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  • Writer's pictureAkshay Bahadur

How I braved my profile to get to Carnegie Mellon University as a Human

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Through this blog, I want to highlight my journey into my dream college — Carnegie Mellon University. This is an account of the steps I took, failures faced, and the success I received along the way.

Background 🖼️

I did my bachelor's in Computer Science from Symbiosis Institute of Technology, Pune. Although I was a mediocre student throughout my undergrad studies, I, along with my friends, took part in many cultural events. Apart from the cultural activities, I enjoyed the core computer science subjects, including — Data Structures and Algorithms, Operating Systems, etc, and hence I continued my foray into the tech industry after my tenure at the undergrad college.

Cultural Fest @ SIT, 2014
Cultural Fest @ SIT, 2014

Carnegie Mellon University 🎓

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, CMU is a world-renowned institution that offers a range of programs in science, engineering, business, and computer science. I was particularly drawn to CMU because of its reputation for innovation and a strong emphasis on hands-on learning and practical applications of knowledge in the Artificial Intelligence domain. I did some fact check about CMU, and here's what I found out.

  • ALVINN: The first self-sufficient and truly autonomous car was developed at Carnegie Mellon University's Navlab in the 1980s.

  • Professor Tom Michelle: the Father of Modern Machine Learning, is one of the faculty members at the university.

  • Turing Award Winners: CMU has produced 13 Turing Award Winners in the last five decades.

  • Startups: CMU has churned out a total of 375 startups that have raised $7.18 billion, making CMU the 19th most successful startup-producing college in the world.

  • Duolingo: The project was initiated at the end of 2009 by CMU professor Luis von Ahn and his post-graduate student Severin Hacker (inventor of the captcha).

CMU (source: Pittsburgh Business Times)
CMU (source: Pittsburgh Business Times)

Motivation 🔥

As a student who has always been fascinated by technology and innovation, I have always dreamt of studying at a prestigious university. While researching different areas of Machine Learning, I often came across papers and implementations by CMU professors. For instance, there will not be a single ML student who doesn't know professor Tom Mitchell from CMU. His definition of Machine learning is widely cited and is considered a seminal contribution to the field.

“A computer program is said to learn from experience E with respect to some class of tasks T and performance measure P, if its performance on tasks in T, as measured by P, improves with experience E.”

Looking at the facts above, I understood that getting into CMU would require a lot of work and effort. With an acceptance rate of less than 12%, CMU is one of the most selective universities in the United States. The competition was fierce, and I knew that I had to work hard and make the most of every opportunity if I wanted to have a chance of being accepted.


Preparation 🏃‍♂️

Getting into a master's program in the US is relatively more demanding because apart from the entrance examination score, the admission committee analyzes your entire profile before making a decision. Since I was a mediocre student and my undergrad college needed to be better renowned in the research community, these two aspects of my profile were not the strongest.

Therefore, I planned to focus on the following characteristics of my profile:

  • Entrance Examination Scores: I gave my GRE in 2016, and the scores were valid for five years. I did decently on my GRE scores and went ahead with the score I received on my first attempt.

  • Research Work: Luckily, around this time, the resources for machine learning were available freely on the internet. I decided to take introductory machine learning courses available on the internet to enhance my ML knowledge. With new ML insights, I started my research journey in this field and have been fortunate enough to share my research work at numerous conferences, meetups, and research labs.

  • Opensource Contribution: While participating in the massive open online courses (MOOCs), I began working on mini-projects that could solidify my ML learning and enrich my knowledge. Through this process, I have contributed to open-source projects by Google, NVIDIA, and Intel.

Snippets from ML events
Snippets from ML events

Application Process 📌

The application process is arduous and cumbersome. The application for each college requires:

  • Online College Application: The online application is a digital form you fill out and submit electronically to apply for a college or university program.

  • GRE/IELTS Report: GRE and IELTS are standardized tests used to assess the readiness and abilities of individuals seeking admission to universities in the United States or other English-speaking countries.

  • Statement of Purpose: A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a document that provides information about your academic and professional background, your motivation for pursuing a particular course of study, and your future goals.

  • Letter of Recommendation: A Letter of Recommendation (LOR) is a document written by someone who knows you well and can vouch for your skills, abilities, and character. It provides an opportunity for someone who knows you to evaluate and endorse your abilities and potential.

  • Online Interviews (in some universities)

And even before that, I needed to select the colleges based on my profile. I took help from a career counselor who helped me throughout the application process.

Since I submitted an online application to multiple colleges, the process got intense, and I remember spending countless hours working on my personal statement, and essays. Furthermore, all the colleges have a deadline for the process completion. This meant that I needed to work on multiple applications simultaneously. Once I submitted all the applications well before the deadline, I felt a sense of relief, accomplishment, and anticipation for what was to come.


Selection 👨‍🚀

After the application process, I had to wait for around four months before I could hear back from any of the universities. I was going through a roller coaster of emotions. On the one hand, I felt anxious and nervous, wondering if I had done everything right or would be accepted into the university. On the other hand, I felt a sense of excitement and anticipation for what was to come. Finally, the day arrived when I received my acceptance letter from CMU. I was overjoyed and felt like all my hard work had finally paid off. I couldn't believe that I had been allowed to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

👨‍🚀
👨‍🚀

Conclusion 🚀

My journey to CMU was not easy, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It taught me the importance of hard work, determination, and perseverance, and I am grateful for the opportunities that CMU has given me.

Now, I have graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, and I do reminisce about the wonderful times at the university. I have made so many amazing friends, participated in various student organizations, and have been able to delve deeper into the subjects I am passionate about. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to study at such a fantastic university, and I am grateful for the opportunities that CMU has given me.

In conclusion, my journey to CMU was a story of determination and perseverance. It taught me that with hard work and a positive attitude, anything is possible. I am grateful for the opportunities CMU has given me and am excited to see what the future holds.


@ CMU
@ CMU


Made with ❤️ and 🦙 by Akshay

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