Carnegie Mellon University is one of the nation’s foremost science and technology research centers. It is the result of the 1967 merging of the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research and the Carnegie Institute of Technology, which was founded in 1900 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Its main campus is near downtown Pittsburgh, but it also runs over 20 degree-granting locations across the globe, including Silicon Valley, Rwanda, Singapore, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Qatar, and the UK.
In addition to a cutting-edge STEM focus, Carnegie Mellon is home to thriving fine arts and humanities programs. The College of Fine Arts (CFA) has educated leading artists, architects, designers, and musicians ever since its founding in 1905.
Some of these people include Oscar-winning actress Holly Hunter, Boston Pops Orchestra conductor Keith Lockhart, and Tony Award winner Josh Groban.
CFA also offers interdisciplinary degrees in conjunction with the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Mellon College of Science, and the School of Computer Science.
With such an impressive reputation and well-rounded roster of achievements, it’s easy to think of Carnegie Mellon as an Ivy League school. In this article, we’ll tackle this question and discuss the school’s ranking, acceptance rate, requirements, and more.
You’ll learn what it’s like to attend college here and ultimately determine whether it’s the right school for you, as well as whether Carnegie Mellon is an Ivy League school.
Is Carnegie Mellon an Ivy League School?
Carnegie Mellon is not an Ivy League school. The Ivies consist of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania.
The Ivy League schools are known for their stellar academics, low acceptance rates, and social prestige. Students gain a world-class education from world-class faculty and often go on to achieve high-profile success. The Ivies are also known for their athletics, as the name “Ivy League” originally referred to the athletic conference they formed in 1954.
Like the Ivy League universities, Carnegie Mellon is known for its highly coveted academic programs, faculty, and athletics. It is also a private research university in the northeastern region of the country, and its alumni have achieved renown in the scientific, artistic, and athletic spheres of society.
Carnegie Mellon alumni and faculty have won 20 Nobel Prizes, 13 Turing Awards, and dozens more Emmys, Oscars, and Tonys.
Some of the most famous names from Carnegie Mellon are pop artist Andy Warhol, Grammy-winning composer Henry Mancini, Nobel Prize-winning economist John Forbes Nash, billionaire investor David Tepper, author Kurt Vonnegut, and NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell.
The only other schools affiliated with such recognizable names are the Ivy Leagues. Their influence is felt across the nation and the world. Therefore, it’s understandable for Carnegie Mellon to be lumped in with the world’s most elite universities.
Why Is Carnegie Mellon Often Confused As an Ivy League School?
Carnegie Mellon is often confused as an Ivy League school because of its comparable reputation. Its acceptance rate is only slightly higher than Cornell’s, which puts these schools in a similar league even if Carnegie Mellon doesn’t officially bear the Ivy name.
Schools don’t have to be in the Ivy League to have selective admissions or competitive academics. MIT, Stanford, Caltech, Duke, University of Chicago, and Georgetown also lack Ivy status but offer the same academic rigor that you would expect from an Ivy League.
Carnegie Mellon, like the Ivy League, is on the cutting edge of scientific research. What distinguishes CMU, however, is its multidisciplinary approach to education.
Many of its programs cannot be contained within a single department, school, or college. They allow students to learn across the sciences, arts, and humanities for a more well-rounded education.
As a result, CMU has spearheaded fields such as computational finance, information systems, cognitive science, arts management, product design, behavioral economics, entertainment technology, and more.
Compared to the Ivies, which were all founded before the twentieth century, CMU is young. The recent boom in highly qualified college applicants led Newsweek to name CMU as one of 25 “New Ivies,” schools that “provide great academics and first-rate faculties.”
Carnegie Mellon University: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More
Carnegie Mellon ranks #26 on the U.S. News National Universities list and even better in specific subject areas. In these subjects areas, it is the top school for computer engineering, management information systems, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and software engineering.
Other areas of note include biotechnology, business analytics, and electrical engineering. CMU is particularly good for veterans and undergraduate research.
Niche.com, which bases its rankings on information from the U.S. Department of Education and student/alumni reviews, echoes these accolades, putting CMU at #22 overall. In the fields of information technology, design, computer science, math, and performing arts, CMU ranks even higher.
On the other hand, Washington Monthly — the publication that ranks schools based on “their contribution to the public good” — puts Carnegie Mellon at #79 overall. The discrepancy between these rankings shows how prioritizing different metrics can yield varying results, so we should interpret these rankings as suggestions rather than facts.
However, the message is clear. Carnegie Mellon is a highly competitive school, particularly for STEM and performing arts. No wonder its acceptance rate hovers at a mere 15%.
The university enrolls nearly 15,000 students, with the number of undergraduates and postgraduates split down the middle.
Out of the six undergraduate-admitting colleges, the College of Engineering enrolls the most students.
The acceptance rate for each of these colleges, except for the School of Computer Science, is actually above 20%.
The 7% acceptance rate at the SCS, as well as other highly competitive programs within CMU, brings the overall rate down.
How to Get Into Carnegie Mellon University
Because of CMU’s low acceptance rate, it’s no easy feat to get admitted. You’ll need to stand out from a vast pool of highly qualified applicants. Here’s how you do this.
GPA and SAT/ACT scores
Different colleges at CMU have varying admissions stats, but the average GPA of admitted students is 3.84. These students must be near the top of their class and earn mostly A’s, preferably in several AP or IB classes. Taking these challenging courses, particularly in subjects you’re interested in majoring in, shows admissions officials that you’re preparing yourself for the academic rigor of college, especially at one as competitive as Carnegie Mellon. Ideally, you want to aim above 3.84 for an even better chance.
On top of that, the average SAT score is 1510: about 780 in Math and 730 in Reading and Writing. The average ACT score is 34.
If you score a little below these numbers, you may still have a good chance of admission, but you’ll need other parts of your application to compensate. Usually, this means an even higher GPA and outstanding extracurricular involvement.
Extracurriculars and Letters of Recommendation
For a school as selective as Carnegie Mellon, you need to stand out not so much through the quantity but the quality of your extracurricular activities. Admissions officials prefer candidates who excel at a few fields rather than those who are mediocre in many. Bonus points if your extracurriculars align with your academic interests.
When looking at your extracurriculars, admissions officials look for demonstrations of “leadership, motivation, passion and perseverance, community and volunteer service and other experiences when making admission decisions.” Be sure to have a good mix of all these types of activities.
For example, if you’re applying as a theater major, cite your participation in school plays and local youth acting troupes. Proven performance in related areas, like public speaking, will also bolster your application.
And finally, make sure your letter of recommendation comes from a teacher that can vouch for your passion in your chosen field. Maybe this is the drama teacher who watched you grow from a timid to a charismatic actor over the course of a school year. These recommendations are always much more powerful to read than those from teachers who simply gave you an “A” in one of their classes.
Recap: Carnegie Mellon Is Not an Ivy League University. However, It Is One of the Best Universities in the Nation
Although Carnegie Mellon University is not one of the eight Ivy League schools, it is one of the best universities in the country. People from all around the U.S. and the world flock here to study — and teach — STEM, fine arts, and humanities. Its robust academic and research opportunities make it one of the most well-rounded institutions of higher learning, too.
Not being in the Ivy League has not prevented CMU from earning a reputation of its own. In fact, CMU leads the nation in engineering, computer science, and performing arts subjects — ahead of the Ivies.
Therefore, a school’s overall ranking should matter less to a student than the school’s performance in the subject(s) the student wants to study.
Being a leader in so many fields also makes CMU notoriously challenging to get into. Students must compile a solid application of excellent grades, top-notch standardized test scores, compelling letters of recommendation, and well-written personal statement essays. For applicants in fine arts, additional preparations include an audition or portfolio of past work.
If these stringent requirements sound like those of the Ivy League schools, that’s no coincidence. Carnegie Mellon has been dubbed one of the “New Ivies,” an elite group of newer schools that offer comparable academics to highly qualified applicants.
So if Carnegie Mellon sounds like the school for you, we urge you to apply!