Since I attended this school it has changed quite a bit, especially physically, with the addition of the new theater building and student union, which are very, very beautiful, and the student body seems a little more calmed down, but that said, I would strongly reconsider this school unless you know exactly who you are and what you want out of life.
Students: Back then, a bevy of very wealthy, spoiled, strikingly untalented art and design students, hyper-smart workaholic engineers, pimply semi-smart gamer nerds, early balding business major white male athletes on tuition scholarships, wealthy Asian and Middle Eastern international students driving nice new cars, and a troop of drugged out, really insane drama students. A few semi-normal engineers, happy to be there, working hard, happy, not doing quite as well as everyone else, but looking forward to using their degrees to find good jobs.
Drugs: A friend of mine nearly died trying pot at an off campus party in '93. Some a-hole had laced it with PCP. If CMU is still has any of these freaks like this roaming the corridors, you may wish to consider another school. Also, plenty of Cocaine. Heroin. Pot. Alcohol. It?s all there and surprisingly easy to get. CMU is an expensive school full of rich kids, and rich kids gots problems folks, and money to drown out those problems with drugs. Beware. Choose your friends carefully. Drinking is heavy for self-medicating students finding the cold winters tough, and the city is known for as a drinking city, so beware of this as well. If you are smart and mature you will not have problems with drugs. If you are seeking out your identity, you may be swallowed whole in this scene before you realize it.
Looks: CMU isn't an institute for training the beautiful people, and Western PA isn't known for incubating fashion models, either, nor movie stars (exception: Sharon Stone), but if you look around to Pitt or Chatham college, you will find plenty of beautiful women with nice figures, and sturdy, handsome men in great shape.
Pittsburgh: Despite what you may have heard in some of the other posts, Pittsburgh is an AWESOME city. Yes, Pittsburgh is cold and dark, snowy in the winter, and yes, depressing, so plan ahead: Plan to go to a tanning booth at least once a month from November to May, and GET A SUN LAMP. I mean it. YOU WILL NEED IT. Still feeling the winter blues? Visit Phipps conservatory and look at green stuff with friends for a few hours a week.
I highly recommend you stay in the ?burgh for the summer, because you will find out it?s a beautiful, lush, green city, full of awesome places to go. Three major sports teams in great arenas. Pittsburgh Filmmakers if you want to study film for the summer. Four or Five art-house movie theaters. Andy Warhol Museum. Frick Museum. Shadyside. Southside. Squirrel Hill. Downtown. If people hate on Pittsburgh that's cause they never got to know the city. There are great bars, art houses, and great schools all around. And, it's cheap, too. You can rent a three bedroom house with a basement for 600-800 per month. Pittsburgh is small enough to bicycle around just about anywhere. Buses are plenty and will get you everywhere else you need to go, and free for CMU students. Great music scene, great art. I loved Pittsburgh.
My story: Now all that said, my experience at CMU ended up being an awful, nearly life-destroying experience. At the beginning of my sophomore year I had some financial trouble, really through no fault of my own. The school dis-enrolled me, and professors could not enter my grades because I had been unregistered. The school?s attitude was ?tough shit, you gotta pay us?. The professors, bless them, kept my scores anyway, and told me to keep working on it. I was just a kid, 19, and I knew very little about life, finances, and how to manage my affairs. The school did little to work with me. There was no life planning course. I was the first to go to college in my family, so my parents had no idea how to help. I got really, really depressed because of this situation and family tragedy. I contacted the school counselor, expecting to see him in a day or so, explaining that I was approaching a crisis. He casually said I could get an appointment with an outside counselor in two weeks, and that was the best he could do. I didn?t make it. I withdrew around Thanksgiving, a wreck of my former happy, hard-working self. I contacted the school over winter break. They said I could get credit for my classes, and grades, B?s, as long as I paid my bill. I thought this was dishonest. I had been doing well, but I hadn?t even taken my final exams. I guess they thought they were doing me favor. But it just stank of a lure for my money. Sad and shocking. I left CMU, very bitter, but not ?hating? the school.
I ended up joining the military and can honestly say, if you poor, smart, have had a difficult upbringing, yet are hard-working and basically a decent person, I HIGHLY recommend joining the military FIRST before going to ANY school, especially schools like CMU, Harvard, Stanford, etc. These schools are set up for driven, well organized, single minded over-achievers who will keep scholarships and wealthy kids. If this ain?t you, you may very get lost in the sauce.
The military paid me to learn foreign languages, gave me the skills to earn 80 plus per year, and gave me back the dignity CMU stole. I have seen the ?real world? for what it is, led men in battle, and more than ever I appreciate our country for what it is. I?m not making a career out of this. I?m too liberal and anti-war in my heart. But I am proud. I have a college degree now from a State school and have had a relatively successful first half of my life. Wish I could have finished at CMU, but that was not in the cards.