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Last updated April 29, 2024

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How to Use the Carnegie Mellon Common Data Set

Key Takeaway

CMU admissions officers consider factors like high school record, academic GPA, essays, extracurricular activities, and more. A high GPA is critical for admission, especially for popular majors like Engineering and Computer Science. The admissions process is holistic but doesn't track demonstrated interest.


The Carnegie Mellon University Common Data Set is a great source of information that can offer useful hints for your application process. This data provides valuable insights into what Carnegie Mellon admissions officers are seeking from applicants, which enables you to better showcase your strengths in your application.

Excited to find out more? Let's get started.

How Carnegie Mellon Evaluates Applicants — based on CDS data

When looking at your application, Carnegie Mellon's admissions officers consider a variety of factors. They value the quality of your high school record, class rank, and academic GPA. Other important factors include your application essay, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, character and personal qualities, and even your work experience. This is a multi-stage review process that involves both an academic and a holistic review and emphasizes the value of a well-rounded application.

  Very important Important Considered Not considered
Rigor of Secondary Record X      
Class rank X      
Academic GPA X      
Standardized test scores     X  
Application Essay   X    
Recommendation(s)   X    
Interview       X
Extracurricular activities X      
Talent/ability   X    
Character/personal qualities X      
First generation   X    
Alumni/ae relation       X
Geographical residence     X  
State residency       X
Religious affiliation/commitment       X
Racial/ethnic status   X    
Volunteer work X      
Work experience     X  
Demonstrated interest       X

Does Carnegie Mellon track demonstrated interest?

No, Carnegie Mellon doesn't track demonstrated interest in their admissions process. They don't keep tabs on whether you opened their emails or attended any events. So, your attention should be mainly on other important elements of your application. Unlike schools that do track demonstrated interest, you don’t need to worry about showing interest in Carnegie Mellon.

Does Carnegie Mellon care about standardized test scores?

Carnegie Mellon does consider standardized test scores, but they're not the most vital part of your application. However, since around 50.5% of applicants submit SAT scores and 19.7% submit ACT scores, it might be a good idea to include yours if they are at the middle to upper end of the middle 50%. (The SAT middle 50% is 1500-1560, and the ACT middle 50% is 34-35.)

Does Carnegie Mellon care about essays?

Absolutely, essays are an important part of Carnegie Mellon's application review process. As you can see in the chart above, CMU marks them as “important.” Your essays give the admissions officers a deeper insight into your strengths, personality traits, and unique qualities, which helps them gauge your potential fit. Your essays are your opportunity to create a unique "thesis" about who you are. Once you have that thesis, align all components of your application around it to a cohesive narrative that will resonate with CMU admissions officers.

What GPA do I need to get into Carnegie Mellon?

The data shows that a high GPA is critical for getting into Carnegie Mellon. Take a look at the GPA data for enrolled students:

GPA % of Enrolled Students
4.0 49.7%
3.75-3.99 39.4%
3.50-3.74 8.5%
3.25-3.49 2%
3.00-3.24 0.4%
2.50-2.99 0.1%
Below 2.50 0%

Almost every enrolled student was in the top half of their high school graduating class, with 90.1% in the top tenth. As a rule of thumb, a high GPA, close to perfection, is usually expected.

Carnegie Mellon Acceptance Rate

Carnegie Mellon received 34,261 applications and admitted 3,873 students, leading to an acceptance rate of around 11.3%. While it's not among the lowest acceptance rates, that’s pretty low. Out of the admitted students, 1,716 chose to enroll.

Carnegie Mellon Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Carnegie Mellon offers a binding Early Decision agreement. Applying ED can slightly boost your chances of admission: of the 4,528 Early Decision applicants, Carnegie Mellon accepted 567. That's a 12.52% acceptance rate, which is modestly higher than the Regular Decision rate. Just remember that there's a whole strategy to applying Early Decision that you should consider carefully, especially when the ED boost you might get at CMU is less than that at other universities.

Most popular majors at Carnegie Mellon

The CDS doesn't explicitly list majors, but we can infer the most popular ones by looking at the percentage of degrees conferred in each field. As seen in the chart below, the most popular majors at Carnegie Mellon are in Engineering, followed by Computer and Information Sciences, and Mathematics and Statistics.

Major Percent of Degrees Conferred
Engineering 21
Computer and information sciences 16.1
Mathematics and statistics 12.2
Interdisciplinary studies 9.7
Business/marketing 9.6
Visual and performing arts 8.6
Physical sciences 6
Biological/life sciences 4.6
Social sciences 4.1
Architecture 2.7

This information can help you assess if Carnegie Mellon aligns with your academic interests. We can clearly see that CMU is big on engineering and computer sciences. You can use this information to evaluate the competitiveness of your preferred major. Students interested in less popular majors (like Social Sciences or Architecture) might find unique opportunities to stand out, while those interested in Engineering or Computer Sciences should brace for more competition.

What should you do with all this information?

Given Carnegie Mellon's acceptance rate of roughly 11.3%, it's important to submit a well-rounded and flawless application. Since CMU highly values your high school record, class rank, and academic GPA, you should excel academically if you want to be a competitive applicant.

Think about the popularity of your chosen major and use it to fine-tune your application strategy. Your essays, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities can make a big difference along the way.

Have what it takes to be part of the Tartan community? Take this information and create an application that stands out!

Don't forget to check out the Data Room to see more Common Data Set data and compare admissions criteria between schools.

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