CMU isn't very competitive from what I've seen. The stereotypes about working all day are somewhat true. Based on your major, you may be working constantly and many of the art/design/architecture majors pull all nighters in studio often. My major of psychology is very different so even though I may be stressed at times I still find time to relax. There aren't very many parties going on around campus, but people do join fraternities and sororities and use that as an outlet to be social and get relax from the stress of school. Drama majors are loud and CS majors mostly are quiet, but some CS majors are really really cool (they're very eclectic so not all of them are reclusive)
I think for the most part we are a school of workaholics. Everybody here is very smart and very dedicated to whatever they're studying. We are also almost always stressed out. The one thing people don't realize is you can have a pretty good social life. There are lots of parties on the weekends, a fair number of attractive girls and even though a lot of guys have no idea who Peyton Manning or Tiger Woods are, there are still a fair number of normal college guys who like to drink beer and watch sports and go to parties to meet girls.
Most CMU students study a lot, but they do not study 24/7, and people do go out and have fun in their own way, shape or form. Partying isn't extremely popular here (if you want to go to a party, you can find one, but if you don't like parties you won't be pressed to go to any). CMU does have a very good engineering program, but there are other great programs on campus too, such as the drama and computer science departments. There are other programs with great reputations as well.
These stereotypes are rather accurate, but don't let that dissuade you. Most of us know that we're nerds, smart, geeks, etc -- and it's not somethign to ashamed of at CMU...we're extremely proud to be considered among the most elite in all of academia. And yes, there is quite a workload -- "My heart is in the work" is a famous quote by Andrew Carnegie that resonnates true throughout CMU -- but at the end of the day, the amount of work is (somehow) managable
Within reason. We do study alot, but we got out too. Things are not very active socially on weekdays, but there's pretty much always a party on the weekends if you look. There's also a lot more to do in Pittsburgh than people think. You just have to look a little bit. I wouldn't say there are a lot of ugly people on campus, there just aren't a lot of gorgeous people.
Yeah, people are geeky and some are socially awkward, but if you are a social person, you will meet other social people. People are geeky in different ways. Some wear capes and play MTG, while others play video games. Some are strange and some are perfectly normal. And yeah, people are smart.
Yes, these stereotypes do fit many people here, but there are also many people who do not fit these stereotypes. It is true that people work hard here, but I think thateveryone who complains about too much work really enjoys it in the long run.
Actually, we have a lot of fun! It is just that for some people, programming a new kernel is fun. For others, drinking a lot and dancing is fun. I think for the most part, everyone is at least a little nerdy.
Sure, there are kids like that. But I've also met some of the most outgoing and interesting people with such a range of interests through both working in dorms and meeting people in classes.
Happily, yes. For those of us who enjoy company of geeks, who get nervous in drunken crowds and who want to be as unique and smart as we are without fear of ostracization, CMU is a haven.