Admission Consideration

At Carnegie Mellon, we select our first-year class from a large group of very qualified candidates. We don’t use a calculation to arrive at our admitted class. Calculations can’t take into account all of the factors we like to consider when making admission decisions. No single grade, factor, score or activity will automatically gain or deny you admission to Carnegie Mellon. We treat every applicant as an individual, taking great care to make our admission decisions fair, thorough and sensitive. We’re interested in students who can be successful at Carnegie Mellon, while taking full advantage of all the university has to offer and enriching our campus community.

The Office of Admission understands that students across the globe have experienced many uncertainties and challenges due to COVID-19, and that applications will look different for some time. We want you to know that we’re taking all of this into consideration during our application review process. In collaboration with Harvard’s Making Caring Common project, Carnegie Mellon has joined over 300 other colleges and universities in signing a new collective statement, “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19.” This statement affirms our priorities for self-care and care for others during the pandemic. You can read more about the collective statement and what our office values here.

Academic and Artistic Potential

Our admission process is designed to select a highly talented, diverse undergraduate population with high aspirations who will succeed at Carnegie Mellon. If you’re applying to academic programs, your high school talent and/or potential will be a significant factor in our admission decision because it’s the most meaningful indication of your motivation and abilities. We pay close attention to your curriculum rigor, the grades you’ve earned and the work you’ve accomplished. We’re interested in seeing that you’ve challenged yourself within your secondary school environment. If you’re applying to programs in the arts, your artistic performance will be either the main factor or a significant factor (depending on the program) in our admission decision.

Letters of Recommendation

We closely review your secondary school counselor’s evaluation and your teacher’s recommendation. If you're applying as a first-year student, we require two letters of recommendation: one from a high school counselor and one from a teacher. While we’ll accept a third recommendation from a teacher or other recommender, we require our committees to consider only two recommendations in the decision-making process. If you're applying as a transfer student, we require one letter of recommendation from either a faculty member/professor or an academic advisor. While we’ll accept two additional recommendations, we require our committees to consider only one recommendation in the decision-making process.

Standardized Testing

Standardized test scores add to our knowledge of your ability, but we don’t make decisions simply on the basis of test scores alone. Your secondary school record and standardized test scores (all SAT or ACT Tests) work together to make up the academic portion of your evaluation.

*Carnegie Mellon University extended our test-optional policy through Fall 2022, removing their SAT/ACT standardized testing requirements. Students who are unable to take either the SAT or ACT or choose not to submit their standardized test scores will be considered equally for admission along with those who submit scores. Please see our Fall 2021 FAQs for more information. 

Extracurricular Activities

Your non-academic interests, including extracurricular accomplishments, part-time jobs, hobbies and community service also play a very important role in the admission process. We also consider leadership, motivation, passion and perseverance, community and volunteer service and other experiences when making admission decisions.

Our students make Carnegie Mellon an exciting campus. The positive qualities and diverse experiences you bring with you will enrich our community. By looking at this non-academic information, we develop a sense of your personality, motivation and social responsibility.


We also consider your Common Application essay and your responses to the Carnegie Mellon Common Application Writing Supplement. The Writing Supplement includes three short answer questions:

  1. 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?

  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?

  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).

Your short answer responses shouldn't exceed 300 words.

Criminal History Information

Carnegie Mellon does not collect or review criminal history information as part of the admission process. However, individuals who are admitted to Carnegie Mellon will be required to disclose any past criminal conviction as part of the enrollment process. Learn how Carnegie Mellon considers criminal history information here.