Striving for Access and Equity in Admission

The mission of Carnegie Mellon University includes the cultivation of a diverse community. A diverse and inclusive community is the foundation for excellence in learning, research, creativity and human development. All throughout our campus there are examples of this commitment though initiatives such as the recent creation of our Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, among many others. With this responsibility in mind, our undergraduate admission process is committed to focus more on diversity and inclusion of all populations by reducing or eliminating advantages that have been inherent in certain aspects of the admission process. The goal is to provide a more equitable, level playing field where all segments of our applicant population have the same opportunity in the admission process.

We do not consider demonstrated interest in our admission paradigm. Demonstrated interest is a term used in undergraduate admission that describes the ways in which a prospective student shows a college that they’re interested by visiting campus and submitting additional materials that aren’t required in the application. As a result, we do not consider a campus visit or communication with the Office of Admission or other members of the Carnegie Mellon community when making admission decisions. 

We do not accept supplementary submission of materials, including resumes, research abstracts, writing samples, multimedia demonstrations of talents, and maker portfolios for the following reasons:

Applicants have space on the Common Application to list accomplishments and involvement for the admission committee’s consideration - we encourage students to use this space to share the extracurricular facets of their high school experience. We do not offer alumni interviews in advance of admission decisions and have refocused alumni efforts to connect with admitted candidates instead. Our on-campus sessions are not evaluative but rather are counseling sessions to help students align their interests with our programs. We changed our long application essay to a series of short essays to better understand student context, unique talents and interests as well as special considerations candidates would like to bring to our attention.

Yet even with these changes, there's more work needed on our part to achieve a more inclusive process. Issues surrounding standardized testing, for example, are complex in a research university like ours, and while we’ve lessened our SAT subject test requirements, we’re hoping there is more we can do. All told, we're working hard to move our process in a more inclusive direction.

Our efforts to support access and inclusion extend to our waiting list process as well. Like many other institutions, we are inundated with demonstrations of continued interest and additional recommendations, mostly from well-resourced or well-advised applicants. Though we don't request any of these demonstrations, students write letters of continued interest, send us more recommendations, send projects, visit our campus to make their case in person and also have anyone with any perceived influence make phone calls to advocate for them. Our waiting list process is designed to give everyone who is interested in remaining on our waiting list the opportunity to respond about their uniqueness by sending us a paragraph at the appropriate time, only when we know there are additional places to fill. No letters of continued interest, extra recommendations, expectation of campus visits, lobbying efforts … nothing but a paragraph. Information about the paragraph is included in the information made available to all students offered a place on our waiting list when admission decisions are rendered in March. We don't provide the exact topic in advance since we want to avoid having students work on it needlessly in the event we don't end up admitting candidates from our waiting list.

We’re learning that the journey to a more inclusive and equitable process that eliminates unfair advantage to some is certainly not always convenient or easy. It’s uphill work … but work worth doing. In honesty, we’re learning it may take several trials before ultimate success. We believe these are important steps to move our process forward to eliminate unfair advantage and make it more inclusive and equitable for all.