College Counselor Graphic

Discounting Carnegie Mellon has proven unwise. On Nov. 28, 1926, Knute Rockne decided not to join his nationally ranked Notre Dame football team that was playing against the tiny Carnegie Institute of Technology; instead, he headed to Chicago to scout the Army Navy Game. Carnegie Institute went on to one of the major upsets of the 20th Century by shutting out Notre Dame 19-0.

To ensure no one dismisses Carnegie Mellon (CMU) intentionally or unintentionally, it might be a good idea to learn more about CMU’s history, its structure, the scope of its offerings and how to engage its admissions process effectively.

CMU’s roots are humble. It was originally founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, with the mission of teaching the trades and crafts to the working class of Pittsburgh. By 1912, it took the name of Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT) awarding four-year degrees. By 1967, CIT merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Relations to form a 145-acre campus about three miles from downtown Pittsburgh in its Oakland section.

With its foundations strongly set in math, sciences and engineering, it also has outstanding departments in fine arts, the humanities and business. The university consists of six undergraduate colleges in Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Science, Engineering, Science, Computer Science, and Business, along with a graduate school, the Heinz College of Public Policy. The undergraduate portion of the university consists of more than 6,300 students studying among 200 majors, including the first-degree granting programs in Robotics and Drama, along with one of the first computer science programs in the country.

The CMU faculty and alumni have amassed 20 Nobel Prizes, 12 Turing Awards, 114 Emmys, 44 Tonys and seven Academy Awards. Its alumni include Andy Warhol of pop art fame; Steven Bocho, whose revolutionary television productions brought us "Hill Street Blues" and garnered a wave of Emmys; along with Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar; and James Gosling, the creator of Java Script.

Gaining admission to CMU depends very much on the school and program to which one is applying, for each college and some individual schools have their own admissions requirements. Acceptance rates range from a high of 22% for the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences to a low of 7% for the School of Computer Science. The College of Fine Arts has an acceptance rate of 11%, though its School or Architecture has a 51% acceptance rate, while the School of Design 7% and the School of Drama 3%.

When applying to CMU, a candidate is asked to choose a major, department and program. Or, as with USC, a candidate may apply to more than one college. While the major decision is not necessarily set in stone, at CMU, the ability to switch majors once one matriculates is very limited. For example, the School of Computer Science does not allow any transfers. Moreover, within the College of Fine Arts, transferring from one school to another requires as much effort as one’s initial application.

Consequently, CMU wants to know its potential applicants well. That’s why it encourages interviews on campus, should you be planning a trip to Pittsburgh between August and Nov. 1. CMU also has what it calls "Hometown Interviews," with its admissions going to five or six cities: details will be posted on its website by August 2017.

CMU has partnered with ZeeMee.com to allow applicants to supply a multimedia resume. One candidate, who was accepted into Information Systems in March 2017, mentioned in College Confidential: “I spend a lot of time on my ZeeMee account to help illustrate my life in a more personable way.”

CMU’s top feeder state for its class of 2021 was California, with 245 students matriculating. Whether to express oneself on stage or television, or to join the campus, which launched the first Wifi network (1993) and created the first autonomous cars (2007), CMU beckons with its motto: "My heart is in the work.”

Ralph Becker, is founder of Ivy College Prep, LLC (www.ivycollegeprep.net) and a resident of Long Beach. He has been counseling students for 11 years. He has a certificate in college counseling from the UCLA Extension, and has published "SAT* Vocab 800." He can be reached at rbecker@ivycollegeprep.net.

Load comments