In general, students at CMU have a reputation for being nerdy and intelligent, and very passionate about what they do. “Cross-discipline” is another buzzword tagged to CMU: students are known for looking outside their majors and diving into other, often very different areas. The college puts an emphasis on this, and its no false advertising: I know engineers minoring in art, and computer science and creative writing double majors, and it seems that almost everyone has a major and a minor or multiple majors. This isn’t a school that puts strong emphasis on jocks or drinking. More people seem to come to the football games for the kilt-wearing pep band than for the team, and we’re not really known for our sports. As for drinking, you can find it and there are frat parties, but it’s not a notable part of the college culture or of socializing, and there’s no pressure to drink. When you meet someone, it’s not too risky to guess they’re an engineer, and if not that, a computer science major. While you can find many dedicated arts and humanities students, the college has a very techy image (which you’ll notice at the job fairs full of employers looking for programmers). There’s also a notable geeky/nerdy culture: last year home-made Lord of the Ring style cloaks popped up across campus, and if you pull out your deck, you will be surprised to realize just how many people play Magic. One of the best examples of what Carnegie Mellon students get excited about is Buggy. This “sport” is unique to CMU, and refers to an annual race in which a tiny, 5 foot tall girl, lies encapsulated in a specially made car (or “buggy”) , and is pushed relay-race-style by her teammates up a hill and then let steer the buggy down, often at speeds reaching 30mphs. Engineers, artists, runners, and anyone else crazy enough to get up before dawn on weekends join together to design, manufacture, test, decorate, and race the buggies.
The common stereotype for CMU is that all of its students are ridiculously smart; therefore all of its students are either nerds or hipsters. And to some extent, this is true. Carnegie Mellon offers highly-competitive and intensive programs in engineering, computer science, and the arts, so the majority of the students who get in are very intelligent and hardworking individuals. So, of course, there are going to be computer science nerds and hipster film students, but don't forget that Carnegie Mellon is a school! These types of students are going to exist at all schools, from Harvard to your local community college. An unique aspect about CMU, however, is that the university accepts, embraces, and even celebrates these characteristics in people. If you're a nerd at heart- be a nerd! That being said, Carnegie Mellon, perhaps better than most colleges, opens you to a world of new, unique individuals who are all different an can by no means be shoved into a stereotype. At school I've met a wide variety of students, all of them with different cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. At CMU, over 20% of the campus participates in Greek life, 14% of students are international, and we have students from almost all 50 of the United States. So in reality, a stereotype is just a stereotype, and no matter what type of student you are, I'm sure there will be a groups of students you will fit in with.
The most common stereotype of Carnegie Mellon students by far is that we are over-caffeinated, under-rested workaholics who understand how programs and machines work better than we understand people. Should you choose to go to Carnegie Mellon, you will probably meet this person, but we are not all like this. Many of us go without enough sleep and attempt to make up the difference with coffee, many of us have less than average people skills, and most of us have too much work to do, but in my experience it isn't often that I find an individual for which all of these things apply. Even when they do, the stereotype still isn't quite accurate. The reason we tend to be a bit difficult to socialize with in the "real world" is because we are all a bit off. The reason we work so hard is because of our course load, yes, but also because we set ambitious projects for ourselves that take a lot of hard work. We all have our eccentricities and passions that most people simply don't share. At Carnegie Mellon, everyone is passionate about something, and if you don't quite fit in at your school because you people just laugh politely when you make your obscure science, math, literature, or video game joke, rest assured that here you will find people to put in stitches.
A common CMU student stereotype is that we are nerdy, study-hard students that perpetually have homework piled high and deteriorating social lives. This is actually fairly accurate for certain reasons but is also a very one-dimensional viewpoint of Carnegie Mellon students. The majority of students at this school are probably some of the most dedicated and hardworking you will ever come across, spending endless hours computer programming, drawing, building, writing, acting, whatever it may be. However, CMU students are generally very involved outside of academics in active organizations such as Greek life, dance teams, a cappella groups, Buggy (a longstanding racing competition unique to CMU), and so much more. A CMU student's dedication to an organization/club is a fair equivalent to that of his or her academics that can be personified in the phrase coined by our founder, Andrew Carnegie, "my heart is in the work." Anyone who's looking to make friends and get involved outside of the classroom (and library) but is committed to making the most of the academic privilege of attending a quality university shouldn't have much difficulty finding a place at Carnegie Mellon.
There's definitely a perception that Carnegie Mellon is full of freaks and geeks, so to speak. And you could understand where this perception comes from--we wouldn't be so well-known for our technology and computer science programs if some folks weren't glued to their screens all day. But this isn't the whole picture--CMU excels in the arts as well, from drama to architecture to the visual arts. The saying, "the odds are good but the goods are odd" stems from the fact that CMU is home to a lot geeky guys. Stereotypes begin for a reason (there are a lot of geeky guys here) but again, there's more to it than that. There's a lot of people from all over the country (guys and gals!) and the world, involving in everything from robotics to football to journalism to student-run theater.
Students at Carnegie Mellon University are known to be intellectual, ambitious, and overall pretty geeky. Because of our very successful engineering and computer science programs, many of the students at CMU can be considered "nerds." It is not completely true that CMU is where "fun comes to die," but students do seem to spend more time in the computer clusters than most other places. It has also been said that CMU has a lot of "fruits and nuts." Also, with the women to men ratio being overwhelmingly male dominated, ladies should be warned that "the odds are good, but the goods are odd." Overall, Carnegie Mellon is a place for individuals who are intellectual and driven. It is a place for engaged youths with an inner nerd. It is a place where brains outweigh brawn.
People both outside and inside the University hold a common stereotype - that we're all a bunch of eggheads. I think this is absolutely true if you define a nerd as "an intelligent, single-minded expert in a particular technical discipline or profession" instead of "a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious". Yes, everyone here is incredibly invested in their work, whether it's engineering, music, or writing. But there is a thriving social community if you choose to look for it outside of the computer clusters and office hours.
There's a saying that is regularly associated with students at Carnegie Mellon, both in sarcasm and a general honesty, that goes: "They say sex kills, so come to Carnegie Mellon and live forever." Although this may be exaggerated, it's not entirely incorrect. Students at CMU take themselves, and their work, extremely seriously. Whether you are talking about an art major or the next robotics whizz kid, they are bound to be a nerd, and in most cases love being called so.
Whether you're a nerd in the cultural sense (a science fiction addict, a gamer, an active participant in live action role playing) or in the more academic sense (you read literary criticism for fun, you spend hours beyond those required to ensure you not only get an A, but also actually learn something and maintain that knowledge) you’re sure to find your kind here.
CMU students are generally thought of as introverted, cave-dwelling nerd beasts. And to be honest, we have a few of those. But the vast majority of people are outgoing, personable, and interesting, often because of their quirks and geekiness. They're all weird, but who isn't? CMU owns their oddity.