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CMU CSS (Carnegie Mellon University CS Scholars) - Should You Apply?

In the fiercely competitive landscape of college admissions, students often seek unique opportunities to bolster their applications and set themselves apart. One avenue gaining significant recognition is participation in summer programs tailored to the field of computer science. These programs not only offer invaluable knowledge and experience but also represent a significant asset on a college application. Part of applying to a college is with the intent of entering the workforce, and in the 21st century the sustainable market for technology and industry continues to rise. Therefore, a boost in your journey to a stable career with a university degree can be bridged with experiences such as these!


In this guide, we'll explore the CS Scholars program at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and provide you with a comprehensive overview, from its structure to eligibility and the pros and cons.


Program Overview: A Glimpse into the CS Scholars Experience

CS Scholars (CSS) is a unique initiative under the CS Pathways program, offering a transformative four-week experience on the vibrant CMU campus, exclusively designed for rising high school juniors. The distinguishing feature of CSS is that it's a fully funded, merit-based program. This means that students from across the nation can come together to explore the dynamic realm of computer science under the guidance of CMU's distinguished faculty, staff, and leading researchers.


What will I do as a CS scholar?

As a CS Scholar, you will immerse in college-level courses, complemented by weekly college prep and readiness seminars. These seminars focus on various crucial aspects of preparing for higher education, such as college admissions, financial aid, and emotional well-being. Additionally, participants have the opportunity to forge meaningful connections with fellow students and mentors, truly embracing the college experience.


CSS holds diversity and inclusivity as core values. The program fosters an inclusive, anti-racist environment and encourages active participation in discussions regarding equity within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

What's more, if you complete the program and show a desire to further their journey, there's the exciting prospect of being invited to return as rising seniors to CMU's AI Scholars program the following summer! This offers a seamless progression and continued growth in the world of computer science.


Is it prestigious?

While Carnegie Mellon is widely considered a respected and one of the best universities for a computer science degree, it's important to recognize that the summer pre-college program is not a direct admission into the university program. Therefore, we would consider this program a somewhat prestigious program due to its application and eligibility guidelines and financial requirements.

However, as a participant, the exposure and experience of receiving a high-end summer education with the curriculum offered by CMU faculty is a worthwhile aspect to consider when deciding whether this program fits your needs as an aspiring student interested in STEM. Despite its costs, the program’s scholarship offerings and networking opportunities provide you with a resourceful experience which can be used to your advantage!


Program Structure: What to Expect

The CS Scholars program offers a comprehensive and multifaceted curriculum, providing students with a rich educational experience. The educational component includes a core curriculum that covers in-depth programming and mathematics, with expert instruction delivered by CMU faculty. Students also have the opportunity to delve into ongoing research projects, gaining insights into the latest developments in the field. To enhance their college applications, participants engage in writing workshops that focus on personal statements.


The program doesn't stop at academics; it places a strong emphasis on personal growth. You will benefit from career and personal development discussions led by industry experts, providing valuable insights into their future prospects. Group mentoring sessions led by CMU faculty and graduate students create a supportive learning environment, while seminars in academic readiness and post-graduate planning help prepare youfor future academic challenges. Peer socialization is encouraged, fostering connections and relationships among participants.


Furthermore, the program offers hands-on experience, allowing students to apply their learning. They engage in group research projects under the guidance of CMU faculty, staff, and graduate students, gaining practical experience in the field. A field trip to visit CS industry leaders introduces students to professionals, topics, and potential career opportunities. As a culmination of their learning journey, students deliver capstone group presentations, showcasing the skills they've developed throughout the program. These presentations are made publicly during the CSS closing symposium on the program's final day, allowing participants to demonstrate their newfound expertise and practical knowledge.


Academic Insights: What You'll Learn

CSS Scholars engage in the core elements of programming and problem-solving in Python, including variables, functions, conditionals, loops, and basic data structures like lists and dictionaries. Additionally, students strengthen their computational skills by tackling pre-concepts of math, designed to dispel the notion that you "aren't a math person." Through a hands-on group project, you will apply their newfound skills to real-world challenges in computer science, working towards the betterment of humanity.


Engaging with CMU faculty and industry leaders provides valuable insights into the broad and exciting opportunities within the field. Asking for letters of recommendations, resume boosters, and even LinkedIn endorsements through networking can provide an immense advantage in a college application.


Important Dates and Deadlines

To secure a place in the program, you must submit their applications by March 1, 2024.

You should ideally receive notifications about your application's status by April 5, 2024.

For students attending CS Scholars, there is the option to stay in on-campus housing. This provides a resident experience that allows students to fully immerse themselves in the program's activities, fostering a comprehensive and enriching educational environment.


The 2024 CS Scholars program takes place on CMU's campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from June 22 to July 20, and admitted students must commit to the full program duration. Please note that CS Scholars' full commitment is expected, and scheduling conflicts with other virtual programs are not permitted.


The application process includes an online application, a high school transcript, standardized test scores (optional), responses to essay prompts, and two letters of recommendation. Ensure you adhere to the application requirements and essay prompts to present a strong application.

The essay can be found on the program’ website under “application essay prompt”.


Eligibility and Selection Criteria

To be eligible for CS Scholars, participants must be 16 years old by the program start date, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (DACA-registered students are eligible too), and a sophomore in high school at the time of application. The selection process considers strong interest in computer science, and applicants from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM fields, low socioeconomic status, or homes with English as a second language are encouraged to apply.


Costs and Financial Assistance

The CS Scholars program is fully funded, with tuition, housing, meal plans, program-related field trips, and special events covered by CS Pathways, thanks to support from foundations, corporations, sponsors, and donors. Families facing significant transportation barriers to and from CMU may request travel assistance.

Generous support from foundations, corporations, sponsors, and donors ensures that all program costs, including tuition, housing, meal plans, and program-related field trips and special events, are covered. To eliminate potential barriers, CSS offers travel assistance for families facing transportation challenges.



Pros and Cons: What to Consider

Pros:

  1. Gain full funding for accessibility The program is fully funded, removing financial barriers and ensuring that underrepresented students can participate. This inclusivity promotes diversity in the field of computer science.

  2. Engage with expert faculty and industry engagement Students have the unique opportunity to learn from distinguished faculty and engage with industry leaders from Carnegie Mellon University. This provides invaluable mentorship and real-world insights.

  3. Comprehensive learning opportunity CS Scholars offers a deep dive into programming and problem-solving, equipping students with practical skills. It also focuses on personal and academic growth, preparing students for future academic challenges.

Cons:

  1. Applications are quite competitive Due to its fully funded nature and prestigious faculty, admission to CS Scholars can be highly competitive. Securing a spot in the program may be challenging, and not all applicants may be admitted.

  2. There are limited seats for high school sophomores The program is specifically designed for high school sophomores, which may limit its availability to students in other grade levels who are interested in the program.

  3. You will need to commit quite a lot of time to the program Admitted students are expected to fully commit to the program during its duration. This means they cannot miss classes or schedule obligations for other concurrent programs. This level of commitment may affect the participation of students with other summer commitments.

Our Review - Is It Worth the Hype?

CS Scholars at CMU offers a unique opportunity for high school students to gain valuable exposure to computer science and build essential skills. With its fully funded nature and rigorous curriculum, it's a fantastic option for those looking to enhance their college applications, particularly students from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM. The commitment and competition involved make it an ambitious endeavor, but the potential rewards in terms of knowledge, experience, and future academic opportunities are well worth the hype.


In conclusion, participating in the CS Scholars program can be a significant step toward realizing your aspirations in computer science while strengthening your college application. It's a path to personal and academic growth, offered at one of the country's leading institutions, and it's an experience that can shape your future in the world of computer science.

If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!


Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world! 


The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas. The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 


The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism and more.


You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment. 


Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)

Location:  Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.

Application deadline: April 16 and May 14

Program dates: 8 weeks, June to August

Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!


Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!


Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 

The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here

Location: Virtual

Cost

  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest. 


Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on various topics in Computer science , you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Tenzing Dolma is a Masters student specializing in research following the Nechung Oracle and the historical, religious, and cognitive approaches to its presence. She has a bachelors in Neuroscience from Loyola University Chicago and is currently completing her graduate studies at Columbia University. She hopes to help students find their passions through access to programs and organizations the same way she found hers!


Image Source: Unsplash


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