There are activities going on on campus all the time, from guest lectures to concerts to plays to competitions. CMU gives lots of money to student organizations, so there are a lot of groups that thrive on campus. For instance, student activies board puts on $1 films in the student center on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, many of which are recent releases. Sports are present but they aren't emphasized on campus. If you want to work out CMU has two weight rooms, a few gyms, a huge swimming pool, fields, and a series of raquetball courts. Favorite pasttimes in good weather are frisbee or cricket on the cut. Most people study on weeknights, but you can also go to club meetings, practices, or lectures. On weekends there are people who study at the library whenever it's open, but others will go hang out at a fraternity or go shopping or out to dinner off campus. Computer clusters are popular places on both weekdays and weekends for people who like to program.
So this is where CMU sucks. Doing all your work and having a social life is tough. Usually, you have too much work to do anything else. If you want to be an A student, you will be doing more work than fun. You will see nerds in the computer clusters, and you will see the drama/theater majors outside dancing or singing somewhere random. Since I joined a fraternity, it has been pretty easy meeting fun and easy going people. If you have the time, I would definitely consider going greek if you want to take your social life to the next level at CMU. Do not get me wrong, it is still possible to have a great social life w.o being greek but it will be harder for those of you who have lots of work. In summary, I actually like CMU a lot and I would not change my choice. Also, the closest bar, Phi bar, started scanning ids so the population of students with fake ids is pretty unhappy at the moment.
CMU has athletics but in all honesty there are about equal numbers of players on the field as there are fans. There is one thing that CMU has that no other college can offer-BUGGY! It sounds a little crazy to the uninitiated but once you get involved you can have a great time. Buggy is part of Spring Carnival and involves teams gathered from fraternities, sororities, and independent organizations. Teams build a buggy, and participate in a race-sort of like a soapbox derby where you have to push it up the hill too. Teams practice and prepare all year for the race and those 4am build sessions are insane, exhausting, exhilarating, often silly and something that you'll remember forever(unless those paint fumes get to you).
There are large number of academic-oriented clubs and organizations in CMU, such as the Robotics club. There are also large numbers of guest speakers and seminars weekly in the many different departments of CMU. CMU is not however, that big of a party school. Fraternities do not seem to be as important or predominant compared to other universities. There is a very diverse student population and many people to meet, however the university could sometimes make it difficult for students in different fields to bridge outside of classes. Once again however, since CMU is in a city rather than a campus in the suburbs, it is easy for students to interact outside of campus and many subcultures exist.
No one group is particularly influential or large on campus, although the performing arts are somewhat prevalent. The non-major theater company (Scotch 'n' Soda), various a capella groups (Soundbytes, Counterpoint, etc.), and dance groups (Chak De, Dancer's Symposium) are a common interest among the student body. Video games are universally played, if not particularly organized. Fraternities and sororities have grown exponentially in the last few years, and are a strong pillar of the school's social life, though not required to have fun. CMU is a geeky school, and its greek organizations are very different from those at any other university.
So this is where CMU sucks. the social life is tough. usually, you have too much work to do anything else. If you want to be an A student, you will be doing more work than fun. I joined a fraternity because it was too difficult to find students like me around campus. You will see your nerds and you will see the drama majors that are probably high dancing or singing somewhere random. Since I joined a fraternity it has not been so bad tho, I actually like CMU a lot and I would not change my choice. Also, the closest bar, Phi bar, started scanning ids so the population of students with fake ids is sad.
If you don't know what Carnival is, then you don't know Carnegie Mellon University. Every April, CMU students literally construct a carnival from the ground up for a four day holiday. Complete with carnival rides, student-made booths, Buggy races, frat socials, free music concerts, etc., Carnival is the weekend that CMU students live for. Carnival stretches from Thursday until Sunday with back-to-back-to-back activities. It is the time that students get to show their true colors and sport their neon hats and rainbow sunglasses while they chill in the sun with friends.
You don't have to join greek life to have a social life, but it's always there as an option. There's a club on campus for almost anything and they actually mean it when they say you can start one if you don't find one you like. Every weekend there are $1 movies playing in one of the auditoriums which is great. Really it's all about finding a group of people who are into doing the same type of things for fun that you are, and that can be anything from playing laser tag through the dorms or party hopping or having a soccer tournament.
There is always a lot going on on campus on weekends. One social highlight is the annual evening football game in the fall. With Pittsburgh there is plenty to do that doesn't involve booze, museums, concerts, etc. But if you want parties, you can usually find somewhere to go. The hook up culture is definitely prevalent. Dating, not so much, probably because people don't think they have time for it.
If you are awake at 2 am on a tuesday you are either doing laundry, studying, working on a project, or hanging out with people in an attempt to have a social life. One of the best things of the year is Carnival. We get a 4 day weekend, party, have events, free food, and just get to relax a little but. A lot of social people are in frats or sororities, but you don't have to be in one to be social.