What It's Like To Study Computer Science At CMU | Juni Learning

Posted on March 16, 2019
CMU campus - Credit: https://www.cmu.edu/assets/images/site/meta-image-cmu.jpg

What It's Like To Study Computer Science At CMU

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), a private university in the heart of Pittsburgh, is home to one of the first computer science schools in the world. Consistently ranking among the top computer science programs globally, Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science (SCS) prides itself on being a center of collaborative innovation and creativity. From creating the first smiley emoticon to developing Java, CMU has influenced computer science in far-reaching and unconventional ways.

Admissions Requirements for Carnegie Mellon

You can apply to CMU through the Common Application, an online application which allows high schoolers to apply to many universities using the same application. To specifically study Computer Science at CMU, you must apply directly to the School of Computer Science. SCS has additional application requirements, including two STEM-related SAT Subject Test scores. The SCS admissions department values the applicant's work ethic and determination and passion for computer science. Previous experience in programming similar to Juni Learning's courses are beneficial, signaling to the admissions team that you have already started to explore various topics in computer science.

Programs and Projects at CMU's SCS

Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science is divided into seven departments, each offering many minors and majors, including Bachelor of Science degrees in Computer Science, Computational Biology, and Artificial Intelligence (the first currently offered by any university). The SCS also requires students to pursue a minor in alternate fields ranging from the Humanities and Arts to Math and Engineering, allowing students an opportunity to study subjects outside of their primary field. There are also ample opportunities to pursue an additional major, for example, in Robotics or Machine Learning.

What makes Carnegie Mellon stand out amongst other universities is its focus on research and hands-on experience. Each department in SCS has a number of research labs, providing students with a chance to get involved with research in a variety of fields. As an undergraduate student, I have worked on cutting-edge projects in the Robotics Institute with leaders in robotics research and education. This has given me the invaluable experience of applying concepts I have learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios. This emphasis on research also fosters a thriving startup spirit, encouraging students to make a significant impacts on the research community and beyond.

CMU's Computer Science Classes

All majors have a number of core classes and electives that students must take to graduate. The core classes are well-known; in fact, many recruiters from technology companies are familiar with them during the recruiting process. The electives give students a chance to explore the different facets of computer science, as well as gain experience in completely different fields. Many computer science courses promote active learning and aim to teach key concepts by having students apply them in their projects.

For example, Cognitive Robotics, taught by Dr. Dave Touretzky, explores concepts in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Computer Vision using Cozmo robots made by Anki. With its small class size and highly invested professor, it quickly became one of my favorite classes because of its emphasis on collaboration and creative solutions.

Robots from the lab of Maxim Likhachev, Associate Professor at the Robotics Institute at CMU - Credit: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~maxim/
Robots from the lab of Maxim Likhachev, Associate Professor at the Robotics Institute at CMU

Resources and How to Be Successful

Carnegie Mellon boasts a phenomenal computer science program, but this also means studying computer science here is a lot of work. Finding a group of friends that you enjoy spending time with and making friends in your classes, I believe, contributes heavily to success at CMU. Building a support network in college is also important. This support network extends to teaching assistants and institutions, like Academic Development, which provide students with support, guidance, and assistance with their education. Additional resources, like office hours and extra problem solving sessions, are available for students to clarify misunderstandings and reinforce concepts directly with professors and teaching assistants. However, students have to be proactive and take initiative to utilize these opportunities.

Campus life at CMU

Carnegie Mellon as a whole, and the School of Computer Science in particular, have a number of traditions that are integral to campus life. A prominent one is called The Fence: a structure in the middle of campus that students have been painting for close to a century. It serves as a center of expression to convey messages to the entire student body, and there are very strict rules about how and when it can be painted. The School of Computer Science also hosts an annual SCS Day where students come together to socialize, watch, participate in a talent show. It's always wonderful to see peers show off their varied talents, and it's a reminder that these talented and hardworking computer science students lead colorful, well-rounded lives.

Being in Pittsburgh gives students a unique opportunity to experience both a college town and a big city. In the areas surrounding CMU, there are many places to enjoy good food, and everything is easily accessible by foot or bus. Market Square in Downtown Pittsburgh is a short bus ride away, and it regularly hosts events that students can attend, such as a Christmas Market, an ice skating rink, and numerous food festivals. CMU students also get access to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, a collection of museums ranging from a science center to a museum for natural history scattered across Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh, PA is home to CMU - Credit: https://tdr.aaa.com/tdr-images/preview/223940?ratio=4:3&rwidth=800
Pittsburgh, PA is home to CMU.

CMU Computer Science Postgraduate Programs

The School of Computer Science is regarded as one of the best places in the world to get a graduate degree in computer science. SCS offers a wide range of professional and academic Master's programs, a number of Ph.D. programs, and several interdisciplinary tracks. Admissions and requirements vary by program, but common to all programs is a emphasis on research and real-world applications of cutting-edge technology. SCS also offers a Fifth Year Master's Program for some tracks, which allows CMU undergraduates the opportunity to obtain a Master's degree with only one additional year of study.

Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science is a great place for computer science students to hone their skills and develop their passions into life-long careers. From interactive classes with distinguished professors to being a hub of innovative research, Carnegie Mellon has a lot to offer. Juni Learning shares CMU's focus on project-based learning, creativity, and innovation, as exemplified by the instructors at Juni Learning who are also students at Carnegie Mellon University!


Ananya Rao is studying Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and she is an instructor at Juni Learning. She is a biorobotics researcher at CMU, and she is pursuing an additional major in Robotics. She was previously a Digital Technology Intern at GE Transportation and an Assistant Teacher at the National Academy For Learning in Bengaluru, India. Ananya also enjoys dancing, building robots, and writing stories.