What is Vanderbilt’s Acceptance Rate and Admissions Requirements?

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While the northeast is widely regarded as a hub of elite colleges, such as the Ivy League and many selective liberal arts schools, the south also hosts some of the best colleges in the country, including the prestigious Vanderbilt University.


Founded in 1873 in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt is a mid-sized institution, home to 6,800 undergraduates and around 5,500 graduate students. These students are some of the most content, having been ranked by Princeton Review as the #2 Happiest Students in the country in 2020.


Vanderbilt is known for its strong academic programs, its standards on-par with the Ivy Leagues. It is currently tied for the #15 national university spot with Notre Dame, sandwiched between Brown University at #14 and Cornell University at #17.


As you can imagine, gaining admission to such a highly esteemed university is not easy. If you’re planning to apply, or wondering just what it takes to get into Vanderbilt, don’t miss this post.


Want to learn what Vanderbilt University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Vanderbilt University needs to know.


Applying to Vanderbilt: A Quick Review


Vanderbilt accepts three forms of applications: the Common Application, the Coalition Application, and QuestBridge applications. There is no preference for one application over the others.


First-year applicants to Vanderbilt choose between Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision application deadlines. The deadline for submitting an application to Early Decision I is November 1st, while the deadline for both Early Decision II and Regular Decision applications is January 1st. If you’re having trouble choosing which option to choose, or you’re not sure you under each choice, be sure to check out our post Early Decision versus Early Action versus Restrictive Early Action.


To complete your application to Vanderbilt, you’ll also need to submit:


  • Vanderbilt writing supplement
  • Official high school transcript
  • Counselor letter of recommendation
  • Two academic teacher letters of recommendation
  • Official SAT or ACT scores
  • $50 nonrefundable application fee, or fee waiver for qualified students


Vanderbilt does not require SAT Subject Tests, but will review them if they are submitted.


Due to COVID-19, Vanderbilt will be test-optional for students applying during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. To learn more about test-optional policies, visit our blog post.


In addition, Vanderbilt provides the option for informational interviews through Commodore Recruitment Programs (CoRPs). These interviews are meant to be informational and serve as a tool for students and interviewers to evaluate the applicant’s fit with Vanderbilt University. Interviewers provide the admissions committee with a report from each interview that will be included in the applicant’s admissions file. Students who do not participate in interviews are not negatively impacted, and interviews are not available for every applicant.


Vanderbilt’s Acceptance Rate is 9.0%


In 2020, Vanderbilt received 32,376 applications from aspiring first-year Commodores. Of these, 2,907 were offered a spot in the class of 2024. Vanderbilt’s acceptance rate is just shy of 10%, placing on par with the acceptance rates at schools like Dartmouth College (8.7%) and Cornell University (10.3%).


What’s a day in the life like at Vanderbilt? Check out this video and watch the rest of the livestream to learn more about Vanderbilt from current students.


So, How Does One Get Into Vanderbilt?


Similar to many of the Ivy League schools, Vanderbilt prides itself on a holistic admissions process. This means that test scores, grades, and transcripts are considered alongside more qualitative factors like teacher recommendations, extracurricular achievements, and community service. To get into Vanderbilt, you’ll need to prove that you’re not only a good student, but a good member of your community too.


Vanderbilt admits typically are able to prove their academic worth through strong test scores and good grades. 75% of admitted students score 750+ on SAT math and 700+ on SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Similarly, 75% of admitted students score 33+ on the ACT. These scores were even higher when isolated to regular decision admits. In addition, 96% of students admitted regular decision were ranked in the top 10% of their graduating class.


The Vanderbilt admissions committee is quick to note that they receive far more applications from qualified candidates than they are able to admit. As such, their work is extremely difficult. In addition to applicants who submit strong test scores and grades, the admissions committee looks for applicants who succeed in the context of their high school’s most challenging course loads, lead and achieve in activities outside of the classroom, and shine through their essays and letters of recommendation.

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How To Make Your Vanderbilt Application Stand Out


Succeed Outside the Classroom. Vanderbilt places a particular emphasis on extracurricular achievements. They want to see applicants who have taken on leadership positions, who have won awards, and who have otherwise been recognized for their non-academic achievements. In fact, of students admitted regular decision to the Vanderbilt class of 2022, 100% received one or more significant honors or held major leadership positions during high school.


Apply Early Decision. If you know that Vanderbilt is your top pick, you should definitely consider increasing your odds of acceptance by applying under one of the early decision options. The regular decision acceptance rate for the Vanderbilt class of 2024 was just 9%. Students who applied early decision were admitted at a rate of 20.7%.


Optimize Your Teacher Recommendations. Vanderbilt places extra weight on recommendations and provides specific guidance for the types of recommendations that they like to receive. You should request letters of recommendation from teachers who know you well, and make sure your counselor is equally prepared to write a strong recommendation. Vanderbilt isn’t interested in reading a list of accomplishments. These should be evident from your application alone. Instead, they want to hear information expands upon something already on your application or something that informs them of something entirely new. Check out their page Guide to Letters of Recommendation to learn more and don’t miss the CollegeVine post What Makes a Good Recommendation Letter?


What If You Get Rejected?


If you get rejected from Vanderbilt, you can rest assured that you are not alone. 90% of applicants will ultimately be rejected. There are a few different routes you can choose to follow from here.


Vanderbilt is one of the very few colleges that actually does allow students to appeal admissions decisions, but it is rare to overturn any rejections barring exceptionally unique circumstances. Essentially, there are two grounds on which you might choose to appeal a decision, and these are in cases of clerical error or significant new information. For example, if your GPA or test scores were misreported, you might choose to appeal your admissions decision on those grounds. This is the most likely circumstance to result in a decision being overturned.


Another grounds for appeal could be in significant new information becomes available. For example, if you score 200 points higher on your SAT than you did before you were rejected, or you receive a huge national award or recognition, you might choose to appeal. In either of these cases, though, it’s still fairly rare that a decision would be overturned. To read more about the process, check out our post How Do I Appeal My Admissions Decision?


Another option you have is to enroll in another college, and possibly apply to transfer into Vanderbilt at a later date. Vanderbilt does have an unusually high transfer acceptance rate of about 30%. Keep in mind that transfer applications are still selective though, so you should never assume that you’re guaranteed admission. Instead, enroll at a school you’ll know you’ll be happy at, and if you still really want to transfer a year or two later, you can consider it an option at that point.


Your best bet after a rejection, though, is usually to set your sights elsewhere. This can be hard, but remember, it’s not where you go to college that matters, but what you do with your time there. For our advice on adjusting to life at a college that wasn’t your first choice, read our post Envisioning a New Future: Preparing for Life at Your Second-Choice (or Third, or Fourth) School.


If you want more information on applying to Vanderbilt, check out these posts:

The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Vanderbilt University

How to Write the Vanderbilt Essay 2020-2021


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.

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