Senior year of high school, Carnegie Mellon was my dream school. I'm not sure why, in retrospect.
I try very hard at this school. I give it my all and I never procrastinate, despite never having had to in high school. However, it never seems to be enough. My GPA is barely over a 3.0, although I devote huge amounts of time to working myself ragged, studying, and the like. I wish I had more time to simply enjoy myself but that's not possible here.
Much of the learning is "do it yourself." The lectures are alright to follow, but the homeworks and exams are given with the assumption that you're a brilliant genius. I spend most of my life in office hours just trying to do a few problems. Most of my time is spent trying to figure out how to do problem sets. (Also: Any programming course is taught as if you are a computer science major, which bothers me, as this is the top school for CS. I spend about 15 hours per weekend programming.)
The academic workload has been a direct precipitant to mental breakdowns for many people I know. And not just in engineering. This goes for CS, Art, Architechture, the Sciences, math, and business.
The dorms are pretty horrible. Excluding 1 or 2, they are dingy, and poorly kept, and occasionally tiny.
I often feel like CMU tries to suck the money out of its kids. Every year, rates for something go up. It's one of the priciest schools to attend. I have been forced to go off the meal plan, go off of campus housing, and still take out huge loans to come here.
Males are very unattractive. 90% (no exaggeration) of them look prepubescent, pale, or pimply. A few exceptions exist. Females are maybe 35 - 40% attractive, so that's not too bad. But again, there are few females.
The WORST part: social life is pretty horrible. I hoped to make friends, but literally, I have none. If you are unable to make friends in your major or first year dorm, you're essentially screwed for the rest of the time. I slipped through the cracks freshman year, and I'm incredibly lonely. I've found that engineers here (and in general) are very bland, socially. It's difficult for me to relate to other engineers/technical field people. I know too many people in a similar situation.
But, if you're a girl and happen to find a decent guy, people here tend to like relationships (as opposed to promiscuity and exorbitant hooking up). That's kind of a plus?
Pittsburgh isn't horrible. It caters well to college students. Stuff within walking distance, buses, etc. No shopping unfortunately.
Conclusion: I wouldn't recommend coming to CMU. Only if you make a solid group of friends, then it might be tolerable. But if you do make friends, your GPA will be horrible, even if you get no sleep.
I hold a deep and bitter resentment towards CMU. I will never give back. Most people hate it. And if you look at the rate of Alumni giving, you will see that reflected in the very low giving percentages. For good reason.
I will say, however, that CMU provides decent career resources and networking opportunities (for technical fields at least).