Vanderbilt University

It’s easy to forget that you’re right in the middle of Nashville when walking around Vanderbilt’s pretty 330 acre campus. It’s no wonder it’s been designated a National Arboretum. The last time I visited Vandy, the campus was under construction. We no longer saw cranes on this highly-selective mid-sized university located in Nashville, TN, but they will undoubtedly return soon as they begin renovating four more dorms over the next several years to make more on campus housing available.

Vanderbilt is consistently voted one of the schools with the “happiest” students; when we asked a few students why Vandy deserved this title, the most common answers were: collaborative environment, friendly people, and great academic/social balance. Students also raved about the food on and off campus, the city of Nashville, and the Vanderbilt faculty and administration.


Vanderbilt has four undergraduate colleges:

Peabody College of Education and Human Development (250 students)
• Organizational learning and Human Development (need to complete an internship in 1 of 6 cities prior to graduating)
• Education
• Admit by major. Most directly people focused. Looking for people focus through course work, student organization, babysitting, tutoring, mentoring for education

Blair School of Music (50 students)
• Conservatory style
• Audition required, upload pre-screen and then get invited to campus or not for audition

College of Arts and Science (1000 students)
• AXLE curriculum: Requires classes in each of six categories: Humanities and the Creative Arts, International Cultures, History and Culture of the United States, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Perspectives.

School of Engineering. (350 students)
• Hands on learning
• Senior design day project
• 90% have a job upon graduation
• Can do 4 + 1 and get MBA at Business school
• Need to take physics and calculus

Economics is the most popular major and Vanderbilt’s unique Human and Organization Development (HOD) major in the Peabody School is the second most popular. HOD is an interdisciplinary major that was developed with feedback from Fortune 500 companies and focuses on the study of how organizations work. HOD majors are required to do a semester-long internship and a capstone project. Medicine Health & Society, Mechanical Engineering and Political Science are also popular majors at Vandy. There is a new interdisciplinary Business Minor which involves classes from each of the four schools plus the Owen Graduate School of Management.

The Peabody School offers a top ranked program in Education. Students in the Peabody School are immediately given the opportunity to be in the classroom and student teaching is a substantial part of the curriculum. Students at Peabody are required to double major in another school.

In addition to your major, the new Immersion Vanderbilt program requires students to develop and execute an experiential learning plan along one of four pathways: Civic and Professional, Creative Expression, Research, or International. Students are paired with a faculty advisor who helps them design their project and find their research or internship opportunity. The program begins Freshman year with an “ISeminar” and ends senior year with the presentation of a capstone project.

Between the small classes and the resident faculty advisors, there are plenty opportunities to get to know your professors. Professors are often the source of research and job opportunities. More than half of undergrads conduct research. Students say that professors are as committed to mentorship as they are to publishing. Some students did report having difficulty getting their first choice classes during the first three years.

Social Life

Vanderbilt puts a great deal of effort into building community among students, especially freshmen. All first year students live together in the Freshmen Commons which is comprised of 10 “Houses” with several indoor and outdoor common spaces. Each House has a theme and a resident faculty advisor. The resident professors offer weekly programming and there is additional weekly programming around the House themes. There is also a House Cup competition that lasts the entire first year and fosters healthy competition and bonding among the freshman class. More than 90 percent of undergrads live on campus for all four years and that number is expected to increase as new housing for upperclassmen is completed in 2020.

The Greek System is popular on campus with more than 50% of women and 30% of men joining a house. Rush begins second semester of freshman year. The Greek system at Vanderbilt is a bit more relaxed than you might expect given the school’s traditional roots. Most Greek parties are open to the entire campus. The Greek system is mostly non-residential and only officers can live in the fraternity houses. Students who choose not to join Greek Life make friends through the freshmen commons experience and through one of the 500 clubs and student organizations. Community Service clubs are especially popular on campus including “Alternative Spring Beak”, which is a national program that was started at Vanderbilt. Most social life happens on campus in the form of parties, concerts or other events but students do venture out into Nashville for the fantastic food and famous music scene.

Vanderbilt has several longstanding traditions including the Rites of Spring Music Festival, Founders Walk and Anchor Dash, that help to create school spirit. Vanderbilt competes in the SEC and because they play such powerhouses like Alabama and Florida, winning seasons in most sports are fairly uncommon. That fact does not diminish the excitement for the games and the level of school spirit. At games students sport their black and gold, chant “Anchor Down” and proudly sing the fight song.

Student Body

Vanderbilt has long been known for being conservative, traditional and formal, with students dressing up in jackets and pearls for football games. But times have changed and with students from 50 different countries, all 50 states, and 30% of students identifying as persons of color, Vandy has become more diverse and casual. These days most Vandy students look and dress like typical college students.

Vanderbilt students definitely fit the description of work hard play hard. They take their academics seriously but also know how to have fun. Many of the students I spoke with talked about the importance of balancing academics and social life. In general, students are well-informed but not necessarily politically active. A few students talked about taking a course on the elections during the 2016 election with a professor who was counting the votes behind the scenes. They all felt as if they were part of the process and it prompted a lot of great discussions in class. The campus is politically balanced with an even distribution of conservatives, moderates and liberals.

Our tour guides described the students as: Ambitious, social, compassionate, passionate, and collaborative. All four of our tour guides were dynamic and incredibly busy. Jane, a senior HOD major from Chicago, had secured a job at McKinsey and Company upon graduation. She attributed her success to the soft skills she learned at Peabody: how to interact with a team, how to manage up, and how to communicate effectively. The most represented states at Vandy are Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, New York, and California.

Surrounding Area

Vanderbilt is located in the heart of Nashville, a five to ten minute ride to downtown and music row (where all the major music labels are). There are tons of restaurants and places to listen to music close to campus, but the Hillsboro Village neighborhood, which is a quick walk from central campus, serves as Vanderbilt’s “college town”. Major hospitals are right on campus as well, so students have ample opportunity for research and internship opportunities.

Admissions and Financial Aid

Vanderbilt is a high application, highly select institution accepting less than 10% of its total applicants last year. They accepted approximately 50% of the class from Early Decision applications. Below is the academic profile by the numbers, but as we know, selective admissions requires more.

-The admissions staff says they look for reasons to accept, but given the competitive nature of admissions, those reasons tend to largely connect to how well a student will contribute to the campus. So what makes students a fit?
-Do they take what they learn in the classroom and connect it to the outside world and vice versa?
-Do they informally and formally mentor other students?
-Are they a quiet leader or someone who participates a lot in the classroom?
-Are they problem solvers?
-Do they take a service program or idea and find a way to scale it?
-Do they have a special talent that will enhance the university?

Vanderbilt is need blind, meets 100% demonstrated financial need and offers three signature merit scholarships:
-Ingram (Social entrepreneurship, 10 scholars)
-Look at how you are taking a service idea and scaling it up and applying innovation to solving a problem. Requires a separate application
-Giving back in an impactful way
-Come to campus for interview and meet founder of scholarship
-Cornelius Vanderbilt (20-25 recipients)
-Focuses on leadership and merit over high school
-Summer Stipend
-Chancellor’s (15 recipients)
-Focuses on leadership and merit over high school
-Summer Stipend
-Social justice initiatives or bridge building within community


Vanderbilt is a great school for ambitious kids looking for rigorous and diverse academics, school spirit, a good balance between intellectual and pre-professional experiences, and a high-energy, friendly and collaborative environment located in a major city. Vanderbilt students are social and friendly and there is a palpable sense of unity on the campus.

Vanderbilt University

2201 West End Ave

Nashville, TN 37235

(615) 322-7311

Vanderbilt University

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