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How to Answer the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essay Prompts 2019-2020

DEC 15, 2019

Carnegie Mellon is a private research university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded by world-famous industrialist, businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie in 1900, the university is known for its advancements in business, engineering, humanities, policy and science.

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Carnegie Mellon

Short Essay #1: 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?

This prompt is a bit tricky. It seems straightforward but there is a bit more to it than meets the eye.

Your response should answer these two questions:

  1. Why do you want to go to college, and why Carnegie Mellon in particular?
  2. What do you hope to achieve during that time?

There are so many factors that go into shaping your college experience: what major you choose, your professors, extra curricular activities, student housing, campus life, city life, internships, jobs, weather etc. etc.

Start by writing a list of all the things you are looking for during your college career. Don’t think too hard about it; just jot down what comes to mind. Then, narrow it down to a handful.

Based on this smaller list, what is most important to you? Maybe you really want to have a close relationship with your professors, so open office hours are important to you. Or maybe you focus well in stadium-sized lectures? Are you excited to live on campus? Why? What kinds of communities are important to you? Maybe you are most excited to explore Pittsburgh - see what city life has to offer.

Do some research so that you can reference specific aspects of the university. Be sure to conclude this short essay with at least a few sentences that illustrate how you, specifically, would contribute to life at Carnegie Mellon.

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Short Essay #2: 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?

We recommend answering this question with an anecdote. What is a story you can tell that best illustrates your passion for X major / course of study? The more personal you can make it, the more memorable it will be.

Try to zero in on a single memorable experience. Maybe you shadowed a nurse at a hospital in your town. Maybe reading The Great Gatsby completely inverted your understanding of life in New York during the early 20th century. Maybe you are obsessed with a TED Talk about Power Posing, which got you interested in psychology. Maybe you have a friend with a disability, which spurred your passion for creating accessible spaces.

The sky's the limit. Just be sure to be specific and concise. Bring your story to life with descriptive words and sensory language.

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Short Essay #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).

Look over what you have already shared with Carnegie Mellon in the previous two essays. For example, maybe you wrote Essay 1 about your interest in the research of a specific econ professor and you wrote Essay 2 about your favorite stats class. So far, your application talks a lot about academics. Use Essay 3 as a change to add texture.

What else do you want the committee to know about you? When you think about what they already know from your resume and test scores, is there something missing? What do you need to explain that will help readers think of you as a whole, three-dimensional person?

Topics could include family background, special skills, a community you are a part of, a sport you love etc.

Be sincere, self-aware, and humble.

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