Vanderbilt University


Nestled close to downtown Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University has stood as a stronghold of higher education in the southeastern United States since its founding in 1873 by a gift from railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. In recent years Vanderbilt has become one of the nation’s most engaging, lively, and balanced undergraduate institutions.

Characterized by a unique balance of academic rigor and social activity, the school has always attracted the nation’s top students. These students come to learn in an intimate and diverse academic setting; many of them have multiple majors or do research with their professors. Because it is comprised of four undergraduate schools and several renowned graduate programs, unique opportunities for academic exploration are provided. Students from all fifty states and ninety countries also bring to campus a buzz of activity. Their wide variety of extracurricular passions range from the more traditional (Division I sports, community service, and student government) to the more obscure (hot air ballooning, bowling, and disc golf). Students traditionally exhibit a thirst for service to the world around them, and over half of the student body also participates in volunteer activities. Every year many students travel to destinations ranging from South Dakota to New York City through the Alternative Spring Break program, which was founded in 1986.

A walk around Vanderbilt reveals one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses. A national arboretum, its 330 acres are densely populated with leafy limbs under which students (and squirrels) habitually nap, snack, or study. The student body lives amidst the various species of trees and classic red brick buildings of the campus. Students find a fantastic community through residence life, starting with the commons, a new residential community dedicated to enhancing the first year experience.

A challenging and energetic university, Vanderbilt continues to seek students who hope to engage in four years of both academic and social learning. These students will play a vital role not only in contributing to Vanderbilt intellectually and socially, but also in shaping the direction of the university.


Information Summary

Ranks 1st in Tennessee and 14th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 98.9
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $70,146
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 35 / 1560
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 10 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 97% / 100%
Enrollment Total (all students) 12,824


Under the University umbrella lie four undergraduate schools: College of Arts and Science, Peabody College of Education and Human Development, School of Engineering, and Blair School of Music. With its four undergraduate schools and distinguished graduate programs in arts and sciences, law, medicine, business, divinity, nursing, and education, this school is uniquely suited to provide its students with lavish opportunity to explore and research many fields of study. Every undergraduate has access to the courses and resources of the entire university. At least one-third of students have multiple majors across schools, and many create their own interdisciplinary programs.

College of Arts and Science

The oldest and largest undergraduate school at Vanderbilt, the College of Arts and Science offers students a broad, liberal arts education, based on a multidisciplinary curriculum in humanities, natural science, social science, languages, and math. Students begin fulfilling this core curriculum in their first year and are not required to declare a major until the spring of their second year. Thus, broad exploration and multidisciplinary study characterize the Arts and Science student.

Engineering School

The first private school in the South to offer a degree in engineering, the School of Engineering boasts exceptional facilities to offer every possible learning tool for students in the field of engineering, including wireless connection, interactive computer classrooms, and advanced research and computer labs. Additionally, Engineering faculty have recently claimed several notable awards in their fields. Engineering students are highly sought after by corporations as well as graduate schools. Of those engineering graduates seeking employment in a recent year, ninety-five percent had jobs within six months of graduation.

Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Consistently ranked in the top five education schools in the nation, Peabody College is home to the education and human development majors. With its focus on experiential learning across the lifespan, Peabody requires internship and field placements for most of its majors guaranteeing superb preparation for work upon graduation. The most popular undergraduate major at Vanderbilt—Human and Organizational Development— resides in Peabody College. Peabody has produced several renowned programs, including the progressive Head Start program, and it also boasts the top Special Education program in the nation.

Blair School of Music

The Blair School of Music addresses music through a broad array of academic, pedagogical, and performing activities. Each student auditions as a part of the admissions process and chooses to study performance (including all orchestral instruments), composition/ theory, musical arts, or musical arts/teacher education. Both students and faculty enrich the campus with frequent performances on campus and in the greater Nashville community. Blair’s facility includes a 618-seat performance hall with full staging capabilities, recital hall, and generous rehearsal and studio space.

Learning Experience

The university boasts not only an intimate, collaborative liberal arts-based learning experience, but a small average class size (19) and impressive student-to-faculty ratio (8:1). The prestigious learning environment also includes access to over $440 million of federally funded research each year. With over 97% of classes being taught by faculty who have a PhD in their respective field, students get the most of each classroom experience. Professors are known for their accessibility, as it goes well beyond just having office hours; they also serve as student academic advisors.


The prestigious learning environment here feels intimate not only because of the faculty, but also because of the small class sizes. With an average class size of nineteen, Vanderbilt’s undergraduate schools keep almost every class (ninety-three percent) below fifty students, and a majority of them (seventy-eight percent) below twenty five students. In some classes, graduate students assist professors as teaching assistants by leading small group breakout sections and conducting review sessions. Professors also work hard to keep classes lively and challenging. For example, a sunny spring day usually smiles on several classes discussing the day’s material on the grassy lawns of the campus. Recently, in order to continue challenging students and attracting prestigious faculty, Vanderbilt has placed a renewed focus on interdisciplinary study and research funding. Undergraduates have continually increasing exposure to teaching and research in cutting-edge fields.

Study Abroad

Approximately forty percent of students study abroad at some point in their college careers. These students take advantage of the school’s unique partnerships in various countries, usually for one or two semesters of junior year, or for summer study. Vanderbilt has home-base programs in several countries, including England, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. Participants in the Study Abroad programs are guaranteed that their financial aid packages will translate to the Study Abroad semester or year, and courses in the programs have been evaluated for transferal of credit. Additionally, the university belongs to a consortium of schools through which students can find alternative programs that may be better suited to their interests.

Graduate Study

Applicants are offered unique academic opportunities for graduate study. Undergraduates have the opportunity to apply early to the business and medical programs. The medical school accepts a select number of undergraduates at the end of their sophomore year. These students do not take the MCATs and proceed directly to the Medical School upon graduation. The Owen Graduate School of Management accepts undergraduates in their junior year; these students complete their undergraduate studies in addition to an M.B.A. in five years.

Most Popular Fields of Study


sign :: Vanderbilt University
Tower :: Vanderbilt University


Application Requirements

An application to Vanderbilt is evaluated on the basis of five components through the common application. The first and most important of these components focuses on a student’s academic work in high school. Admissions officers look for a high school curriculum of challenging, academic classes (with an emphasis on Honors, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate courses), rather than simply basing their evaluation on grade point average. Additionally, applicants should submit standardized test scores, academic teacher recommendations, a resume of extracurricular pursuits, the 1 common app. essay, and the Vanderbilt Supplement.

Standardized Tests

Both the SAT and the ACT are accepted. All ACT students must complete the optional writing tests. SAT subject tests are not required for admission; however, they are strongly recommended. These subject tests are used not only for admission evaluation, but may also be used for placement into language, math, and writing classes upon entrance to the university (additional testing times are offered at academic orientations). The school additionally requires the TOEFL and or IELTS for overseas applicants whose first language is not English.

Decision Plans

There are three decision plans: Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision. Created for students who have decided upon Vanderbilt as their first choice, Early Decision is a binding admission plan. Students who apply Early Decision sign a contract to attend Vanderbilt and agree to withdraw all other applications if accepted. Early Decision I applications are due by November 1 with notification mailed by December 15. Early Decision II and Regular Decision applicants must be postmarked by January 3. Early Decision II students receive notification by February 15, and Regular Decision students receive notification by April 1.

Financial Aid

Financial aid package for incoming students beginning will include no need-based loans. The amount of need-based loans you would have been offered in the past to meet your demonstrated financial need will now be replaced with increased amounts of Vanderbilt scholarship and/or grant assistance. Applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS PROFILE by February 1.

The school makes the following commitments:

  • Since talent and promise recognize no social, cultural, economic, or geographic boundaries, the admissions process is entirely need-blind.
  • The school will meet 100% of a family’s demonstrated financial need for all admitted U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens.
  • Financial aid package for incoming and current undergraduate students beginning in the fall of 2009 will include no need-based loans.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 989th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Tennessee.


Although students pursue academic success vigorously, they also pour vast amounts of energy and time into extracurricular pursuits. This balance of academic and social pursuits brings a friendly and energetic feel to campus life.

Student Organizations

Nearly all of the 400-plus organizations are open to all students, who can join at any point in their careers. These organizations cater to a variety of interests, and they facilitate speakers, special events, community service projects and various other campus activities.

Sarratt Student Center, the hub of campus life, houses office space, mailboxes, meeting areas, and even faculty advisors for these campus organizations. Additionally, the Sarratt Student Center is a sprawling home to student study spaces, a cinema, several dining options, the bookstore, the post office, and a convenience store called Varsit/Market. Because of the involved nature of campus life, the Student Center daily buzzes with activity. On a sunny day, students congregate to advertise events, sell tickets, and socialize on “The Wall.” Students can best sum up the undergrad experience with one word: balance.

Residence Life

Because all undergraduates are required to live on campus, the students who choose to attend quickly become integrated into the Vanderbilt community. As of 2008, all freshmen will live together in the new Freshman Commons. This brand new complex facilitates relationships between the incoming, diverse freshman class as they embark on their educational careers. Critical to the first year experience is the new Vanderbilt Visions program, which helps facilitate the transition into life on campus. The program begins on move-in day with a comprehensive orientation program and continues until December. Distinguished by weekly meetings with a 15-person Visions group co-led by professors and upperclass students, Vanderbilt Visions allows first year students to discuss issues of transition and the experience, traditions, and community. The walking campus accommodates the needs of students through campus access to laundry facilities, dining options, and a chapel.

Alternative Spring Break

The original program of its kind, the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) annually sends students into needy communities over spring break. The ASB is also one of the largest programs in the country. In 2007, over 500 students traveled to nearly thirty destinations across the United States, Canada, and Mexico to face issues ranging from Native American issues to urban violence. The ASB Executive Board states, “Our mission is to promote critical thinking, social action and continued community involvement by combining education and direct service on the local, regional, national and international levels.”

Greek Life

While Greek life plays a significant role here, less than half of the student body participates in fraternities or sororities. Unlike most southern schools, the university offers a deferred recruitment process. New member recruitment occurs during the spring semester of freshman year, giving new students a chance to adjust to college life and make friends in the fall semester. Students can choose from nineteen fraternities and twelve sororities, including Asian, Hispanic, and historically black Greek organizations. All parties are open to the entire student body, and only officers (usually around six) live in the Greek houses on campus.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


A member of the Southeastern Conference, the school offers Division I athletics in addition to club and intramural sports. Vanderbilt University maintains a proud tradition of Black and Gold (the school colors) in intercollegiate sports, including six men’s and ten women’s varsity teams. Students enjoy attending games to cheer and to socialize, and although this is the smallest and only private member in a conference of giants, the Commodores are becoming a stronger program each year. Specifically, in 2007, seven of the sixteen varsity teams were ranked in the top-25; men’s basketball made the Sweet Sixteen, women’s bowling won a national championship, and men’s basketball was ranked #1 in the nation for 18 weeks in a row. Their athletes strive for excellence both on the field/court and in the classroom.

Local Community

Although students from outside the South may tiptoe with curiosity into Nashville, they are certain to fall in love with the city soon after arriving. “Music City” claims the country’s “third coast,” featuring musicians from many genres and backgrounds, who can be seen performing all over the city. In addition to its renowned live music scene, Nashville boasts a rich cultural and educational heritage. Sixteen other universities call Nashville home, as do the only exact replica of Greece’s Parthenon, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Tennessee government and state capital, the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Nashville also features diversity usually reserved for more sizable cities, with the largest Kurdish population in the United States and thriving Asian, Hispanic, and African communities.

Vanderbilt’s location near downtown Nashville provides easy access to Nashville’s best restaurants and hottest night spots, and students often walk to nearby parks. When students need to get away for a weekend, Nashville also provides an ideal location from which to travel, as it is served by an international airport featuring service from seventeen airlines, and easy access to three major interstate highways.


The original gates of Vanderbilt University, still located at the main entrance to campus, have ushered generations of students into the world with great success. Graduates are equipped with strong analytical, critical thinking and writing skills, and they have many options upon graduation.

The Career Center assists students in the job search. Career counselors offer standard services such as resume review, and recruiters also come on campus to conduct information sessions and interviews at the Career Center. In fact, more than 300 recruiters came to campus in a recent year. Students also have access to career testing, an alumni mentor search engine, and career workshops. While the majority of graduates enter the workforce upon graduation, close to 50% attend graduate programs – their rigorous academics and excellent reputation make it a wonderful springboard for further education. Law, business, and medicine are popular options for postgraduate study.

Prominent Grads

  • Tom Schulman, ’72, Academy Awardwinning screenwriter (Dead Poet’s Society)
  • Tipper Gore, ’76, Wife of Former Vice-President
  • Will Perdue,’88, ESPN Radio Commentator; Former NBA World Champion with Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs
  • Fred Thompson,’67, Movie, TV Actor, Former U.S. Senator
  • Dr. Norman Shumway,’49, Transplant Pioneer at Stanford
  • Lamar Alexander, ’62, Current U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Former Secretary of Education, Former Governor of Tennessee
  • Ann S. Moore, ’71, CEO and Chairwoman, Time Inc.
  • James Neal, ’57, Watergate Counsel
  • Karl Dean, ’81, Mayor, Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County
  • Perry Wallace, ’70, SEC’s First African- American Basketball Player, Law Professor, Washington, D.C.
  • Sam Feist, ’91, Senior Executive Producer, CNN
  • The Late Grantland Rice, ’01 (1901), Legendary Sportswriter
  • James Patterson, ’70, Best-selling Crime- Suspense Novelist
  • Robert Penn Warren, ’25, Author and Three-Time Pulitzer Prize Winner (All The Kings Men)
  • Dr. Mildred Stahlman, ’46, Neonatology Pioneer at Vanderbilt
  • Dr. Thomas Frist, Jr., ’61, Chairman, Founder, Hospital Corporation of America
  • Chantelle Anderson, ’03, Two-time First Team All-American


A prestigious research institution, the university employs many professors who have received and are receiving notable recognition in their fields. However, professors here truly enjoy both the teaching and the research aspects of their profession. In fact, many professors choose to come here because it is a school where they can focus on teaching relationships in addition to conducting excellent research. To this end, almost all of the professors hold office hours, and they continually make themselves available via email, phone, or appointment.

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