How To Get Into Vanderbilt: Admission Requirements & Tips

Guide to Vanderbilt University admission
April 24, 2024
10 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/19/24

Thinking about studying at Vanderbilt University? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to get into Vanderbilt. 

Vanderbilt University is a private research university located in Nashville, Tennessee. According to U.S. News’ ranking of the top national universities, Vanderbilt claims the #18 spot. The school’s name recognition and prestige make it an attractive choice if you’re building your college list.

In this guide, you’ll find all the information you need to know how to get into Vanderbilt University. Along with an overview of Vanderbilt’s application requirements and class profile information, we’ll also go over the supplementary essays and tips to help you formulate detailed narratives to catch the admissions committee’s attention. 

The valuable information in this guide will help you navigate Vanderbilt’s admissions process and help you give yourself the best chance of acceptance. If one of Vanderbilt’s undergraduate programs inspires you to apply, this comprehensive guide will give you the tools you need for success.

Vanderbilt Acceptance Rate: 5.1%

Vanderbilt’s prestigious and diverse programs attract students around the country. Historically, the school’s acceptance rate has been highly selective, but more recent data suggests the acceptance rate fell to 3.7%, overall admission rate of 5.1% in a more recent admissions cycle. 

For some more insight into Vanderbilt’s acceptance rate, here’s a table with some admission trends from the past few years: 

Year Number of Applicants Number of Accepted Students Acceptance Rate
2023 47,120 2,645 5.6%
2022 46,377 3,093 6.7%
2021 47,152 3,368 7.1%
2020 36,646 4,259 11.6%

Source: Vanderbilt Common Data Set

Yield Rate 

Vanderbilt’s yield (or enrollment rate) is approximately 57.03%. The yield rate can illustrate how competitive a school is and how eager prospective students are to enroll if offered admission. Although this yield rate may not be as high as Ivy League universities like Yale and Harvard, it still demonstrates that Vanderbilt is a competitive and top-ranked university.

Vanderbilt Early Decision Acceptance Rate

The Vanderbilt Early Decision acceptance rate is 15.2%. While higher than the overall and regular decision rates, this is still a very selective percentage. 

Note that Vanderbilt only offers Early Decision I and II, but does not offer an Early Action plan. 

Here’s some more insight into Vanderbilt’s Early Decision acceptance trends: 

Year Number of Applicants Number of Accepted Students Early Decision Acceptance Rate
2023 5,835 889 15.2%
2022 5,044 890 17.6%
2021 5,021 901 17.9%
2020 4,240 872 20.6%

Source: Vanderbilt Common Data Set

How Hard Is It to Get Into Vanderbilt? 

With a 5.1% acceptance rate, Vanderbilt is a very selective school. To get in, you’ll need SAT/ACT scores of at least 1520 and 34, a 3.9 GPA, and standout application materials, including essays and recommendations. 

If you want to apply to Vanderbilt, the best thing you can do is focus your energy on polishing your own application rather than worrying over statistics. Although the application process and the wait to hear your admissions decision can be intimidating, submitting a well-constructed college application will always boost your chances. 

Take our interactive quiz below to find out how likely you are to get into Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt Admissions Statistics

To give you a better idea of how to get into Vanderbilt University, here are some statistics from a recent incoming class. To be a competitive applicant, you’ll need to match or exceed these numbers! 

Vanderbilt Average GPA: 3.91

The average Vanderbilt student has a high school GPA of 3.91, and 94.2% of students were in the top 10% of their graduating class. If you want to have a competitive application, you should have a GPA of 3.9 or higher. Aim for a 4.0 to be safe. 

Vanderbilt Average SAT Score: 1550

The Vanderbilt average SAT score ranged from 1520-1580, making their median score 1550. To get in, you’ll need to score at least 1520, but try to aim for 1550 or higher to be competitive. 

Vanderbilt has implemented a test-optional policy for both the SAT and the ACT. You will not be required to submit your SAT/ACT scores, but if your scores are competitive, they can help make you a stronger applicant. 

Vanderbilt Average ACT Score: 35

The middle 50% of Vanderbilt applicants scored in the range of 34-36 on the ACT. This means that the Vanderbilt average ACT score is 35. If you want to stand out, you should try to score 35 or higher. 

Like the SAT, Vanderbilt has a test-optional policy for the ACT. However, you may still wish to submit your ACT score if it’s competitive!

What is Vanderbilt Looking For In Applicants?

To be a competitive applicant at Vanderbilt, you should aim for SAT/ACT scores of 1550 and 35, as well as a 4.0 GPA. Furthermore, according to their website, Vanderbilt values students who are collaborative, diligent, and willing to challenge old ideas to make way for new ones. 

For more insight into how Vanderbilt evaluates applications, here is their basis for selection according to their Common Data Set: 

Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Rigor of secondary school record X
Class rank X
Academic GPA X
Standardized test scores X
Application essay X
Recommendations X

Non-Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Interview X
Extracurricular activities X
Talent/ability X
Character/personal qualities X
First generation X
Alumni/ae relation X
Geographical residence X
State residency X
Religious affiliation/commitment X
Racial/ethnic status X
Volunteer work X
Work experience X
Level of applicant’s interest X

Vanderbilt Admissions Requirements

To get into Vanderbilt, you’ll need to maintain a 4.0 GPA. You should also aim for high SAT/ACT scores of 1550 and 35. Vanderbilt values academic excellence in their students, so consider taking IB or AP courses and securing recommendation letters that speak to your abilities.

For a more in-depth look at how to get into Vanderbilt, we’ve compiled the specific materials you’ll need to submit. Here are the materials and details that you’ll need to share in your Vanderbilt application: 

  • Common Application or Coalition Application
  • Personal essay & short answer
  • Official high school transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation; one from a counselor and two from teachers 
  • SAT/ACT scores (optional) 
  • $50 application fee

Additional Materials for Blair School of Music Applicants

Beyond all the materials listed above, you’ll need to produce extra materials if you apply to the Blair School of Music. 

You’ll also need to provide the admissions committee with:  

  • Two artistic recommendations
  • A headshot or photo (it doesn’t have to be a professional portrait; this is solely for identification purposes) 
  • A music resume 
  • Repertoire list 
  • Prescreening video containing an unedited performance of any selection, whether it be vocal or instrumental

Keep in mind that the application for the Blair School of Music can only be accessed once your Common, Coalition, or Questbridge applications have been submitted.

Vanderbilt Application Deadlines

Application deadlines are crucial to keep in mind as you navigate acquiring all the materials you’ll need to submit. Below is a list of Vanderbilt deadlines that you must meet to be considered (note that these dates may be subject to change from year to year).

Application Step Deadline
Preferred last day to take SAT Reasoning Test for ED I October 7
Preferred last day to take the ACT for ED I October 28
ED I application due November 1
Deadline for completed merit scholarship applications December 1
Preferred last day to take the SAT Reasoning Test for ED II and RD December 2
Preferred last day to take the ACT for ED II and RD December 9
ED I admissions decisions released Mid-December
ED I matriculation deposit due December 31
ED II and RD applications due January 1
ED II admissions decisions released Mid-February
ED II matriculation deposit due March 1
RD admissions decisions released Late March
RD matriculation deposit due May 1

Make sure to pay close attention to these dates so that you don’t miss any important deadlines. If you’re considering applying for financial aid, be sure to submit your merit scholarship applciations by December 1, regardless of your decision plan. 

Vanderbilt Regular Decision Deadline

If you’re applying to Vanderbilt through Regular Decision, you’ll need to submit your application by January 1. Make sure to put together a strong application with high SAT/ACT scores and well-written essays to maximize your chances of acceptance. 

Vanderbilt Early Decision Deadlines

The Vanderbilt Early Decision I Deadline is November 1. However, if you’re applying through Early Decision II, you don’t have to submit your application until January 1. You’ll also have your admission decision almost two months earlier than Regular Decision. 

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Into Vanderbilt University

To improve your chances of acceptance to Vanderbilt, you’ll want a minimum 4.0 GPA and SAT/ACT scores in or above the middle 50%. You should also create a well-crafted application with recommendations from strong academic sources and an extensive extracurricular list. 

Because Vanderbilt is a selective school, you want to do everything in your power to make sure that you stand out in the admissions process. Here are some top tips to help you put together an outstanding application. 

Prepare for College Academics In High School and Attain Fantastic Grades 

Although the Vanderbilt admissions process is holistic, taking high-level courses and achieving good grades can help your application stand out.

Vanderbilt’s list of recommended coursework includes: 

  • Four units of English 
  • Four units of math 
  • Four units of natural science 
  • Two units of foreign language classes 
  • Two units of social science of humanities 
  • Four units in other areas such as engineering, computer science, science and research, and advanced humanities classes 

This guideline is just a recommendation, but the admissions committee will also be looking at the rigor of your coursework. Although not every high school offers AP classes or the IB Program, you should strive to take the most challenging course load that you can manage without biting off more than you can chew. 

Rigorous coursework can help demonstrate your passion for knowledge and learning, college readiness, and academic aptitude. You may also want to take courses that relate to your field of interest. For example, if you’re applying to the School of Engineering, you may want to take courses relating to engineering, physics, and chemistry. 

Request Letters of Recommendation Early and Wisely

Your letters of recommendation are an excellent way for the admissions committee to get to know you through third-party perspectives. 

man and woman shaking hands

Remember to request your letters of recommendation as early as possible. Your peers will likely also be looking for letters of recommendation, and you want to allow your recommenders as much time as possible to put together an accurate description of you and your achievements. 

Second, make sure that you choose your recommenders wisely. These people represent you, and you want to make sure that they know you well enough to paint a comprehensive picture of your character. 

The ideal recommender may not be the teacher who gave you the highest grade or a well-liked teacher at your school. Sometimes, the best letters of recommendation come from someone who has spent a lot of time with you and can accurately speak on your personal growth, demeanor, and diligence.

Vanderbilt suggests sending your recommenders some additional context surrounding your achievements and activities. While you can’t dictate what your recommenders will write about you, providing them with context can help them write an informed statement about you! 

Consider What Vanderbilt Is Looking for in Applicants

While you always want to put forth the most accurate and authentic version of yourself, it doesn’t hurt to consider what Vanderbilt is looking for in applicants and students. 

Vanderbilt is looking for applicants who demonstrate academic aptitude and take rigorous classes, strong SAT or ACT scores, and a list of extracurricular activities that illustrate your initiative and goodwill to positively impact your community. 

Remember to consider Vanderbilt’s mission and values in your application. How have you made an impact on your community and others? What challenges and obstacles have you overcome? Where do your passions and aspirations lie? 

three students with piles of books

Think about what your presence at the school can contribute to Vanderbilt’s culture and how you would benefit from an undergraduate degree in one of its four schools. 

Include an Extensive, Well-Organized Extracurricular List

The admissions committee at Vanderbilt will want to see a list of all of your extracurricular activities. Vanderbilt states that “admissions counselors will certainly read the entire list,” so be sure not to leave anything out.

Vanderbilt cares about what you do outside of the classroom and wants to enroll students who contribute to campus culture and participate in various clubs and organizations. 

soccer game

List your extracurricular activities in order of importance so that the admissions committee knows which of your commitments you spent a lot of time on or where your passions lie. This is also an excellent opportunity to highlight any leadership roles or impacts that you made. 

Although leadership experience can undoubtedly bolster your application, Vanderbilt states they “know that leadership titles are not the only way to portray success, and we value any type of involvement that demanded considerable amounts of your time and energy over the last four years.”

You may also want to provide additional context to any activity if you feel that the admissions committee should have a little more information about it. In the additional information section of your application, you can explain more about the activity or the scope of your involvement if you feel that it’s necessary. 

Vanderbilt Essay Prompts

female student using laptop


Vanderbilt currently has only one supplemental essay for students to complete as part of their application. Unlike most other top-ranked universities, Vanderbilt doesn’t have a prompt explicitly asking why you want to attend the school. Instead, they ask students to answer one of the following prompts in approximately 250 words:

1. 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? How did these conversations/experiences influence you?

2. 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.

Supplemental essays give you an opportunity to humanize your application and show who you are aside from your achievements and test scores. To help you write the Vanderbilt essay, remember that these essays are all about you, and you’re the expert in your own life. Be genuine, and the writing will come easily! 

Personal Essay 

The personal essay will be a component of whichever online application you choose, whether the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Vanderbilt suggests that you keep this essay as personal as you can and that they honestly “don’t really care what you write about, as long as you’re writing about you.” 

Don’t write about what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Let your passions show through instead. This is an excellent opportunity to talk about something you haven’t already explored in the rest of your application, and it allows you to demonstrate your individuality and personality. 

FAQs: How To Get Into Vanderbilt University

Still have questions about getting into Vanderbilt? Take a look at our answers to some frequently asked questions to learn more!

1. What Is Vanderbilt Looking for in Applicants?

Vanderbilt is looking for students “who have demonstrated strong academic skills and intellectual curiosity, and who have engaged in activities outside the classroom that have nurtured their growth as leaders.” 

The admissions process is holistic, meaning that your entire application is considered, not just your test scores, GPA, and class rank. 

2. What GPA Do You Need for Vanderbilt University?

Successful Vanderbilt applicants have GPAs of 3.9 or higher. The closer you are to 4.0, the better.

3. Does Vanderbilt Accept Transfer Credits?

Yes, but the eligibility for transfer credits is evaluated on a course-by-course basis. The Office of the University Registrar has more information on transfer credits and the evaluation process. 

4. How Do I Stand Out in the Admissions Process?

There are numerous ways you can stand out from the crowd in your application. Firstly, try to perform well in your high school classes and achieve good SAT or ACT scores. 

Your essays are another component that you should pay special attention to. Because there’s no certainty that you’ll be able to participate in an alumni interview, your essays may be the only chance you have to “speak” directly to the admissions committee. 

5. When Should I Start Preparing for College Applications?

You should start preparing for your college applications in your freshman or sophomore years of high school. Start thinking about meaningful extracurricular activities you can engage in and take your SAT/ACT early, like in your junior year, to give yourself enough time for a potential retake. 

6. Is There a Difference Between Early Decision I and Early Decision II?

Both of these decision pathways are binding, meaning that if you’re accepted into Vanderbilt, you are obligated to enroll. These decision pathways may be an excellent option for anyone attending Vanderbilt as their first choice school. 

The only difference between these two pathways is the date and deadline changes.

7. When Do Vanderbilt University's Early Decisions Come Out?

Vanderbilt’s Early Decision I notifications come out in mid-December and Early Decision II notifications in mid-February. 

8. When Does Vanderbilt University Release Regular Decisions?

Vanderbilt’s regular admission decisions are released in late March.

9. What Should I Do if I Get Rejected From Vanderbilt?

If you receive a rejection notice, that doesn’t mean that you or your application wasn’t good enough; the school simply has limited seats and thousands of applicants. 

Take some time to process the news before moving on to actionable next steps. Consider writing an appeal, accepting another offer and then transferring, or taking a gap year to boost your application.

Final Thoughts

Applying to college is a significant change and can offer exciting new avenues for personal and professional growth. Know that assembling your application doesn’t have to be a stressful experience if you start early and take on one task at a time. The information in this guide shows you what to do and how to get into Vanderbilt University. 

Now that you know more general information about the school, admissions requirements, supplemental essays, and class profile information, you can confidently put together a stellar application. Every piece of your application shows the admissions committee a piece of you, so make sure that you compile it with care. 

By dedicating yourself and expending effort in your application, you can certainly boost your chances of acceptance into Vanderbilt! 

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