What Does it Take to Get Into Vanderbilt?

Strategies by School
March 12, 2020
Vanderbilt University Has Set A High Standard For Other Colleges To Live Up To...

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University is famous for a lot of things. Whether it’s their nationally-ranked academic programs, stunning campus, or prestigious faculty, students who graduate from Vanderbilt are set up for success.

Not only are Vanderbilt students provided with strong career connections, but their experience is a positive one from start to finish when studying at Vanderbilt. In fact, the Princeton Review ranked Vanderbilt the #1 university in the US for the best quality of life! With a ranking like that, it’s no wonder nearly 40,000 students apply to Vanderbilt every year. If this inquisitive community sounds like the ideal college for you, keep reading to find out how to get into Vanderbilt.

What You’ll Find In This College Guide:

Vanderbilt's Ideal Student

The average GPA and standardized test scores of incoming Vanderbilt freshmen are:

  • GPA: 3.76
  • SAT: 1510
  • ACT: 34

Vanderbilt’s 10% acceptance rate is the lowest among Tennessee universities. Their acceptance standards are considered elite; according to admissions data, Vanderbilt accepts students who graduate in the top two percentages of their classes.

However, Vanderbilt’s requirements go deeper than numbers and data, and they don’t just accept every student with outstanding test scores. Even if you have exceptional grades and received perfect scores on your SAT, your admission to Vanderbilt isn’t guaranteed because they have a specific student profile in mind.

Their specific needs for their student body may adjust every year, but the foundation of the ideal Vanderbilt student never changes.


Vanderbilt admissions kicks off the application process with this important question; it’s so important, in fact, that it’s the first thing they want you to consider. Vanderbilt admissions wants students who want to be a part of their campus. Their curriculum is intense, so it’s not for students who simply want a prestigious university on their resume.

  • What draws you to Vanderbilt?
  • How do you envision yourself being actively engaged in the classroom and on campus?
  • What will Vanderbilt do for you in your academic career?
  • How will you help Vanderbilt accomplish their mission, vision, and values?


Vanderbilt is among the top 20 research universities funded by federal research and development departments. By 2020, Vanderbilt built up almost $650 million worth of research efforts, and the only way to keep their world-changing programs consistent is to keep admitting students who are dedicated to research and discovery.

Vanderbilt’s curriculum uniquely combines comprehensive research with an interdisciplinary approach. All class content is relevant, research projects eventually affect each other, and all outcomes are considered positive and useful.

  • Highlight an assignment you received in high school where your passion for research shined through.
  • What academic areas are you passionate about and how do you hope to discover new information in those areas at Vanderbilt?
  • How would you like to be involved in Vanderbilt’s research efforts?


Vanderbilt admissions looks for students who are actively engaged in their work, and if applicable, their fellow peers. Most class work is collaborative and group projects are very common, so if you prefer working alone, Vanderbilt might not be the place for you.

  • How were you actively engaged in research projects during high school?
  • What excites you about collaborating with other students and sharing the outcome with them?
  • What Vanderbilt programs have you researched so far and which ones excite you the most?


When it comes to community service, there are no barriers within the Vanderbilt community. Professors, administrators, students, and employees all partner together to ensure that the campus experience is marked by oneness and reciprocity.

  • How did you participate in community service efforts in high school, and what specific projects were you passionate about?
  • How do you plan to continue your passion for community service at Vanderbilt?


In addition to academic programs, Vanderbilt has a long list of top national rankings as one of the best schools for student athletes, financial aid, and student life.

Because they take an interdisciplinary approach to their impressive research efforts, a large amount of Vanderbilt’s academic programs find spots in the top 10 rankings for each category. No matter what you choose to study, graduating with any degree from Vanderbilt represents four years of excellent work in a nationally-recognized program.


Vanderbilt’s ideal student is actively engaged in their classes and their community. They get excited about research, enjoy collaborating with other students and share their positive outcomes with their peers.

This student also has impressively high test scores which represent an excellent work ethic, perseverance, and dedication to excellence. Vanderbilt offers nothing less than an enriching experience in the middle of their rigorous curriculum. If you enjoy the challenge of comprehensive research, keep reading to find out how to get into Vanderbilt.

What You Need To Get Accepted Into Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt’s requirements have many components and they vary depending on the particular situation of the student applying. It’s important that you pay attention to every section of your application; start early so you can go through the process slowly, read all the instructions, edit your essays, and polish your application until you have a truly finished product.

Keep in mind that even if you meet every requirement, Vanderbilt’s admissions process is stringent. In 2019, 3,298 students were accepted out of a pool of 34,313 applicants. In each component of the application, be yourself, get creative, and show Vanderbilt admissions the best version of you.


You can apply for Vanderbilt by using one of the following two applications:

You can use these applications for multiple colleges; the Vanderbilt-specific portions are automatically included. The general information that will be required for every college application like standardized test scores, your GPA, and official school documents will also be submitted through these platforms.


Vanderbilt admissions requires your official high school transcript, which can be provided by your counselor. You’ll also need to send your official SAT or ACT scores, though they don’t prefer one test over the other.


For your Vanderbilt application, you’ll need to provide three letters of recommendation. One must be from a counselor, and the other two must be from teachers. If you can, try to obtain one of these letters from the teacher who instructed you in your favorite class, or the academic area you plan on studying at Vanderbilt.


In addition to the general writing sample included in your chosen application platform, you’ll also need to complete the Vanderbilt Writing Supplement. Thankfully, Vanderbilt only has one 400-word writing prompt option for every student.

Last year’s writing prompt simply asked applicants to explain their favorite extracurricular activity. Use your own voice in this short essay, and don’t be afraid to get creative! Talk about an activity that’s unique to you, and draw them in with your honesty and openness.


For students applying to Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, the following materials will need to be provided along with your application:

  • Two artistic letters of recommendation
  • Headshot or photo
  • Music resume
  • Repertoire
  • Pre-screening Video

For international students:

  • An additional International Student Supplement included in the application
  • English Proficiency Exam (TOEFL, IELTS, or DuoLingo)


The application fee for Vanderbilt is $50, and a fee waiver can be requested through your application portal or your school counselor.

Vanderbilt’s application deadlines are:

  • Early Decision I: November 1st
  • Early Decision II: January 1st
  • Regular Decision: January 1st
Note: Be aware of Vanderbilt’s financial aid initiative, Opportunity Vanderbilt. With this program, Vanderbilt admissions vows to consider applications under a need-blind basis and meet 100% of any student’s demonstrated financial need.


If you pay close attention to Vanderbilt’s requirements, you’ll be heading in the right direction with the admissions process. Keep in mind that Vanderbilt admissions looks for students who get excited about research, are actively involved with their communities, and who want to use their research to make the world a better place.

In every component of your application and essay, keep asking yourself “Why Vanderbilt?” Show Vanderbilt admissions why you’re the ideal student for their mission, and why they have the best programs for your goals.

Vanderbilt's Campus Life

Vanderbilt is located in Nashville, Tennessee, which is known as the music capital of the U.S. Nashville is home to some of the music industry’s most talented artists, prestigious recording labels, and countless opportunities for artists to share their work with the public. While Nashville is known for music, it still has plenty to offer its citizens and students who enjoy activities other than music and entertainment.

Going to college in a city like Nashville is a one-of-a-kind experience. Vanderbilt’s campus culture encourages their students to try new activities, get excited about their studies, and make ambitious plans for the future. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of career opportunities and new things to try, all in the heart of America’s Music City.


Vanderbilt has over 500 student organizations that are perfectly crafted to welcome students from all over the world. Most organizations tie in to certain academic programs, majors, and minors so students can enhance their learning in a fun, stress-free environment.

Whether you’re interested in the performing arts, science, philosophy, or serving your community, you can find or create your own organization at Vanderbilt. Nashville is an international hub for music and arts; the city is home to the world-renowned Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and more.

Vanderbilt’s Greek Life community has a central energy that affects the rest of campus; fun traditions drive the spirit of unity that keeps students connected throughout the year.


The Vanderbilt Commodores have won five NCAA national championships. Their strategic recruiting combined with a supportive student athlete program makes them one of the best universities in the U.S. for sports. Vanderbilt’s athletics program offers 16 sports for both men and women. Their impressive sports facilities include an olympic-sized pool, tennis courts, a golf course, and several recreation centers.

If you’re not interested in playing sports competitively, you can join any one of Vanderbilt’s 40 intramural sports teams and clubs. You’ll find a solid community by joining a team or even registering a new one! The importance of staying active directly influences Vanderbilt’s campus culture by fueling student’s energy and motivation towards their experience in class.


Vanderbilt’s housing program is uniquely integrated into their campus; all freshmen are required to join the living-learning residential community, the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons. This program includes 10 houses, and a Commons Center. After your first year, your housing options expand to traditional dorms, apartments, and even off-campus options.

Vanderbilt’s dining program offers students plenty of menus and locations; whether you want to study at a restaurant or grab something on your way to class, the dining options at Vanderbilt will meet all your needs. Along with the dining plan, you can use your Vanderbilt ID to get special discounts at several of Nashville’s best restaurants.


Every year before finals, thousands of Vanderbilt students gather on campus for their own Nashville way of relaxing: a music festival. The Rites of Spring music festival has hosted some of the world’s most prevalent musical artists including Counting Crows, Phoenix, My Morning Jacket, and Nelly.

Most universities create stress-relieving programs the week before finals, but in Nashville, the most appropriate means of relaxing is through music.

From Application To Career: What You'll Experience At Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt’s admissions process is organized and streamlined; their requirements are clearly outlined on their admissions website, so in order to ensure that you deliver a polished application, make sure that you reference Vanderbilt’s helpful resources often.

From the application process to transitioning into your career, Vanderbilt University is dedicated to your success.


While you’re completing your Vanderbilt application, keep asking yourself why you chose this university. The more you remind yourself of why you can’t imagine going anywhere else, the better you’ll be able to communicate those reasons on your application. This is one of the first things Vanderbilt admissions will be looking for, so spend plenty of time showing why Vanderbilt is the school for you.

Show them your passion for research and collaboration, and explain how you plan on using your Vanderbilt education to pursue your goals.


More than anything, Vanderbilt admissions wants to read a polished, honest essay. Be sure to write your essay early so you can revisit your rough drafts often and edit them as needed. While honesty is key, it doesn’t always excuse poor writing. You’ll want to find the delicate balance between sounding intelligent and being yourself.


While attending Vanderbilt, make sure you get off campus to enjoy all that Nashville has to offer. If music and performing arts are your forte, you’ll have no problem finding fun activities like open mic nights, concerts, and theater performances.

Even if music isn’t your primary focus, Nashville has tons of opportunities for students interested in athletics, politics, and community service.


In 2018:

  • 83 percent of students had a job secured at graduation
  • 24 percent of students continued their education in graduate school

Your Future At Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt could be your launching pad into the rest of your life, so you should start the application process on a strong note! Regardless of what you want to study, Vanderbilt’s admissions officers, faculty, staff, and career counselors are dedicated to helping you become an excellent student, thinker, and member of society.

If you feel unsure of your progress at any point in the Vanderbilt application process, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of WeAdmit’s professional counselors. Our counselors can help you refine your Vanderbilt application, whether that means editing essays, completing admissions research, and ultimately, crafting an application that will captivate Vanderbilt admissions.

Reach Out Today And Get Started On Your Path To Vanderbilt!



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.