Carnegie Mellon University
BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Straight
High School Experience: Public school in Northern Virginia with a graduating class of about 750 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Information Systems
Minors: Computer Science and Business Administration
Extracurricular Activities: I’m on a dance team called Sahara and [have a leadership position]. It’s an Indian cultural dance team.
What impact has the dance team had on your experience?
It gives me something to look forward to and makes it so I’m not just doing work day in and day out. It adds a little bit more life to the college experience. Also, we sometimes travel for competitions so it gives me a support system.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
Over the past few semesters, it’s been more labs and projects. My major is really open so we can choose other classes to take. For the Business Administration minor and the Computer Science minor, there is always a weekly assignment. For Information Systems, we have a project due every three weeks right now.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
It’s great because the major’s really open to whatever you want to do. You can choose if you’re more interested in the business side or the computer science side. The downside is for some students, including me, it makes it harder to figure out what we want to do.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s fairly collaborative, but it depends on what classes you’re taking. If you’re taking business classes, then it’s more collaborative. But, all the Computer Science classes are more focused on the individual in the classes I’ve taken. I work by myself but I don’t feel like I’m competing with others.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re fairly accessible. You can always reach out to them for help over email or for office hours.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’ve always been interested in computer science, but I knew that I’m more interested in the business side and want to go into consulting after school. I feel like my major is the perfect choice for that, so I’m very happy with my choice.
How was transitioning as a first-generation college student? Were there any systems in place to help you adapt?
The only system I had for myself was the dance team. That helped because they gave me a fair warning about what to expect and if I needed any help they were always there. Especially because I had some people on the dance team who were in the same major and had taken some of the same classes, so they were able to sit down with me and help me out. I also do the same thing now with some of the freshmen who came in.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman year: Morewood Gardens with one roommate
Sophomore year: I live in an off-campus apartment with two other people.
How was transitioning from Northern Virginia to Pittsburgh, PA?
The weather became terrible. But, except for that, it wasn’t that bad.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’m well aware that there have been some incidents happening around Pittsburgh, but I personally haven’t experienced any of that and I still feel completely safe.
Pros and cons of being located in Pittsburgh, PA?
Pros: 1) Pittsburgh is a growing hub for companies. That allows students more opportunity for internships and jobs.
2) There are quite a few things to do, so it’s not always that boring.
Cons: 1) For me personally, I’m farther away from my friends from home who went to state schools.
2) The weather. The weather is unpredictable and is always really gloomy. If CMU would be in a warmer and sunny spot, I think people would be happier when they do work. There are only two or three weeks at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year where we have good weather.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I tend to go to a friend’s house and hang out there. Maybe I’ll go to a few bars and frats from time to time. It depends on the weekend. I’ll go out on Friday and Saturday night and, if I go to bars, I go to Wine Wednesdays or Thursdays. It all depends on how much work people have and how many people are free the next day. If we don’t have a lot of time, we don’t tend to plan stuff.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
A lot of people, mostly freshmen, tend to go toward that nightlife at first and it’s a hub for the first semester. But, slowly people divert away from it. At least in the circle that I’m in, Greek life isn’t that big. We’re just not that into that scene anymore and our freshman dorms are right next to the frat houses so they can easily go over there. [About 18% of undergraduates are involved in Greek life.]
What is an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
CMU usually hosts movie nights and whatnot. You can always explore downtown and there are quite a few things to do downtown. Like, in the winter the ice rink is open so you can go there, and there are some sightseeing points to go to. Except for those, I wouldn’t say there are that many things to do here.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Carnegie Mellon? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I wish there were more options for people under 21. Bars are pretty popular and, as you get older, you realize how much more there is to do than staying around CMU.
How did you meet your closest friends?
They were in my dorm last year and through Sahara.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
There are quite a few different social scenes. There are the people who continuously work, but you don’t see them much on campus because they just go back to their room, so that eliminates you seeing those people. There are quite a few people in Greek life who are very sociable but I personally don’t see them out very much either. For us, the dancers specifically, our schedules tend to be different because of practice so we’re always up late in some of the buildings while nobody else is there, so the people who are also in those buildings that late dancing is who we generally interact with.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientation mix socially?
I feel like that can be a pretty big divide here. There are people who could care less about it, and the people who understand but don’t click with people of other races that much, and then there are the people who are very much about their community and fully into it. The people who don’t care that much mix and the people who are really into their community don’t mix that much. For the most part, most of my friends are South Asian.
How would you describe the South Asian community? How strong is it?
There are a few different types of South Asians. There are the people who are on dance teams and talk to everybody else on dance teams and there are a few South Asian circles that are very prevalent and everybody knows and interacts with each other. There are also some who float around in Greek life. For the most part, a large population of them heavily revolve around each other.
How would you describe the student body?
It’s pretty diverse and a lot of people mix. I’m looking into a lab and see people lots of people of different ethnicities right now. [About 22% of students are international, about 29% are Asian, and about 25% are White.]
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
Unless you bonded with somebody before they join Greek life you would still be close with them. But, if someone were to enter Greek life I think their life starts to revolve around Greek life more and it’d be iffier if you are going to get close with them or not.
How do you like the size of Carnegie Mellon in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that influenced your experience? [There are about 6,400 undergraduates.]
It certainly brings a lot of people closer together. If the student body were bigger, I don’t think I would be as close to the people I am now. It’s a con too because you see the same people everywhere and it’s rare to meet new people. Because it is small, people tend to group off and do their own thing. Some of my friends have been going out to the University of Pittsburgh and trying to get to know people there, so there are ways around that.
Has the alumni network helps you find internships or jobs?
Not really. I haven’t taken full advantage of that yet.
To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful have they been?
I used the career office for editing my resume and cover letter. I sent it over to make sure everything looks good. I went to them last year and wanted to get a jump start on applying for internships and knew there were ways to get on it, but my career adviser wasn’t on top of her game and she did not know what to do.
What computer programs have you learned through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
Ruby, Python, and C are the main ones I learned here. I learned Sequel in high school but we have also touched on that here.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Carnegie Mellon before entering as a freshman?
All the professors really care about the students but it doesn’t seem like the administration does. There is not much funding for my dance team and a friend of mine tried to switch over to the Information Systems major but was told he couldn’t because there weren’t enough resources.
What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The biggest thing is meeting with some of the professors and sitting in on a class. It’s worth your while, even if you don’t understand it well. You’ll sit in and realize that what you’re learning is very applicable to real life. I’m taking a class called Application Design and Development which is what a lot of startups are focusing on now.
Reasons to attend Carnegie Mellon:
1) The strong education.
2) Opportunities for employment. A lot of companies reach out to CMU and it’s very well known. [In the Class of 2018, only 6% were seeking employment when surveyed.]
3) The dance teams and other student organizations are well known, so you’ll already know about them before you have the option to join them.
Reasons to not attend Carnegie Mellon:
1) Price. [Total fees for the 2019-2020 year are $74,491.]
2) Weather is a downside.
3) If you’re looking for a lively and more sociable community, this is not the place to go. This will not provide the stereotypical full college experience.