College Intel

Vanderbilt University Admissions

The back of a bronze statue is featured at Vanderbilt University.
Vanderbilt University was established in 1873 (photo credit: Dansan4444).

Vanderbilt University sits in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee on a lush campus known for its beauty and architectural variety. The private research university consistently ranks at the top of lists for student quality of life and happiness, administrative efficiency, and academics. Its student body of 7,100 undergraduates and 6,700 postgraduates is composed of some of the strongest students in the nation, while alumni include former Vice President Al Gore, U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Penn Warren, and the “Father of Modern Anesthesia,” James Tayloe Gwathmey. Faculty at Vanderbilt have included pioneers of modern medicine, noted contributors to the development of American arts and letters, and several Nobel Prize Laureates.

Vanderbilt undergraduates choose between 71 majors across four schools and colleges: the College of Arts and Science, the School of Engineering, Peabody College of Education and Human Development, and Blair School of Music. The university receives over $1 billion in annual research and development funding split between the undergraduate schools and six graduate programs, all of which have international renown as hubs of innovation and intellectual discovery. The core curriculum for undergraduates consists of 13 courses distributed between six categories: Humanities and the Creative Arts, International Cultures, US: History and Culture of the United States, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Perspectives. Within this curriculum, interdisciplinary study is encouraged, and students can even create their own major.

The residential college system is a cornerstone of student life at Vanderbilt, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie. While most students take part in this system, Greek Life is very popular on campus, drawing the participation of roughly one in four students. In 2020, an “Abolish Greek Life” movement swept through the elite college sphere following the activism of students at Vanderbilt in the wake of allegations of student misconduct. This represents the most recent episode in a history of student activism on campus that extends back into the Civil Rights movement, when campus integration was met with backlash and gradual progress. Perhaps one of the most notable steps in this progression was the establishment of a speakers series in 1964 that has hosted civil rights icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.

Vanderbilt was established in 1873 by prominent Methodists in Nashville who accepted a donation from New York industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt with the goal of healing sectarian divisions in the wake of the Civil War. The initial campus was built on a 75-acre tract, and over the years, it has expanded to its current 330-acre campus. In 1914, the Methodist Epispocal Church, South, which had maintained governing power over the university, cut its ties to Vanderbilt. The mid-twentieth century saw a flourishing of Vanderbilt’s humanities scene, specifically with the presence of the Fugitives and the Agrarians on campus, two sets of overlapping poets and scholars who ushered in a renaissance of Southern literature. In 1962, the Board of Trustees voted to desegregate, and Vanderbilt admitted its first African American undergraduates in the fall of 1964.

In the twenty-first century, the R1 research university has garnered a legacy of academic rigor and achievement for its medical, education, and creative writing programs, for its research into radiation via the Institute for Space and Defense Electronics, and for its forefront place within the national conversation on the importance of diversity and inclusion on college campuses. For admission to the Class of 2027, Vanderbilt accepted 2,645 out of 47,210 applicants, for a record-low acceptance rate of 5.6%, comparable to other elite and Ivy League institutions. The Office of Admissions outlines a depth over breadth approach when evaluating applications that sounds like it has taken a page out of the Ivy Coach book: “We’d much rather see a genuine commitment to one or a few activities than superficial participation that doesn’t offer a significant contribution.” We would agree! The strongest applicants have a demonstrable interest in a few niche topics which they have given their all to. If that sounds like you, Vanderbilt is worth checking out! 


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