I chose CMU:
I had a few major criteria in mind when I was thinking about colleges at the end of high school:
I wanted to go to a school that was in a city, had industrial design, and allowed me to continue studying Japanese.
This narrowed things down rather quickly. CMU fit the bill though.
I visited CMU and loved the campus, was impressed with Pittsburgh as a city upon my first visit, and became fixated on going there when I saw the design studios and all the work they were doing. I was also very attracted to the small design class sizes, each year is only ~50 students, who then split into industrial design or communication design for sophomore and junior year before rejoining in senior year.
Simply put, I got a very good vibe. The convergence of artistic creativity and academic rigor that I think defines CMU was clearly apparent in my visits there and made it a very appealing place.
I actually applied early decision to the humanities college for a Japanese major, but got deferred. I then applied regular decision to the school of design. I felt good about my portfolio, but the interview portion left me a little shakey; I couldn't tell if the prof talking with me appreciated my work or thought I was a tool... It was a long drive back to CT! But I must have been over thinking things because I got in and was ecstatic! It was the only school I felt passionate about going to, and was the only one I applied to. If I hadn't gotten in I wanted to find some kind of work for a year and try again along with some other places.
Retelling this story always gives me anxiety, because so many of the big things in my life right now are directly related to starting my design education at CMU 3 falls ago. It's too crazy to think how different things could have been. In particular I always feel grateful that I didn't get into the humanities school!
Heading into my senior year at CMU ID, I feel better than ever about what I've gotten from the program. The facilities, the staff, the community, the greater campus intellectual environment, I have nothing but great things to say. I'd say it's one of the more progressive design programs at the moment, from what I know, but there is a long standing appreciation and respect for the traditional technical skills of design, and a high standard of craft that is instilled in you throughout the first two years. The second two years, although I'm still in the midst of them, push you to think critically of how you apply the design process, to a rapidly changing world's diverse set of problems.
The only real issue I can think of is that there are a lot of periods of angst amongst the students, myself included. I think the program asks you more questions than it answers, in a good way, but with job hunting on the horizon, finding yourself as a designer, etc. etc. I've found the environment to squeeze out a lot of introspection and contemplation, and maybe too much at times. You have to step out of the bubble regularly to keep your head, because it is a very intense and concentrated environment, CMU as a whole and the design program specifically. I think it takes initiative to provide yourself with rich outside perspective on all that you are experiencing within the school, and that can be difficult.
In addition, it certainly is expensive. That said, in my case CMU has been generous with grants every year, and Pittsburgh is definitely a cheap city. I'm racking up a good bit of debt, but the investment has felt worth it more and more as I progress. I might change my tone a tad
when I start writing those checks, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it
For any people considering CMU though, don't write it off too quickly over the price. My family is middle class and with the financial aid etc. it is manageable and worth it, if you connect with the school and program, that is!
I don't find CMU gets that much love on Core77, and I can understand that, because looking at shear numbers, when you compare CMU alums to other good ID schools, they are probably much fewer and far between in the traditional ID world. A lot of ID students end up in UX and IxD which makes even fewer of the ~22/year that graduate likely to be seen in the ID community. Then when you look at tuition costs, things don't add up. But if anyone is considering it, i'd encourage you to considerate it strongly, because the education I'm getting is top notch and has really changed my life for the better. It's a great school, they make you think, make, and ask questions. It is a very ambitious atmosphere at CMU and I think it pushes me to work my hardest and learn as much as I can in my time there.