Vanderbilt University Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to Vanderbilt University’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Mascot: Mr. Commodore

Type: Private Research Institution

Population: 13,000 (6,900 undergrad)

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About Vanderbilt

Founded in 1873 with a $1 million gift from “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt today is a globally renowned research university. Its 10 schools reside on a parklike campus set in the urban heart of Nashville, Tennessee, providing a collaborative atmosphere of discovery that drives positive change in the world. Students there can choose from 70 majors and have the option to create their own, to explore whatever they may be interested in.

Vanderbilt Statistics

Year Founded: 1842

4 Year Graduation Rate: 91%

Gender Distribution: 53% male, 47% female

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Residency: 13.8% in state, 76.2% out of state, 10% international

Location Type: Urban

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 7:1

Average Class Size: 20

Demographics: 41% Caucasian, 22% Other, 15% Asian, 12% Black, 10% Hispanic

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National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #7 Best Value Schools
  • #15 National Universities
  • #16 Learning Communities
  • #16 Service Learning
  • #20 Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #27 First-Year Experiences
  • #34 Best Undergraduate Engineering Schools

Independent Rankings:

  • #1 Best Quality of Life per The Princeton Review
  • #2 Happiest Students, Great Financial Aid, College City Gets High Marks, and Best Athletic Facilities per The Princeton Review
  • #4 Best-Run Colleges, Most Beautiful Campus per The Princeton Review
  • #10 Best Value Among Private U.S. Universities per Kiplinger
  • #15 Best Colleges in America, Ranked by Value per Money
  • #19 World’s Most Innovative Universities per Reuters

Vanderbilt Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Decision I: November 1st
  • Early Decision II: January 1st
  • Regular Decision: January 1st
  • Transfer Deadline: March 15th

Notification Dates:

  • Early Decision I: Mid-December
  • Early Decision II: Mid-February
  • Regular Decision: Late March

Acceptance Rates:

  • ED: 20.7%
  • RD: 9.1% 
  • Transfer: 25.24%

Average Applicant Pool: 37,000

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 3,400

Average Number Enrolled: 1,600

Application Systems: Common App, Coalition App

Average GPA: 3.83 weighted

SAT Scores: 25th% – 1450, 75th% – 1560

ACT Scores: 25th% – 33, 75th% – 35

*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.

Demonstrated Interest:

While Vanderbilt does not consider demonstrated interest, they do provide an alumni interview program that may be beneficial to your application.

CoRPs Alumni Interview Program Information

Recommendation Letter Policies:

One counselor recommendation and two teacher recommendation letters are required. Additional recommendation letters are accepted.

Recommendation Letter Tips

Vanderbilt Essay Prompts:

  • Common App Personal Statement (650 words)
  • Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150-400 words)

Vanderbilt Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

Vanderbilt offers two Early Decision plans, Early Decision I and II. Both Early Decision I and Early Decision II are binding admissions plans but they have different application deadlines and decision notification dates.


  • While students are encouraged to meet the March 15th transfer deadline, applications received afterwards will be considered on a rolling basis.
  • Admissions is done by school, and by major for the Schools of Education and Music. The school of music has additional audition requirements.
  • Two letters of recommendation are required, and they suggest at least one come from a college-level instructor.
  • Transfer credit is awarded on a course-by-course basis.

Vanderbilt Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria: 

The primary criteria is academic success, as measured by GPA, course rigor, high school standing, and standardized test scores. Vanderbilt wants to ensure admitted students will be able to do the work required of them in college, and uses these factors to determine a student’s abilities. Grades and class rank are evaluated in the context of a student’s high school, so a lower class rank at a more competitive school is easier to understand. In the same vein, students won’t be penalized for not taking AP classes if their school doesn’t offer them. Students are expected to challenge themselves and excel in their academic circumstances, however.

Other factors that admissions deems important include extracurriculars, the personal essay, and letters of recommendation. These help round out admissions understanding of students as people, not just sets of numbers.

Finally, admissions considers the interview, first-generation status, legacy status, talent, volunteer work, race/ethnicity, geographic origin, and state residency. They heavily recruit athletes for their sports teams.

What is Vanderbilt Looking For? 

Vanderbilt’s admissions department focuses on holistic review and positive advocacy. This means each candidate is reviewed as the sum of their parts, and not rejected out-of-hand based on a poor showing in one area. Positive advocacy means each admissions officer is responsible for arguing in favor of admissions for the applications they read. It is, of course, easier for admissions officers to argue in favor of some candidates than others. 

Students who stand out to admissions officers, based on extracurricular involvement especially, are easier to argue for, and make a larger impression. Students who display a deep passion for one subject are more impressive and less generic.

The essay is a further important piece of the process, as it introduces admissions officers to who the student is as a person, and should do a good job of this in order to stand out. While there are myriad ways to write the essay, it should always be personal to the writer, and tell a story only you can tell.

Vanderbilt targets recruitment towards populations of students they want to recruit. While this does not directly affect admissions decisions, it does affect which students decide to apply to Vanderbilt. This recruitment has greatly increased the overall number of applicants, and further increased the number of first-generation and underrepresented students admitted, which was one of Vanderbilt’s goals.

Vanderbilt Strategy: 

While Vanderbilt does not consider demonstrated interest, their admission rates for ED are twice those of RD. Thus if Vanderbilt is your first choice, your best method to increase chances of admission is to apply early decision. They also offer Early Decision II, and while the rates for that aren’t nearly as high as for ED, if you were unable to meet the deadline to apply ED, then consider applying ED II.

Having strong grades and test scores, and taking a rigorous course of study in high school is the best way to ensure your academic preparation does not disqualify you. While Vanderbilt does use holistic review, they only have so much time, and there is less to argue in favor of a student who does not appear academically prepared for the rigor of college.

Vanderbilt fills a number of places off the waitlist each year, averaging 7-10% of each class. While there is no guarantee of getting off the waitlist, students who are waitlisted and consider Vanderbilt their top choice are encouraged to reach out to let admissions know they remain interested. Students admitted off the waitlist will receive need-based by, but not merit-based aid. If you are waitlisted, you should still confirm your place at another school, but it isn’t necessarily the end of your Vanderbilt ambitions.

As Vanderbilt is need blind, a student’s ability to pay is not factored into admissions decisions. Indeed, their recent recruitment efforts for underserved and first generation students show a current push to increase economic diversity on campus.

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Vanderbilt Academics


Core Requirements:

The Vanderbilt AXLE (Achieving Excellence in Liberal Education) core curriculum consists of two parts: the Writing Requirement and the Liberal Arts Requirement.

Courses of Study: 

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

  • College Scholars ProgramThe College Scholars Honors Program offers promising undergraduates in the College of Arts & Science the opportunity to take honors seminars in several different categories to satisfy AXLE requirements and conduct independent research.
  • Departmental Honors – Students normally begin departmental honors work in the junior year. To qualify for consideration, students must have (a) attained a minimum grade point average of 3.00, and (b) exhibited the adequate dedication required for an independent study.
  • Latin Honors –  those who earn grade point averages of 3.732 or higher will graduate cum laude; 3.837 or higher, magna cum laude; 3.924 or higher, summa cum laude.
  • Academic Honors Society: Phi Beta Kappa
  • Additional Honors Information

Research Availability:

  • Vanderbilt provides undergraduates with many research opportunities ranging from biology research in a laboratory to music performance at a senior honors recital.

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

Pre-Med Options:

Vanderbilt does not offer a pre-Med major, but they offer ample advising for pre-Med and pre-Health students.

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

  • The School of Engineering offers a BS in Computer Science. This shares a department with electrical engineering, and there is some overlap in coursework between the two degrees.
  • Computer Science is also offered as a minor by the same department.
  • Undergraduates are encouraged to get involved with the department’s research initiatives.

Additional Specialty Programs: 

  • Four Plus One Program – The College of Arts and Sciences offers students in most departments and programs the opportunity to complete a combined BA/MA program in under 5 years.
  • Vanderbilt School of Nursing Bridge Program – An undergraduate pre-nursing program.
  • Teacher LicensureCollege of Arts and Science students may combine their academic majors with appropriate education programs through Vanderbilt’s Peabody College to satisfy various licensure requirements for teaching.

Programs for High Schoolers:

Student Life at Vanderbilt

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: Vanderbilt University is a center for scholarly research, informed and creative teaching, and service to the community and society at large.Vanderbilt will uphold the highest standards and be a leader in the quest for new knowledge through scholarship, dissemination of knowledge through teaching and outreach, and creative experimentation of ideas and concepts.
  • Values: Inquiry, Equality, Compassion, and Excellence
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Cappex)

Residential Housing System:

The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons is Vanderbilt’s residential campus for all first-year students and it consists of five historic houses and five new houses. Each house is guided by a faculty head of house who will live among the students in a faculty apartment. To learn more about the first-year residential experience watch this video. After first year, students move into another residential college which will be their home for the rest of their time living on-campus. Most students are required to live on campus for their entire time at Vanderbilt.

Housing Statistics:

  • All freshmen are required to live on-campus.
  • 94% of undergraduates live in on-campus housing for the entirety of their stay

Campus & Surrounding Area:  


  • With your Commodore (Vanderbilt ID) Card, Vanderbilt’s EasyRide program provides students with free rides on local buses, regional buses, and the Star train.
  • Member of Zipcar Program
  • Transportation Options
  • Parking Information


  • V-U Hand Sign – Extend your thumb, index, and middle fingers of the right hand (palm facing out) to form a “V” and “U”.
  • Founder’s Walk – An annual event when incoming freshmen walk through the gates of Vanderbilt to begin their undergraduate careers. Students walk out of the gates to symbolize the completion of their undergraduate years during the graduation procession.
  • Honor Code Signing – At the beginning of each year, the incoming freshmen gather to sign the Honor Code which is then framed and displayed in the Sarratt Student center as a reminder of the commitment students have made. 
  • Star Walk – Vandy students, fans, and the Spirit of Gold marching band line a sidewalk painted with stars, cheering for the football team as they enter and exit Dudley Field.
  • Alma Mater and Fight Song – Win or lose, Vanderbilt students and fans stand and sing the alma mater. Dynamite, the Vanderbilt fight song, was written by a Vanderbilt student, Francis Craig in 1924.
  • Commodore Quake – An annual concert for students in Memorial Gym that kicks off Homecoming weekend. Past headliners have included Ludacris, Chingy and Yin Yang Twins, and the Counting Crows.
  • Rites of Spring – An annual music festival held on alumni lawn the weekend before finals. Past performances include Spoon, Nelly, My Morning Jacket, Phoenix, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, Kid Cudi, and Talib Kwali.
  • For more, check out specific VU Football Traditions!

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 


Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $75,974
  • Tuition: $52,780
  • Fees: $1,377
  • Room & Board: $17,601
  • Books: $1,194
  • Personal Expenses: $3,022

Financial Aid:

Vanderbilt offers need-based financial aid via a combination of grants, scholarships, and employment opportunities/expectations. The school has pledged that all students receiving need-based aid will get packages which do not include loans.

Types of Financial Assistance

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


Vanderbilt offers three types of merit-based scholarships.The application for the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship is required; you must apply to be considered. For the Ingram Scholars Program and Chancellor’s Scholarship, the application is strongly encouraged. The application is due December 1st.

  • Ingram Scholars – students who plan to combine a professional or business career with an exceptional commitment to civic-minded service, innovation, an entrepreneurial spirit, and leadership. The program supports students who are committed to developing their personal roles in the solution to societal problems and who have the maturity and initiative to lead positive social change.
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholars – students who combine outstanding academic achievement with strong leadership and contributions outside the classroom.
  • Chancellor’s Scholars – students with outstanding high school records who have worked to build strong high school communities by bridging gaps among economically, socially, and racially diverse groups and who have demonstrated significant interest in issues of diversity education, tolerance, and social justice.
  • Additional Merit-Based Scholarships

Fun Facts

  • Al Gore attended both graduate school and law school at Vanderbilt.
  • Considered a NCAA Conference rebel, Vanderbilt is the ONLY private institution in the SEC.
  • When Vanderbilt recruited Perry Wallace to their basketball team in 1966, they threw the conventions of the South to the wind – he was the first African-American on the team.
  • In 1928, a blind Vanderbilt student brought the first seeing-eye dog back to the U.S. and started the Seeing Eye Inc. in Nashville.
  • The campus was designated as a national arboretum in 1988 by the Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta; approximately 190 species of trees and shrubs can be found on campus.
  • One tree, the Bicentennial Oak between Rand Hall and Garland Hall, is certified to have lived during the American Revolution and is the oldest living thing on the campus. 
  • In December 2015, a hackberry tree fell, leaving 10 students injured with “broken bones and stitches.”
Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!