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The Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) Application Essay Prompt Guide

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The Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) is a 4-week program that provides opportunities for students from underrepresented communities to explore STEM-related fields. This year’s program will be in-person, with admitted participants staying in residence halls at CMU throughout July.

Requirements: 1 essay of 300-500 words, 1 essay of up to 1,000 words

 

An essay is required for the following prompt (300-500 words):

What do you hope to gain from participating in a Carnegie Mellon Pre-College program?

This prompt is a straightforward classic in the admissions game. In other words: Why are you applying? What do you hope to get out of your SAMS experience? We recommend starting with a piece of paper (if you’re old school) or a blank document and writing down everything that comes to mind. Don’t worry about editing; you can do that later. Next, go to CMU’s webpage for the SAMS program and do your due diligence to find out what you can expect. The more information you can incorporate into your response, the more specific and authentic your essay will be. Show admissions you’re a serious applicant making moves to achieve your dreams (and SAMS is a part of your journey).

In addition, respond to one of the two following prompts (no more than 1000 words):

It is often said that adversity builds character, and frequently the lessons we take from encountered obstacles can build a foundation to later success. Carefully recount a time that you faced a very specific challenge. Name the setback or failure, and describe how it impacted and influenced your values. How did this experience affect you? What were your lessons learned?

Essays about overcoming obstacles are really an opportunity to speak about learning experiences, growth, and resilience. The obstacle you choose to explore can vary widely in nature; it can be as serious as being tormented by bullies, as ingrained as the financial issues that have plagued your family for years, or as seemingly pedestrian as a mistake that cost you a tip while waiting tables. While the possibilities are almost endless, students should be careful not to choose challenges that may seem trite (the inability to achieve an A on an exam and/or secure tickets to that Billie Eilish concert) or that illustrate a lapse in good judgment (that time you crashed a golf cart or ate 20 mozzarella sticks in one sitting). If you can isolate an incident of trial in your life and illustrate how you learned from it, you will show admissions the kind of thoughtful, incisive person you are. 

In 1900 Carnegie Mellon’s founder, Andrew Carnegie, stated, “My Heart is in the Work.” Understanding that one of the University’s foundational pillars is diversity, equity, and inclusion, please relate and connect this quote to your desire to attend the Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS). Discuss your interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as it relates to STEM fields and/or your own experiences with inclusive education.  How will SAMS help you in your educational interests and career pursuits?

There’s a lot going on in this prompt, so let’s break it down. Admissions wants to know (1) how you connect Carnegie’s statement, “My Heart is in the Work,” to your interest in SAMS, (2) how you interact with diversity, equity, and inclusion as they relate to your own experiences in STEM, and (3) how SAMS will help you achieve your goals.

The good news is, since you have up to 1,000 words to work with, you have the space to dive deep into your responses to each facet of the prompt. A successful essay will address all three points and offer admissions a clear understanding of what’s important to you, what you’re working toward, and how you will interact with students from different backgrounds. You can start by freewriting or making a bulleted list of answers to the aforementioned questions to get the gears in motion. Since SAMS asks applicants to pen longform essays, you have a lot of writing and editing ahead of you, so be sure and set aside enough time to do this justice. As a wise person once said, “The best time to start was yesterday, the next best time is now.”

Applying to other competitive summer programs, too?
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