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How to Write the Carnegie Mellon Supplemental Essays

Updated for 2023-2024

This year, Carnegie Mellon asks students to answer three supplemental essay prompts. The first calls students to consider their goals for their college experience, the second to describe their interests and passions, and the third to highlight something that is important to them. Discover how you can answer these questions in a compelling and engaging way!

Prompt 1:

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? (300 Words)



In order to answer this question, you must first consider your ultimate academic and professional goals and work backward. Think specifically about where you hope to be in ten years, how you hope your degree will help you arrive at that destination, and finally, what you would hope to gain from your time at Carnegie Mellon in pursuit of those goals. Keep in mind that while these goals could be academic, professional, social, and personal, the language of the prompt is guiding you to think about how learning will help you to achieve them. There is a wide array of possible answers to this question, but make sure that your answer foregrounds things that are specific to Carnegie Mellon and the ways in which the university’s offerings are uniquely suited to your goals. The admissions committee wants to know what you intend for your own trajectory of growth, and as such, this prompt is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your curiosity, teachability, and motivation. Do you want to work in the nonprofit or social justice fields? Perhaps a successful college experience entails some sort of community engagement, study abroad, or charity work. Do you want to be a researcher? A successful college experience might include presenting at conferences, conducting an internship or research project with a Carnegie Mellon professor in your field, or taking part in one of Carnegie’s numerous undergraduate research opportunities.

Prompt 2:

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? (300 Words)



With this prompt, the admissions committee seeks to understand more about your academic journey and your intellectual curiosity, a quality that the university specifically looks for in applicants. Consider first your intended area of study—what initially sparked your interest? A teacher? A documentary or book? One strategy you can employ when approaching this prompt is starting your answer with a story or anecdote that connects your prior experience with your intended major. Be mindful, however, that this essay should not simply restate your personal statement—tailor your response specifically to your intellectual interests and experience. While Carnegie Mellon requires prospective students to apply to the particular school that houses their chosen discipline, the university also prides itself on its interdisciplinary approach to academics. In order to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity as well as your commitment to the school’s vision of intellectual collaboration, consider how your area of interest intersects with other disciplines or perhaps how you arrived at your major area of study through a line of inquiry in another subject area.

Prompt 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). (300 Words)



This space allows for you to share anything about yourself that you believe is important to your application, but has not been adequately conveyed in your essays, activities list or through your grades or test scores. Perhaps you’d like to elaborate on an aspect of your application that would require more context to be fully understood. Perhaps you feel as though your test scores or good grades don’t properly convey that you are a hard worker and had to overcome personal or academic challenges to achieve those grades. This is also a great opportunity to write about your passion project or involvement in an extracurricular activity that you have not yet had the chance to write about elsewhere in your application. Alternatively, you could show your diverse range of interests by discussing another passion or activity outside of the classroom that would help the admissions committee get a holistic sense of who you are. Whatever you choose to write about, be sure to use this space wisely—you shouldn’t use this space to brag about all of your amazing accomplishments, but rather, highlight a new aspect of who you are or what you devote your time to, or provide more context about something mentioned elsewhere in your application.