CMU vs. Pitt: Some similarities, some differences

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Peek into the first floor of the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning and you're likely to find much the same scene as inside Carnegie Mellon University's Hunt Library: students with coffee at the ready, earbuds in, MacBooks open, notes strewn about -- and a few napping on desks.

So besides the snarling Panthers or perky Scottie dogs emblazoned on their hoodies, sweats and rain gear, how exactly do Pitt and CMU students differ? On the mile-long stretch of Oakland that from outward apparances is just one big happy campus, can you even tell who's who?

"I wouldn't be able to tell if they go to Carnegie Mellon or Pitt," said Wes Ianni, 20, a Pitt junior majoring in business and political science. "I don't notice any difference at all."

With a broad brush, Pitt students are more likely to be female, to receive financial aid and to hail from Pennsylvania. CMU students are more likely to be minorities, to live on campus and to be members of Greek organizations.

For more specifics, well, let's go to the numbers.

In the most literal sense, the student bodies are differently shaped. For the 2009-10 school year -- the most recent year in which comprehensive Common Data Set numbers were available -- Carnegie Mellon was 58 percent male and 42 percent female, while Pitt was 49 percent male and 51 percent female.

It's worth noting that while there are more women at Pitt, there also are just more students total. Pitt's undergraduate population is about 17,600, while CMU's is roughly 6,000.

Applicants to the schools also differ markedly by gender. For the class of 2013, CMU received about 3,000 more applications from men than women. Pitt received roughly 800 more applications from women than from men.

CMU's male-skewed student bodies plays into one of the most superficial stereotypes about a difference between the two schools.

"Girls," answered Carnegie Mellon freshman Emilio Wood quite flatly. "Pitt girls are better -- better looking."

And while we're on the subject of looks, Carnegie Mellon is more ethnically diverse.

CMU does have "a lot more Asian students," said CMU freshman Jonathan Dunstan, 17. "Korean, Indian ... along those lines. That's the basic difference."

Caucasians are a minority at CMU, making up 40 percent of the undergraduate population, with international students making up 15 percent, black and Hispanic students at 5 percent each and Asian students at 24 percent.

At Pitt, Caucasians make up nearly 80 percent of the campus. Black students are the next highly represented at 8 percent, followed by Asians at 5 percent and international students and Hispanic students at 1 percent each.

At both schools, international students are not broken down by ethnic categories and American Indians make up less than 1 percent of the undergraduate populations.

Appearances aside, there are plenty of similarities between the students. At both schools, freshmen are an average age of 18 and undergraduates are an average age of 20. At both schools, nearly all freshmen live on campus. The vast majority of freshmen return for their sophomore year (95 percent at CMU versus 93 percent at Pitt) and graduate within six years (85 percent at CMU and 78 percent at Pitt, with transfers at both schools not counted as having graduated).

Students at Carnegie Mellon are more likely to come from out of state --79 percent of CMU undergrads versus 21 percent at Pitt. Whether they're from in-state or out-of-state, CMU students are paying more tuition and fees: $52,886 at CMU versus $24,166 for in-state students at Pitt and $33,822 for out-of-state students, with all figures including room and board.

Along with higher tuition bills, CMU students on average boast higher SAT scores. CMU freshmen for the class of 2013 had average math SAT scores of 718 and critical reading scores of 669.

On its Common Data Set, Pitt did not provide SAT averages, but reported that 25 percent of freshmen that same year scored below 570 in reading and 590 in math. At the top end of their scores, 25 percent scored above 680 in reading and math.

Of course, some students at Pitt -- such as the 20 percent who scored above 700 on the SAT critical reading or the 20 percent who scored above 700 on the SAT math section -- chose to attend Pitt over more highly selective schools because of its lower tuition or other academic offerings.

Still, the brainiac factor at CMU plays into another physical stereotype.

"We're nerdier," said Maddie Cramer, a CMU freshman from Annapolis, Md. "I feel like when you're in Oakland you can tell Carnegie Mellon students, at least freshmen, because we're looking around like we have no idea what's going on and that's Pitt's territory."

Students from both schools walk around clad in skinny jeans or hoodies. They greet each other with "Hey bro, what's good?" followed up with a high-five-to-handshake-to-shoulder-bump combo. They chew over coursework and gossip, intramural sports and the NFL.

But while they might physically cross paths on Forbes or Fifth avenues, their social circles don't necessarily intersect.

"Because we don't know them and they don't know us, it's like common passers-by," said Megan Hunter, a Pitt freshman from Columbus, Ohio. "We both share this place."

Anya Sostek: or 412-263-1308. Bill Brink: or 412-263-1158. First Published October 3, 2010 4:15 AM


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