How to Get Into Vanderbilt: All You Need to Know

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Vanderbilt University in Nashville

As a highly selective institution that’s known for its engineering, education, music, and humanities programs, it’s easy to understand why many rank Vanderbilt at the top of their college lists. This university offers many strong areas of study and is located in the heart of Nashville, one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country.

With a stellar reputation and thousands of applicants each year, students must go the extra mile to earn a spot at Vanderbilt. Read on to learn more about what sets Vanderbilt University apart and learn best practices to increase your chances of admission.

How to Get Into Vanderbilt: Table of Contents

  1. When to Apply to Vanderbilt
  2. How Hard Is It to Get Into Vanderbilt: Early Prep
  3. How Do You Actually Get Into Vanderbilt: The Application
  4. Class Profile
  5. What Makes Vanderbilt Unique?

When to Apply to Vanderbilt

The first step to any application process should be reviewing the application timeline. Students should make sure they’re prepared to meet every admissions milestone. Like most top-tier colleges in the United States, Vanderbilt University uses a holistic admissions process that includes both quantitative and qualitative factors demonstrated through different materials with specific timelines. Here is an overview of the Vanderbilt admissions process and the dates that prospective applicants need to keep in mind:

Vanderbilt Deadlines

Vanderbilt’s application deadlines may vary slightly from year to year, but generally occur around the same time during the academic calendar. For students applying during the 2022-2023 admissions cycle, the major application deadlines and decision release dates are as follows:

  • November 1: Deadline for Early Decision I (ED I) applications.
  • December 1: Deadline for merit scholarship applications.
  • Mid-December: Admissions and financial aid decisions released online to ED I applicants.
  • January 1: Deadline for Early Decision II (ED II) and Regular Decision applications.
  • Mid-February: Admissions and financial aid decisions released online to ED II applicants.
  • Late March: Admissions and financial aid decisions released online to RD applicants.
  • May 1: Decision response deadline for RD applicants.


When students are reviewing admissions timelines for Vanderbilt University, it’s important to keep in mind that the college offers two different admissions options: Early Decision and Regular Decision. Students who choose to demonstrate their interest in Vanderbilt via the Early Decision process will need to submit their applications by either November 1 (for ED I) or January 1 (for ED II). These students will have their admission results roughly six weeks after applying, and students admitted through ED I or ED II must enroll upon receiving this decision and withdraw all other outstanding applications. In contrast, applicants who opt for the Regular Decision round will need to submit their materials by early January and will hear back from Vanderbilt by early April. Admitted students must decide whether they will commit to the college by the beginning of May.

Early, Rolling and Regular Decision

As students enter high school, they may start hearing about different application processes, particularly early vs. rolling admissions. While much of the application process will look similar regardless of the timeline, it’s important to understand the distinct differences between early, rolling, and Regular Decision admissions.

There are two different forms of early admissions: Early Action and Early Decision. The key differentiator between the two is that Early Decision is binding, meaning that if you are admitted to a college via an Early Decision application, you must enroll in that college. Early Action, on the other hand, is not binding. Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) stipulates that students cannot apply to any other college through an early admissions program — with a few exceptions such as non-binding applications to public colleges. Generally speaking, most early deadlines are around the beginning of November and decisions are released approximately one month later. As noted above, Vanderbilt offers Early Decision, but not Early Action or Single Choice Early Action deadlines.

Vanderbilt University does not offer rolling admissions; however, it may be offered by one or more schools on your list. It’s important to understand all the decision rounds. Rolling admissions (RA), for example, do not follow a strict deadline. At most schools that offer this option, applications are accepted any time from September through May. That said, it is best for students to submit their applications as early as possible, since RA schools will continue to accept students until they reach their enrollment capacity.

Finally, Vanderbilt University offers students the opportunity to apply to the Regular admissions round. Students who apply via the regular round generally need to submit their applications by early January. Regular Decision admission decisions are released in early April.

Waitlisted Applications

Given how competitive it is to get into Vanderbilt University, it’s not surprising that the school generally waitlists a portion of its applicants. The waitlist is composed of exceptionally strong and distinguished applicants; the college just doesn’t have enough room to admit all qualified students who apply. Students who are waitlisted will be informed of their admission status when decisions are released and will have the option to choose whether they wish to remain on the waitlist or not.

It’s important to note that Vanderbilt’s admissions waitlists are not ranked; instead, applicants are admitted off of the waitlist to fill institutional needs and ensure that the upcoming Vanderbilt class is balanced. If Vanderbilt needs a clarinetist for its orchestra, for example, they may prioritize admitting clarinet-players off of the waitlist, rather than the student with the best GPA. According to their website, Vanderbilt has admitted students from the waitlist every year for the past 30 years, and roughly 12% of their incoming classes for the past 5 years have come off the waitlist.


If you apply via Early Decision, you cannot be placed on the waitlist. You may, however, be deferred, which means your early application will be deferred to the RD round and read in the context of the RD pool. Students are often at a loss for what to do if you have been deferred. Much like waitlists, your first step in a deferral process should be to determine whether or not the school, in this case, Vanderbilt University, is still your first-choice college. If so, you should be clear on what materials the college needs from you (such as an updated transcript), so that you can send them out as soon as possible. These instructions will be in your admissions decision letter; it’s important to follow them exactly and that you do not submit anything the university doesn’t ask for.

How Hard Is It to Get Into Vanderbilt: Early Prep

Vanderbilt University is one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. Every year, thousands of applicants apply, and only a small percentage of them are offered a seat in the class. While Vanderbilt’s application process is notoriously competitive, you can increase your chances of admission by becoming an expert on the school and preparing for your application well in advance.

Build Your Profile

Since Vanderbilt gets an influx of applications each year, students must understand what the college is looking for in order to stand out from the crowd. In Vanderbilt’s admissions process, academics carry the most weight. The school’s website states that “Vanderbilt uses a holistic admissions process — we do not employ cutoffs for standardized testing or grade point averages.” Admissions officers will affirm intellectually curious students who demonstrate an ongoing commitment to challenging themselves and expanding their horizons.

The university also gains valuable insight through a student’s letters of recommendation. Your high school teachers can provide extremely helpful information in their evaluations. Not only do they discuss your performance in their particular class or classes, but they often write about personal characteristics like your intellectual curiosity, energy, relationship with classmates, and impact on the classroom environment.

Throughout your application, you should also highlight what you are passionate about, what you’ve done to pursue these passions throughout high school, and how attending Vanderbilt University will help you take these pursuits to the next level.

Visit the Campus and a Class

If you’re eager to attend, visiting the Vanderbilt campus is one of the best things you can do to convey your desire to enroll. Registering for a campus tour is a powerful way to demonstrate your interest in attending the college and learn more about the opportunities offered by the college, both academic and otherwise. If possible, see if you can sit in on a class to get a taste of the lecture and discussion environments. Also make sure to spend time walking around and exploring so that you get a feel for the campus.

Connect With a Student

In addition to touring the campus, it can be helpful to get a current student’s perspective on their experience at Vanderbilt University. Your tour guide will likely be a current student. If you have the opportunity to ask your guide a few questions, use this as another chance to learn more about the student experience, straight from the source. If you have any friends or acquaintances who are currently enrolled, don’t hesitate to reach out to get your burning questions answered. Vanderbilt also offers high school seniors the opportunity to connect with a current student through their ‘Dore for a Day program. Prospective applicants will eat lunch, visit class, and explore campus with their student guide.

How Do You Actually Get Into Vanderbilt: The Application

The bad news: there’s no magic trick or tried-and-true strategy that you can use to guarantee your admission to Vanderbilt University. The good news: there are several steps that you can take to increase your odds of admission and set yourself apart for all of the right reasons.

GPA Requirements

Vanderbilt University doesn’t have a required GPA that you must meet to apply. However, the university emphasizes that academic excellence is the factor that carries the most weight during the admissions process. With over 90% of accepted applicants ranking within the top 10% of their high school’s graduating class, it is safe to say most students who gain admission to Vanderbilt have strong GPAs.

SAT and ACT Scores

Much like GPAs, there’s no minimum SAT or ACT score that students must achieve to apply to Vanderbilt. However, the middle 50 percent of admitted applicants achieved an SAT score between 720 and 770 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and 760 and 800 in Math. For the ACT, the middle 50 percent scored between 34 and 56. The most important thing you can do to ace the SAT or ACT is to take multiple practice exams and begin preparing many months ahead of your testing date. Vanderbilt has implemented a test-optional admissions policy for students applying to enter the university for fall 2023 or fall 2024, but we recommend submitting scores if you fall within the middle 50 percent range.

Personal Statement

The personal statement is an opportunity to demonstrate not only your writing skills but also who you are and the qualities that set you apart. You will have the chance to choose from a handful of different essay prompts to write an essay following their parameters. Instead of worrying about what you “should” sound like, it’s best to focus on letting your authentic voice and unique personality shine through.


In addition to the Common App essay prompts, Vanderbilt requires an additional supplemental short answer essay that allow students to provide more information about their extracurricular activities and community engagement. Students can choose to answer one of the two prompts provided:

  1. Vanderbilt offers a community where students find balance between their academic and social experiences. Please briefly elaborate on how one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences has influenced you.
  2. Vanderbilt University values learning through contrasting points of view. We understand that our differences, and our respect for alternative views and voices, are our greatest source of strength. Please reflect on conversations you’ve had with people who have expressed viewpoints different from your own. How did these conversations/experiences influence you?


Regardless of which prompt you choose, your Vanderbilt supplemental essay should be approximately 250 words in length and should focus on answering the question in its entirety.

Letters of Recommendation

Vanderbilt University requires two letters of recommendation from teachers and a recommendation from a high school guidance counselor. Teacher recommendations should highlight a love of learning and the impact you have on the classroom. Letters from a high school guidance counselor can speak to your character and how you interact with the community at large. Vanderbilt University recommends that letters of recommendation come from teachers who have worked with you during your junior or senior year of high school in core academic area courses. Since most teachers and counselors will get an influx of requests for letters of recommendation, aim to ask instructors by the end of junior year so they have plenty of time to compile their responses.

Admission Interviews

Admissions interviews are conducted by Vanderbilt alumni volunteers. Because Vanderbilt University only has a finite number of volunteers and a vast number of applicants, not all students will have the option to interview. Consequently, interviews are not required. If you are granted an interview, you will be connected with an interviewer after submitting your application. If you’re not offered an interview, you are not at any disadvantage in the admissions process.

Contribution to the Vanderbilt Community

Like many colleges, Vanderbilt University admissions officers are eager to admit applicants who will make a lasting impact on the Vanderbilt community. Throughout every component of your application process, including your essays, make sure to highlight your goals and the role you would hope to play once admitted to Vanderbilt. It’s particularly important that your Vanderbilt University application demonstrates a commitment to giving back and connecting with the community, as Vanderbilt students tend to have a tangible impact on shaping the campus experience.

Class Profile

Acceptance rate 7.10%
Class size 1,626
Diversity % range 44.00%

As you’re learning about how to get into Vanderbilt University, don’t forget to review their class profile. Class profiles give applicants a window into what the admissions outcomes at a specific college look like. Every school includes slightly different information in their class profile, but almost all highlight their most recent acceptance rate, their class size, and some of the majors that the college is best known for. This information can help you get a sense of the college and assess your chances of admission.

What Makes Vanderbilt Unique?

There are plenty of factors that make Vanderbilt University unique. So, what is Vanderbilt University known for? Most notably, Vanderbilt is known for its top-notch academic offerings in a wide array of fields across four undergraduate colleges: the College of Arts & Science, the School of Engineering, the Peabody College of Education, and the Blair School of Music. Vanderbilt’s most popular majors include economics, computer science, neuroscience, and political science. Vanderbilt also offers several special departments and majors, including Human & Organizational Development and Medicine, Health, & Society, both popular academic departments that originated at Vanderbilt.

In addition to access to top-tier academics, students have no shortage of options when it comes to extracurricular activities on Vanderbilt’s campus. Some distinctive offerings include WilSkils, a club dedicated to developing and testing Wilderness Skills, and Alternative Spring Break, which takes students on community service trips across the country every year. Specific opportunities like these are great to feature in your application, if they’re something you’re interested in pursuing, to demonstrate your interest in the university and show that you have done your research.

While Vanderbilt may be known for its academics over its athletics, the Vanderbilt Commodores have won five NCAA team championships in the past fifteen years, including two for bowling, two for baseball, and two for women’s tennis. In addition to extracurriculars on campus, Vanderbilt has a variety of study abroad programs that take students to nearly fifty different countries every year.

Vanderbilt boasts a host of famous alumni, including James Patterson, David Price, Dierks Bentley, Dinah Shore, Lamar Alexander, Muhammad Yunus, Jay Cutler, Al Gore, Willie Geist, Amy Grant, and Robert Penn Warren.

Admission Consulting

Most students and families can benefit from college admissions counseling, especially if they’re interested in gaining admission to a top-tier college like Vanderbilt University. Working with an admissions counselor gives you the chance to receive personalized guidance through every step of the application process, including compiling a balanced college list and brainstorming for your personal statement.

While working with a college admissions counselor is an invaluable experience, it’s important to assess whether you’re ready to give the admissions process your all. To make the most of college counseling, you must be engaged in the process and excited about your academic future. It’s also important to select a college admissions counselor who is accredited, qualified, and has ample admissions experience. Do plenty of research so you can pick an independent admissions counselor who brings out the best in the students they work with.

As one of the best universities in the world, Vanderbilt is tough to get into. IvyWise’s admissions counselors can provide years of expertise and know-how to help you be successful in the process. Take the first step toward getting into your dream school and set up an initial consultation.

It’s needless to say that getting into Vanderbilt can be tough since it’s one of the top schools worldwide, but IvyWise’s admission experts are here to make it happen. Take the first step towards getting into your dream school and set an initial consultation.


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