How To Write The Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay + Examples

Picutre of a girl in black dress sitting at a picnic bench writing her Vanderbilt supplemental essay
Updated:
November 20, 2023
7 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/20/23

If you need help writing the Vanderbilt supplemental essay, read this guide to learn everything you need to know about it, including essay prompts and examples! 

You may feel pressured before applying because of Vanderbilt’s competitive applicant pool. Don’t worry; everyone must start somewhere. If you need more assistance, 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 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 prompts, and provide examples of successful essays.


Vanderbilt University Supplemental Essay Prompts 2023-2024

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 on your response and make it as excellent as possible. However, you may prefer to have more options to consider before writing.

The following prompts can be found on the Vanderbilt admissions page.

Prompt #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?”

Prompt #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.”

Both of these supplemental essay prompts have a 250-word limit. Make sure you choose the essay prompts you know you can answer well! 

How to Write Each Essay Prompt For Vanderbilt University

Female student sitting in bed typing on laptop

Here, we’ll cover how to write each essay prompt for Vanderbilt University. 

How to Write Vanderbilt University Supplemental Essay #1 + Analysis and Tips

Vanderbilt University prompt #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?” 

Analysis of prompt #1: This prompt wants you to reflect on conversations you’ve had with people who have expressed viewpoints different from yours. The prompt is looking at how you handle discussions with people with different viewpoints. 

This prompt can also be considered a diversity essay, which Vanderbilt includes because the school values all walks of life. 

Here are some tips to help you write this prompt:

1. Tip #1: Choose a Conversation: To choose the best conversation to talk about in your essay, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my beliefs and values?
  • How do others respond to these beliefs?
  • What is one belief I have that others contest or oppose?
  • How has this belief changed over time?
  • Has anyone influenced this belief? 
  • What points of the opposition can I agree with?
  • Why is it important to discuss differing views on things?

Remember, you aren’t simply relaying a conversation with a friend to the committee. You’re explaining how you respond to opposing views, demonstrate respect for differences, and, most importantly, how you grow because of them! 

2. Tip #2: Identify the Different Viewpoints: Clearly explain the contrasting viewpoints you encountered. Highlight the key differences between the viewpoints without judgment. You'll want to convey your ability to engage with diverse perspectives and how those interactions have shaped your thinking.

3. Tip #3: Highlight What You Learned: Explore how the conversation expanded your understanding of the topic. Discuss any new information or perspectives that you gained. Vanderbilt is looking to see if you’re willing to learn from opposing views, so if you learned anything from the conversation, make sure to add it! 

How to Write Vanderbilt University Supplemental Essay #2 + Analysis and Tips

Vanderbilt University prompt #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.”

Analysis of prompt #2: 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. Vanderbilt values extracurricular activity and emphasizes students having a balance when it comes to their academics. 

Here are some tips to help you write this prompt:

1. Tip #1: Choose an Extracurricular: 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.

2. Tip #2: Highlight Transferable Skills: Identify and highlight the skills you gained from the experience that are transferable to both academic and social settings. This could include teamwork, leadership, communication, or organizational skills.

3. Tip #3: Discuss Impact on Academic Performance: Explain how participating in the extracurricular activity or work experience positively impacted your academic performance. This could be through improved focus, discipline, or understanding of your learning style.


Examples of Vanderbilt University Supplemental Essays That Worked

Below, you’ll find some Vanderbilt University supplemental essays written by successful applicants who were admitted to the school! Let’s look at each one and discuss what worked about it.

Sample Essay #1

Prompt: “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.”

“I never would’ve thought joining my school’s DECA chapter would catalyze my entrepreneurial aspirations. Yet, three years later and now a [POSITION] of said DECA chapter, I’ve channeled this ever-growing tenacity toward not only being a fierce competitor, but also a fierce leader. Aside from defining my high school experience, DECA has helped me find my place in school and given me the bigger-picture purpose necessary to help me develop into who I want to be, who I’ve already been all along: an entrepreneur. 
As a freshman, I was daunted by the task of producing a business proposal that’d cover all aspects of a business, including financial statements I’d never even heard of before. However, I soon found myself thriving by taking on the role of a potential franchisee, working on each section of my business proposal separately and putting them together to watch my business grow on paper, like pieces of a puzzle fitting into place. Embroiled in the encapsulating realm of entrepreneurship, I was inspired by my first year in DECA to immerse myself in the world of business, seeking to involve myself in additional academic and real-world business-esque opportunities and experiences. 
Within the chapter, I’ve made strides as an officer and now a [POSITION] to increase our member engagement and provide resources for members to help guide them through their business proposal construction process. Recently, tasked with the responsibility of building a chapter website, I’ve channeled my problem-solving and marketing skills gleaned from DECA into constructing an innovative platform that communicates our chapter’s mission, conveys important dates for meetings and competitions, displays samples of officers’ past proposals, as well as highlights Great Neck North DECA alumni. 
With each new year, each new business proposal thrusts me into a new level of competition: from qualifying for the state competition as a timid freshman to qualifying for the international competition during my sophomore year to confidently presenting and defending my most recent business proposal as a competitor in the final round at the international competition during my junior year. Outside of competition, each new year in DECA has thrust me into a new level of exploration, personal growth, and mentorship as I continue to absorb as much business-related knowledge as possible while savoring my time in DECA as both a leader and a competitor, ultimately allowing me to flourish as both a student and a future entrepreneur.”

Why Essay #1 Worked

This is a great essay because the writer captures their feelings about joining DECA and how much it has impacted them. The essay also illustrates the DECA chapter’s mission, which helps showcase that the writer believes in it. 

Sample Essay #2

Prompt: “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.”

“Driving intoxicated in the waning hours of the night, he recklessly swerves in and out of lanes until he finally loses control and rams his car into a tree. Save for a few cuts and bruises, he escapes unscathed. His sister’s lifeless body is discovered the morning after the crime–or was it a crime? The light knock of the gavel summons the courtroom to its feet; parents, teachers, coaches, spectators and competitors all stand as the single hour that months were spent preparing for commences.
Having not placed in the regional tournament in a decade, Mock Trial was regarded as little more than a team just barely keeping its head above water, far past its glory years when I first joined the school’s organization. My admiration for the club stretched far beyond simply checking my name off as a member–being content with mediocrity would have no place as long as I was on the team. And so to prevent it from disappearing into oblivion, I began with myself, spending hours learning, polishing and perfecting the skills necessary to succeed. With this, not only did I grow tremendously as an individual and a competitor, but I also gained the respect and admiration of my teammates, earning a leadership role.
Revamping the way Mock Trial operated quickly became a full time job. But, within a year, we were able to secure a spot in the top three of the regional tournament and lift the organization back into prominence. So when the trial starts, have no doubt that the top is the only place we aim. ‘Your honor, opposing counsel, and members of the jury….’ Show time.”

Why Essay #2 Worked

This essay immediately grabs your attention with a detailed reenactment of a crime scene that is a mock trial tournament. The student shows us what this extracurricular means and how they have grown alongside it. They are specific in their accomplishments within the activity, which is a great way to leave a lasting impression

Get More Sample Essays Here!

Examining successful supplemental essays is an excellent method for uncovering effective strategies. Explore numerous samples in our comprehensive college essay database below to discover a wide range of examples!


FAQs

Do you still have questions about the Vanderbilt supplemental essays? Below, we have frequently asked questions. 

1. What Is Vanderbilt University’s Acceptance Rate? 

According to Vanderbilt’s 2027 class profile, its acceptance rate is 5.6%. Out of over 46,000 applicants, the university accepted 2,576 students. 

2. 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 student evaluation factors, from test scores and grades to extracurricular activities and leadership roles. 

3. 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 right application system for you, as Vanderbilt has no preference. Carefully follow the instructions on their respective site. 

4. What Are the Other Application Requirements for Vanderbilt? 

Apart from the requirements of each application system, you must submit high school transcripts, a counselor's 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. 

5. 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 besides the Coalition or Common App. You must also submit at least one artistic recommendation, a headshot, a music resume, a repertoire list, and a 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 experience with opposing views or 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 follow our ultimate guide on applying to Vanderbilt. Remember, the best essay is one where you can proudly share a meaningful conversation or 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 will craft a stellar essay if you draw on your unique experiences.

Access 190+ sample college essays here

Access 190+ sample college essays here

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