Opportunity for Women Interested in STEM

I have some good news for female students planning to apply for undergraduate STEM majors. Carnegie Mellon has adopted a policy of having 50% male / 50% female enrollment in all its STEM majors, including engineering, the physical sciences, and - most importantly - computer science.

Let’s break down the numbers. Carnegie Mellon’s acceptance rate for all majors, including less selective humanities programs, is 15%. I don’t know what their acceptance rate for engineering is, but it is safe to say it is south of 15%. CMU’s acceptance rate for CompSci is 5%. Historically, more men apply to STEM, including CompSci, programs than women. To meet its 50/50 gender target CMU likely has an acceptance rate for women to its CompSci program that is significantly higher than 5% (I’ll hazard a guess of over 20%). The bad news for guys is that their acceptance rate is below even the hyper-competitive 5% (maybe 2-3%?). If someone has hard admissions data from the past couple years please post it in this thread.

I have not seen anything on whether admissions requirements have been relaxed for women to meet the 50/50 goal, and schools are loath to make this information public. That said, there are qualified men and women who are likely being rejected by CMU because of the sheer level of demand.

The good news for women applying is there is a better chance of being admitted to CMU than they might have thought. In fact, they might be accepted into a top five CompSci program (CMU is ranked from 2nd to 4th, depending on which list you read) while being rejected by less prestigious programs. The bad news is that CMU has a reputation for being stingy with financial aid. Oh, and Pittsburgh only gets 30 days of sun per year, and the Original Hot Dog Shop closed.


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CMU SCS probably gets so many top end applicants that it can choose admits however it likes just within the top end applicants.


RPI is 2:1 male:female, but has set a goal to be 50:50 by 2030. They definitely look more favorably on women applicants.

Wesleyan is one that I know of that is consciously promoting opportunities for women in STEM fields. There are many others as well.

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Pretty certain CMU SCS has aimed to be 50:50 by gender for years now. Now other majority-male CMU programs are aiming for that too, I suppose.

Since I doubt CMU really wants to deviate much from 50:50 overall, that probably means better odds for guys to the CMU programs that have traditionally been majority female.

This gives us a little hope! My D22 wants to go into CS, but it feels like so many of the top 100 CS programs are out of reach for her. She’s a brainy kid, but has struggled a bit this year, like so many juniors. Her SAT is 1410, ACT 30, GPA 4.48W/3.6UW. I know there are definitely schools she will get into, but we’re having a hard time finding safeties that are appealing.

What makes a school appealing to her?

And what state is she in?

We’re in IL. So UIUC is on her radar because of the program and the in-state price tag. But it feels like it’s a real reach, and she’d rather go somewhere smaller. I’ve been suggesting she may want to look into the iSchool there as well. Her ideal dream school is Vanderbilt. She loves the idea of the location (in a small but interesting city), the size, the option to still take liberal arts courses, and the feel of it. She also really liked Pitt when we visited recently. CWRU campus was pretty underwhelming, but it will still be on her list. I think UVa would be a nice fit for her — again, the option for liberal arts + CS. But that also seems like a reach. She really like CMU’s campus, but we’re not really entertaining that as an option with her stats. Purdue and Boulder will be on the list to check out this summer. She’s really drawn to the idea of a small LAC (which I know those two schools are not), but I worry the CS programs won’t be as well-rounded or have as many opportunities to specialize. She liked Denison but is a CS degree at a school like that worth the price tag?

I was a Carnegie Mellon student in the 1990’s as a female and was in a CS class with ~100 students and I was 1 of only 2 females in the class!

Does she know what she wants to specialize in yet? You can always go to grad programs to specialize (pretty cheap quality online ones exist now).

As for the price tag, there are cheaper LACs. Lake Forest has a scholarship chart and she’d probably get merit/discounts to many of the CTCL LACs.

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Denison’s CS courses are listed at Courses | Computer Science . But check how often each is offered, particularly upper level courses.

Denison’s CS faculty roster is listed at Faculty & Staff | Computer Science . Looks like 12 regular faculty and 5 visitors.

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BTW, for UIUC, the CS+X majors are generally easier to get in to than engineering CS. And if she’s also interested in the liberal arts, one of the CS+X majors may be a good fit.

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No, she doesn’t have any specialties in mind yet. That’s why I’m hoping she finds schools that will give her some options to try different areas.

Yes, I’m really trying to get her to look closely at those — I think she’d be a LOT happier in one of those programs vs. CS at Grainger, regardless of whether she can even get in. CS + Geography or CS + Anthro would suit her personality.

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are there budget constraints?

UVa is more challenging for OOS students- and even a NoVa kid with her stats would see UVa as a bit of a reach.

Check out Carleton, Grinnell & Smith for LACs with strong CS departments that might be in range.


Grinnell is good for CS, but not exactly easy to get in to in RD. But they do take a relatively high percentage in ED if costs aren’t an issue.


We’re comfortable with around $50-$60k/year all-in. If we’re going to pay for a smaller LAC, I’d rather she get out of the midwest, unless there is a decent merit award for her.

Merit is always a trade-off: they are basically buying your stats, so you are looking for schools that 1) do merit (lots don’t) and 2) where your daughters stats are solidly in the upper 25% of admitted students. There are more of those in the south, midwest & NW than the NE.


Freshcoastal, She should look at Rose-Hulman, which is ranked #1 in almost all STEM majors for schools that do not offer PhDs. Their CompSci major is pretty strong and they feed to CMU, GA Tech, Purdue, Penn for grad programs. The downside there is that they do not have any humanities programs.


In the same vein, consider WPI. Being female would help there.

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