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How to Ace the 2022-2023 Vanderbilt Supplemental Essay

Vanderbilt University is a very competitive private school with a 12% 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

Prompt #1

“Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (200-400 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 Vanderbilt asks, 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. 

Also see: What are extracurricular activities and why do they matter?

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. 

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! 

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