How to Get Into Vanderbilt: Admissions Stats + Tips
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- How Hard Is It to Get Into Vanderbilt?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted Vanderbilt Students
- What is Vanderbilt Looking for?
- How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Vanderbilt
- How to Apply to Vanderbilt
- Learn more about Vanderbilt
Consistently ranked as one of the “happiest” colleges in the US, Vanderbilt University is a highly selective university located in Nashville.
Vanderbilt has three undergraduate schools within the larger university, each with its own criteria and personality:
- College of Arts and Science
- Blair School of Music
- School of Engineering
- Peabody College of Education and Human Development
What does it take to get into this prestigious, selective university? Here’s what you should know.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Vanderbilt?
For the class of 2024, 36,646 students applied, and 4,259 were admitted, for an acceptance rate of 11.6%.
The overall acceptance rate is not yet available for the class of 2025, but according to the Vanderbilt Hustler, the Early Decision acceptance rate was 18.1%.
This admissions rate might seem intimidatingly low, but bear in mind that your personal chances of admission may be higher or lower, depending on your unique profile.
In order to determine your chances of success at Vanderbilt, try CollegeVine’s admissions calculator. This free tool uses your information, including grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and other factors, to estimate your real odds of admission.
Average Academic Profile of Accepted Vanderbilt Students
The average high school GPA for the class of 2024 was 3.86, and 32.8% had a GPA of at least 4.0.
In the 2020–2021 admissions cycle, 44.8% of matriculating students submitted SAT scores, and 56.4% submitted ACT scores.
The middle 50% SAT score range was 1470-1570, and the ACT score range was 33-35.
Of matriculating students, 89.6% were in the top 10% of their graduating high score class, while 96.8% were in the top 25%.
What is Vanderbilt Looking for?
Vanderbilt employs a holistic admissions process, using criteria that are consistent with the Ivies and other highly selective schools of its caliber. Exemplary academic credentials, including GPA and standardized test scores, are a must, and the university also values extracurricular achievements, such as awards and leadership positions. The university notes that they don’t consider demonstrated interest in evaluating applications.
Vandy seeks out students with unique passions, who have made an impact on their communities. They’re looking for “depth over breadth” — a “genuine commitment to one or a few activities” over superficial involvement.
“Our mission includes finding, choosing, and enrolling talented and accomplished students who bring countless experiences and perspectives, and represent a broad array of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds,” says Vanderbilt. “Our promise is to provide a residential educational experience that challenges our students to listen to many different perspectives and learn from each other. The result is a community that produces graduates who are ready to make an impact on the world.”
How Vanderbilt Evaluates Applications
According to the 2021 Common Data Set, Vanderbilt considers the following factors “very important”:
- Rigor of secondary school record
- Class rank
- Academic GPA
- Standardized test scores
- Application essay
- Extracurricular activities
- Character/personal qualities
These factors are “important”:
These are “considered”:
- First generation
- Alumni/ae relation
- Geographical residence
- State residency
- Racial/ethnic status
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
And these are “not considered”:
- Religious affiliation/commitment
- Level of applicant’s interest
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Vanderbilt
1. Achieve at least a 3.86 while taking the most challenging classes available.
Vandy seeks intellectually engaged students who are capable of handling a rigorous curriculum. The average GPA for admitted students is a 3.86, and the vast majority of those who submitted their class rank were in the top 10% of the graduating class.
The Academic Index is a threshold most highly selective colleges like Vanderbilt use to evaluate students’ academic profiles prior to reviewing their qualitative achievements. So, it’s important to have a high GPA along with a rigorous schedule — the most demanding one available to you — in order to demonstrate that you have strong credentials and can meet a challenge head on.
If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA, so the easiest way to increase your Academic Index is to get a higher test score.
2. Aim for a 1570 SAT or 35 ACT.
Your standardized test scores also factor into the Academic Index score. You should aim for scores at the upper end of the middle 50% range, although anything within the range is acceptable. Vanderbilt does superscore, meaning they will only consider your top section scores from all sittings for both the SAT and ACT.
Vanderbilt, like most other schools, currently has a COVID-19 test-optional policy. We do recommend that you take the SAT or ACT if you are able to do so safely. We suggest submitting your score if it’s at the 25th percentile or above for accepted students at Vanderbilt (1470 SAT/33 ACT). For more advice on whether to apply test-optional, try our free Chancing Engine.
Want to improve your scores? Take a look at these resources:
- How to Get a Perfect 1600 Score on the SAT
- How to Get a Perfect 36 Score on the ACT
- More SAT Info and Tips
- More ACT Info and Tips
3. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”).
Vandy is looking for students who not only excel in the classroom but also demonstrate interests and passions outside of school. It’s better to be specialized than well-rounded in this regard — you should have a “spike,” meaning activities grouped around one or two key areas, showing that you’ve honed and developed these areas.
Extracurricular activities are categorized by a 4-tier system. Tier 1 indicates that the activity is specialized, exemplary, and unique — winning the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award for music or attaining an Intel Award, for example. Tier 4, meanwhile, represents activities that are the most common, such as sports or music ensemble participation.
Competitive candidates at a top 20 school like Vanderbilt will have at least one or two Tier 1-2 activities on their resumes. Of course, you’ll also have some Tier 3-4 activities, too, and these do serve a purpose, showing you’re developing your interests.
Vandy places high value on extracurriculars, as evidenced by their essay topic:
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (200-400 words)
4. Write engaging essays.
On that note, you should spend ample time on your essays, to demonstrate both your extracurricular involvement and personality. This is a way to set yourself apart from candidates with similar academic credentials, as well as demonstrate who you are as a person, beyond your transcript and test scores.
5. Apply Early Decision.
The Early Decision acceptance rate is higher than the overall acceptance rate at Vanderbilt. That means it will give you a bit of an advantage to apply through this plan.
That said, you should only apply ED if Vanderbilt truly is your top choice. Be aware of the limitations of applying ED, too — for example, you won’t be able to compare financial aid offers. It also won’t help much if your credentials are well below those of Vanderbilt’s freshman class — your odds are low, so it’s better to use this advantage elsewhere.
Remember that Vanderbilt has two ED plans, so if you’re rejected or deferred from your top choice and Vandy is your second choice, you can have this advantage applying for the second round of Early Decision.
6. Choose your recommenders wisely.
Vanderbilt considers recommendations important to the admissions process. You should ask teachers who know you well as a student and as a person. Give them ample time to complete these recommendations, and be sure to remember to thank them. (Here’s more advice for asking your teachers for recommendations.)
How to Apply to Vanderbilt
Early Decision I
Early Decision II
- Common Application or Coalition Application
- $50 application fee or fee waiver
- Official high school transcript
- Counselor letter of recommendation
- SAT or ACT scores (optional for Fall 2021)
- Two academic teacher letters of recommendation
- Additional requirements for Blair School of Music applicants
Learn more about Vanderbilt
Want to find out more about Vandy? Check out these resources:
- What is Vanderbilt University Known For?
- How to Get Into Vanderbilt
- Vanderbilt University Student Panel
- The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Vanderbilt University