How To Write The Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay

Picutre of a girl in black dress sitting at a picnic bench writing her Vanderbilt supplemental essay
October 19, 2022
Purpose of the Vanderbilt Supplemental EssayWhat is the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay?Top Tips for Crafting the Vanderbilt Supplemental EssayVanderbilt Supplemental Essay ExampleFAQs


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/5/22

Vanderbilt University is one of the most selective schools in the country, with just a 6.7% acceptance rate. It is also one of the highest-ranked colleges, as it places in the top 20 of the U.S. News Best National Universities list.

You may feel pressured before you even think of applying because of Vanderbilt’s competitive applicant pool. Don’t worry; everyone must start somewhere. If you need more assistance, you can read our comprehensive guide to getting into Vanderbilt University.

As you start building your college list, you must decide what you look for in a school. You must also ensure you can balance the college application process well and spend enough time on each school. If Vanderbilt is on your college list, read this article to learn how to write the Vanderbilt supplemental essay. 

We will break down the question, share tips on answering the prompt, and provide an example of a successful essay. 

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Purpose of the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay

Vanderbilt University accepts multiple application formats: 

The school has no application preference, so pick whichever works best for you. Since you will have to write a separate personal essay for all three of these applications, research what kind of prompts you must answer before choosing one. 

As a prospective student, you must stand out among the tens of thousands of applications Vanderbilt receives each year. Not only are your GPA and extracurricular activities crucial to the application, so is your essay. 

Vanderbilt’s supplemental essay allows you to introduce yourself in your own words. Your grades and standardized test scores indicate your college readiness, but the admissions committee wants to know your personality. Share what the most important things are to you.

What is the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay?

In addition to the essay requirements for the Common, Coalition, and QuestBridge Apps, Vanderbilt has one required supplemental essay. Having to write one essay has its benefits and disadvantages. You can focus your attention on your response and make it as excellent as possible. However, you may prefer to have a few options to consider before writing.

Whatever the case, you have just one essay to prove you are a good match for Vanderbilt. Remember to be engaging and honest. You should demonstrate your passions and answer the prompt using your authentic voice. 

Prompt: “Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences (200-400 words).”

This essay asks you to talk about one of your extracurriculars, so it should be an activity or experience that matters the most to you. The first and hardest step is choosing which one you want to write about in your response. 

Choose an Extracurricular

You shouldn’t try to write without a plan and hope for inspiration to come. Start with a self-reflection and brainstorming session instead. Put together a list of everything you do outside of your schoolwork, even if it’s not with a formal club or job. It may be an initiative you started, a volunteering experience, or an internship. 

Your response should not list your extracurriculars since you have already done that in another part of your application. It also does not have to be an honors society, an academic club related to your field of study, or anything that seems to be the most impressive. 

Narrow down your brainstorming list to two to four activities with the most significance and personal meaning. Consider these questions as you decide on the subject of your essay: 

You want to show the admissions committee your passions outside of your studies, so demonstrate you are a well-rounded individual in your interests and hobbies. If you cannot decide between two equally significant extracurriculars, choose one based on its relevance to the opportunities found at Vanderbilt and your accomplishments. 

Start Your Essay

The 400-word limit may seem like a lot compared to other supplemental college essays, which have 200- to 250-word limits. But you can and should take advantage of having more space to write. You want to dig deep into one extracurricular. Focus on that one activity and share an anecdote or two about it that shows how it has significantly impacted you. 

When you start your essay, engage with your audience and give them a reason to continue reading. Capture the reader’s attention by giving them a brief look into your experience before diving into your story. 

Here are a few questions and examples you may think about in your response: 

Like the above examples, your story must be specific to leave a memorable first impression. Use your unique voice to give the admissions officer an idea of your personality and try to appeal to their emotions. Connect them to your story. 


Once you start writing, incorporate your reflection of the activity. Walk the audience through your story with sensory language and detailed imagery. Instead of telling your story and everything that happened, show the readers your experience and convey your emotions. 

You want to unpack the activity and share why you like to do it. Your essay should be sincere and not an illusory display of thoughtfulness. Try not to think so much about whether the activity looks good on your application or will impress your reader or not.

Here are some questions to consider in your response: 

Whatever you choose as your topic, you should be able to relate it to an opportunity at Vanderbilt. Now that you have explained why an activity matters to you, you can tie it to the type of student groups or on-campus jobs you are interested in joining. 

You should emphasize your ability to apply prior knowledge and skills to potential opportunities. Conclude your essay by mentioning some of your personal goals at Vanderbilt and how you can be a productive member of the campus community. 

Top Tips for Crafting the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay

Having one chance to impress the admissions committee with your writing can feel intimidating. Here are our best tips to help you craft an excellent Vanderbilt supplemental essay. 

Write About Yourself

Remember, this essay prompt is about an extracurricular you have done. Keep the story unique to your experiences and focus on how you have changed. The point of supplemental essays is for the admissions committee to know who you are.

Say Something New

You will have to write at least one personal essay or statement for the Common, Coalition, and QuestBridge applications. Make sure you discuss a new topic in your supplemental essay so your reader won’t have to read the same thing twice. 

Take Advantage of the Word Count

With a 400-word limit, Vanderbilt gives you a generous amount of space to write about a significant extracurricular. Demonstrate your commitment to a specific activity and show the admissions committee you can do the same as a part of the university. 

Do Not Try to Write Everything at Once

Regardless of when you apply, the college application process may be stressful. You should not start writing until you have a plan, nor should you continue to write if you feel uninspired. Take a break from your essay and come back with a new writing perspective. 

Get Feedback

Look for experts in the college application process who can guide you through the essay. Quad Education consultants want you to successfully land your dream schools, and they can give you great tips to apply. 

Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay Example

Click on the link provided to read a Vanderbilt supplemental essay example reponsding to the following prompt:

Vanderbilt essay example prompt: "Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?"


Do you still have questions about the Vandbilt supplemental essays? Read on below to

1. How is the admissions process for Vanderbilt University? 

Vanderbilt uses a holistic admissions process, meaning one element does not make or break an application. The school considers all factors in evaluating a student, from test scores and grades to extracurricular activities and leadership roles. 

2. What kinds of applications can I submit for Vanderbilt? 

You can apply for Vanderbilt using the Common App, Coalition App, and QuestBridge program. Choose the application system that is right for you, as Vanderbilt has no preference. Carefully follow the instructions on their respective site. 

3. What are the other application requirements for Vanderbilt besides the admissions essay? 

Apart from the requirements of each application system, you must submit high school transcripts, a counselor letter of recommendation, two teacher recommendations, and an application fee of $50. Fee waivers are available for qualified students, and standardized test scores are currently optional. 

4. Are there any other supplemental materials for first-year applicants? 

If you apply for Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, you must complete a separate application in addition to the Coalition or Common App. You will also need to submit at least one artistic recommendation, a headshot, music resume, repertoire list, and pre-screening video. You can find more details on the Blair Admissions Page.

Final Thoughts

The Vanderbilt supplemental essay asks you to focus on an extracurricular activity that matters to you, whether it be a school club, job, internship, or volunteer experience. Since you only have one prompt to show the admissions committee your story, be thoughtful in your response and choose a topic that highlights your values and goals.

Writing an excellent essay is only one part of your application, so make sure you follow our ultimate guide on applying to Vanderbilt. Remember, the best essay is one where you can proudly share a meaningful activity that impacted your perspective for the better. 

Focus on what you want to show the admissions committee, not what you think the committee wants to read. You are sure to craft a stellar essay if you draw on your unique experiences.

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