vanderbilt supplemental essays

Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays 2023-24

The Vanderbilt supplemental essays form a major part of the overall Vanderbilt admissions process. Your Vanderbilt essay helps to provide crucial context to your application. It can also help the admissions office better understand how you’ll fit on campus. Overall, the Vanderbilt supplemental essays work to build a more holistic picture of your identity and background. The Vanderbilt essay can feel intimidating, but CollegeAdvisor is here to help!

This guide will break down the Vanderbilt essay prompts and provide tips on how to write the Vanderbilt supplemental essays. We’ll explain the Vanderbilt essays and provide some inspiration for your own Vanderbilt essay.

For students wondering how to get into Vanderbilt, a strong Vanderbilt essay is a must. So, keep reading to learn more about the Vanderbilt supplemental essays! 

Vanderbilt Admissions: Quick Facts

Vanderbilt University: Quick Facts

Acceptance Rate for Vanderbilt: 7%, according to U.S News 

Vanderbilt Essay Requirements

Vanderbilt Application: Students must submit their application to Vanderbilt through the Common App, Coalition App or Questbridge. Your Vanderbilt essay will be submitted alongside your larger application. 

Vanderbilt Deadlines

  • Early Decision 1: November 1st
  • Early Decision 2: January 1st
  • 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!

Please note that essay requirements are subject to change each admissions cycle, and portions of this article may have been written before the final publication of the most recent guidelines. For the most up-to-date information on essay requirements, check the university’s admissions website.

Does Vanderbilt have supplemental essays?

Yes, Vanderbilt has two separate supplemental essay prompts. Students will only pick one of the Vanderbilt essay prompts to complete.

The Vanderbilt supplemental essays form a mandatory part of the overall Vanderbilt requirements. It’s important to take the Vanderbilt supplemental essays seriously, as they can greatly enrich your application. The Vanderbilt essay prompts allow you to pick which Vanderbilt essay to write. As the admissions site states, Vanderbilt doesn’t necessarily care what you write about—as long as your essay is all about you! Choose the prompt that allows you to best highlight your unique skills, interests, and experiences.  

The Vanderbilt supplemental essays are a crucial part of your application. As an integral part of Vanderbilt’s holistic review process, you can use your essay to show admissions how you align with Vanderbilt’s values. This guide will provide a deep dive into how to approach each of the Vanderbilt essay prompts.

How many essays does Vanderbilt require?

vanderbilt supplemental essays

While there are two Vanderbilt essay prompts, only one supplemental Vanderbilt essay is required. Vanderbilt will also receive your Common App essay.

The Vanderbilt requirements detail that students must submit a personal essay via the Common App or Coalition app as well as the supplemental Vanderbilt essay. The longer personal essay will be sent to multiple schools via the application platform of your choice. However, the Vanderbilt supplemental essays are unique to Vanderbilt. 

Students must pick between the two Vanderbilt supplemental essays. Each Vanderbilt essay has a limit of 250 words, so you should think carefully about your response. The Vanderbilt essays help admissions officers understand you better and can boost your overall application. And, since applicants don’t have multiple Vanderbilt essays to shine, you’ll want to make this one count!

For help on your personal essay, you can read our College Essay Topic guide here, as well as our guide on the Coalition Essay Prompts here

Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays

vanderbilt supplemental essays

There are two different prompts for the Vanderbilt supplemental essays. Students must pick only one of the two Vanderbilt essay prompts to respond to.  As such, you should pick the right Vanderbilt essay prompt for you.

So, how do you know which Vanderbilt essay to choose? We’ll detail both Vanderbilt essays here and provide some tips on how to approach them later in this guide. 

Students must pick between these Vanderbilt essay prompts: 

Vanderbilt Essay Prompts #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?

This Vanderbilt essay asks you to reflect on conversations you’ve had with people who express different viewpoints than your own. This Vanderbilt essay gives you the chance to share a topic you’re passionate about, and, most importantly, discuss how you’ve engaged with others who may feel differently. If you’ve ever found yourself in a passionate debate or have had a meaningful conversation, then this may be the best Vanderbilt essay for you! 

Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays # 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.

This Vanderbilt essay allows you to elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. Make sure to pick something you don’t highlight in other areas of your application, such as your personal essay. This is a great prompt for students who want to provide more context to their resume, as well as highlight something that they’re proud of. If you have an extracurricular activity or work experience that has greatly influenced you and your goals, this may be the better of the two Vanderbilt essays for you. 

Regardless of which of the two Vanderbilt supplemental essays you pick, make sure to focus on all parts of the prompt. Both of the Vanderbilt essays ask you to reflect on how your experiences have influenced you, which will help admissions officers better understand how you’ve changed over time. Therefore, no matter the prompt, your Vanderbilt essay needs to get personal, not just recount an experience.  This means you should do all you can to choose the right prompt for you. Let’s check out some tips on how to do so.

Choosing the right Vanderbilt essay for you

vanderbilt supplemental essays

Picking the right Vanderbilt essay prompt can feel intimidating. As you prepare to write, you should think about how Vanderbilt admissions officers evaluate applications.

Overall, it’s important to know what Vanderbilt looks for in applicants. However, your essay shouldn’t read as something you think admissions officers want to read. Still, you can use these evaluation points in order to keep you on track when writing about your personal experiences. Additionally, reading Vanderbilt essay examples can help you think through which prompt best suits your needs. While the Vanderbilt essay prompts may change from year to year, reading Vanderbilt essay examples can still be extremely helpful to jumpstart your writing process. 

Comparing the two Vanderbilt supplemental essays, students can either detail the ways they’ve engaged with their community or highlight an important extracurricular activity. Choosing the best Vanderbilt essay will mean thinking through your high school experience and deciding which prompt lets you share what makes you proud.

Prompt #1 

If you’re involved with a student activist group or political group, or have brought what you’ve learned in the classroom to your family and friends, the first Vanderbilt essay may be the best option for you. The first prompt allows students to share their personal values and beliefs as well as how they engage with other people who may not share those values. 

If navigating differences has been a major part of your high school experience, this prompt is a great opportunity to share that experience with Vanderbilt. These Vanderbilt supplemental essays can help the admissions office better understand what you stand for and how you navigate conflict. No matter what instance you write on, make sure that self-reflection and personal growth take the forefront. For example, maybe you didn’t handle the conflict in the best way but learned how to do so in the future. Even if you don’t have an instant connection with this prompt, if you can think of a time that challenged your values, this Vanderbilt essay might suit your needs.

Prompt #2

The second Vanderbilt essay allows students to elaborate on an extracurricular or work experience. Many schools have an extracurricular activities essay prompt, so it’s likely that you have come across similar questions.

This prompt is a great choice for students who wish to highlight an experience they believe has greatly influenced them. If you’ve been heavily involved with a student club or sport or want to reflect on your work experience, this may be the prompt for you. 

This prompt works best for students who can connect their extracurricular activities to their development and goals. Out of the two Vanderbilt supplemental essays, this prompt allows students to focus on how their involvement in a wide range of activities have shaped them. Similar to the first prompt, your essay should center your personal growth and self-reflection. If you feel that you would not have been the same person without a specific activity/work experience, this may be the Vanderbilt essay for you! 

How to write the Vanderbilt supplemental essays

vanderbilt supplemental essays

Once you’ve decided which of the two Vanderbilt supplemental essays to tackle, it’s time to write your first draft! Starting the writing process can be difficult, so we’ve compiled some tips for each of the two Vanderbilt essays in this section. 

Prompt #1

Out of the two Vanderbilt supplemental essays, you can interprep this prompt in a number of ways. While you may assume most students would talk about a political issue, this prompt can also apply to personal preferences. Students can get creative with this prompt and think broadly about how they define “difference.”  You still want to get to the heart of the prompt and discuss how these conversations have influenced you, but don’t feel like you’re limited to hot-button topics—different points of view come in all shapes and sizes. 

Once you’ve chosen a topic, briefly set the stage. Bring the reader into the moment where you expressed a different viewpoint. Who were you talking with? How did the subject come up? What makes this memory stand out to you? Don’t spend too much time setting the reader up, as you want to focus on how this experience has influenced you. 

When thinking of how this difference of opinion has influenced you, really dive into the consequences of the interaction. Did it shift your perspective? Do you understand different points of view in a deeper way now? Were you able to influence other people with your opinion? Try to spend more time delving into the impact the exchange had on you. 

If you have space, try to weave in your research about Vanderbilt here as well. The Vanderbilt supplemental essays aim to help admissions officers determine if you’re a good fit for the school, so connecting your Vanderbilt essay to your goals can be helpful. You can reflect on how this experience will help you debate with classmates or collaborate with your peers at Vanderbilt. Try to be specific to your major or area of study—a little research can go a long way! 

Prompt #2

Many students applying to Vanderbilt will have impressive extracurricular activities, so try to highlight what you’re most proud of in this Vanderbilt essay. Focus on an activity that you don’t discuss elsewhere, such as your Common App essay. Take this opportunity to shine a light on any unique or memorable activities you’ve been involved with. These activities can be anything from student clubs, religious organizations, or a part-time job. 

Once you’ve decided what to focus on, detail it for the reader. Is there a specific memory or story you want to anchor your essay? How long have you been involved in the activity, and how did you get started? What do you like about it? These details will help the reader understand the context for the rest of your essay. 

Much like the first prompt, this Vanderbilt essay focuses on how you’ve been influenced by this extracurricular activity. What qualities do you see in yourself that you can directly connect to this experience? Have your public speaking, organizational, or interpersonal skills improved?? Do you now have a better sense of your career goals? Did you gain valuable work experience, or are you better at working collaboratively? Break it down for the reader to highlight how this activity has impacted you. 

Many schools have an extracurricular activities essay prompt, so making it unique to Vanderbilt is a great way to show your interest.  Spend some time researching the extracurricular activities offered at Vanderbilt and try to integrate 1-2 student clubs or organizations you’re interested in. Be sure that they align with what you’ve already discussed in the essay—this will help the admissions officers see how you will fit into Vanderbilt’s community.

Does Vanderbilt care about essays?

vanderbilt supplemental essays

The Vanderbilt supplemental essays illuminate what the admissions office values in a student body. And since the university has such a low acceptance rate, you can be sure that the Vanderbilt essays factor into the evaluation process. So, it’s essential to take them seriously. With the highly competitive Vanderbilt acceptance rate, the Vanderbilt supplemental essays are crucial to your overall application narrative. 

In looking at the Vanderbilt essay prompts, we can see that Vanderbilt values students who are able to navigate differences and students who are involved with their communities. The Vanderbilt supplemental essays are the best opportunity to highlight the ways in which you embody these values, as well as how you’ve been shaped by your experiences. Your Vanderbilt essay is your opportunity to speak directly to the admissions office. It can help provide context to your application, and should paint a more robust picture of who you are as a student. In short, Vanderbilt does care about your essays, so be sure to spend adequate time on them!

What is Vanderbilt looking for in essays?

The Vanderbilt supplemental essays are an opportunity to share additional details about your experiences to help add to your overall application. To get a sense of what Vanderbilt is looking for, reading Vanderbilt essay examples can be extremely helpful. While the prompts may differ, you can get a great sense of the writing style, creativity, and content that have been successful in the past. 

In addition to Vanderbilt essay examples, you can find other essay examples that capture the essence of the Vanderbilt essay prompts. For example, you can read our guide on Extracurricular Activities Essay prompts here

Overall, the Vanderbilt supplemental essays aim to capture your personality. Admissions officers use the Vanderbilt essays to gain a deeper understanding of each applicant, so your essay should communicate your character traits. The most successful Vanderbilt supplemental essays have a strong voice and complement the rest of a student’s application. Writing multiple drafts can help you establish your voice as a writer while ensuring that your personality comes through. 

When is my Vanderbilt application due?

vanderbilt supplemental essays

Your application deadline for Vanderbilt will depend on your decision plan. Vanderbilt offers first-year applicants Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision deadlines. Since Early Decision is a binding agreement, students considering applying this route should conduct deep research on Vanderbilt and its programs. You can read more about Early Decision on Vanderbilt’s website

All Vanderbilt requirements must be submitted by: 

  • Early Decision I: November 1st, 2023
  • Early Decision II: January 1st, 2024
  • Regular Decision: January 1st, 2024

For students applying for Vanderbilt merit scholarships, applications must be submitted by December 1st, 2023. For students applying for financial aid, the deadlines for the CSS Profile and FAFSA are: 

  • Early Decision I:
    • CSS Profile: November 2nd, 2023
    • FAFSA: February 1st, 2024
  • Early Decision II:
    • CSS Profile: January 4th, 2023 
    • FAFSA: February 1st, 2024
  • Regular Decision:
    • CSS Profile: January 4th, 2023 
    • FAFSA: February 1st, 2024

It’s important to give yourself enough time to complete your Vanderbilt supplemental essays before the application deadline. Consider the time it will take to complete multiple drafts and receive feedback. Starting your Vanderbilt essays early will ensure you submit the best versions possible. 

How do I make my Vanderbilt application essays stand out?

vanderbilt supplemental essays

With such a competitive admissions process, many students want to make sure their Vanderbilt supplemental essays stand out. For students wondering how to get into Vanderbilt, having stellar essays is a crucial step. In order to write standout Vanderbilt supplemental essays, it’s important to break down exactly what you’re trying to communicate. 

Reading Vanderbilt essay examples can give you a sense of the writing caliber needed to impress the admissions office. You want your Vanderbilt supplemental essays to both capture your personality and tell a compelling story. Crafting an essay that brings the reader into your experience is hard and can take some time if you’re not accustomed to the writing style. Experiment with your approach to the essays–don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Get feedback from your peers, mentors, and teachers as they can provide a crucial perspective to make sure your essays pop. 

While the Vanderbilt supplemental essays do not focus on Vanderbilt specifically, it’s a good idea to research the program you’re applying to. If you’re close to campus, try to book a visit to Vanderbilt. Taking a tour can help you detail your connection to campus. Additionally, CollegeAdvisor has many resources on Vanderbilt, including two Vanderbilt panels (you can watch them here and here), as well as a guide on the Best Colleges in Tennessee. You can also read Forbes and the Princeton Review for more information on Vanderbilt. Basically, the more you know about Vanderbilt, the better your chances of writing an impactful and detailed essay. 

Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays – 5 Takeaways

vanderbilt supplemental essays

The Vanderbilt supplemental essays are a crucial part of your application, as such it’s important to take them seriously. For students wondering how to get into Vanderbilt, the Vanderbilt supplemental essays are a big piece of the puzzle. Here are the main takeaways you should keep in mind when writing your Vanderbilt essay: 

1. Pick the right prompt

Picking the right prompt is the most important step in writing your Vanderbilt essay. Choose the prompt that will allow you to tell the best story to the admissions office–or the prompt that will provide more context to your application. The admissions officers are looking for a better understanding of who you are. Therefore, choosing the best prompt for you will ensure they have a more robust picture of your experiences. 

2. Let your personality shine 

The Vanderbilt supplemental essays are the best opportunity to demonstrate your personality to the admissions office. Ideally, your essay will also show personal growth and self-reflection. Make sure your essay adds to your overall application and showcases your unique experiences and story. To have the most success, work on your writing style and develop your personal voice–it will make your Vanderbilt essay stand out among a pool of qualified candidates! 

3. Think outside the box 

With such a competitive application process, it’s important that your Vanderbilt essays capture the attention of the admissions office. While the Vanderbilt essay prompts are straightforward, don’t be afraid to take a different approach to them. Think creatively and experiment with your approach. Don’t just simply answer the question; tell your story in an engaging way that captivates the reader. 

4. Start early 

It’s a good idea to start writing both your Vanderbilt essay and personal essay early. This will allow you enough time to edit, experiment with your form, and really hone your ideas. Rushed essays rarely communicate ideas effectively, and can contain spelling and grammar mistakes. Start your essays the summer before your senior year so that you have enough time to perfect them! 

5. Write multiple drafts 

The editing process can feel like a drag, but it’s crucial in ensuring your Vanderbilt supplemental essays shine. Writing multiple drafts will help you establish your voice as a writer and will help strengthen your overall message. After your first draft, ask for feedback. Incorporate that feedback and reflect on how you can approach the prompt in a different way. You’ll be surprised to see how different your drafts can be!

vanderbilt supplemental essays

This essay guide was written by senior advisor, Jess Klein. 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 can support you in the college application process.