Carnegie Mellon Engineering Essay Writing

Carnegie Mellon University has just two required supplemental essays, one long and one short. You’ll also find two optional prompts that allow students to explain educational interruptions and discuss their CMU admission interview, if they had one.

Prompt #1:Please submit a one page, single-spaced essay that explains why you have chosen Carnegie Mellon and your particular major(s), department(s) or program(s). This essay should include the reasons why you’ve chosen the major(s), any goals or relevant work plans and any other information you would like us to know. For freshmen applying to more than one college or program, please mention each college or program to which you are applying. Because our admission committees review applicants by college and program, your essay can impact our final decision. Candidates applying for early decision or transfer may apply to only one college and department.

Many universities have a “Why This College?” prompt, but they don’t all lay out so clearly what they want you to cover. CMU bluntly asks you to get specific about your major, department, and/or program, while also tying in these factors to your professional goals. They do this because, as the prompt points out, you’ll be evaluated in the context of your program choice, not just for general admission. That means this shouldn’t be a fluffy, “CMU has a vibrant campus, diverse student body, and an array of majors to choose from” piece of writing. Instead, get specific, not just by naming your major, but by explaining how particular components (courses, faculty, emphases, etc.) of the major fit your interests, and how these components will help you achieve your educational and professional goals. You can also mention related factors, like research, internship, and experiential learning options affiliated with your major.

Prompt #2: List the books (if any) you’ve read this year for pleasure. Choose one and in a sentence describe its impact on you.

CMU’s second required prompt asks you to list the books you’ve read this year for pleasure. I know it can be tough to fit outside reading into your life when you’re a busy high school student, but, let’s face it: avid readers often make better students, and universities want readers on their campuses. Don’t feel like you have to lie in order to impress admission officers; listing the complete works of Proust as your light summer reading won’t fool anyone. The most authentic lists I’ve seen are a mix of high-brow and low-brow—think a Pulitzer Prize winner or a historical biography juxtaposed with a young adult novel or a dragon-centric fantasy epic. You’re also asked to choose one of these books and write a sentence describing its impact on you. I’d go with whichever most deeply affected you, and be sure to stick to the single-sentence limit.

Finally, CMU has two optional essays which serve two very different purposes.

Optional Prompt #1: If there was an interruption during your secondary school or collegiate experience or between your secondary school and collegiate experience (gap year(s)) when you were not enrolled and as a result, not making normal academic progress, please explain the reason for the interruption.

This is straightforward and should only be answered by applicants who have taken a gap year or who took time off in the midst of their high school education, perhaps due to illness or other challenging situations.

Optional Prompt #2: While not a requirement, have you been interviewed by an alumni or on campus representative prior to applying for admission? If so, indicate the name of your interviewer and tell us how it impacted your decision to apply.

The final optional prompt should only be answered by applicants who interviewed for admission to CMU. If you did, I hope you took notes! This is your chance to talk about your fit for CMU on a personal level, based on the information you received from your interviewer. That could be in the academic sense (“I learned that being an English major won’t limit my ability to fulfill pre-med requirements and do scientific research.”) or a more personal sense (“The alumna and I connected so easily, and she spoke so passionately about her time at CMU, that I left the interview convinced it is where I want to spend the next four years of my life.”).

Best of luck on your CMU application! Just think, the sooner you get it submitted, the sooner you can get back to all that Proust you’ve been meaning to read.

 

Carnegie Mellon Essay Prompts

 

Please submit a one page, single-spaced essay that explains why you have chosen Carnegie Mellon and your particular major(s), department(s) or program(s). This essay should include the reasons why you’ve chosen the major(s), any goals or relevant work plans and any other information you would like us to know. For freshmen applying to more than one college or program, please mention each college or program to which you are applying. Because our admissions committees review applicants by college and program, your essay can impact our final decision. Candidates applying for early decision or transfer may apply to only one college and department.

 

This prompt is essentially asking you to write a “Why X?” essay for Carnegie Mellon. Because so many students apply to CMU, the admissions officers are interested in accepting only the students who are genuinely interested in attending. Therefore, you should do some research to find specific examples of resources you would like to take advantage of as a potential CMU student.

 

For some, this might mean going online to read more about CMU’s Fine Arts resources; for others, you might want to ask your close friend who attends the university about the engineering facilities. Either way, the goal is to have some details at hand for when you go to write your essay.

 

When you actually answer this question, your best bet is to cover three topics:

 

  1. What you are interested in studying and why?
  2. What relevant past experiences do you have related to this field?
  3. Why CMU specifically?

 

If you can answer all three questions in a smooth manner, then you will have an effective essay. 

 





 

List the books (if any) you’ve read this year for pleasure. Choose one and in a sentence describe its impact on you.

 

There’s no “trick” to this question — the adcoms literally just want to know what books you’ve read this past year. You should have some books to list, but be as truthful as possible. If you are unsure which book you want to choose to describe in one sentence, then ask yourself, “Is there anything I want to tell the admissions officers about myself that I haven’t already?”

 

If you have a clear answer to this question, then you can strategically choose a book that will allow you to convey that message when you describe its impact on you. For example, if you haven’t yet told the adcoms about your deep love of philosophy — specifically, when it comes to morality — then you might accordingly choose Justice by Michael J. Sandel, and describe how the book allowed you to examine various case studies and develop a new perspective on what morality really is.

 

If there was an interruption during your secondary school or collegiate experience or between your secondary school and collegiate experience (gap year)) when you were not enrolled and as a result not making normal academic progress, please explain the reason for the interruption.

 

The majority of students will not have to answer this question; however, if you are a student who fits the description above, then your best bet is to honestly describe what occurred. If you feel that your reliability or character is called into question when you only objectively describe the situation, then succinctly explain yourself at the end of your description and — if appropriate — express that things will be different in the future.

 

For students whose interruptions were due to taking a gap year (or something similar), then describe your experience and explain its impact on you briefly. For example, maybe you volunteered in Africa for 6 months and now you are a more mature individual. Finally, if you took time off due to a family occurrence or illness, then — once again — explain the situation and leave it at that.

 

While not a requirement, have you been interviewed by an alumni or on campus representative prior to applying for admission? If so, indicate the name of your interviewer and tell us how it impacted your decision to apply.

 

This question is pretty straightforward. If you did not get interviewed before applying to CMU, don’t answer it. If you did receive an interview, then hopefully you remembered to record your interviewer’s name.

 

When describing how it impacted your decision to apply, it’s best to recall specific details from your conversation — for example, maybe you and your interviewer share a love of Quidditch, and your interviewer mentioned to you that Carnegie Mellon has a strong Quidditch team. Mentioning small yet specific details about either the university or your interviewer’s experience with CMU will go a long away in showing that you were impacted by your interview.

 

With these tips, you should be well on your way to writing the perfect CMU supplement. Best of luck from the CollegeVine team!

 

For more help, feel free to reach out to work 1-on-1 with one of CollegeVine’s trained essay specialists.

 





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