Carnegie Mellon University is a private college located in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was founded by its namesake, Andrew Carnegie, in 1900 and is located only 3 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon has almost 14,000 students, and is an extremely selective college. For the class of 2021, the overall undergraduate acceptance rate was 13.53%.
Part of what makes admission into Carnegie Mellon so competitive is its world renowned reputation. Carnegie Mellon's computer science program is ranked #1 in the country, and the School of Computer Science boasts a 7% acceptance rate. Apart from its stellar engineering programs, Carnegie Mellon is also well known for its undergraduate business program.
Since Carnegie Mellon is such a selective institution, admission into CMU is extremely difficult. Carnegie Mellon receives thousands of qualified applications every year, and your college essays must make you stand out from the crowd in order to get the best shot at getting accepted. Below are some essays that got accepted into Carnegie Mellon University. I hope that you find them helpful college essay examples to read and learn from.
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Carnegie Mellon University Essays
Common App Essays (2)
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
(650 words max)
You are 7 years old. A girl you are trying to befriend tells you that she does not want to be friends with you because your eyes are “ugly and squinty.” Hot tears run down your face because you do not understand the reason for her ugly words.
You are 13 years old. It is Halloween and on Instagram you see two of your classmates dress up as Asians. Their faces are painted yellow and their eyes are pulled back with tape. The caption reads, “can’t find the dogs to eat with our eye slits!” People ask if you are offended. You do not want to be seen as uptight so you laugh it off.
Numerous incidents like these dot your childhood. You do not want to be Asian anymore. You hate your hideous Asian face.
I had always been shy as a kid and the environment I was raised in only exacerbated my growing insecurities. My school’s population was 99% white, so I had no friends of my own ethnicity and often faced the brunt of people’s ignorance. In middle school, everyone suddenly started caring about looks. I wanted so badly to look like my Caucasian classmates and worked tirelessly to try to erase my “Asian” features. I bleached my hair and skin. I glued my eyelids into double folds and wore eye-enlarging contacts. I spent countless hours researching plastic surgeons that could “Westernize” my looks. I was utterly obsessed with how others perceived me. My insecurities were loud, and they attracted unwanted attention from other students who bullied me.
At this point I lacked friends in real life and began to find solace on the internet, my getaway from the burdens of real life. People could not judge me based on how I looked, only by my words. I was playing an online game where I met my first Asian friend, Ethan. He had a pride in his ethnicity I never had. After getting to know me better, Ethan asked why I tried so hard to reject my heritage. He wanted to know why I never showed my face. Over time, on the internet, I started to meet more people of my ethnicity who became my role models and cherished friends.
After constant reflection and studying psychology, I began to understand my past in a new light. The ignorant people who ridiculed me faced stress and insecurity in their own lives that spurred their actions. Thereafter, I was able to come to the realization that has since then freed me of my insecurities: every person who passes by me is living a life just as vivid and complex as my own, with their own thoughts and perceptions; everyone has their own image of me in their head, and because none are a fully correct representation of who I am, I should not be concerned with trying to modify them. And what I learned from the hours I resided immersed on the internet was that what defines me is not my looks, but what I have to say. My life was not mine if I cared constantly about what others thought.
The internet was my catalyst for change, and slowly, I started to blossom. Fear of judgement had once stopped me from seeking opportunities, and I sought to change that. I began to branch out and engage with new people. My makeup was no longer a mask, but instead a tool I used to enhance the features that I now love. I am proud of my unique features and refuse to let anyone make me feel the way I used to feel. Though I will never be able to erase the scarred little girl from my past, I would not want to because she has made me strong from what she endured. I want to be Asian.
638 / 650 words
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
(650 words max)
I have seen 2017’s Power Rangers exactly five times in theaters, and it was the best 50 dollars I ever spent.
There is nothing extraordinary about a movie filled with gaping plotholes, inconsistent writing, and cheesy cliches: what makes Power Rangers unique is its diversity. The content we consume should properly represent our world, and Power Rangers does just that. The film’s positive representation of marginalized groups is a stepping stone for Hollywood; four out of the five rangers are people of color, one is autistic, and another is queer.
Power Rangers wasn’t the catalyst for my passion regarding diversity, but it demonstrates how eagerly I will consume anything with realistic representation. From as early as elementary school, I knew that, as an Asian girl coming home to watch the Disney Channel, there were few people who looked like me whom I could idolize. My white friends could relate to the shows’ families, yet my household customs never appeared on screen. The few Asians that did appear faded into the background, forgotten by the audience or reduced to racist caricatures.
Ironically, I never realized the harmful effects of this erasure until I discovered proper Asian representation. Believing that my race made me inferior in our white-dominant society, I unconsciously succumbed to the “reserved and quiet” Asian stereotype, purposefully shying away from the spotlight. When I finally saw Asians as protagonists, my craving for diverse media grew, and I sought to learn as much about the importance of minority representation as I could. The countless TED talks and think pieces I discovered, which described the conundrum of marginalization I had encountered, helped me come to terms with the experience, and to recognize the need for change.
Despite the contemporary push for female-driven narratives, I know that Hollywood’s fixation on “white as default” remains (Leia and Rey from Star Wars, Wonder Woman and Black Widow of DC and Marvel Comics). I know that when storylines showcasing cultures of color become popular, producers want to cast white actors for roles - even if whitewashed movies have collectively lost $500 million in revenue over the years. I know that LGBT characters of color are virtually nonexistent. I know that the problem extends beyond actors to people behind the scenes, that most scriptwriters, directors, authors, and producers are still straight white men.
As someone whose identity has historically been ignored by the media, my existence is validated by the rare but increasing presence of Asians in books, movies and TV. Seeing Asian content creators use their platforms to talk about the importance of representation and their firsthand experiences in fighting bigotry inspires me, in turn, to engage in my own brand of activism. I’ve participated in a panel about race relations following a school incident in which we discussed topics ranging from the danger of whitewashing to living life as a minority - ideas I’ve pursued more intensely in my blog. Additionally, I co-founded my school’s first multimedia magazine in the hopes of offering others a means of self-expression. I continuously challenge myself to push past society’s ideals of what I can and cannot accomplish; by using my voice, I strive to educate others while simultaneously educating myself.
With a college education, I hope to further explore the damaging psychological effects a lack of representation or, worse, erasure of representation can cause, and study ways to reverse or even prevent them. Most importantly, we must make it easier for marginalized groups to share their stories. After all, if more people start advocating for more diversity, positive representation will emerge - a recent example being Hidden Figures, whose empowering portrayal of black women was universally praised and inspired people everywhere.
My race and gender will always play a huge part in who I am. So instead of letting the media dictate how people like me are perceived, I am ready to write my own narrative.
654 / 650 words
Supplemental Essays (4)
“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.
293 / 300 words
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.
268 / 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 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.
304 / 300 words
Why Carnegie Mellon?
As a child who hid behind her parents and never uttered a word whenever strangers were near, I was no stranger to people deeming me shy. As I got older, however, I found my voice more comfortably through music, through art, and through writing. Playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto in the Kennedy Center, for instance, unleashed a swell of emotions through the intricate art of storytelling with my violin. I was drawn to writing stories and sharing ideas with my peers, starting my editor career in fifth grade. Five years later, I co-founded my high school’s literary magazine, Muses, which provides a platform for all voices while fostering connections among students.
I was twelve years old when a HTML class through John Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth program introduced me to a modern language of communication: computers and the Internet. Falling in love with coding and website design, I utilized my newfound knowledge to design a website for my National History Day project, which won the school competition. In high school, I joined programming club, took the rigorous computer science classes, and designed Muses’ website. This year, I created a conceptual online boutique store, which won first place in Maryland Future Business Leader Association’s E-business competitive event.
In the summer of 2016, I interned in a NCI melanoma research lab. This experience completed changed how I viewed the importance of technology to modern communication. We had obtained genotypes from thousands of melanoma patients and controls, but a new question arose: how could we extract the useful information from a massive data file, akin to finding a needle in a haystack? Under the guidance of a bioinformatician, I performed an association test between melanoma associated variants and survival outcome to identify the risk loci that might affect patient survival. Catering to the needs of the scientists, I wrote an app by R code that organizes and manages melanoma genotype information; extracting the information of a particular genotype and its association with melanoma was now a couple clicks away. From this work, I learned how to translate large data into solutions, while using the correct data format and data structure. I realized that modern technology not only helps us communicate more efficiently, but also provides a system upon which we can solve global problems.
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. One project I want to tackle is the modification of social media algorithms so that media created by minorities and/or for minorities will appear on users’ radars. The algorithm would analyze the user’s demographics and deliver news relevant to those traits, such as discoveries about Asian health issues showing up on Asian users’ feeds. Carnegie Mellon’s encouragement of interdisciplinary studies under the Information Systems major would allow me to accomplish this and so much more. As someone who attacks calculus and creative writing with equal enthusiasm, IS’ objective of providing students with a broad background in the humanities and sciences is very appealing. As someone who learned to work as a team in a research lab, CMU’s emphasis on collaboration and student innovation would push me to further improve my teamwork and problem-solving skills. In particular, I hope to take advantage of CMU’s Technology Consulting in the Global Community program, receiving guidance from both CMU’s renowned faculty and international technology experts. To that end, the Social and Decision Sciences major, my second choice, would also prepare me to utilize similar decision-making and analysis skills to solve social problems.
We live in a world where communication through technology connects communities across the globe, more so than ever before. The future of exploration and innovation requires us to develop efficient ways of communication - we need a combination of scientific expertise and knowledge grounded in the humanities to accurately convey ideas, solve problems and make the planet a better home for us all. An education at Carnegie Mellon would propel me in this endeavor.
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