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Carnegie Mellon University’s supplemental essays consist of three required questions. Read on below to see how our team of former admissions officers would answer these essays:

“When we‘re connected to others, we become better people,” said Carnegie Mellon University’s Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture. At Carnegie Mellon you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse community of scholars, artists and innovators. Given the students, faculty, staff and resources that have been available to you as a student, how have you collaborated with others, in or out of the classroom? Or, what lessons have you learned from working with others in the past, that might shape your experience in the future? (250 word maximum)

Think about a time when you worked with others towards an end goal. You might be tempted to write about a class project – and that would absolutely answer the question asked – but most applicants probably have a classroom group project to talk about. Instead, a group effort outside the classroom would provide admissions officers with a more unique view of who you are.

It’s important to describe the project itself, but more important are the lessons learned from the experience. What did you get out of it? What did you contribute? What was the end result? How did your efforts shape who you are and how you will approach collaborations at CMU?

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? (200 word maximum)

You’re basically answering the question: What do you want to study and why? But there’s more to it – hopefully you can think of a person or class that inspired you to choose this intended area of study. Or maybe it’s a potential profession that excites or interests you, or maybe (for engineers) it was a mathematical problem yet to be solved. For future acting students, perhaps it was your first time on stage.

Give serious thought to this answer and you’ll reveal to the CMU admissions office a lot about you.

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). (200 word maximum)

Perhaps you didn’t get a chance to elaborate very much – or at all – on one of your favorite extracurricular activities. Or maybe there is a side to you that your teachers and school counselor don’t know and thus they did not highlight in your letters of recommendation. This is definitely a time to be vulnerable (if appropriate) and immodest (if appropriate). In short, share something about yourself that will allow admissions officers to want to meet you!

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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