to take a summer coding bootcamp. Now, you spend hours viewing YouTube videos on game development. Whatever your major is, try to get to the core of what intellectually excites you about it and what sparked that curiosity. This will ensure your sincerity and voice shines through. You can close with your long-term aspiration in this field or conclude more specifically with how you plan to pursue this interest at CM. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Is there a role model you look up to whose career you’d like to emulate? 
  • Have you taken a class that piqued your interest in this major?  
  • Are you drawn to a particular field of study because of the positive impact it can make in the world? 
“ 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? (300 words) ”

This question can be tricky for some students because there are many directions to take your response. There is no one right answer for what you’d like to achieve in college and what constitutes a successful experience. After all, learning takes place both in and out of the classroom. Instead of being scared of this freedom, embrace it. Before writing, take a moment to really envision yourself in four years. How do you hope to grow personally and academically at Carnegie Mellon? If one goal does not dominate, make a list of all the things you want to achieve and find a way to summarize them into an overarching theme. 

One example could be how the prospect of meeting new people energizes you. You might discuss how you grew up in a small, southern town as an only child. Moving to Pittsburgh to live with peers of diverse backgrounds will be a big shift. Studying abroad could be another related wish for your time at CM. Talk about how these experiences will fulfill your ultimate goal of expanding your worldview. This avenue is a great way to discuss CM’s values and how you hope to align them with your own, as well.

Some students approach this question by discussing college as the key to unlock their dream profession. If you take this route, be sure you are not repeating information you discussed in prompt #1. You could go at it from a more abstract lens, like discovering how to engage both your creative and analytical sides. You could talk about an interesting major/minor combination, clubs you’d like to be involved in, or a research project you wish to explore. 

Questions to consider:  

  • What would you change about your high school mindset? For example, do you want to do a better job taking risks, or make community service a weekly priority?
  • In what ways will college enrich your character? 
  • What academic benchmarks do you hope to meet? 
“ 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). (300 words) ”

Similar to prompt #2, this response is incredibly open. You can choose to write literally anything about yourself here. Of all the prompts, this is perhaps the best way to differentiate your essays.  It is helpful to look over your application as a whole. What have you already shared with admissions, and what have you left out?

Is there something meaningful to you that you could only briefly mention in your activities section? For instance, you may have been in the improvisation club in high school. You could describe how you used to be incredibly shy, but this form of theater let’s you discover a whole new witty side to yourself. It may have taught you humility and the value in stepping outside of your comfort zone. These are terrific qualities to take with you to CM. 

In a whole different vein, you could use this space to be vulnerable. Maybe remote learning was especially hard on you and resulted in a semester of lower grades. You could explain the obstacles you overcame and how it made you realize the importance of prioritizing mental health. This showcases your resiliency and informs admissions about an inconsistency on your transcript. 

The admissions team wants to know what makes you, you. They also are curious about your road to get to this point. So, anything is fair game. Trust your gut, and choose something that you feel is genuinely important to paint a whole picture of yourself and your experiences. 

  • What have you been involved in that has shaped who you are today?
  • Are there any red flags on your application that require explaining? 
  • Do you have any unique hobbies or stand-out personality traits?

Final thoughts

After these deep dives, we hope you feel inspired to tackle each of the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays with ease. Use our tips to organize your responses, then get all your thoughts down. You can cut out the fluff and revise for grammar and writing quality later. Be genuine in sharing what matters to you, not what you think admissions want to hear. You are well on your way to crushing these essays!

Also see:  Top scholarships for high school seniors

Additional resources

As you continue in your college application process, make sure to check back with us for other useful resources! We can help you decide how many schools to apply to , how to write a 500 word essay , and how to get a college application fee waiver . We’ll also help you decide whether you should send your ACT/SAT scores to test-optional schools. Good luck!

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How to write the carnegie mellon supplemental essays.

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Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/15/23

Find out how to write stellar CMU essays in this complete guide, including tips, FAQs, and examples!

Carnegie Mellon University is an internationally recognized educational institution in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since CMU is competitive, many applicants look for ways to stand out in their application. That’s where the CMU supplemental essays can come in handy.

The Carnegie Mellon supplementals are crucial to your application and provide an opportunity to showcase your personality, interests, and experiences. However, writing these essays can be daunting, especially if you're unsure what the university is looking for. 

We’ll walk you through the process of writing the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays. We’ve included expert tips, examples, and FAQs to help get you started on your CMU supplemental essays and help you write something unforgettable. Let’s get started!

Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay Prompts 2023-2024

So, what are the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts? Let’s discuss! First of all, let’s talk about volume. In total, there are four CMU essay prompts. However, only three are required, while the fourth is optional. 

Although writing multiple essays can be intimidating, think of the positives. For one, you have many more chances to stand out as a candidate . Writing multiple essays also allows you to demonstrate various facets of your personality and experiences you may not have been able to share in your application. 

Male student writing essay on paper

Here are the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essay prompts : 

“ 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)”

“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? (300 words)”

“ 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). (300 words)”

Prompt #4 (Optional)

“ When it comes to deciding whether to submit standardized test scores, occasionally applicants want us to better understand the individual context of their decision. If you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity, please share any information about your decision here. This is an optional question for those who may want to provide additional context for consideration. (150 words)”

Have any of these prompts sparked your inspiration? If not, no problem! Read on to learn how to answer the Carnegie Mellon essay prompts with examples. 

How to Write Each Essay Prompt for Carnegie Mellon

"How" on pink background

Here’s how to write each of the Carnegie Mellon essays. For each prompt, we’ve included an analysis of what the prompt is asking and tips on how to answer. 

How to Write Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay #1 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of prompt #1 : The first Carnegie Mellon essay prompt asks you to explain your choice of major in three hundred words or less. In other words, this is considered a “why this major” essay, a common question in the college application process. 

Let’s go over some tips on how to handle this prompt.

  • Choose One Anecdote : It’s not uncommon for students to have many reasons for choosing a major. “My parents did this, I like the subject, I want to learn more,” etc. However, you should choose to narrow in on your strongest anecdote before writing this essay to formulate one strong story around a timeline of events. 
  • Create a Timeline : Before you start writing, create a timeline of events to help guide you. In the beginning, share when you first became interested in your major. The middle should tell the story of how your interest became a serious commitment, and you can end your essay by sharing your goals. 
  • Write Now, Trim Later : Shorter essays may seem easier. However, it may be more challenging to get your point across in fewer words. So, focus on the writing first, then trim the fat. Ensure each sentence helps to tell your story and that every word serves a purpose. 

female student smiling at computer screen

How to Write Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay #2 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of prompt #2 : With this essay prompt, CMU is trying to understand what you hope to take with you from your education. A successful college experience is subjective, so there’s no correct answer. Ultimately, this is the place to outline what you intend to achieve during your college years and after. 

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Speak From the Heart : Answer this earnest question honestly. Talk about your future goals, your passions, and how you intend to contribute to your chosen field. Consider what goes through your mind when you picture your graduation day. What are you proud of? What will you do next? 
  • Tie In Your Past, If Applicable : Opening this essay with an anecdote about your past that ties into what a successful college experience means to you can be impactful. You should only do this if it applies to your situation and ties into why you’re applying to college and your future goals.
  • Talk About the School : This shouldn’t be the main focus of your essay, but in general, colleges love it when you’ve done your research and know about the clubs and programs they offer. To answer this prompt well, you should get familiar with what you’d like to participate in. 

Student writing on paper with pen

How to Write Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay #3 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of prompt #3 : The third CMU essay prompt is an excellent place to pop in one more achievement you’re really proud of or haven’t been able to share yet. Consider what you’ve shared so far and if there’s anything else you’d like to tell the admissions committee. Many applicants use this space to write about an extracurricular interest.

Use these tips to help you approach your essay: 

  • Find Your Subject : There are various directions you could take here. You may choose to frame this as an adversity essay, where you tell the story of a challenge you overcame to achieve something. If you want to highlight a particular skill, you can write an extracurricular essay to delve into your passions . 
  • Make Sure Your Topic Is Relevant : With a broad prompt like this one, it can be easy to get lost. It’s important to stay on track and add value to your application. If you write about something you’ve briefly touched on in your application, ensure your story isn’t repetitive . 
  • Be Authentic : It’s important that you write about something you genuinely care about. Don’t tailor your responses according to what you think the school wants to hear. 

female student typing on laptop

How to Write Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay #4 + Analysis and Tips

For the optional fourth prompt, you need to first figure out if you should write this optional essay at all. This prompt targets students who have chosen not to submit SAT or ACT scores. If you have chosen not to submit scores, you should absolutely explain your decision through this essay. If not, there’s no need to write the essay.

Examples of Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays That Worked

If you still have no idea where to start with your Carnegie Mellon essays, don’t worry. Take a look at some of these examples, written by real, admitted students, to give you inspiration! 

Sample Essay #1

Prompt : “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? (300 words)”

Read through this sample essay for some inspiration: 

“When I was younger, I faced a lot of negative emotions including anxiety and low self-esteem. For a long time, I felt alone and as if no one understood how I felt. My self confidence was at an all-time low when I started taking psychology. All of a sudden the negative emotions I was feeling started making sense. I was suddenly able to understand how people were wired and why others treated me a certain way. I was able to feel empathy for my aggressors after understanding that those who treated me negatively often faced struggles of their own. Most importantly, I felt as though something out there finally understood me. Because psychology offered insight into my own behavior and helped me to understand others, I was eventually able to overcome my insecurities.
In the future, I would like to help others do the same. No matter where I end up, understanding why people behave a certain way and being more considerate and empathetic for others will only help me thrive. Mental health is a growing issue in our society. The world we live in is a confusing place filled with pain, but psychology provides a way to determine the cause of this suffering and how to change it. I never want anyone to feel the isolation and sorrow I felt when I was younger. I want to help others become compassionate and unconditionally loving not just toward others, but to themselves. Even if I only make a small change in the world and affect just one person’s life, I would like to pursue that.”

two boys with arms around each other looking at skyline

Why Essay #1 Worked

In this example, the writer uses a clear timeline of events to convey the story of how they became interested in their major. What the student has done especially well here is demonstrate a developed passion and deeper meaning to their choice of program. 

Your story doesn’t have to start in childhood – for many applicants, it doesn’t! Whatever your story, just ensure your devotion to the study of your subject is apparent and your story is concise, easy to read, and moving. 

Sample Essay #2

Prompt 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? (300 words)”

This essay provides a great example of how to answer this prompt: 

“My main goal in college is to attain a specific degree so I may pursue a stable career I’m happy with. However, the manner in which I achieve this is imperative since I will spend a considerable portion of my early adulthood in college. This is why I want to attend an institution that will teach me what to learn, how to learn, and why I should learn. 
When I leave college and enter the real world, I don’t want to stop learning about how the world works or how I can improve upon myself. I believe that to give up the pursuit of knowledge is to give up hope for true happiness. I don’t want to die knowing I could’ve achieved more through my time on earth but chose not to, especially considering the people in less fortunate circumstances who would’ve taken full advantage of the opportunities I was presented. I have a sense of duty to improve myself in some way each day so in the future, I may apply the lessons I’ve learned and experiences I’ve gained to make a positive impact on this world. I fervently believe that true education prepares students for the outside world by emphasizing this mindset. 
Therefore, a successful college experience to me is one that facilitates this kind of growth by providing bountiful opportunities for me to pursue my goals and even open my eyes to activities I never thought of attempting. This sort of environment is one that must be achieved through the collaborative effort of faculty and peers alike. I believe Carnegie Mellon-with its vast undergraduate and graduate majors, research programs, student organizations, and diverse campus culture-accomplishes this well.”

Carnegie Mellon students lying on grass with notebooks

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Why Essay #2 Worked 

In this essay example from an accepted Carnegie Mellon student , the writer focuses on their passion for the pursuit of education and why learning is important to them. This is an excellent approach; it indicates that this student wants to soak up as much of the CMU learning experience as possible rather than simply get a degree and move on. 

This Carnegie Mellon essay briefly mentions what the school has to offer, why they’re attracted to it, and how attending will help them fulfill their goals. 

Sample Essay #3

Prompt #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). (300 words)”

Check out this sample essay to help you respond to prompt #3: 

“Haunted romanticism, ravaged gaze, desperation bordering on lunacy, Saturn Devouring His Son first caught my attention as a bored nine-year-old wandering around a museum, and once again as a high-school student, after catching a glimpse of it in a textbook. 
Because after looking at angelic frescos after more Church frescos, I could not stop myself from flipping back to the tiny printing of this unholy piece. I sought to discover the story behind it—what caused this artist to create something so raw and naked, in the age of staid royal family portraits?
I became immersed in unraveling each bit of the story, how Goya had long transitioned from a royal painter, to a harsh, but veiled critic of society, the desolation that occurred during the French occupation of Spain, the corruption of Charles IV— who was really only a puppet ruler to Godoy. I learned how kingdoms rose and fell—and rose again, how art is unafraid to capture the seditious attitudes of the common people, and how it has endured to teach us of past mistakes.
I fell in love with dissecting the messages from the past, and discovering how we still have not listened to them.”

Woman sitting looking at historic art

Why Essay #3 Worked

In this example from a similar Yale prompt , the writer chose to delve into their appreciation for visiting art museums beyond the classroom and discovering their curiosity for art history. 

The essay is particularly effective because it doesn't just list the paintings they admire but instead delves into the meanings and significance behind each piece. 

The key to a successful extracurricular essay is to showcase your enthusiasm for the activity. To transport the reader into your world, it can be helpful to include sensory details that create a vivid picture of your experiences. 

Consider including descriptions of the smells, sights, and emotions that surround your extracurricular interest. By doing so, you can help your reader feel as though they’re there with you, experiencing the activity alongside you.

Get More Sample Essays Here!

If you found it helpful to look at sample essays, good news! You can check out our college essay example database down below for tons of great essay examples. 

FAQs: Carnegie Mellon Essays

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to write each Carnegie Mellon supplemental essay.

1. How Important Are Essays for CMU?

Supplemental essays are an important part of the application process for Carnegie Mellon University. They allow applicants to showcase their unique qualities, achievements, and perspectives that may not be evident from other parts of their application.

2. How Many Supplemental Essays Does Carnegie Mellon Require?

The CMU essay requirements vary depending on the program you are applying for. For most applicants, there are three required essays and one optional essay. 

3. What Is the Word Limit for Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays?

Each CMU essay must be 300 words or fewer, while the fourth optional essay word limit is 150 words or fewer. 

4. Are the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays Required for All Applicants, Including Transfer and International Students?

Yes, all Carnegie Mellon applicants must write supplemental essays, including transfer and international students. 

5. Can I Reuse Essays That I Wrote for Other College Applications for Carnegie Mellon's Supplemental Essays?

You may be able to recycle content to an extent based on the essay you’ve previously written. For example, your description of why you want to pursue a particular major may not change, but the school-specific details you add will. 

Final Thoughts

Writing strong CMU essays is a critical part of your application. These essays provide an opportunity to showcase what makes you a fantastic CMU candidate. They also provide a platform to discuss personal achievements that may not be evident in other parts of your application. 

Because the CMU essays are relatively short, it's important to be concise while sharing your stories. It's also crucial to ensure that your essays are cohesive, flow smoothly, and make a strong case for you as a candidate. 

By following our tips, you’ll be able to craft memorable essays and increase your chances of standing out to the admissions committee at Carnegie Mellon University. Good luck!

Access 190+ sample college essays here

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carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

Analyzing the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

Padya Paramita

October 11, 2021

carnegie mellon supplemental essay 2022

Carnegie Mellon University is top-choice for numerous students. The college prides itself on its holistic approach to accepting students—so if you have your eye on one of the undergraduate colleges within CMU, you’ll need to excel not just in academics, but in your extracurriculars as well. And the best way to prove that you are CMU material is by mastering the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays 2021-2022 .

Carnegie Mellon has six great colleges for six different areas of interest: the College of Engineering, The College of Fine Arts, The Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, The Information Systems program, The Mellon College of Science, School of Computer Science, and Tepper School of Business. In reading your responses to the supplemental essays, admissions officers want to know whether your strengths, experiences, and goals are compatible with the unique and competitive programs the colleges within CMU have to offer. To guide you through the questions, I’ve elaborated on how to answer each of the prompts for the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays 2021-2022 and added tips to keep in mind during the writing process.

Prompts for the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

The Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays 2021-2022 ask three questions, all of which are mandatory for all applicants, with your answers limited to 300 words each. Below, we’ve taken a look at the questions and how to tackle each of them in more detail.

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 word maximum)

The key to answering this question among the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays 2021-2022 lies in conducting appropriate research surrounding the major and college you’ve chosen. Think about what your experiences have looked like so far — and most importantly, connect your past to your chosen field at CMU. You can write about specific courses that appeal to you within your major, such as the Behavioral Economics, Policy & Organizations program within the Dietrich College of Humanities & Social Sciences. 

While 300 words is not a lot, make sure to assert your interest in the subject in your essay as well. Mention any anecdote or example that conveys your passion for the field. Elaborate on how your experiences and exploration of the topics within the discipline so far make you a strong candidate for the program. If there have been any ways you’ve actively pursued your interest—such as working at a lab in preparation for a Chemical Engineering or Mathematical Sciences major, mention them in a sentence or two. 

Since there’s not much space, you won’t be able to get too much into the details about other areas of academic focus, and that’s okay. Drive home your enthusiasm both for your field, and how CMU can specifically hone your skills and assist your growth as a student. 

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? (300 word maximum)

This question is different from the last prompt among the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays 2021-2022 as it gets to what you look for out of your college experience, with a specific focus towards learning. To pinpoint specific resources and characteristics you look for out of your ideal college, consider the following questions: 

  • What are your academic interests and goals?
  • Why do the course offerings at CMU stand out to you?
  • What do you look for in classmates?
  • What kind of environment do you need to thrive?
  • Why do you believe CMU is a good fit for you?

Take your answers and find the most important factors to you, and elaborate on them. I’d suggest that you ideally write about 2-3 aspects rather than try to fit in everything. If you focus your answer on the ways you and Carnegie Mellon are good fits for each other, admissions officers will be able to understand how the college can help you, and how you can contribute to the academic environment of the college.

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). (300 word maximum)

This is the most open-ended prompt among the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays 2021-2022 . There can be many different parts of your profile or identity to choose from—your cultural background, your gender identity or sexual orientation, your socioeconomic class, or even an activity that you participate in that is unusual. Whether it’s learning languages or playing a little-known instrument, your essay should focus on one particular thing that makes you different.

Remember, don’t repeat anything you’ve already mentioned in your personal statement. Tell admissions officers about an aspect of your identity that you find valuable and can add to the diversity of the Carnegie Mellon campus. Do you feel like you’re a part of a bigger community? How has your perspective been shaped by these components of yourself? Have you faced any challenges because of them?

Don’t forget that your supplemental essays should distinguish you from other applicants. If you believe there will be many students with similar backgrounds applying, don’t highlight it in your essay. Admissions officers have seen plenty of students whose main extracurricular activity has been debate club. It won’t help you stand out!

Further Tips on answering the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

  • Strike a Balance: The Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays 2021-2022 expect your answers to highlight both your experiences along with what appeals to you regarding the university. Think carefully about what you’ve done so far and what you hope to achieve in the next four years, specifically at CMU. For example, If you’ve chosen English as your major, focus your first essay on when this love started, how your love for the topic grew, and how you’ve honed your reading writing skills—if you participated in any competitions or creative writing clubs. Finally, finish it off with which classes appeal to you from the CMU catalog, whether it’s “Literature and Culture in the Renaissance” or “The Short Story.”
  • Don’t misrepresent yourself: For the questions on your academic interests or what you look for out of your college experience, it might be tempting to try and guess what admissions officers want to hear. You should definitely avoid that, as it’s neither fair to you nor your reader. While there’s pressure to write stellar essays, if you try too hard, you’re going to put a lot of effort into an application that is dishonest. You want the admissions officers to evaluate you based on your real interests. 

At first glance, the Carnegie Mellon supplemental essays 2021-2022 might seem a little intimidating. But if you carefully read through the prompts, avoid common answers, and show admissions officers that you possess the values that CMU looks for, you’ll set yourself up for a chance at acceptance. Show admissions officers how you think and guide them through your passions and aspirations and—who knows, maybe this is the component that helps you get one step closer to becoming a Scottie Dog next year. Best of luck!

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