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A Strong Vanderbilt Essay Example from an Accepted Student

Consistently ranked as one of the best schools in the nation, Vanderbilt University is world-renowned for exceptional academics. A top-tier reputation leads to a highly selective admissions process, so to get into Vanderbilt, you need more than just strong grades and test scores—you need stellar essays that set you apart from other academically excellent applicants.

In this post, we will share a real essay submitted by an accepted Vanderbilt student. We will go over what this essay did well, and where there is room for improvement.

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Read our Vanderbilt essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.

Essay Example – The Power of Story

At an intersection in Oakwood, an elderly Asian man walks on the sidewalk. Behind him, a man in a black hoodie follows. Without warning, the man in the black hoodie pushes the Asian man to the ground, his face landing flat against the sidewalk, motionless.

Pausing the video, I watch my friends’ faces flicker between confusion, anger, and hurt. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes became personally painful for my Asian American friends. We encountered news of elderly Asian Americans violently thrashed and berated with slurs. But beyond our circle, conversations about these occurrences were absent. And despite the South Asian community being relatively safe from these crimes, I shared the sobs of my friends. 

A few years ago, I joined a nonprofit that empowers minorities to be civically engaged citizens. Engaging with this group of passionate individuals, I was inspired by their unrelenting dedication to improving others’ lives through community-building.

Eager to foster solidarity among Reno’s AAPI community in light of these tragedies, we pioneered a march against hate, where we invited student speakers to share their stories of racial discrimination. Listening to my peers’ journeys, from finding confidence as an immigrant to navigating implicit bias in the classroom, I became captivated by the power of story. 

Bonding over the commonality in our journeys and in our activism, I yearn to persist in championing the use of dialogue to build community in the face of adversity at Vanderbilt.

What the Essay Did Well

This “Extracurricular Essay” does a great job of telling a story. The beginning draws the reader in by including details like “ an intersection in Oakwood ,” and “ a man in a black hoodie ,” to help us visualize the scene. In the next paragraph, we realize that we are watching this situation through the eyes of the student. By first providing readers with the terrible situation directly, the student arouses our own emotions, which allows us to immediately understand the student’s shock and anger once we realize we are actually in their shoes.

The second paragraph goes on to provide good background on the student’s personal connection to the situation, which allows readers to understand their motivation for engaging in the extracurriculars described in the third and fourth paragraphs. By showing us the pain their friends felt (“ I watch my friends’ faces flicker between confusion, anger, and hurt ”) and explaining that this issue was at the forefront of their mind, but ignored  by many others (“ But beyond our circle, conversations about these occurrences were absent ”), we get a tangible sense of the student’s connection to the issue.

Then, the essay shifts to discussing the student’s extracurricular activity. The point of this kind of essay is to help admissions officers see that you are involved in your activities to grow and learn  about the world, rather than pad your resume. Because the student took the time to explain their passion for AAPI activism and demonstrate their compassion for others in the previous paragraph, we can clearly see that this nonprofit is genuinely meaningful to them.

Finally, although this essay just asks about an extracurricular, this student was still able to infuse elements of their personality into the essay in the way they told it. From the details included, we know this student is compassionate, an activist, and values justice and diversity. Being able to show the reader all that without telling us these aspects of their personality outright makes for an engaging, informative essay.

What Could Be Improved

The biggest thing this essay needs to improve is the shift in focus from the cultural context of the first two paragraphs to the student’s involvement in the extracurricular itself. Right now, that transition is rather abrupt, so although the topics are related, the reader is left to tie them together on their own.

For example, while the detail in the introduction describing the instance of hate is captivating, in such a short essay, that space could be used much more wisely. A better hook would immediately place the reader in the extracurricular activity, possibly like this:

“ STOP ASIAN HATE. PROTECT ASIAN LIVES. I AM NOT INVISIBLE. Hundreds of cardboard signs blocked out the strong Reno sun, the feeling of change hanging in the air. My throat sore and mouth parched after hours of chanting, I couldn’t help but smile knowing that we made this march possible. ”

With this introduction placing the reader in the middle of the action (a technique called “in medias res”), the rest of the essay could then be spent providing more details about what the student did as a part of the nonprofit. They tell us they “ pioneered a march against hate, where we invited student speakers to share their stories of racial discrimination,” but a stronger extracurricular essay would delve into the specific role the student played in planning these events.

Similarly, rather than ending the third paragraph by just telling the reader that they became “ captivated by the power of story ” through listening to others, this student could have demonstrated how that power tangibly affected their own actions, by adding a sentence along the lines of: 

“ Inspired by the stories I had heard, I encouraged my friends to submit their own stories as opinion pieces to our school newspaper, while I created flyers for the march that included photos of myself as a child, to humanize our movement .” Notice how this version both shows us what the student did and provides more insight into their character.

With a word count this low, you need to understand exactly what the prompt is asking for, and make sure everything you say is helping provide that. Background context is important, but if the prompt is asking about your extracurriculars, most of the essay should be dedicated to your actual involvement in the extracurricular.

Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay

Do you want feedback on your Vanderbilt essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

vanderbilt essay advice

Expert Advice

Understand the selection process.

At the Vanderbilt Office of Undergraduate Admissions, we practice holistic, context-based application review process . Put another way, we take into consideration more than just your academic profile – we look at all parts of your application to get to know your passions, achievements, and interests, academic or otherwise. We also work to understand your application in the larger context of your circumstances. This can mean evaluating your high school grades in the context of the curriculum offered at your school, understanding how a job or family commitment impacts your high school experience, or recognizing the effects on your life of events in the world.

When we review applications, here’s what we evaluate:

  • Academic achievement
  • Standardized test scores, if submitted
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay and short answer
  • Extracurricular activities, leadership, and engagement

One thing we do not consider in the application review process is demonstrated interest. While we welcome students to visit campus, participate in virtual visit programs, and contact their admissions officers with any questions, we do not track these interactions for the purpose of the admissions review.

We approach the selection process with a spirit of positive advocacy. Every applicant is treated with dignity and respect, and we train our readers to find reasons to admit each candidate rather than reasons to deny.

We understand that the college admissions process can be stressful and confusing at times, and we hope this page helps applicants and their families better understand and feel comfortable with the process. We’ve also developed an admissions glossary to help you navigate the lingo.

student working on a laptop outside on campus

Build Your College List

The first step in the college application process is to think about the kind of college experience you want. This is an opportunity to dream big and envision your ideal college environment. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What do you want to study?
  • Will your school help make your education affordable?
  • What size is right for you?
  • Do you want to do research in college?
  • How do you like to have fun?

Consider the college characteristics that matter most to you.

We encourage you to use the Vanderbilt Dream College tracker to help with this process. Our interactive tool is a simple but effective way to compare different colleges on the questions that matter most to you.

Prepare for College Academics

We recommend you take a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, the most appropriately demanding schedule your high school has to offer. A strong academic transcript is what many schools will view as the most critical piece of your application. If your high school offers advanced, honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate courses it's recommended you pursue those as appropriate . You should challenge yourself without getting in over your head.

Since Vanderbilt uses a holistic admissions review process, we do not have minimum coursework requirements. Most successful candidates will present a curriculum that includes the equivalent of five academic subjects each year for four years. Recommended course work includes 4 units of English, 4 units of mathematics, 4 units of natural science, 2 units of foreign language, 2 units of social science/humanities, and 4 units of additional course work in these areas, or other academic courses such as engineering science, computer science, social science or natural science research, or advanced work in the humanities. Close attention will be paid to the rigor of course work presented. It is highly recommended that candidates applying to the School of Engineering have taken calculus, calculus-based physics, and chemistry.

first-year students cheering at founders walk

Choose a Decision Plan

As you move through the college application process, one important choice is what decision plan to use. Colleges offer varying decision plans with different deadlines, different levels of commitment, and different dates when you’ll find out admissions decisions. The options differ for each institution, so it’s important to understand the specific policies for any school where you choose to submit an application. Below are some general descriptions, typical of decision plans you may see at different schools.

Early Decision : Early Decision is a binding decision plan in which an applicant commits to attend the school if offered admission. As the name suggests, Early Decision plans offer students the opportunity to submit an application before the regular deadline and find out their admissions decision earlier in the process. Early Decision applications typically require some type of signed form (an Early Decision Agreement) that indicates your intention to enroll upon admission. Students admitted through an Early Decision plan are expected to withdraw all other applications and submit the matriculation fee (or fee waiver) upon receiving the offer of admission.

Students applying Early Decision are strongly encouraged to research the financial aid policies of an institution. For example, it is important to know that Vanderbilt meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted U.S. citizens and non-citizens without the use of loans, and regardless of decision plan. Keep in mind that these policies will vary between institutions. You can use a school’s net price calculator to get a good estimate of what that package might be.

Note: Vanderbilt offers Early Decision I and Early Decision II. These are both binding early decision options – the difference is that Early Decision II is simply later in the process.

Early Action : Early Action offers students the opportunity to submit applications before the regular deadline and find out their admissions decision earlier in the process, much like Early Decision. The distinction from Early Decision is that students applying through Early Action plans are not committed to their Early Action schools, and still have until May 1 to either accept or decline their offers of admission.  Students who are not admitted Early Action may be “deferred” to the Regular Decision deadline, though these policies will vary between schools.

Note: Vanderbilt does NOT offer an Early Action decision plan. Please refer to the admissions office of each school you are applying to for institution-specific policies.

Regular Decision : The vast majority of students who apply to a given institution will do so through Regular Decision, and you can apply Regular Decision to as many schools as they would like.  While the application submission deadlines will vary between institutions, Regular Decision deadlines typically fall in early January, and offers of admission usually are sent out in late March or early April. In most years, students admitted through Regular Decision have until May 1 to either accept or decline their offers, and each student is only permitted to submit a matriculation fee (or fee waiver) to one of the institutions to which they have been admitted.

Write Your Essay

The essay can be an important part of the application that helps us get to know you and understand what you would contribute to our campus community. We want to get to know you beyond your academic record, and this is a part of the application where you can show us who you are. It’s important to remember that there’s no single right way to write your college essay, and no perfect topic that works for every applicant. While there are no rules, here are some tips that can help you put your best self forward:

  • Keep the “personal” in personal essay . To be honest, we don’t really care what you write about, as long as you’re writing about you. For instance, don’t spend the entire essay detailing the life of your favorite and most accomplished family member, but rather focus on how that person has affected you and your life decisions. This is one time when it’s okay to be self-centered – more than anything, we want to know about you!
  • Don’t try to guess what we want to hear . If you ask a hundred different admissions counselors what their favorite kind of essay is, you will likely get a hundred different answers. Instead of trying to figure out what topic will get us most interested, focus on a topic that lets your passions show.
  • Tell us something we don’t already know . When writing your essay, be sure to keep in mind all of the other pieces of your application we already have. Don’t use this space to summarize your extracurricular involvement or your academic achievements if we’ve already seen these things in other parts of your application. We know there’s more to you than just grades and leadership roles, so use the essay to show us.
  • Ask for input – but not too much . Your parents, friends, school counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know you and your strengths, and they can help you decide how best to showcase them. Keep in mind, however, that we want to hear your unique voice in the essay – not that of your parent, friend, or teacher. We understand that you might use other forms of assistance, such as ChatGPT or other forms of AI, as you prepare you essay. For example, you may rely on an essay-writing class to help brainstorm topic ideas for your essay. Or you may use grammar tools available online to check grammar in your writing. Or your may ask a parent or guardian or peer to read your essay and offer feedback on clarity or offer advice regarding structure of the essay. However, you should understand that it would not be proper to ask a teacher or parent to come up with the essay topic or to re-write your essay. Likewise, AI should never be used to replace your own independent thinking. As you complete the essay portions of the application, you should always use your own voice and write about your own life experiences.
  • Edit, proof, polish, and breathe . Beyond gaining insight into you personally, the essay is also a way to show your written communication skills. Treat this essay like any class assignment – write it early, proof and revise, look for spelling and grammatical errors, and make sure it is presented in a clean and polished way. With that said, don’t panic if you discover a misspelled word or a misused comma after you hit submit – our holistic application review process means that no one element makes or breaks an application, including typos.

Nicholas S. Zeppos dining hall

Request Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a great way for us to get to know you better through the eyes of teachers or counselors who know you best. These letters can help us understand the type of student you are and imagine how you might add to the campus community, both academically and in other ways.

At Vanderbilt, we require each applicant to submit three letters: two from teachers who taught you in a core academic area (preferably either junior or senior year), and one from your assigned school counselor. Here are some tips for the process of selecting your academic teachers and soliciting their recommendations:

  • First, and most importantly, choose your teachers wisely . Try to select teachers who know you well and can accurately characterize you as a student. This does not always have to be the teacher who gave you the highest grade, or the popular teacher who receives the most recommendation requests, or even the teacher who had you in the class that corresponds to your intended major. Teachers who have seen you grow and improve over time are particularly good choices; some of the best letters we receive are from teachers who saw their students struggle with and then overcome academic obstacles.
  • Choose your teachers early . Teachers are busy, and they receive many requests for recommendations throughout the year. It’s important to give them as much time as possible to write your letters – both for their own sanity and for the success of your application. Give your teachers time to write a thoughtful recommendation that will provide us with the most helpful information as we review your application. Keep in mind that our regular decision deadline, along with those of most other schools, falls right after the holiday break, and many teachers and counselors may be difficult to reach during that time.
  • Make sure your teachers are well informed . Although your teachers will primarily be characterizing you as a student in the classroom, it might be helpful to provide them with some additional context. If your school allows, consider sending your teachers a summary of your achievements and activities. You will also want to keep these teachers up to date on what these letters are being used for; if it is a recommendation for the Common Application, they should avoid mentioning any specific college or university by name, as their letters will be sent to each institution on your list.
  • Submit additional letters of recommendation with caution . While some schools allow you to submit recommendation letters in addition to those that are required, use discretion when doing so. If you have an elective teacher, athletic coach, religious leader, or other person in your life who you think could provide a different perspective on you as a student or community member, you could consider adding an additional recommendation letter if the college permits this. Adding additional letters to your file simply for the sake of adding letters, however, will not increase your chances of admission.

students on campus during fall

Consider your extracurricular activities

  • List your activities in order of importance. Although our admissions counselors will certainly read the entire list, it is often helpful to know right off the bat which activities you spent the most time on and feel most passionate about.
  • Highlight leadership, commitment, and impact. If you held a leadership role in your organization, make sure the scope of that leadership is accurately captured in the description. That being said, we know that leadership titles are not the only way to portray success, and we value any type of involvement that demanded considerable amounts of your time and energy over the last four years. If you made a real difference on your campus or in your community through one of your activities, emphasize that impact, regardless of whether or not it came with a title or official leadership role.
  • Depth over breadth. When we say that we like our students to be actively involved, that does not mean that we expect you to sign up for every club and organization at your school for the sake of beefing up your resume. We’d much rather see a genuine commitment to one or a few activities than superficial participation that doesn’t offer a significant contribution.
  • Don’t leave anything out . School-affiliated activities like academic clubs, student government, and athletic teams are not the only avenues through which students can demonstrate achievement outside the classroom. If you’re heavily involved in your faith community, hold a part time job, or regularly spend time helping your family around the house, make sure these types of commitments are highlighted on the activity list.
  • Give us as much context as possible . When we are advocating for our applicants, it’s helpful to have as much information as we can get. If you feel that one of your activities needs a little bit of extra explanation, either regarding the activity itself or the nature of your involvement, don’t hesitate to add information in the additional information section of the application.

Apply for financial aid

A key component of the college search and application process is understanding how you will pay for college. Many schools offer generous financial aid – for example, Vanderbilt's financial aid program Opportunity Vanderbilt has been recognized as #1 Great Financial Aid by Princeton Review . In order to take advantage of these programs, you must apply for financial aid. As with other parts of the application, make sure you understand the financial aid policies of each school, because they may differ. Here are our general tips on navigating the process.

  • Do your research . Explore the differences between schools, because what you are expected to pay will vary from school to school. Understand that some colleges (including Vanderbilt) will admit you without regard to your family’s ability to pay. Some colleges (including Vanderbilt) meet all of your demonstrated financial need. And some colleges (including Vanderbilt) do not ask students to take out loans to pay for college.
  • Complete the Net Price Calculator . Work with your parents or guardians to complete the Net Price Calculator or the MyinTuition Quick College Estimator. These tools help estimate what your family may be expected to pay toward your college education.
  • Plan around the deadlines . Make sure you understand the deadlines for submitting your financial aid application and supporting documents. These deadlines can differ depending on the schools you’re applying to and the decision plans you choose, so pay close attention.
  • Gather the required forms and documents . For U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens, schools require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and some schools (including Vanderbilt) require the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile provided by the College Board. We use these applications to determine eligibility for federal, state, and institutional assistance. Visit our financial aid site to learn details about applying for financial aid at Vanderbilt. You’ll need this info to complete the financial aid applications as accurately as possible:
  • Parent(s) Federal Tax Return and W-2s
  • Student Federal Tax Return and W-2s
  • Records of untaxed income such as child support and interest income
  • Information on cash (savings and checking account balances), investments, and real estate
  • Note: For international applicants, we require only the CSS Profile.

Impressive Vanderbilt Essay Tips?

Hey everyone! I've been looking into applying to Vanderbilt University and was hoping to get some advice on writing the admissions essay. Any tips or experiences you'd like to share on what makes a great Vanderbilt essay?

Hello! Writing an essay for Vanderbilt or any other top-tier university can be challenging, but with some guidance, you'll be able to present yourself in the best light possible. Here are some tips to craft an impressive essay for your Vanderbilt application:

1. Research Vanderbilt's mission and values: Familiarize yourself with the university's values, culture, and academic programs. An effective essay will convey your genuine interest in Vanderbilt and show how you align with the school's mission and goals.

2. Be authentic and genuine: Write in your own unique voice and be true to yourself. Show what passions, experiences, or personal background might help you contribute to the Vanderbilt community. Avoid trying to impress the reader with overly complex language or topics that don't genuinely interest you.

3. Show, don't tell: Use vivid examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points and make your essay more engaging. For instance, instead of saying "I'm passionate about community service," describe a specific project you led and how it positively impacted your local community.

4. Focus on a specific aspect or experience: Instead of trying to cover too many topics, choose one aspect or experience that demonstrates your personality, values, or interests, and explain why it's significant to you. This could be an extracurricular activity, personal challenge, or meaningful event.

5. Be concise and clear: Admissions officers have limited time to read your essay, so make sure your thoughts are well-organized and easy to understand. Keep paragraphs short, use transitions, and avoid lengthy, wordy sentences.

6. Tailor your essay to Vanderbilt: While it's okay to reuse parts of your essay for multiple schools, make sure to tailor your essay to Vanderbilt by mentioning specific programs, professors, or experiences that are unique to the university. This shows that you've done your research and are genuinely interested in attending Vanderbilt.

7. Edit and revise: Don't submit your first draft, even if you think it's perfect. Have someone you trust, such as a teacher, counselor, or friend, review your essay and provide feedback. Revise and polish your essay to make sure it's error-free and effectively communicates your message.

8. Avoid cliches and overused topics: Admissions officers have seen countless essays about community service, sports injuries, or other common topics. Stand out by choosing a unique angle that showcases your personality and individuality.

More information on the Vanderbilt essays can be found here: https://blog.collegevine.com/how-to-write-the-vanderbilt-university-essays/

In the end, the most important aspect of your essay is that it reflects who you are and demonstrates your potential to thrive at Vanderbilt. Be bold, be true to yourself, and make sure to back your point up with compelling examples. Good luck with your application!

Writing Studio

Writing application essays.

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Writing Application Essays Return to Writing Studio Handouts

Although writing application essays can be daunting, you do not have to have saved the world or cured cancer to write a good personal statement. As long as you have passion and show you have developed and experienced personal growth, you have a story to tell.

Below you will find a set of question that effective application essays will take into account.

Questions to Take into Account for Your Application Essay

What is the prompt asking.

How many parts are there? Does the question naturally suggest a structure for the essay? Make sure you understand what is to be covered.

For whom am I writing?

Ask yourself who will be reading the prompt and what they may be looking for. For example, if you are writing for a scholarship, learn about the person for whom that scholarship is named, and consider how your merits may be a good match for the award.

How will this opportunity help me get where I want to go?

Why should the committee select you? Try to show how events in your life have led you to pursue this step and how it will help you further your personal and professional goals.

Application Essay Tips

  • Use an arresting image or phrase to make the first few sentences attractive to the reader.
  • Try the “formative, transformative” moment structure. Take two significant events and describe them in detail. The formative event describes how you became interested in the opportunity and the transformative one describes what gave you the extra motivation or experience to apply and commit to the project.
  • Make the most of a limited amount of space. Focus on your main ideas and cut out filler words and description that is not central to understanding your story.
  • Write about moments or activities not explained in other parts of your application. This is your chance to provide new information.
  • Remember that this is an essay about you, not your parents or teachers. Your essay should present you in a positive light and highlight your energy and passion for whatever opportunity you are seeking.
  • Steer clear of clichéd phrases like “This scholarship will help me pursue my dream of…”
  • Ask a trusted adviser, peer, or writing consultant to look over your essay for clarity and general appeal. Proofread it several times for both grammar and organization.

This handout was adapted from the Vanderbilt Office of Honors Scholarships, DePauw and Duke University Writing Centers, and scholarshiphelp.org.

Last revised: 07/2010 | Adapted for web delivery: 05/2021

In order to access certain content on this page, you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader or an equivalent PDF viewer software.

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Vanderbilt University Essay Examples

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Vanderbilt Essay Examples – Introduction

If you’re looking for Vanderbilt essay examples and Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, you’ve come to the right place. Vanderbilt is a private research university located on a beautiful campus in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt puts students in the heart of Nashville, a city known for its thriving music scene and foodie culture. With 70 majors across four academic schools, Vanderbilt offers rigorous academic options for students looking to study in any discipline .  

In this article, we’ll go over some Vanderbilt essays that worked. We’ll provide several Vanderbilt essay examples for you to review. Then, we’ll discuss why these Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples succeeded.   

Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay Requirements

Before we get into the Vanderbilt essay examples, let’s first take a look at the Vanderbilt supplemental essay requirements. Then, we’ll discuss our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples in more detail.

In addition to the Common Application essay, Vanderbilt also requires one short essay based on one of two essay prompts.

Vanderbilt Essay Requirements:

Short answer essay 1 (250 words):.

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?

Short Answer Essay 2 (250 words):

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.

Past Vanderbilt essay prompts

In the past, Vanderbilt has required one longer essay focusing on extracurricular activities. The Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples in this guide reflect that older prompt. That said, they can still be helpful to you as you approach the current style of the short Vanderbilt supplemental essays. We are sure you will find the Vanderbilt essay examples below are quire similar to an essay you might write for the second prompt.

In this guide, we’ll focus on the Vanderbilt essay examples from previous years. We will also present you with tips on how to use these Vanderbilt essay examples to write your Vanderbilt supplemental essays. Through studying these Vanderbilt essay examples, you can learn how to write the best possible Vanderbilt supplemental essays. 

Vanderbilt Essays that Worked

Now that we’ve covered the Vanderbilt supplemental essay questions and how they’ve changed over the years, let’s move on to some real Vanderbilt essay examples. 

Vanderbilt Essay Examples #1

This August, a member of an organization where I volunteer became a headline: 16th trans woman killed in 2019. Every time I leave this organization, I pray that everyone lives another week. After losing this person, I’m not prepared to lose another loved one. 

Immediately after this person’s passing, I was scared of returning to my organization. With time, I started to accept that I couldn’t save this person and that I can’t give anyone at this organization the life they deserve. However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t make a difference. 

After strategizing with my friends, I started a project that didn’t give homeless communities what outsiders thought they wanted, but what they actually needed. Because my city is so spread out, well-known organizations are inaccessible. 

I engineered an online resource guide so anyone experiencing homelessness can access needed assistance. My guide discusses ways to acquire free/subsidized metro passes and groups organizations by type and geographic area, highlighting lesser-known ones without a substantial online presence. But contributing to words on a webpage isn’t everything. My goal for my work at the organization where I volunteer is to help all of them see themselves the way I see them: deserving, valuable, and resilient. 

I didn’t just want to cater meals for the young people at my organization. I wanted to cook them myself. Each week, I take requests for what I should prepare for the following Saturday. Members need to know someone cares about them enough to spend hundreds of hours in the kitchen for them. 

I didn’t just want to host drives for this organization after I witnessed the demoralizing effects of low-quality donations. Believing you are worthy is difficult enough after your family throws you onto the streets, but it becomes almost impossible when you’re only given everyone else’s scraps. 

After these conversations, I started a clothing revitalization initiative where I use outside materials or other donations to up-cycle usable parts of low-quality clothing donations. That way, our members receive only the best possible items. I don’t want poor donations to make them feel less than what they are. 

I couldn’t save this person. I can’t give anyone at my organization the life they deserve. But I can still make a difference. A bowl of pasta and a pair of jeans might not be much, but it’s the little things like these that help me honor her.

Why this essay worked

The first one of our Vanderbilt essay examples is an extracurricular activities essay example. In this Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, we learn that this student cares deeply about their community. The student puts a lot of thought into how best to give back to their local community of houseless people. 

Another reason why the first of our Vanderbilt essay examples worked is because it demonstrates leadership and impact . When writing your Vanderbilt supplemental essays make sure to write about an activity where you have made an impact or been a leader. This Vanderbilt essay example explains how the student identified a problem within their community and created solutions for it. They created an online database so houseless people could more easily access resources, prepared home-cooked meals for people in need, and started a clothing revitalization initiative. 

Depth and breadth

In this one of three Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, we learn that this applicant doesn’t just care about giving back in theory. Instead, we learn they are committed to creating new initiatives that will improve the lives of vulnerable populations. 

This example of one of our Vanderbilt essays that worked also employs a thoughtful structure . It starts with a hook , continues into the body of the essay, then ends by bringing the reader back to the initial hook. In this Vanderbilt essay example, the “hook” is a headline about the murder of a member of the homeless shelter where the student volunteers. This hook shocks and draws in the reader at the same time. In doing so, it provides an emotional tether to the story. 

Ultimately, this Vanderbilt supplemental essay example tells a well-structured story. It shows us how a student took initiative to make an impact in their community. 

Now let’s take a look at the second of our Vanderbilt essay examples. This one will explore another set of characteristics that made this a Vanderbilt essay that worked. 

Vanderbilt Essay Examples #2

Hundreds of eyes rested on me, the chatter of the crowd slowly descending into silence. My hand clenched around the wooden stick, a “tambo,” and a shallow exhale escaped between my teeth. Today was the day I would get my black belt. My Italian friends looked on, expectant. I gave a slight bow, signifying the start of the “kata,” a series of moves, like an imaginary fight.

I opened my eyes and suddenly I wasn’t in an Italian high school gym, surrounded by hundreds of strangers. I was back in Berkeley, on the familiar dojo mat, practicing for the thousandth time. Retreat, high block; diagonal strike, strike, reverse — and my body fell into a familiar pattern, a rhythm indelibly etched into my muscles.

My tambo whipped and whooshed through the air with deadly precision. I felt myself bow again, and realized it was over. A beat of dead silence, and then applause erupted, filling the gym to the ceiling. Pride swelled inside me, my taut muscles relaxing. A wide grin settled on my face. It was for moments like this that all the hard practice, all the bruises and accidental kicks to the face, all the long nights of training, the endless repetition, the exhaustion – that it was all worth it. 

When I began martial arts, I thought it would end as my other brief stints with gymnastics and fencing had: with the realization that I wasn’t cut out for it. But one fateful Tuesday in August, the summer before eighth grade, I was dropped off for my first class. I learned how to escape a wrist grab: turn your arm in the direction of the attacker’s thumb and shift sideways. I was enthralled.

As I learned how energy could be shifted and redirected, as my techniques became swift and powerful, I knew I had found my sport. The easy flow of a hip throw and the powerful intensity of a stamp kick became my life for one hour, four days a week. I became part of the dojo community, friends with people of all ages. I flew to Atlanta for the training camps where I ate, slept, and breathed back rolls, side drops and front kicks.

Earning my black belt after years of commitment felt right, a symbol of my passion and dedication. While some people play soccer or baseball, I am an artist. A martial artist.

The second of our Vanderbilt essay examples does not focus as intensely on leadership or impact. However, one crucial feature makes this one of the Vanderbilt essays that worked: it keeps the “personal” in “personal essay .” 

The aim of the Vanderbilt supplemental essays is to get an in-depth look at one of your extracurricular activities so that the Vanderbilt admissions committee can learn more about you. This one of our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples is essentially the opposite of a resume: it goes into great detail about one aspect of this student’s life. This one of our Vanderbilt essay examples demonstrates genuine, invested interest in martial arts. 

Immersed in the narrative

Do you notice how when you’re reading this Vanderbilt supplemental essays example, you feel like you’re right there with the student in the gymnasium? The entire first half of this one of our Vanderbilt essay examples describes the victorious moment when the student finally got their black belt. The student does an incredible job making the reader feel like we’re right there with them. As you read the second of our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, note the use of detail: sights, sounds, smells. We know exactly how the student feels, physically and mentally, as they begin this nerve-wracking performance. 

The second of our Vanderbilt essay examples also numbers among our Vanderbilt essays that worked because it demonstrates a change in the student’s perspective. Where previously they thought that they weren’t cut out for sports, taking martial arts classes allowed them to learn commitment and dedication. The student is now able to think of themselves as an “artist.” 

For the next one of our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, we’ll examine a different take on what makes this essay one of the Vanderbilt essays that worked. 

Vanderbilt Essay Examples #3

I was lost. Utterly and completely lost. After wandering the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Viterbo, Italy for almost an hour, I could confidently say that I had no idea which way was home. On this second day of school in a new country, I had yet to learn these winding, medieval streets; the city’s labyrinthine design was intentional, to confuse invaders and outsiders. At that moment, that was me – an outsider.

Eventually I found my way home, to the apartment I would live in during the coming months. It was not the last time I would be lost (due to my lack of navigational skills), but as the weeks passed, I slowly let go of my identity of  “outsider” and embraced my new home. 

Learning the language was the first step. Being surrounded by it helped, but I still spent hours memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. And of course I made mistakes — asking to towel-dry the gelato instead of sample it (asciugare vs. assaggiare), and telling my host mother she was going to take a shower instead of informing her that I was (fai vs. faccio).

I recognized that learning a language is not a process that can be forced or rushed; it is a progression of knowledge that builds on itself, a mastery that cannot be feigned. I would receive no prize for speaking the best Italian, only the satisfaction of knowing that I was able to communicate in another language. Perhaps that is why languages appeal to me so much.

I don’t master a skill to prove that I am better than someone else. I do it for me. My reward for learning a language is being able to talk to so many more interesting people, to think from a different perspective, to order extra basil on a pizza margherita.  

As I learned the formal and informal, gerunds and impersonals, I began to understand the world of beautiful sounds I lived in. And by understanding, I embraced more fully the new culture of my life. The double kisses I gave and received began to feel natural, and the unintentional forehead bumps abated.

My daily cappuccino became as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth.  I could now walk through the town’s winding streets without a second thought, knowing where each previously-indistinguishable alleyway led. My new school helped me with this assimilation — as we translated the Aeneid in class, I saw scenes from it brought to life in marble while visiting the Vatican; my childhood obsession with Greek myths was rekindled in Sicily as I gazed in awe at the colossal temples we had studied in Art History.

The richness and abundance of Italian history and it’s tangible remnants constantly surrounded me. Each magical location I visited, each Italian friend I met, and each plate of pasta I ate folded me deeper into the culture of La Bella Italia.

Living abroad taught me many things. Perhaps the most important lesson is that each maze I encounter will resolve itself with time and effort. No incredible skill, no deeper understanding, no complete mastery will come on the first day.

As a child, I would erupt in frustration when I didn’t immediately understand a math concept, or when an ornament dropped from the Christmas tree because of my hastiness to decorate. But I now understand that no matter how hard I work or strain to understand, true learning requires time for new information to simmer and stew, and finally solidify into knowledge. Patience.

As I look ahead to the next few years of my life, I know that I will have my fair share of labyrinths to tackle, whether they be challenging classes or completely new cities and campuses. I could read the textbook or memorize a map, but to learn and understand the complexities of multi-variable calculus or which café serves the best sandwiches, I’ll need to engage in the class and explore the city. And I can’t wait.

For the third of our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, we travel with a student to Italy, where they discover that learning a new language might take patience, but it comes with a great reward. It differs in certain ways from our other Vanderbilt essay examples, but it nonetheless succeeds.

So, what makes this one of our Vanderbilt essays that worked?

In the third of our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, this student does a great job of reflecting on what they have learned. When writing your Vanderbilt supplemental essays, you’ll discuss your extracurriculars in detail, albeit in fewer words. The third of our Vanderbilt essay examples goes into great detail of what it’s like to learn a language. It also highlights what this student learned about themself in the process. 

Packed with personal detail

Your Vanderbilt application should showcase as much about you as possible. Think about how much more the Vanderbilt admissions committee can learn from this Vanderbilt supplemental essays example than a transcript that simply states: “Italian – One Semester.” 

The Vanderbilt admissions committee hopes to understand your story as a person and a candidate from your application. Just like the students did in these Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, think about your Vanderbilt supplemental essays as one puzzle piece in your application. When only looking at your SAT scores and Common App essay, what does your application leave out? What piece of your personality, passions, or values does not appear? Once you identify that piece, you have a great basis for your Vanderbilt supplemental essays. Then, you’ll be one step closer to writing one of the Vanderbilt essays that worked.

Writing Extracurricular Activities Essays

vanderbilt essay examples

Our Vanderbilt essay examples and Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples fall within the category of “Extracurricular Activities Essays.” This essay prompt might ask you something like: “Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.”

In the past, the Vanderbilt supplemental essays have consisted of one long essay about extracurricular activities. According to our advisors from Vanderbilt , the Vanderbilt admissions committee really values applicants who make an impact in their communities. They look for students who are passionate about non-academic activities, as you’ve seen from our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples. The extracurricular essay allows you to showcase who you are outside of the classroom. Our extracurricular activities essay examples do just this. 

This year, of the two shorter Vanderbilt supplemental essays, one is about extracurricular activities. So, make sure to review our Vanderbilt essays that worked as you write. That way, you can see Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples that successfully described the applicants’ extracurriculars. 

A common essay prompt

The extracurricular activities essay is a common college essay prompt. To learn how to get into Vanderbilt, you should master this style of essay. Learning more about the extracurricular activities essay won’t just help you with Vanderbilt admissions; schools like Stanford , Northwestern , University of Florida , and Princeton all ask for similar essays that focus on extracurricular activities. With our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples, you’ll learn how to write great extracurricular activities essays for all universities. 

When the Vanderbilt admissions committee reads your Vanderbilt supplemental essays, you want them to come away with a basic understanding of who you are, what you value, and what you would bring to the Vanderbilt community. These Vanderbilt supplemental essays, the extracurricular activities essay in particular, provide the opportunity to share more detail about yourself and your interests.

Tell a story

Additionally, the extracurricular activities essay allows you to showcase growth and demonstrate what you have learned through your involvement in leadership roles within your community. The best essays tell a story about a personal realization or change. The extracurricular activities essay is a great place within the Vanderbilt supplemental essays to accomplish this. 

Vanderbilt essay reflection questions: 

  • Does your Vanderbilt application essay expand meaningfully on an activity you mention in your application?
  • Do you use your extracurricular activity to reveal more about who you are and what matters to you?
  • Do you describe why your chosen activity was important to you in concrete and specific terms?
  • Does your reader learn more about you by reading your Vanderbilt extracurricular essay?

If your Vanderbilt supplemental essay answers all of these questions, you’re one step closer to writing a great extracurricular activities essay. If you’re still stumped, don’t worry. Return to our extracurricular activities essay examples for guidance. 

How to use these Vanderbilt essay examples to write your Vanderbilt supplemental essays

vanderbilt essay examples

Keep in mind that the Vanderbilt application process is competitive. Ranked number #13 in the United States by the U.S. News & World Report, Vanderbilt is described by the website as a “most selective” school. With such a high ranking, it’s no surprise that the Vanderbilt acceptance rate is quite low: under 5% . To learn how to get into Vanderbilt, you will need to take advantage of their holistic admissions process by writing stellar essays.

This year, when writing your Vanderbilt supplemental essays, you will need to focus on answering two questions in 250 words. Though our Vanderbilt essay examples were extracurricular activities essay examples, we can still learn a lot from Vanderbilt essay examples on how to write successful Vanderbilt supplemental essays.

The Vanderbilt essay examples that we have discussed largely focus on answering the second question; as such, they are extracurricular activities essay examples. So how can we apply what we’ve learned through these Vanderbilt essay examples to answer the first of the Vanderbilt supplemental essays as well?

Reflect on moments of change

The first of the Vanderbilt supplemental essays questions encourages you to reflect on diversity and difference. Even though we haven’t covered how to answer this question directly in our Vanderbilt essay examples, all of our Vanderbilt essays that worked reflected on moments of change and lessons that the student learned. Wait, that sounds familiar– this is exactly what the first essay question asks you to reflect on!

The supplemental essay is a crucial component of your Vanderbilt application. Supplemental essays, are a way for the Vanderbilt admissions committee to get to know you better as an applicant. Each of the Vanderbilt supplemental essays is a way for you to showcase your passions, your skills, and what makes you unique. Since the Vanderbilt acceptance rate is only 5%, you want to use your supplemental essays to help you stand out. 

Vanderbilt Essay Examples: Five Key Tips

If you’re still wondering how you can use these Vanderbilt essay examples and Vanderbilt essays that worked to help you write your supplemental essays, here’s some tips: 

Vanderbilt essays that worked tips

1. show your personality.

In each of these Vanderbilt essay examples, we learn so much more about the student’s passions that we would from just reading a resume. Take the opportunity in your Vanderbilt supplemental essays to show the admissions committee something unique about you!

2. Keep structure in mind

Whether you open and close your essay with the same hook like the writer did like the first of our Vanderbilt essays example, or start strong with a “ show don’t tell ” anecdote like in the second of our Vanderbilt essays that worked, a thoughtful structure keeps your reader engaged. 

3. Be specific

Imagine if in reading the second one of our Vanderbilt essay examples the student had said “Even though I was nervous, I showed off my moves, and then was awarded the black belt.” That’s a much less engaging retelling. Instead of skipping over details, the writer of that essay tells us exactly where they were during the black belt test, what their body felt like, what moves they did, who was there watching them, and how they felt throughout. Detail makes your essay way more interesting! 

4. Talk about a moment where you learned something or changed

Just like a story, even the shortest essays should have a beginning, middle, and end. In your Vanderbilt supplemental essays, you should start at a place, and describe a change before you reach your resolution. You can see our student do this in our third essay example: the student begins the essay completely lost in Italy, then learns Italian, and is able to fully explore the city in a way they never imagined they could. 

Our Vanderbilt supplemental essays examples aren’t the only resources out there. Check out this CollegeAdvisor article on how to get started within your writing process. 

Other CollegeAdvisor Resources on Extracurricular Activities 

When thinking about how to get into Vanderbilt, there are many factors to take into account. First, consider: the Vanderbilt application requirements, the Vanderbilt acceptance rate, SAT scores , and grades. Another aspect of your Vanderbilt application is your extracurricular activities .

After reading these fantastic Vanderbilt essay examples, you might be wondering: what kind of extracurricular activities should I list on my Vanderbilt application? 

As part of the Vanderbilt application requirements on the common app, you should list your 10 most significant extracurricular activities. But what makes an extracurricular activity significant? 

A strong extracurricular activity is one in which you have demonstrated leadership, impact, and have spent many hours participating. Some students make the mistake of trying to join a bunch of new clubs senior year. It is obvious to admissions when students try and get more extracurriculars for their Common App at the last moment. Instead, focus on spending more time and achieving leadership positions in the extracurriculars you already participate in.

In our extracurricular activities essay examples, you can see how passionate the students are about their activities. Use these extracurricular activities essay examples as inspiration for what kind of extracurriculars you can pursue. You can also look into what extracurriculars Vanderbilt offers and what life is like on campus. Then, you can use that to inform your extracurricular activities in high school. 

Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples

If you’re looking for more resources on extracurricular activities, CollegeAdvisor can help. Check out this article on how to showcase extracurricular activities in your college application. 

How to Showcase Extracurricular Activities In Your College Applications

Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay Guides & Vanderbilt Resources

If you’ve read our Vanderbilt essays that worked and you’re still feeling unsure, don’t worry! We have lots of different resources to help you as you prepare your Vanderbilt application. 

For more essay guides, check out this article that offers more advice on writing supplemental essays for Vanderbilt. If you’re looking to get a merit scholarship from Vanderbilt, check out the link below. In this article we discuss how to master the merit scholarship essays . 

Vanderbilt University Merit Scholarship Essay Guide

Once you’ve brainstormed, taken inspiration from our Vanderbilt essays that worked, and written your first draft, it’s time to edit. Our webinar on essay editing can help. And if you need inspiration, read our profile on Jacqueline Huang, a student who successfully got into Vanderbilt.

Client Success Stories: Jacqueline Huang

Vanderbilt Essay Examples – Final thoughts

We’ve given Vanderbilt an A+ rating as a college for its fantastic academics, diversity, and value. But if you want to know how to get into Vanderbilt and impress the Vanderbilt admissions committee, you need to take a look at the Vanderbilt application requirements. Don’t be discouraged by the low Vanderbilt acceptance rate. Using these Vanderbilt essay examples, you can put together a great Vanderbilt application.

We hope that in reading these Vanderbilt essay examples you gain a better understanding of what makes a great supplemental essay.

Vanderbilt Essay Examples

This article was written by  Rachel Kahn . Looking for more admissions support? Click  here  to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how  CollegeAdvisor.com  can support you in the college application process.

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How to Ace the 2023-2024 Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay

vanderbilt essay advice

Vanderbilt University is a very competitive private school with a 7% acceptance rate . If you hope to gain acceptance into this top-tier school, you must have an exceptional application. Do not underestimate the importance of a stand-out Vanderbilt supplemental essay!

Let’s break down Vanderbilt’s prompt and how to craft a response that’s sure to impress. 

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

What to expect from the Vanderbilt supplemental essay prompt

Vanderbilt University expects applicants to respond to one personal essay prompt and respond to one short answer question. However, do not worry because you actually only need to write one response for Vanderbilt! The personal essay they require of students is the Common Application or Coalition personal essay so there is no need to write anything additional for Vanderbilt’s personal essay requirement. 

There are two short answer questions you can choose from and only one needs to be answered. Regardless of which essay choice you choose, they need to be answered in approximately 250 words . 

Short answer choice #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? (250 words)”

Try and think of a time in which someone had a different perspective on a topic you discussed or argued. Write about this conversation by detailing a narrative of what exactly the conversation was about. Describe your thoughts and feelings about the conversation and how it was resolved (if it was!). 

It does not have to be a life-changing argument about a controversial topic. Rather, it can be just a discussion in which someone has expressed viewpoints that differ from your own. 

Be careful not to focus too much on the negatives of this experience such as negative emotions towards the other person or group but rather you should discuss your feelings objectively. 

Once you have described this conversation and the admissions officer now has context, it is important to focus on how you dealt with this conversation and what you learned from it. Describe your emotions during this conversation and what you might have done differently if given the opportunity. 

Ultimately, Vanderbilt doesn’t want to hear you attack and berate someone for their differing perspective, rather they want to see that future Vanderbilt students understand that everyone has diverse experiences and perspectives. Use this essay as an opportunity to highlight how you are able to learn from and work with others even if they have different beliefs. Additionally, describe how you would use what you have learned from this experience to better your time at Vanderbilt. 

Questions to consider: 

  • How did this conversation impact how you will communicate with others in the future? 
  • What did you learn from this experience? 
  • What will you do differently at Vanderbilt? 

Short answer choice #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. (250 words)”

Unlike some schools’ intimidatingly broad prompts, this is as straightforward as it gets. Vanderbilt wants you to describe a particularly meaningful involvement you’ve had. However, it can be tricky when more than one engagement comes to mind. 

A good way to start is by looking at the Activities section on your Common Application. Highlight the experiences that have been most impactful to you. Jot down what you enjoy about each one and what they’ve taught you. Describe any anecdotes that you associate with them. Be sure to highlight progression throughout your participation in this activity, such as being elected to a leadership position. 

Since this is the only supplemental you will be responding to, be strategic with which activity you choose. If your intended major is computer science, it may be wise to discuss a related experience. You could describe the robotics club you were a member of in high school. It would be a great time to flex any awards you received at a robotics competition, too. 

On the other hand, you may want to showcase a different side of your personality that speaks more about your character. For example, discussing a volunteer experience that inspired a cause you now champion would also be a great avenue. 

Above all, pick an activity that is special to you, not what you think admissions wants to hear. Writing what you find important about your background will come across sincerely and ensure your voice can shine through. 

After you have chosen the perfect activity or work experience to write about, make sure you focus on how it has influenced you. Has this activity become a staple in your life? Do you hope to pursue this activity at Vanderbilt? Has this experience helped you realize what you want to do in your life? 

Ultimately make sure you are detailing an extracurricular activity or work experience that means something great to you and has influenced you in any way. 

Questions to consider:  

  • Did you hold a job that solidified why you want to pursue your intended career path? 
  • Has one of your hobbies taught you a new skill you cherish? Or allowed you to find community? 
  • What has devoting much of your K-12 life to playing a sport instilled in you?

Next steps for students

After our deep-dive on the Vanderbilt supplemental, we hope your ideas are flowing. Get your thoughts out and don’t be afraid of a rough first draft. You can revise for writing quality and word count later, so get started!

Additional resources

As you apply to colleges, there are a lot of decisions to make in order to ensure you end up at the right school for you. Luckily, we can help you make them! Check out our guide on what looks good on college applications , how many schools to apply to , how to find safety, reach, and match schools , and how to schedule college visits . We can also help you fill out the Common App Additional Information Section and offer you an inside view of what happens inside an admissions office .

Finally, once you get your admissions decisions back, we can help you narrow down your choices. Try out our guide to making a college comparison spreadsheet , how to interpret your financial aid award letters , and how to appeal for more financial aid . We can also help clarify the differences between public and private schools and offer you some insight into making your final choice of a college . Good luck on your educational journey, and don’t forget to apply for all the scholarships you are eligible for!

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 5 tips for writing a stellar vanderbilt supplement essay.

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College Essays


Vanderbilt is one of the United States' highest-ranked colleges. With an acceptance rate of just 7 percent, it's ranked as extremely competitive . It's no surprise—Vanderbilt is known for having a wealth of appealing programs, including its school of medicine, the Peabody College of Education and Human Development, and Blair School of Music.

Because it's extremely competitive, you'll need to set yourself apart as a prospective student . That doesn't mean just your grades and impressive extracurriculars; it also means writing a killer essay to go along with your application.

In this guide, we'll tell you everything you need to know about Vanderbilt's supplemental essay, including some ideal topics, some pitfalls to avoid, and even some analysis of past Vanderbilt essays that have worked.

Feature Image: Dansan4444 /Wikimedia Commons

The Vanderbilt Supplement Basics

Vanderbilt's application is fairly straightforward. They accept multiple application formats, including both the Common and Coalition Applications, as well as Questbridge.

What application you use is up to you. There are many reasons to choose one or the other , but regardless of which application you pick, you'll still be writing just one supplemental essay prompt from Vanderbilt. Choose whichever application works best for you.

In addition to the essays required for your Common, Coalition, or Questbridge Application, Vanderbilt requires one supplemental essay. There are two promp ts to choose from; you’ll select one to respond to in a short answer essay of no more than 250 words.

However, having just one supplemental essay means that you'll need to put a lot of attention into making your essay as good as it can be. You only have one chance to prove yourself in your essay, so make it count!


What Are the Vanderbilt Supplement Essay Prompts?

Vanderbilt has two prompts for their supplemental essay. You’ll be asked to select one and respond to it in 250 words or less . The prompts are as follows: 

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? 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.

Each prompt asks you to describe and reflect on a different aspect of your experiences and values, so we’ll break down how to answer them individually.

Supplemental Prompt #1: Diversity

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?

In this prompt, Vanderbilt is asking you to describe how you interact with and learn from people who are different from yourself . College campuses are diverse communities filled with people of different races, ethnicities, nationalities, and religious and political beliefs. This essay is your chance to show Vanderbilt that you’re the kind of student who’s open to learning from and with people from many different backgrounds–and that you’ll be kind and compassionate in the process. 

To answer this question, think of a specific conversation (or series of conversations) you’ve had with a person or group who expressed views that are different from your own. You’ll want to tell a compelling story about the experience, so try to remember details like how the conversation started, why the people involved felt invested in the conversation, what the outcome was, and, most importantly, how you were influenced by the conversation. 

Rather than giving a play-by-play, “they said/I said” of the conversation, focus on describing how you and the other people involved expressed yourselves and treated each other . Did you have a shouting match in the hallway at school, then apologize later because you realized that yelling isn’t a good way to express your views? Did you have a heartfelt, tearful conversation wherein you finally came to understand someone you’ve been at odds with for years? And most important of all, how did you come to these realizations, and how have they affected who you are and how you treat people who are different from you today? 

Remember to keep your essay focused on the people involved in the conversation , how you treated each other, and how you were affected by the interaction . This essay isn’t the place to harp on how you were right and you totally owned your opponent with your awesome debate skills. Instead, Vanderbilt wants to see that you can engage civilly and empathetically with people who are different from you –and that you’re open to learning new things from others. After all, learning and growing with people from different backgrounds is a key part of the college experience. 

Supplemental Prompt #2: Extracurricular Activities

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.

The question is straightforward—Vanderbilt is asking you to discuss one of your extracurriculars in depth. This doesn't just demonstrate to the admissions office that you're dedicated to your interest, but also that you have passions outside of school. Vanderbilt wants to know that you'll bring something besides academics to campus, and this is the space to tell them about it.

Keep in mind that Vanderbilt isn't looking for a list of activities or just a short discussion of one of your extracurriculars. They specifically ask for one, but you have 250 words to cover—which means you should spend some time unpacking not just the activity itself, but why you do it and why it matters to you. Be thoughtful; really think about your activities and why you do them beyond that they look good on your college application.

Don't just pick the extracurricular activity that you think Vanderbilt would want to hear about. If you're a champion Mathlete but you really feel fulfilled when you're making short films with your friends over the weekend, you should be writing about the short films. If your short film was played at a local film festival but you find more meaning in the time you spend knitting, write about knitting!

It's not about being impressive here. Plenty of other applicants will be discussing their charity work or science team victories. Use this space to discuss yourself, and why the things you do matter to you. If the most impressive thing in your repertoire and the thing that's most personally meaningful line up, great! But don't feel like you can only write about things like academic success, leadership roles, or entrepreneurship. Write about what's meaningful to you and Vanderbilt will see your personality—which is really what they're looking for—shine through.


Vanderbilt Essays That Worked: Analysis

To give you a sense of what an effective Vanderbilt supplemental essay looks like, we tracked down an example of a successful Vanderbilt essay.

Keep in mind that this is a response to an older prompt. However, it still gives you a good idea of what admissions counselors are looking for in a thoughtful response. Consider this essay from an admitted Vanderbilt student:

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150-400 words). While all my extracurricular activities have helped me shape my values, there is one in particular I have enjoyed the most: picking tangerines from my grandmother’s orchard. Picking tangerines was often to me simply a burden. I had to wake up at six every Saturday and drive fifty miles to help my grandmother reap good tangerines. On the whole ride I would think to myself: I would rather be reading poetry and ponder upon ways to change the world. As far as I was concerned, reaping tangerines was not going to help me do so. The orchard belonged to my grandmother, who to save money had to “hire” me and my mom. There was no wage; the only working benefit was being able to taste a few fresh tangerines for free. At age thirteen, such benefit was enough. At seventeen, I was not so sure if it was. Working at the orchard usually involved scratches, itching, worms, climbing up the ladder, getting hurt, and demanding, long hours of physical labor. But as I worked through the years with tangerines, I began to recognize all the beauty my labor had. Everything in the orchard began telling their own stories. A tiny, pruned tree took pride in its small fruition, all the while a chunky tree demanded attention for its crooked children. Their offspring–tangerines–told by their taste who their trees were; some of them edgy, some of them warm, and some of them implicitly angry. Bugs would tell me which tree needs my help. No tree is without a hope. Within a few days of assistance, all the trees fought back those tiny enemies and always claimed victory. They became ever more proud, stronger, and complete. Enemies came back; but this time the trees didn’t need my help. Some tangerines would go bad–in extreme cases would give up under negligence. We grieve. But we simply carry on. We learn to proceed more carefully, and we let go. The orchard is for me a story of life–human life. It makes all the complications of our lives more simple, easier to grasp, and more available at my tongue, hands and feet. So as of right now, my Saturday is always booked for the orchard. I hope by next year this time around, however, my orchard will be at Vanderbilt.

This essay was successful--the applicant was accepted at Vanderbilt! The fact that it was successful shows you that it contains features that Vanderbilt likes to see.

The writer of this essay discusses the unconventional “education” they received while working in their grandmother’s tangerine orchard. This topic is striking because it’s an extracurricular/work experience that few other applicants have likely had. The applicant’s creative interpretation of “extracurricular activities or work experience” from the prompt makes their essay stand out from others that discuss more common experiences.

Not everybody had this same experience, but that doesn't mean that you can't use some of the same ideas in your own work. The writer draws a clear line between their experience working the orchard and the person they are now—you could do a similar thing by connecting the person you are with the activity you've chosen to write about. What have you learned about yourself because of what you do?

The writer is also able to connect what they learned through working the orchard to the kind of student they will be at Vanderbilt. By drawing an analogy between the tangerine trees and the challenges we go through in life, the applicant conveys their core values. More importantly, they write about where those values come from—something you could easily do by referencing the importance of the activity you choose.

What's most important to take away from this essay is the way that the writer connects the experience of working the orchard to the person they became. No matter what your education was or what activity you choose to write about, you can do a similar thing in your own essay!


5 Key Tips for Writing Your Vanderbilt Essay

Vanderbilt is a prestigious school, but there are some essay standards that hold true no matter where you're applying . Follow these steps to write an essay that's sure to impress!

#1: Start Writing

Starting is the step that sounds the easiest, but it's actually the hardest. No matter what you have to do to start writing, whether it's freewriting, brainstorming, or just pumping out a first draft as fast as you can, you need to do it. At this point, don't worry about quality or being impressive. Just get words down on paper so that you can edit them into shape later— if you spend too much time worrying about starting with a perfect beginning, you'll never make it past that point.

Step two is when you can start worrying about quality. Read your essay aloud and see if you can spot problems with word choice and flow. If you're struggling to read it, change words and add punctuation as necessary.

Also think about your overall point. Does it make sense? Are you able to trace your logic all the way through without a problem? If not, find ways to connect your thoughts from beginning to end.

Be thorough in cutting extraneous words. 250 words isn't a lot, and you'll want to make sure you're making your essay count by picking vibrant, active verbs and clear language. Don't worry about being flowery or busting out the thesaurus, but do be sure that your wording doesn't feel tired or dull.

#3: Seek Feedback

One of the best ways to find holes in your logic or other issues in your essay is to get others to give you feedback. Find people who want to see you succeed, but preferably not those who aren't going to give you criticism if you need it. Teachers and other mentors are a good choice, if they're available.

Don't feel like you have to use every piece of feedback you receive, but do consider all of it. Your essay should always be your own work, so try to rephrase suggestions in your own words or rewrite confusing passages how you would write them, not how others suggest.

#4: Take a Break

With deadlines looming and other essays to write, it may be tempting to just rush through after getting feedback and fix everything. But take some time away from your essay, focusing on other college application duties or on other things entirely. Anywhere from a couple days to weeks to months can be good for improving your essay, though do leave yourself time to revise.

Taking a break lets your mind forget what you've already written, so that when you come back to revise you do so with fresh eyes. This way, you can see holes in your logic or places where your language isn't as tight as it could be. You'll never be able to completely shed your attachment to your essay, but spending some time away from it can give you a whole new outlook on your work!

Now that you've had some time away and you have notes to incorporate, it's time to revise. Revision can be something you do multiple times, combing through your essay for errors and places to strengthen it, but eventually you are going to have to turn it in. Don't get caught up in perfection—focus on making your essay the best you can. Check it for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors to be sure it's clean and easy to read, and send it off!

What's Next?

Starting your essay is often the hardest part. If you're unsure where to begin, check out this guide to starting a college essay perfectly , and don't be afraid to just dive right in!

A good essay is just one part of a successful Vanderbilt application . If you want to really wow the admissions office, be sure your grades and test scores are up to snuff, too!

Vanderbilt University may not be an Ivy League school, but that doesn't mean your application can't be Ivy League-ready. Use these tips for getting into Harvard to shape your college application, and you'll have no problem getting into any school you choose!

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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.

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Blog > Essay Advice , Private University , Supplementals > How to Write the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays

How to Write the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University Admissions

Key Takeaway

What are the vanderbilt supplemental essay prompts.

Vanderbilt has two supplemental essay prompts you can choose from. They do not have a preference for which one you submit, but you should consider which one makes the most sense for you. Both Vanderbilt supplemental essay prompts are fairly common topics, so you may find ways to “recycle” your writing and use it for other schools too.

This guide will walk you through our tips on how to write the two Vanderbilt supplemental essays from a former Vanderbilt admission officer.

How to Write the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay

Supplemental strategy.

Supplemental essays are very important to the Vanderbilt admissions process. Vanderbilt is an extremely highly-selective school, so making admissions decisions based on academics alone isn’t enough. They want to understand and assess your impact and engagement outside of the classroom as well.

Vanderbilt admissions also wants to understand who you might be as a community member on their campus. Remember, Vanderbilt students live on-campus in the residence halls all four years. Community fit in their diverse community in Nashville is exceptionally important to them too.

These values—extracurriculars and embracing a diverse community—are reflected in the Vanderbilt supplemental essay prompts.

How long should Vanderbilt supplemental essay be? 250 words? 400?

Oh, one more thing. Vanderbilt asks you to “Please provide your answer in approximately 250 words”, but you’ll notice that the box allows you to submit up to 400 words. Many students ask if it is okay to write more than 250 words.

It is okay to write more than 250 words for the Vanderbilt supplemental essays. As always, you should find ways to be concise and direct when writing this style of supplemental essay. Vanderbilt changed their word count policy in the 2022-2023 school year, which is also when they added the second prompt. They give the space to write up to 400 words, and you may use as much of that space as you need.

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.

This has been Vanderbilt’s supplemental essay for years, and you are likely to see similar prompts at other schools. It's a classic extracurricular activities essay .

To start, make sure you clearly describe the activity and your role. Some activities might take a bit more explanation than others. Admission officers likely know what a baseball pitcher does or what a debate competition might look like. Still, you may have had an informal leadership role. If you are writing about something more distinctive like an internship, research program, school club, or family responsibilities, be clear about your role. Have someone else read it and make sure they can accurately recite to you their understanding of your activity.

Remember, Vanderbilt wants to understand your impact outside of the classroom and the context and breadth of any achievements you have. (We have a whole post about extracurricular magnitude and impact , if you're interested.)

Vanderbilt admissions also wants to know that you are reflective enough to write about the impact your chosen extracurricular activity had on you. What did you learn? How did you change? Perhaps you were part of a research team and gained a greater understanding of how individual scientists are integral parts of a lab. Maybe your work with children on the autism spectrum is the reason you want to go into education. Show how you’ve learned and grown.

Additionally, Vanderbilt (and pretty much any school) wants to understand how your experiences will positively impact others now and in the future. Remember, they are recruiting not just students for the classroom, but community members for four years. Be sure to tell them how your experiences will translate to the next chapters of your life.

By the way, students often worry about being too direct. While you don’t want to write with zero style or emotion, know that writing clearly about your impact can help your admission officer understand your point quickly. Your admission officer is on a time crunch. It is okay in a supplemental essay to explicitly connect the dots between what you have done in high school and what you will do in college.

Which brings me to my last point—feel free to sneak in something specific at Vanderbilt that relates to your extracurricular activity, something you’d like to join once there. Whether that is research, service, marching band, or the rocket team, it is appropriate to let them know an aspect of the community you’d like to join.

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?

This second prompt was new for Vanderbilt in the 2022-23 school year. They do not have a preference for which prompt you choose, so don’t let that discourage you from addressing this one.

Most of my guidelines from the extracurricular essay apply here as well.

This prompt is a somewhat distinctive take on a diversity essay . Instead of directly asking you to address diversity or a community, Vanderbilt asks you to reflect on conversation(s) you’ve had where your viewpoint wasn’t shared.

Just like the extracurricular essay, don’t make the careless mistake of not setting the scene for the conversation you describe. You don’t have to (or want to) spend half your essay describing the parties involved, but don’t skip the setup either.

Then, give details of the encounter. Some students opt for the more conservative route of taking a stance of neutrality in the disagreement—describing a scene without stating their own opinion. Perhaps a controversial reading in class brought out differing opinions and resulted in an argument. Other (probably most) students will choose to reveal their own viewpoint or “side” of an argument and describe the scene where they were challenged. Either approach is okay, as long as you…

Share how the conversation impacted you. Perhaps your opinion was changed when you realized someone else has more direct experience with a topic and they swayed you. Maybe the person with whom you disagree dug their heels in based on a proclamation of unshakable faith. The lessons one learns from these encounters would be different, and you need to make sure that lesson is revealed.

Again, you want to leave the admission officer with a sense of who you are as a community member through this story. Maybe you are open-minded, or empathetic, or a great listener, or a skillful but caring debater. Let them infer (or tell them directly!) how this will manifest on the Vanderbilt campus.

With both essays, make sure you set your reader up to understand the situation or extracurricular activity. Don’t leave them guessing or assume they’ll understand something. Then, open yourself up to enough reflection to demonstrate your capacity to learn and grow, and be forward-looking enough that they can picture you on their campus.

For more advice about applying to Vanderbilt, be sure to check out our Vanderbilt Common Data Set post and How to Get into Vanderbilt guide. See you there!

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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

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 .

“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?”

“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. 

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

“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!

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

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5 Tips for Writing a Stellar Vanderbilt Supplement Essay

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The Vanderbilt Supplement Basics

The Vanderbilt Supplement is an additional component of the college application process specifically for applicants to Vanderbilt University. It consists of a series of short-answer questions and essays that allow applicants to provide more information about themselves, their interests, and their fit with Vanderbilt. Here are the key aspects of the Vanderbilt Supplement:

1. Prompts and Questions: The Vanderbilt Supplement typically includes several prompts or questions that require thoughtful and introspective responses. These prompts may vary from year to year, but they are designed to give applicants an opportunity to showcase their unique qualities, experiences, and perspectives.

2. Essay Requirements: The Vanderbilt Supplement usually includes one or more essay prompts that require longer, more detailed responses. These essays provide applicants with the chance to delve deeper into their personal stories, academic interests, extracurricular involvement, or any other aspect they wish to highlight.

3. Demonstrating Fit: One important aspect of the Vanderbilt Supplement is to demonstrate your fit with the university. This can be achieved by conducting thorough research on Vanderbilt's programs, resources, and campus culture. Tailor your responses to showcase why Vanderbilt is the ideal academic and social environment for you.

4. Authenticity and Voice: The Vanderbilt Supplement provides an opportunity for applicants to reveal their authentic selves. It is essential to write in a genuine voice and convey your thoughts, experiences, and aspirations with clarity and sincerity. Use this platform to express your unique perspectives and showcase what makes you stand out.

5. Reflecting Vanderbilt's Values: Vanderbilt University has specific values and characteristics that it seeks in its applicants. These may include a commitment to academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, community engagement, and diversity. When crafting your responses, consider how your experiences align with these values and emphasize them in your writing.

6. Proofreading and Editing: As with any written component of your college application, it is crucial to proofread and edit your Vanderbilt Supplement thoroughly. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Seek feedback from trusted mentors or advisors to ensure that your responses are clear, cohesive, and error-free.

7. Demonstrating Research and Interest: Vanderbilt University values applicants who have taken the time to learn about the institution. Incorporate specific details about Vanderbilt in your responses to demonstrate that you have done your research and are genuinely interested in becoming part of the Vanderbilt community.

Remember, the Vanderbilt Supplement is an opportunity to provide additional insights into who you are as an individual and why you are a strong fit for Vanderbilt University. Take the time to reflect on your experiences, craft thoughtful responses, and present yourself in the best possible light.

What Are the Vanderbilt Supplement Essay Prompts?

The Vanderbilt University Supplement typically consists of a series of essay prompts that allow applicants to provide more in-depth information about themselves, their interests, and their fit with the university. While the specific prompts may vary from year to year, here are some examples of previous Vanderbilt Supplement essay prompts to give you an idea of what to expect:

1. "Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences."

This prompt invites you to share a meaningful extracurricular activity or work experience and provide additional insights into your involvement, accomplishments, and the impact it has had on your personal or academic growth.

2. "Please discuss why you consider Vanderbilt a good match for you."

This prompt focuses on your fit with Vanderbilt University. It encourages you to reflect on specific aspects of Vanderbilt's academic programs, campus culture, or resources that align with your academic and personal goals.

3. "Tell us about a time when you had to step outside of your comfort zone and how that experience contributed to your personal growth."

With this prompt, Vanderbilt wants to learn about a significant challenge or experience that pushed you beyond your comfort zone. Reflect on the lessons you learned, the skills you developed, and how it has shaped your perspective and personal growth.

4. "Briefly elaborate on one of your favorite extracurricular activities or work experiences."

Similar to the first prompt, this essay asks you to delve into one of your favorite extracurricular activities or work experiences. Discuss why it holds meaning for you, the skills you have developed, and the impact it has had on your personal or academic journey.

5. "Share a personal experience or meaningful interaction that demonstrates how you will contribute to the Vanderbilt community."

This prompt provides an opportunity for you to share a specific personal experience or interaction that showcases your potential contribution to the Vanderbilt community. Highlight your unique qualities, perspectives, or talents that align with Vanderbilt's values and community.

It is important to note that the Vanderbilt Supplement essay prompts may change each year, so it is essential to check the official Vanderbilt University admissions website for the most up-to-date prompts. When approaching these prompts, take the time to reflect on your experiences, values, and goals. Be authentic, showcase your unique voice, and provide thoughtful and engaging responses that allow the admissions committee to gain a deeper understanding of who you are as an individual.

Vanderbilt Essays That Worked: Analysis

Analyzing Vanderbilt essays that worked can provide valuable insights into what the admissions committee is looking for and how successful applicants approached their essays. While it's important to remember that each applicant's essay is unique and personal, studying successful examples can help you understand the qualities and approaches that resonated with the admissions committee. Here are some key points to consider when analyzing Vanderbilt essays that worked:

1. Authenticity: Successful Vanderbilt essays often showcase the applicant's authentic voice and personal experiences. They avoid clichés and generic statements, instead offering a genuine reflection of the applicant's passions, values, and aspirations. These essays allow the reader to get a glimpse into the applicant's true personality and individuality.

2. Clarity of Purpose: Effective Vanderbilt essays have a clear purpose or message. The applicants clearly communicate their motivations, goals, or experiences, allowing the admissions committee to understand what drives them and what they hope to contribute to the Vanderbilt community. The essays are focused and cohesive, guiding the reader through a compelling narrative or argument.

3. Depth of Reflection: Essays that stand out often demonstrate deep introspection and reflection. They go beyond surface-level descriptions and provide thoughtful insights into the applicant's experiences, growth, or perspectives. These essays show a willingness to engage with complex ideas and showcase critical thinking skills.

4. Personal Connection to Vanderbilt: Strong essays for Vanderbilt demonstrate a genuine connection to the university. The applicants take the time to research and understand Vanderbilt's values, programs, and community, and they effectively convey how Vanderbilt aligns with their academic and personal goals. These essays highlight specific aspects of Vanderbilt that resonate with the applicant and emphasize how they would thrive within the university environment.

5. Engaging Writing Style: Vanderbilt essays that worked often display strong writing skills and a compelling narrative. They utilize vivid language, storytelling techniques, and engaging writing styles to captivate the reader's attention. These essays effectively balance personal anecdotes with broader themes or ideas, creating an engaging and memorable reading experience.

Remember, while it can be helpful to analyze successful Vanderbilt essays, it is crucial to maintain your own unique voice and perspective when crafting your own essays. Use these examples as inspiration, but always ensure that your essays reflect your own experiences, passions, and aspirations. Tailor your essays to showcase your individuality and demonstrate how you would be a valuable addition to the Vanderbilt community.

5 Key Tips for Writing Your Vanderbilt Essay

When it comes to writing your Vanderbilt essay, it's important to approach it with careful thought and preparation. Here are five key tips to help you craft a strong and compelling essay:

1. Understand the Prompts: Begin by carefully reading and understanding the Vanderbilt essay prompts. Take note of the specific questions being asked and the expectations outlined by the university. Pay attention to any guidelines or word limits provided.

2. Reflect on Your Experiences: Take time to reflect on your experiences, values, and aspirations. Consider significant moments, challenges, or achievements that have shaped you. Think about your passions, interests, and goals. These reflections will provide the foundation for your essay and help you convey your unique perspective.

3. Showcase Your Authentic Voice: Be yourself and let your personality shine through your writing. Use your own authentic voice to convey your thoughts and experiences. Avoid trying to impress the admissions committee with overly formal or pretentious language. Instead, focus on communicating your ideas clearly and honestly.

4. Tell a Compelling Story: Engage the reader with a well-structured and captivating narrative. Start with a strong opening that grabs attention and creates intrigue. Develop your essay with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Use descriptive language and specific details to paint a vivid picture and make your story memorable.

5. Connect to Vanderbilt: Demonstrate your understanding of Vanderbilt and your fit with the university. Research the programs, resources, and opportunities offered by Vanderbilt that align with your academic and personal goals. Show how you can contribute to the Vanderbilt community and how the university can support your aspirations.

Additionally, remember to revise and edit your essay thoroughly. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Seek feedback from trusted mentors, teachers, or peers to gain valuable perspectives and suggestions for improvement.

By following these key tips, you can create a compelling and well-crafted Vanderbilt essay that highlights your unique qualities and demonstrates your fit for the university.


In conclusion, writing a stellar Vanderbilt supplement essay requires careful thought, reflection, and attention to detail. By understanding the prompts, showcasing your authentic voice, telling a compelling story, connecting to Vanderbilt, and revising your essay thoroughly, you can create a strong and impactful piece of writing. Remember, the Vanderbilt supplement essay is your opportunity to express who you are, what you value, and how you can contribute to the Vanderbilt community. Put your best foot forward and demonstrate why you are a great fit for the university. Good luck with your writing!

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Vanderbilt University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision Deadline: Jan 1

You Have: 

Vanderbilt University 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations

Vanderbilt decided to keep it short and sweet, so we’ll follow suit. A one-question supplement means you’ve got one shot at perfection. No pressure, though.

The Requirements: 1 essay of 250 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Activity , Diversity

Please select one of the following short answer prompts in approximately 250 words: *

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. .

This is a standard activity essay, much like the prompts of Brown , Tulane , and University of Michigan . So here’s the assignment: tell admissions something they don’t already know about you. When you pick your activity, make sure it doesn’t appear in other essays you’ve written (like your Common App personal statement, for example). This is a perfect opportunity to showcase leadership skills, extracurricular interests, or personal values. So choose an activity that is meaningful to you and through which you have grown in tangible ways (getting promoted) or intangible ways (learning the value of compassion). Oh, and that 250-word limit means you could easily recycle an activity essay you’ve written for another school. Just make sure you swap out any institution-specific details before you hit submit!

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?

Engaging others in meaningful conversations about important issues can be daunting. It can also be insightful or, unfortunately, polarizing. Vanderbilt wants to know about a time when you interacted with someone whose beliefs were different from your own. So think back to identify a time when you had a conversation with friends, family, or even mere acquaintances about a difficult topic. Maybe you challenged your uncle when he dismissed your concerns about climate change. Did you leave the conversation with a better understanding of his point of view? Were you able to effectively communicate your perspective? If you were to converse with someone on this topic again in the future, what would you do or say differently? 

You don’t need to have changed anyone’s mind to impress admissions here. You just need to show that you’re not afraid to speak up about issues that matter to you or communicate with those who have different opinions than your own. Vandy will present you with plenty of opportunities to meet and engage with people who are very different from you, so show admissions that you’re willing to have the hard talks.

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Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay Examples

Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay Examples

Sitting down to write an essay is a daunting task, and you might fare better if you have seen how others have solved the blank page problem, perhaps by perusing some Vanderbilt supplemental essay examples.

There is no perfect approach to how to write a college essay , and you need to find your own way forward. One of the best college essay tips , paradoxically, is finding your way by looking at how other people have approached their own essays.

So, in this article, we will show you sample college essays for Vanderbilt, including one for the Common App essay , one for the Coalition Application, and all of Vanderbilt’s exclusive supplemental essay prompts. We will also talk about how to write essays, including tips for Vanderbilt in particular.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 10 min read

Essay examples, common application.

There are several prompts for the Common Application. We have selected one ( bolded & italicized , below) to write a sample for, but we have included all prompts for your edification.

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you\u2019ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. "}]">

Word limit: The Common Application has no hard word limit. We recommend approximately 500 words; for the sake of brevity, don’t exceed 650.

I need to lose weight. I need to love my body. I need to be my authentic self and not worry about what other people say, but I’ve got a doctor spitting out a pile of health complications that are hard to ignore. My therapist is telling me that self-acceptance is so important, though. Meanwhile, although my friends at school say, “You’re beautiful!” in every social media selfie, I know I can hear whispering and snickering when I pass by.

All I get are conflicting messages about my body, and it’s my body, but I don’t know what to think. The event that brought all these thoughts to the surface came when I was jogging and my mp3 player shuffled up Adele’s song Rolling in the Deep. I started to cry in the middle of the trail. Adele was a plus-sized woman who lost weight and shed fans with pounds as a bunch of people piled on her for “betraying” the body-positive community.

The Coalition Application also has several prompts. As before, we have included all prompts, and will give you one sample ( bolded & italicized , below)

Submit an essay on a topic of your choice. "}]">

Word limit: Like the Common Application, the Coalition Application has no hard word limit, but we recommend you aim for 500 and do not go over 650 words.

I worked through my problems one note at a time, my fingers on the fretboard, bending and warbling notes until I could get them close to the timbre of a human voice. This might seem like a superficial reason to get the blues, but my cat died last year, and I had had her since I was a little boy. She was very special to me, and her loss left a trench in my life.

One of my interests is the guitar, something I have played since almost as long as I had the cat – my dad is a session musician, my mom a music teacher – and so I picked up my instrument when it was time to mourn. Blues music came out in ways that I couldn’t manage before. It was true what they say; my grief was a propellant that accelerated what I could do, and what I felt in my guts and my throat came out of my fingers, converted into aural paint across the air.

The loss of my cat is less piquant now, although still with me, but my love of guitar music has been reignited, and I immerse myself in my art. It started as obsession, and I practiced more and more than I ever had before, notes piling up inside my room next to the scattered laundry. My teachers thought I might be aimless, but my aim was precise; I just had a different target in mind than they did.

This essay is meant to show how you engage with your community. There are two possible prompts to select from.

Word limit: approximately 250 words for each short answer essay

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?

Debate club brought me into contact with a lot of viewpoints I was uncomfortable with and made me defend several of them. It taught me to engage with different ideas, back up my own arguments, and understand the vast variety of thought that exists in the world. It did not prepare me for fighting with my best friend.

When Salman Rushdie was stabbed – attacked by a fanatic who didn’t like a book – I was ranting about this with my friends. Obviously, as a debate club member, free expression is important to me. My friend Samuel agreed that what happened to Rushdie was awful. “But,” he said, “there ought to be more hate speech laws; that would stop stuff like this from happening.”

That floored me, and it started an argument that lasted for weeks and nearly cost me the friendship. I thought I would end it by saying that free speech was fundamental, but Samuel didn’t back down.

He showed me a picture of his pen pal from Phoenix. The kid’s name was Abdul, and he was a Muslim. Samuel told me that Abdul didn’t have the right to free speech, because he risked hate just by walking around. Hate speech laws would help him.

I realized that I prided myself on seeing “both sides,” but I still had biases and blind spots. While I still believe in free speech, I have reminded myself to be open-minded, even against myself, and to understand others.

When thinking about how to start a college essay , begin with a good opening sentence that draws in the reader. Then, continue with an opening paragraph that details the main ideas at play in the coming essay.

Smoothly transitioning is a great general practice, which will take you into the body of the essay. There, you will flesh out the ideas you started with, tell the bulk of your story, answer the prompt, and show your personal growth and connections.

Finally, cap it off with a conclusion that wraps up, or fulfills the “promise,” of the opener. You want to leave the essay in a place that makes the admissions committee feel like they would want to know more, not because the essay lacks closure, but because they are more intrigued than ever by you as an applicant, thinking that you will fit perfectly at Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt has given you a requirement of only two essays, so the first thing to consider is what they are looking for. While it may seem that they are limiting your scope, they provide an interesting variety of prompts. However, in looking at the “personal essay” prompts, despite the number – seven for the Common Application and six for the Coalition Application – the same ideas crop up in each list: challenges faced, times of change, and personal growth. This speaks volumes about what Vanderbilt has chosen to learn about you.

The second essay – the short answer that Vanderbilt specifically asks for – is about you and your community.

Taken in aggregate, we can see that what Vanderbilt wants emphasized is your personal life; specifically, they want to see how you affect and are affected by your world. When you compose your essays, focus on these aspects of your life – change and community – for maximum effect with Vanderbilt.

Giving yourself the time to write, the training to write, and even hiring a college essay review service will help you write your essays, but taking a look at the examples and tips above will give you the boost you need to succeed.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In the case of Vanderbilt, they do not give a minimum word count for their short answer essays. However, because 250 words is not a lot of space to fill, a good rule of thumb is to aim for close to the maximum. After all, it they preferred a 150-word essay, they would have specified that.

The Common App specifies 250–650 words, while the Coalition Application specifies 500–650 words. With such a range, these are not considered hard limits, but do respect them anyways.

What is most important is to give yourself the writing space to explore your prompts and topics fully. Part of requesting a long essay and a short one is to test whether you are capable of expanding and exploring concepts in depth as well as delivering a brief, concise message.

Don’t, even if it is allowed. Respect that they have provided you with a limit. Even if it is a gentle suggestion, you should realize that they are also checking to see if you can follow instructions and keep to their paradigms. Can you fit your ideas into a smaller word count? They want to know that, too.

You can’t submit just any essay into that slot; you need to have something in mind that will show off yourself, your character, your personal growth, or challenges you’ve faced. You might have a story that doesn’t fit one of the other prompts but does speak to those elements of your life; in that case, you can write an original essay on that topic.

Two things to keep in mind if you choose this option: make sure your essay is not about one of the existing prompts, even inadvertently, and be sure that your original idea is really strong.

Well, first off, you’re not writing a good essay, you’re writing a great one. But to your point, the essay should be crafted over a period of a few weeks – two or three – spending time each day to work on the text. It takes time and careful consideration to build an essay.

Every aspect of your application is important, and you should consider each facet to be necessary and imperative. Don’t neglect any aspect. Each application section has its own, unique purpose. Transcripts show your academic standing, for instance. Essays show you off as an individual – something which no other area in your application will do in such a thorough way. You can use your own words and story here, as opposed to just listing your interests and extracurricular activities.

Yes, and in some cases you will. The Common App essay , or Coalition App essay, will be sent to multiple schools. However, if your Vanderbilt secondary essay will serve another school’s prompt, you may reuse it. Just make sure that it truly fits the other prompt, that it is devoid of school-specific references, and that your word/character counts still apply. In fact, double-check it, because you don’t want to scuttle your chances of acceptance because you just hit copy-paste.

They are very similar. Both the Common App and Coalition App are centralized services to streamline prospective students’ applications. The Common App is more widely used, while the Coalition App is geared toward underprivileged students – students who come from backgrounds that are not represented at, or may have a more difficult time getting into, post-secondary institutions.

Check which schools you’re applying to first. If you’re applying to schools that are only available on the Common App, that’s your choice made for you. Choose the Coalition App if you can make use of their additional services or think they will better serve you as an underprivileged student or member of an underrepresented group.

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How to Get Into Vanderbilt: Acceptance Rate and Strategies

May 23, 2023

vanderbilt acceptance rate, how to get into

In 1999, Vanderbilt received under 10,000 applications and sported an acceptance rate of 61%. The turn of the millennium saw annual incremental increases in selectivity that led to the Vanderbilt acceptance rate hitting an all-time low of 5.6% in 2023. If you are a regular reader of our content, you know that we frequently point out staggering drops in admit rates at elite universities over the last decade or two. We cite these statistics not to scare you, but to make sure you and the influential voices in your lives (parents, family friends, peers, older siblings, teachers, and counselors) are up to speed on just how competitive many top schools are today.

If you told an adult who was a Commodore alum from another era, or even just a decade ago, that you have a 1400 SAT and mostly ‘A’s in AP courses, they would instantly congratulate you on joining the Vanderbilt family. Based on old criteria, their optimism would be warranted. Yet, today, a student with a 1400 SAT would find themselves well below the 25th percentile of attending freshmen.

Given how rapidly the admissions landscape at Vanderbilt has shifted, the aim of this article is to provide you with an understanding of the following topics:

  • Vanderbilt University acceptance rate
  • Vanderbilt ED acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Vanderbilt University applicants
  • Admissions trends
  • The demographics of current undergraduates
  • How Vanderbilt University’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
  • Tips for applying to Vanderbilt University
  • Vanderbilt essay advice 
  • How to assess whether applying to Vanderbilt is even worth the $50 application fee (for you)

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.

Vanderbilt University Acceptance Rate – Class of 2027

The Vanderbilt acceptance rate was 5.6% for those vying for a spot in the Class of 2027. There were 47, 120 total applications received. The Regular Decision rate was only 4.2%.

Over the last few years, the Vanderbilt acceptance rates were as follows:

  • Class of 2026: 6%

Vanderbilt University Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2027

Any applicant who views Vanderbilt as their top choice should definitely consider applying via binding early decision . This school offers an ED1 and ED2 option. The Vanderbilt Early Decision acceptance rate was 15.7% for the Class of 2027. The university has not yet released any data on ED1 vs. ED2 for this cycle. However, the ED 1 acceptance rate for the Class of 2026 was 24.1%, a much higher figure than the ED2 acceptance rate of 10.3%.

Vanderbilt University Admissions – SAT, ACT, GPA, and Class Rank

Accepted students into the Class of 2027 (different from enrolled) earned ACT Composite scores of 34-36 and an SAT range of 1520-1580. In one recent cycle, 80% had an unweighted GPA of greater than a 3.75 and all but 6% earned at least a 3.5 GPA. The average GPA of all entering first-year students was 3.86 and 89% placed in the top decile of their graduating class; 97% landed in the top quartile.

Admissions Trends & Notes 

  • Vanderbilt will remain test-optional through at least the Class of 2028.
  • The acceptance rate declined slightly from 6.1% to 5.6% for the Class of 2027.
  • 54% of students submitted test scores with their application.
  • Admitted students into the Class of 2027 hail from all 50 U.S. states and 61 countries around the world.
  • To highlight just how competitive the school has become, the admissions dean stated, ““Our waitlist students today would be like our Cornelius Vanderbilt scholars four years ago.”

Who Actually Gets Into Vanderbilt University?

Let’s look at the demographics of the Vanderbilt University student body:

  • Midwest: 15%
  • Mid-Atlantic: 8%
  • Southwest: 9%
  • New England: 14%
  • International: 10%

The states sending with most current undergrads are:

  • Massachusetts

As at any highly-selective university, competition is toughest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). If you hail from a less populated state like Alaska, North Dakota, or Montana, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances. The states with the fewest current Vanderbilt undergrads include:

  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of all current undergrads is as follows:

  • Asian American: 18%
  • Hispanic: 12%
  • African American: 11%
  • Multiracial: 6%

The breakdown by gender of all current undergraduates is almost completely even:

  • Female: 52%

The type of high school attended by recent freshmen was as follows (most recent data available):

  • Public: 64%
  • Private: 34%

Vanderbilt University’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted– was 48% for the Class of 2026. For comparison, many other top private universities have superior yield rates such as Notre Dame, Northwestern, Duke, However, Vanderbilt has a higher yield than USC, Carnegie Mellon, and Emory.

How Vanderbilt University Rates Applicants

Vanderbilt receives tens of thousands of applications to fill a first-year class of approximately 1,600 students. Every application at Vandy is reviewed by at least two readers. Typically these are admissions officers assigned to your geographic area, but sometimes other officers weigh in on students outside of their traditional territory. The process is genuinely holistic with readers “looking for students who have performed well within the context of their high school’s most challenging academic programs. We evaluate activities outside the classroom in terms of depth of involvement, roles and responsibilities, and leadership. We also evaluate applicants’ writing through the application essay and short answer.”

Seven factors are rated as being “very important” to the Vanderbilt admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, class rank, GPA, standardized test scores (test-optional for now), the essays, extracurricular activities, and character/personal qualities. Application components deemed “important” are recommendation letters and talent/ability. “Considered” items include the admissions interview (more on this in a moment), first-generation status, alumni status, geographical residence, state residency, racial/ethnic status, and volunteer work. It definitely helps if you are recruited as an athlete to join one of Vanderbilt University’s 14 Division I sports teams . Over 350 undergrads are varsity athletes. Those who excel in a given sport can gain an edge in the admissions process .

Tips for Applying 

If you plan on joining the 47,000+ Commodore hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • Vanderbilt University offers Early Decision I and Early Decision II.  As cited earlier in the blog, ED acceptance rates are typically double that of the Regular Decision round.
  • Vanderbilt University does offer optional alumni interviews . These are interviews conducted through the Commodore Recruitment Programs are mostly informational in nature, but an evaluative report of the interview is included in the student’s application file.
  • Vanderbilt University does not consider “ demonstrated interest ” in the admissions process. Still, given that their yield rate is under 50%, it is still worth taking the simple steps of following them on social media, signing up for a virtual tour, or emailing an admissions officer with any questions you may have.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essay required by Vanderbilt. In the 2021-22 cycle it is as follows:

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

For detailed advice on tackling this essay, visit our blog: Vanderbilt University Essay Prompt and Tips .

Vanderbilt University Acceptance Rate – Final Thoughts 

With overall acceptance rates as low as 5.6% in recent years, Vanderbilt is a school that is looking for students that are at the 97th percentile or above on standardized tests and among the very top of their high school class. Just about all “A”s in an AP-heavy curriculum are expected. If Vanderbilt University is your aim, make sure to also have multiple other schools on your list where you are more likely to gain acceptance. All students need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list , containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. You’ll also definitely want to get your counselor’s input during this process.

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"Why Vanderbilt" essay (general advice)

<p>This is the prompt on their CommonApp supplement I'm talking about:</p>

<p>Why Vanderbilt? Please use the space below to discuss the factors that have led you to consider Vanderbilt University. [4500 character limit]</p>

<p>Would an essay simply answering that question in a straightforward manner be perfectly acceptable, or do you think we should do something a bit more creative? (Not necessarily a poem in iambic paramater or anything, but perhaps something along the lines of a description of how you expect a day at Vanderbilt to be, or a specific story that got you interested in Vanderbilt, or something.)</p>

<p>This is only my opinion, but I'd go for the creative. The most outstanding part of my daughter's application, in my humble opinion, was her Why Vandy essay. She had spent part of three summers on the Vanderbilt campus (tennis camp and PTY) and had been on campus for other activities since her brother was a student during her sophomore-senior years in high school. She opened the essay by recapping the variety of her experiences, but then spoke of her favorite Vanderbilt experience and how she hoped to become involved in that activity, etc. Although it was longer than suggested, I think it was her best essay because it showed she clearly had a vision of how she would fit into and contribute to the campus environment. Many of the posters during that round (ED for class of '09) acknowledged their rejections/deferrals on CC and had superior stats. At the time I thought that some of them were not appropriate ED candidates since they seemed to be giving the school a shot based on thinking it was the best they could do and not based on a real feel for the campus. The Vanderbilt student community is hugely committed to community service and campus involvement. This is your chance to show how you could fit in.</p>

<p>Thanks, 2VU0609. My problem is that I haven't even visited Vandy yet (I plan on doing so this winter break or next semester). I have a few good reasons why I want to go there, but mostly it just boils down to a kind of intution (and this applies to the other schools I'm applying to, including the ones I've visited), which is hard to write an essay about for obvious reasons.</p>

<p>I imagine I'll probably write the essay in a "day from my future life as a Vandy student" format, as that would be better than a straight telling of facts, but I guess this oughta be pretty tough when my knowledge of the school is pretty indirect...</p>

<p>Wow good luck with this essay. I absolutely hated writing it. It seems like admissions just wants an ego boost.</p>

<p>mention something that shows that you have researched the school. put in the name of a professor you want to study under or a unique program that only vandy has that you want to get into...good luck!</p>

<p>I would stay away from "this feeling in my heart and soul tells me that vandy is right for me" because any adcom will see the BS right through that. I stuck to 3 basic points and wrote about them, trying to match what I want with what they have so it kinda worked both ways. My 3 were a somewhat unique major that I liked (economics and history joint), the southern location/nashville/the campus, and that "Jewish life on campus is prospering at Vanderbilt and that the administration is sincerely dedicated to making students feel comfortable expressing their religious beliefs."</p>

<p>i don't know if i would agree with pasch. the first line of my why vandy essay: "How do I love thee, Vanderbilt? Let me count the ways."</p>

<p>I can definitely see how you would swing an essay that way, but it seems to be too thickly coated with BS for my tastes. I could only imagine how many essays the adcoms read that just say "i love vandy because of the weather, the location, the beautiful campus, etc." It just seems like you aren't doing anything to make yourself standout from 12,000+ applicants.</p>

<p>i think if you're relying on your why vandy essay to stand out, you've got bigger problems</p>

<p>Well that we can agree on. Then again, I'm just an applicant. Lol you actually got in already so your word might be better than mine.</p>

<p>Oh slipstream, your first line filled me with mirth :3 I hope you got in! It reminds me of my sister's Why Vanderbilt essay, she said "What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Vanderbilt is the sun!" And she got in :D I personally went for the experience angle. I talked about going for move-in day and seeing how the campus reminded me of Oregon while the city was still so different, then I went to their department for my major and recent accomplishments there, finally I looked at their arts and orchestra. Just take what Vanderbilt has that makes you want to apply and go from there, would be my advice :3</p>


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  1. Vanderbilt University Essay Prompts Expert Advice & Help

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  2. Vanderbilt Essay Examples

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  3. Vanderbilt Essay Examples

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  4. Vanderbilt Essay Examples

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  5. Vanderbilt Supplement Essay

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  6. Successful Vanderbilt Additional Info Essay Example

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  1. Vanderbilt Student and Alumni Give Back Through “Feed the Front Line”

  2. When a 5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ visits Vanderbilt University🤣🤣🤣


  1. How to Write the Vanderbilt University Essay 2023-2024

    Read this Vanderbilt essay example to inspire your writing. Vanderbilt University Supplemental Essay Prompt Please select one of the following short answer prompts (approximately 250 words): Option 1: Vanderbilt offers a community where students find balance between their academic and social experiences.

  2. Personal Essay and Short Answer Prompts

    Short Answer Question Personal Essay Prompts To help us get to know you in the application review process, you are required to submit a personal essay. For insight and advice about how to approach writing your personal essay, see our Expert Advice page. Common Application first-year essay prompts

  3. How to Write the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay

    Option 1: 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. Please provide your response in approximately 250 words.

  4. A Strong Vanderbilt Essay Example from an Accepted Student

    A top-tier reputation leads to a highly selective admissions process, so to get into Vanderbilt, you need more than just strong grades and test scores—you need stellar essays that set you apart from other academically excellent applicants. In this post, we will share a real essay submitted by an accepted Vanderbilt student.

  5. Tips for Writing Your College Essay

    Condensing an entire life's experience into less than 1000 words is a tough task. But it is pivotal in helping colleges get to know you through the application process. The essay is an important component of the application that helps us understand what our applicants would contribute to our campus community.

  6. Expert Advice

    For example, you may rely on an essay-writing class to help brainstorm topic ideas for your essay. Or you may use grammar tools available online to check grammar in your writing. Or your may ask a parent or guardian or peer to read your essay and offer feedback on clarity or offer advice regarding structure of the essay.

  7. Impressive Vanderbilt Essay Tips?

    1. Research Vanderbilt's mission and values: Familiarize yourself with the university's values, culture, and academic programs. An effective essay will convey your genuine interest in Vanderbilt and show how you align with the school's mission and goals. 2. Be authentic and genuine: Write in your own unique voice and be true to yourself.

  8. Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays

    Regular Decision: January 1st Vanderbilt Essay Tip: Be sure to pick the Vanderbilt essay prompt that will highlight something not already communicated through your personal essay or elsewhere on your application. The Vanderbilt supplemental essays should add to your overall application, so take the opportunity to showcase something you're proud of!

  9. Vanderbilt University Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

    Abbie Sage Vanderbilt University Engaging Vanderbilt supplemental essays are sure to standout in the admissions process. Not sure how to write your Vanderbilt essay? With tips from a Harvard graduate, CollegeAdvisor.com's guide to the Vanderbilt extracurricular essay will show you how to write a Vanderbilt essay that is sure to stand out.

  10. Writing Application Essays

    Your essay should present you in a positive light and highlight your energy and passion for whatever opportunity you are seeking. Steer clear of clichéd phrases like "This scholarship will help me pursue my dream of…" Ask a trusted adviser, peer, or writing consultant to look over your essay for clarity and general appeal.

  11. Vanderbilt Essay Examples

    Short Answer Essay 2 (250 words): 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. Past Vanderbilt essay prompts

  12. How to Ace the 2023-2024 Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay

    The personal essay they require of students is the personal essay so there is no need to write anything additional for Vanderbilt's personal essay requirement. There are two short answer questions you can choose from and only one needs to be answered. Regardless of which essay choice you choose, they need to be answered in.

  13. 5 Tips for Writing a Stellar Vanderbilt Supplement Essay

    Vanderbilt has two prompts for their supplemental essay. You'll be asked to select one and respond to it in 250 words or less. The prompts are as follows: Vanderbilt University values learning through contrasting points of view.

  14. How to Write the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays

    Oh, one more thing. Vanderbilt asks you to "Please provide your answer in approximately 250 words", but you'll notice that the box allows you to submit up to 400 words. Many students ask if it is okay to write more than 250 words. It is okay to write more than 250 words for the Vanderbilt supplemental essays. As always, you should find ...

  15. What Vanderbilt Admissions Officers Look for in Essays

    Tuesday, August 8, 2023 If Vanderbilt University, also known as Vandy, is one of your top-choice schools, you may be wondering how to craft your admissions essay to help you stand out. Vanderbilt is incredibly selective, so they look for students who demonstrate what they can contribute to the diverse campus community academically and otherwise.

  16. Vanderbilt University Essay Prompts

    2023-2024 Vanderbilt Essay Topics & Questions. Vanderbilt's two supplemental essay prompts for applicants to the Class of 2028, which applicants are to choose one to answer in about 250 words, are as follows: 1. Vanderbilt University values learning through contrasting points of view. We understand that our differences, and our respect for ...

  17. Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays 2023-24

    Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays 2023-24 July 25, 2023 bookmark College Essay Andrew Belasco A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew's experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans two decades.

  18. How To Write The Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay + Examples

    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.

  19. 5 Tips for Writing a Stellar Vanderbilt Supplement Essay

    When it comes to writing your Vanderbilt essay, it's important to approach it with careful thought and preparation. Here are five key tips to help you craft a strong and compelling essay: ‍. 1. Understand the Prompts: Begin by carefully reading and understanding the Vanderbilt essay prompts.

  20. Vanderbilt University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

    The Requirements: 1 essay of 250 words Supplemental Essay Type (s): Activity, Diversity Please select one of the following short answer prompts in approximately 250 words:* Vanderbilt offers a community where students find balance between their academic and social experiences.

  21. Research Guides

    Reading Tips for Social Sciences; Search this Guide Search. MHS 3120 - Medicine, Technology, and Society. Finding Scholarly Sources; ... Vanderbilt University Libraries (current as of .....). If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. ...

  22. Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay Examples

    Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay Examples Updated: Nov 27, 2023 Sitting down to write an essay is a daunting task, and you might fare better if you have seen how others have solved the blank page problem, perhaps by perusing some Vanderbilt supplemental essay examples.

  23. How to Get Into Vanderbilt: Acceptance Rate and Strategies

    For detailed advice on tackling this essay, visit our blog: Vanderbilt University Essay Prompt and Tips. Vanderbilt University Acceptance Rate - Final Thoughts With overall acceptance rates as low as 5.6% in recent years, Vanderbilt is a school that is looking for students that are at the 97th percentile or above on standardized tests and ...

  24. "Why Vanderbilt" essay (general advice)

    2VU0609 November 25, 2006, 8:09pm 2. <p>This is only my opinion, but I'd go for the creative. The most outstanding part of my daughter's application, in my humble opinion, was her Why Vandy essay. She had spent part of three summers on the Vanderbilt campus (tennis camp and PTY) and had been on campus for other activities since her brother was ...

  25. Research Guides

    Reading Tips. Critical Reading in the Social Sciences. How to Read (and Understand) a Social Science Article. How to Read a Book. ... Vanderbilt University Libraries (current as of .....). If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. ...

  26. Research Guides

    Reading Tips for Social Sciences; Search this Guide Search. MHS 2140: Health Care in the United States: Policy and Politics. Finding Scholarly Sources; ... Vanderbilt University Libraries (current as of .....). If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. ...