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MIT VS Carnegie Mellon: Similarities and differences

We at Cybernews Academy want to know which university is better, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Carnegie Mellon (CMU.) Both universities share similar attributes; they are privately endowed research facilities known for their technology and STEM-based subjects. However, their differences lie in the institution's history, formation, and structure. In parallel to our Oxford VS Cambridge article, we wanted to highlight other sought-after universities to see what the institutions offer. MIT and Carnegie Mellon are prestigious institutions similar to Ivy League. But what makes them so unique?

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university, one of three private land-grant universities in the United States– others include Cornell University and Tuskegee University. The university is organized into six institutions. MIT is most commonly known for its scientific and technological training and research.


The university is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. The institution has an urban campus extending 1.6km along the Charles River and surrounding off-campus facilities like the MIT Lincoln Laboratory– a federally funded research and development center founded by MIT in 1951.


Established in 1861, MIT has a rich history that stems back to the civil war period in North America. In 1859, a failed proposal to erect a Conservatory of Art and Science was submitted to Massachusetts General Court. Later in 1861, a charter for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was proposed by William Barton Rogers, an American geologist, physicist, and educator who founded MIT. He wanted to establish a university in response to the period's rapid scientific and technological advancements. The institution was set to reflect the German research university model emphasizing independent research. This included instruction-oriented information through seminars and laboratories. Once MIT was chartered, the American Civil War broke out, so MIT's first classes were held many years later, in 1865. In modern history, the institute has helped advance the digital age through groundbreaking research. MIT describes itself as a "profoundly American," an institution imbued with ingenuity and drive.

Notable alumni

MIT has incredible alumni spanning various fields, from astronauts to global IT leaders. Some examples include Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon who gained a doctorate in astronautics in 1963. Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who graduated from MIT in 1939. Shirley Ann Jackson studied nuclear physics and became the first African-American woman to obtain a doctorate from MIT. The institute has produced many governmental figures, including Ben Bernake, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Kofi Annan, Noble Peace Prize winner, and the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. There’s an extensive array of alumni that have come from MIT. Some have governed and formed large companies, including Salem Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, and Sony Internation Production president Andrea Wong.

Carnegie Mellon University

Like MIT, Carnegie Mellon University is a private research university. Carnegie Mellon stands among the world's most renowned educational institutions, which sets it apart from other universities in North America. The university comprises eight colleges with programs ranging from science, technology, and business to public policy, humanities, and arts.


Carnegie Mellon’s main campus is 8km from downtown Pittsburgh. The university owns 81 buildings in the neighboring areas of Oakland and Squirrel Hill. It has multiple degree-granting locations across six continents, including Qatar, Silicon Valley, Kigali, and Rwanda. The university also has strong partnerships with universities across the U.S.A., UK, Portugal, Japan, China, Mexico, and Italy.


In 1900, the Carnegie Technical Schools were founded in Pittsburgh by the Scottish-American philanthropist and industrialist Andrew Carnegie. He donated the funds to create the institution and simultaneously made the school's motto, "My heart is the work." Carnegie was a man of strong values whose vision was to construct a vocational education institution that taught children of working-class native Pittsburghers. In 1921, Carnegie Technical Schools became the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT) – the institute began offering four-year degrees. In 1967, the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research merged with CIT to create Carnegie Mellon. The Mellon Institute of Industrial Research was founded in 1913 by a banker and industrialist, Andrew Mellon, and his brother Richard B Mellon. The institute was originally a research organization that performed work for the government and industry.

Notable alumni

Carnegie Mellon has produced some notable faces, names like Andy Warhol a man who pioneered the pop-art movement, and Vinod Khosla, an Indian American businessman and entrepreneur. Other alumni include John L. Hall, a Nobel Peace prize-winning Physicist. Scott Griffith, businessman and CEO of Zipcar, and Jim Levy, the founding CEO of Activision, an American video game publisher.


During our research, we at Cybernews Academy observed some similarities that may be useful when analyzing MIT and CMU.

Admissions rates and entry requirements

Both universities have extremely competitive admissions rates and expect you to excel academically.

MIT's GPA requires you to be at the top of your class with 4.17. You will need an average of 1535 on your SAT's to be considered for admission to MIT. The average ACT score for entry is 35, which means you must be in the 75 percentile. Although both universities' acceptance rates are low, MIT is far more exclusive and derives its elite status from this exclusivity.

Carnegie Mellon requires you to also be at the top of your class. However, the entry requirements are slightly lower than at MIT. The GPA requirement to be considered for admission is 3.89 or better. You should be achieving at least an A- consistently throughout your studies. Similar to MIT, you should score 1520 on your SATs. In addition, you should score 34 on your ACTs.

Type of university

Both universities are private research institutions with solid academic reputations and numerous research opportunities. MIT and Carnegie Mellon focus on technology and engineering and are both located in university towns. Historically, MIT and Carnegie Mellon place highly in the world university rankings. Currently, MIT is 1st in the QS rankings, and Carnegie Mellon is 52nd in the world for education. In world rankings by subject, Computer Science and Information Systems MIT places 1st, and Carnegie Mellon is 2nd. Both universities are private four-year, non-profit institutions.


The way that both universities are constructed is similar. Both universities are divided into different schools dependent on the subject. At MIT, you apply to the entire university, not to a specific major or school, so first-year students begin at MIT undeclared– you can then decide which major will suit you best. MIT is organized into six schools of study:

  • School of Architecture and Planning
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
  • MIT Sloan School of Management
  • School of Science
  • Schwarzman College of Computing.

Like MIT, Carengie Mellon is also broken up into different schools.

  • College of Fine Arts
  • Tepper School of Business
  • School of Computer Science
  • Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Mellon College of Science
  • College of Engineering
  • Dietrich College and Heinz College
  • BXA Intercollege Degree Programs

Extracurricular activities

Both universities offer a range of academic and extracurricular activities. MIT has more than 450 official student groups, which equates to 1 for every ten undergraduates. The institution allows you to start your own organization if you don’t find anything you enjoy in the pre-existing clubs. Carnegie Mellon has over 440 groups you can join, as well as live events, civic organizations, and other fun clubs.

Commitment to diversity

Both universities are committed to diversity on campus and in their institutions. MIT has a diverse faculty and student body from various backgrounds. The entire population of the institute is 11,858 students, with 46.8% female and 53.2% male students. The campus comprises a diverse set of undergraduates from all over the world.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity Breakdown of Undergraduate Students at MIT Percentage
Asian 29.6%
White 28.8%
Hispanic 15.4%
International 10.5%
Multi-Ethnic 8%
Black or African American 6.2%

Carnegie Mellon has a student population of 15,800 people from diverse backgrounds. On average, 49.6% of students are female, and 50.4% are male.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity Breakdown of Undergraduate Students at Carnegie MellonPercentage
Asian 34.7%
Hispanic 9.3%
Multi-Ethnic 4.3%
Black or African American 3.9%

Both universities have initiatives that tackle specific issues and promote diversity. MIT and Carnegie Mellon have Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices on campus– these services support underrepresented groups.


Both universities offer a range of scholarships, some based on academic merit and a needs basis. MIT provides financial aid for admitted students, covering tuition, housing alongside other expenses. The average scholarship awarded in 2021-2022 was $53,997, and about 58% of undergraduates received MIT scholarships. The types of scholarships are federal and state grants as well as outside scholarships.

Carnegie Mellon scholarships and grants are a form of financial assistance awarded to students to pay all or part of their college expenses. On average, Carnegie Mellon provides around $35,000 to its admitted students who apply for a scholarship. Eligible students are assessed on both a financial and merit basis. Various financial aid options are awarded to individuals: scholarships and grants, federal loans, student loans, and private loans. However, as you can see, the money awarded at MIT exceeds CMU by approximately $18,000


We at Cybernews Academy have covered similarities, now it’s time to look at the differences between the two universities.

The Campus

MIT has a larger campus than CMU despite Carnegie Mellon having 30% more students than its competitor. MIT has a 168-acre campus with 40+ gardens and green spaces. The university has 19 halls of residence and a diverse and vibrant community of approximately 117,000 residents. The city hosts more than 47,000 college and university students, many living within its 6.26 mi2 (16.21 km2). The campus architecture showcases a range of styles from neoclassical to modernist, brutalist, and deconstructive.

CMU has a 157.2-acre campus which contains 14 halls of residence. These residence halls feature exceptional student leaders, community advisors, and resident assistants. The university has 14,500 students, with 15,800 people on the CMU campus. The university has built the Cohon University Center, the Tepper Business School building, The Tepper Quadrangle, new chemistry labs, the Emerald Cloud lab, and many other endowed facilities within the past two decades.


MIT’s in-state tuition fees are $57,590, and its out-of-state tuition is the same– room and board is $18,790. At CMU, housing expenses and food are $17,468, which is lower than at MIT; however, the universities tuition fees are marginally higher (CMU tuition is $62.260). Another difference between the two universities is the number of scholarships awarded yearly. On average, 58% of students are awarded need-based scholarships; the approximate need-based scholarship is $53,997.

Approach to learning

At CMU, the university employs an interdisciplinary approach to learning, which means that this university breaks all traditional, cultural, social, and academic boundaries. This approach allows for more diversity within different subjects, as people can network with other students from differing subjects and backgrounds. At CMU, students become skilled and passionate scholars who are taught to embrace adversity and work across various disciplines.

Whereas MIT’s mission is to advance the knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. MIT has a strong innovation focus and a rigorous academic study program. The university is best known for its engineering and physical sciences. However, these aren’t the only programs available.

Computing subjects

MIT and CMU facilitate a range of different computing degrees, offering major degrees or your central area of study, and minor degrees or secondary specializations.

If you’re looking to enter the IT sector and want to see what MIT has to offer, the journalists at Cybernews Academy have broken down the main courses you can take:

  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science- this Electrical Engineering and Computer Science course is for students whose interests focus on creating systems that interface with the world, digital design and computer architecture, and control systems. You will build on these fundamental subjects with three core system design subjects encompassing the discipline and an integrative system design laboratory class.
  • Computation and Cognition- this major focuses on the emerging field of computational and engineering approaches to brain science, cognition, and machine intelligence. The curriculum is flexible and works to accommodate all students with diverse interests– from biology-inspired approaches to artificial intelligence.
  • Computer Science and Molecular Biology- this course offers a strong foundation in biology and computer science and features innovative, integrative, capstone, and elective subjects. This course aims to produce an entirely new cadre of graduates qualified to assess the challenges and opportunities at the base of computational and molecular biology.
  • Computer Science, Economics, and Data Science- this interdisciplinary major provides students with the skills in economics, computing, and data science that are becoming more valued in the professional and academic landscape. The economics side of the program includes microeconomic theory and econometrics, which expose students to how economists use mathematical models and statistical evidence. Computer science comprises several subjects that develop complementary knowledge, including algorithms, optimization, and machine learning.
  • Urban Science and Planning with Computer Science- Urban settlements and technology are rapidly co-evolving population, finance, and political flows. This course emphasizes developing fundamental urban planning and policy skills, including ethics and justice, statistics, data science, and geospatial analysis. The computer science aspect relates to robotics and machine learning.

Like MIT, CMU offers a range of courses with multi-disciplinary majors and college-wide programs.

Here are some of the College-Wide Majors we have observed:

Cybernews Academy Note: There are so many courses that you can find through the website. These are just a few that we found significant.

  • B.S. in Artificial Intelligence- this program gives you the in-depth knowledge to transform large amounts of data into decisions. The program and its curriculum focus on how complex inputs, such as vision, language, and massive databases, can enhance human capabilities. The curriculum includes coursework in computer science, math, statistics, computational modeling, machine learning, and symbolic computation.
  • B.S. in Computer Science- the B.S. program in Computer Science combines a solid core of Computer Science courses with the ability to gain additional depth through a required minor in a second subject or a concentration in a computing area. In addition, the curriculum provides breadth through numerous choices for science, engineering, humanities, and fine arts courses. As computing is a discipline with strong links to many fields, this provides you with unparalleled flexibility to pursue your interests.
  • B.S. in Human-Computer Interaction- this new course aims to produce HCI specialists skilled and adept at designing and prototyping interactive solutions with the latest digital technologies. You will specialize by making core elements of human-computer interaction the primary focus of your upper-level classes. You can explore an extensive range of HCI topics in greater depth through your choices in electives.

Here are some minor or secondary specializations

Cybernews Academy Note: There are many different minors available which you can check on the CMU website. Here are two of the minors we found most interesting.

  • Minor in Game Design- the Game Design minor is offered by the Entertainment Technology Center as part of the Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology network. You will engage in active "learning by doing" in shared labs and maker spaces. The program addresses current and emerging real-world challenges requiring disciplinary expertise, multidisciplinary perspectives, and collaborative, integrative approaches.
  • Minor in Human-Computer Interaction- the HCI minor is targeted at undergraduates who expect to get jobs where they design and/or implement information technology-based systems for end users, as well as students interested in learning more about the design of socio-technical systems.

So, which university is better? This depends on what features you prefer, as the differences between the two are marginal. We at Cybernews Academy suggest assessing your goals and what you want to achieve before picking your university. If you’re looking for a multidisciplinary approach to learning, a fun on-campus environment, and various computational degrees, you might want to join CMU. If you are looking to attend one of the most prestigious tech universities in the world, with a wide range of interdisciplinary courses that are tech and research-focused, then MIT might be the right fit for you. Both universities have great extra-curricular activities, a robust financial aid system, and vibrant history. CMU and MIT rank highly in the world university rankings and offer various programs. Both universities display academic excellence and are prestigious in their own right. However, the most important thing is whether they facilitate the right environment for you when picking between these two excellent universities.Massachu