Vanderbilt University, also sometimes affectionately known as “Vandy,” is one of the best colleges in the nation located one of the hippest cities ever, Nashville, Tennessee.
Vanderbilt is a highly prestigious, highly selective private research institute known equally for its acclaimed music school and medical center. Currently ranked #14 in national universities, Vanderbilt draws the best and brightest students from all over the world. And as you may have guessed, Vanderbilt isn’t exactly easy to get into.
So before we jump into exactly how to get into Vanderbilt, let’s take a quick look at the Vanderbilt admissions statistics.
Quick Vanderbilt Admissions Statistics
Vanderbilt SAT scores (average composite score of admitted students)
|1530 out of 1600|
Vanderbilt ACT scores (average composite score of admitted students)
|34 out of 36|
Vanderbilt GPA (average of admitted students)
|3.8 out of 4.0|
|Vanderbilt acceptance rate||10.9% (Fall of 2017)|
Yep, you’re going to have to be a pretty impressive candidate to get into Vanderbilt, but we believe in you! For more information on exactly how to get into Vanderbilt, read on!
More About Vanderbilt SAT Scores
If you plan to submit SAT scores to Vanderbilt, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Vanderbilt requires the SAT or the ACT, but you can submit scores for both if you’d like.
- Vanderbilt superscores the SAT, which means that they take only the highest grades on individual sections across all testing dates into consideration.
- The SAT Essay is optional.
- SAT scores must be reported directly from the testing agency, not self reported.
- SAT subject tests are optional.
So now onto the fun part: the score you’ll need to be a serious contender.
The average SAT score of students accepted to Vanderbilt is 1530, but looking at percentiles will help give you a clearer idea of your actual chances of getting in with various scores:
- The 25th percentile for Vanderbilt SAT scores is 1480.
- The 75th percentile for Vanderbilt SAT scores is 1590.
Okay, but what does this mean exactly? It means that scoring a 1480 or lower will put you below average compared to the other applicants. Conversely, scoring 1590 or higher will place you above average.
The takeaway? You have to pretty much aim for perfection to have competitive SAT scores for Vanderbilt. To get started, check out these stories of four students who snagged the coveted perfect SAT score.
As far as how the percentiles shake out for each section of the SAT:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
Since Vanderbilt superscores, you may find yourself re-taking the SAT in order to improve in a particular subject. As a rule of thumb, if you aim for the 75th percentile score for each section, you’ll be in good shape.
Also, this is a fantastic explanation of standardized test score averages and the degree to which they can actually help you predict your chances of acceptance into Vanderbilt.
More About Vanderbilt ACT Scores
If you plan to take the ACT and submit your score to Vanderbilt, keep in mind that:
- The ACT Writing test is optional.
- ACT scores must be reported directly from the testing agency, not self reported.
- Vanderbilt doesn’t superscore the ACT, but will take the highest overall score from a specific testing date.
The average ACT of students accepted at Vanderbilt is a 34 and the composite percentiles are as follows:
- The 25th percentile for Vanderbilt ACT scores is 32.
- The 7th percentile for Vanderbilt ACT scores is 35.
The same idea as before applies with ACT scores. A 32 or lower will put you below average compared to other applicants while a 35 or higher will put you above average.
So consider a composite score of 35 your bullseye! Yowza that’s high, but remember that you can retake the ACT as many times as necessary to get a competitive grade.
As far as the percentiles for the individual ACT sections:
|ACT Section||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
So basically, think of it this way: to have a fighting chance at going to Vandy, keep your mind set on ACT scores of 35 across the board! Our post on how to score the perfect ACT score can help set you in the right direction.
More About Vanderbilt’s GPA Average
The average GPA of students accepted to Vanderbilt is 3.8 out of 4.0. That’s pretty steep, and will require that you have almost entirely A’s on your transcript for the duration of your high school career.
A good way to raise your GPA is by excelling in plenty of honors, IB, and/or AP classes. Depending on how your high school calculates your GPA, these courses are often weighted more heavily and therefore naturally raise your GPA.
For that matter, if you’re considering highly selective universities, you’ll want to do well in challenging, higher-level courses because doing so indicates that you’re prepared for the rigor of college.
Word to the wise though: after your first two years of high school it’s quite difficult to change your GPA significantly. So if you want to be a competitive applicant, you’ll want to start getting high grades early on and keep it up for 4 years!
Also, it’s important to know, realistically, that even with a very high GPA, Vanderbilt’s acceptance is very low. The following admissions percentages for various GPAs illustrate this:
|High School GPA||% of Freshman Accepted|
|3.50 to 3.75||21%|
|3.25 to 3.50||10%|
3.00 to 3.25
|2.75 to 3.00||2%|
|2.50 to 2.75||1%|
|2.25 to 2.50||0%|
Notice that most significantly, your chances greatly diminish if your GPA is lower than 3.50. What this tells us is that in the recipe for how to get into Vanderbilt, a good GPA is just one ingredient.
More About Vanderbilt’s Acceptance Rate
Historically, Vanderbilt’s admissions rate is about 12%, but a growing applicant pool is making things more competitive.
For the class of 2021 (which started fall 2017), 3,415 students were admitted out of 31,462 applicants, making the overall acceptance rate 10.9%. Of those admitted, 1,607 enrolled.
As far as the class of 2022 Regular Decision applicants:
As for the class of 2022 Early Decision applicants, 20.5% were accepted.
According to Jay Watson of Vanderbilt’s admissions department:
“This year’s admitted students were selected from an exceptionally talented applicant pool, the largest and most qualified in our history…We are thrilled with the stellar applications we have received — the academic achievements, community involvement, and diversity of backgrounds and experiences among our applicants make our work as an admissions staff both rewarding and challenging. It is an honor to see such talented students seeking Vanderbilt as a destination for college. At the same time, such a strong pool of applicants means our process must be highly selective. Because we must limit our first-year class to just 1,600 students, there are many talented applicants we are not able to admit. It is precisely because these decisions are so difficult to render that we put such careful consideration into our process.”
So the gist is that you’re going to have to be an impressively well-rounded candidate to get into Vanderbilt!
Vanderbilt Freshman Profile
So who are these highly impressive students being admitted to Vanderbilt?
The most recent Vanderbilt freshman profile published reflects tons of data on the class of 2021, which gives us a good indication of the type of students getting into Vandy.
Most notably, the students admitted to the class of 2021 are:
|American Indian or Alaska Native||0.6%|
Asian or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
Hispanic of any race
Two or more races
Students receiving financial assistance
Students receiving Pell grants
The profile also includes lots of interesting information on enrollment by region, financial aid awarded, etc. But really, the most noteworthy trend in Vanderbilt’s admissions is that the student body is becoming decidedly more diverse, which is a great thing!
Vanderbilt Admissions Requirements
So what will you actually need to gather and submit if you plan to apply to Vanderbilt?
You’ll find everything you need to know in Vanderbilt’s undergraduate admissions overview including admissions requirements for homeschool applicants, international applicants, transfer applicants, QuestBridge applicants, and Blair School of Music applicants.
But for convenience, here’s an application checklist for first-year applicants:
- A completed Coalition Application or Common Application (Remember that for either application, you will need to write an essay; here’s a guide to writing a Common App essay that will help you get you accepted!)
- A $50 application fee or fee waiver
- Official high school transcripts
- Letter of recommendation from your school counselor
- Two letters of recommendation from academic teachers who know you and can speak to your academic talent, growth, potential, and character (p.s. here’s a great guide to asking for a letter of recommendation!)
- Official SAT and/or ACT scores, or TOEFL or IELTS scores for non-native English speakers
Vanderbilt Admissions FAQs
This is a super sweet, comprehensive list of Vanderbilt FAQs, covering everything from academics to financial aid. And you’ll be hard-pressed to think of a question about applying to Vanderbilt that isn’t included.
Among the most common FAQs:
Does Vanderbilt interview?
Interviews are not part of the formal application process, but some interviews with Vanderbilt alumni are available to prospective students looking to learn more about the school. Here is more information on Vanderbilt interviews.
Does Vanderbilt give credit for AP classes?
Yep! Vanderbilt awards college credit to AP test scores of 4-5 and IB test scores of 6-7. Here’s more information about the required scores for specific exams.
Is Vanderbilt need-blind?
Yes, which means that your financial need is not taken into consideration when reviewing your application. You can read more about Vanderbilt’s financial aid, but know that Vanderbilt commits to funding 100% of accepted students’ demonstrated need and does not give out financial aid in the form of loans.
How to Get Into Vanderbilt
Wondering how to get into Vanderbilt, in a nutshell? Here’s the short answer based on everything we’ve gone over: be an academic rockstar!
The real key, though, is to make sure that your application is impressive all the way around. A high GPA or excellent SAT scores on their own won’t cut it.
Beyond the combined powers of a high GPA and high test scores, what can you do to make your application stand out?
- Write a truly outstanding essay. Make sure that your essay paints a unique and compelling portrait of yourself while being well crafted and perfectly polished. We recommend revising it many times, so start drafting it early!
- Get the best letters of recommendation possible. Don’t ask teachers who don’t really know you or your academic work, and don’t ask under a time crunch. Give your teachers ample time to put the proper thought and energy into recommending you. A meaningful letter of recommendation can be a game-changer on a college application!
- Participate in plenty of extracurricular and/or service-based activities. The more, the better, especially if you’ve been in a leadership position (e.g. a team captain).
- Don’t be afraid to brag. If you have awards, honors, or publications, for example, list them on your application!
Remember that the key is to stress why you want to join the Vanderbilt community and what you can contribute to it. The more well-rounded you are, the better chances you have of getting accepted.
And of course, since standardized tests are so integral to your application, start studying early! Here is a great, free 1-week SAT free trial as well as a great 1-week ACT free trial to get you started!