Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,861
Institutional Type: Private
Curricular Flexibility: Less Flexible
Academic Rating: 5
1. Vineyard Vines
3. Teach for America
5. Defense Intelligence Agency
2. New York City
4. Washington, DC
5. San Francisco
College Scorecard (Early Career): $69,000
EOP (Early Career): $72,800
PayScale (Mid-Career): $119,100
With an acceptance rate that falls between Dartmouth and Cornell, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has positioned itself as not only one of the South’s most selective institutions but as one of the US's ultra-elite universities. Founded in 1873 by the railroad and shipping tycoon/robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt (who had never set foot in Tennessee), this private research university comprises ten schools, only four of which cater to the school’s 6,700+ undergraduate students. Of the sixty-seven undergraduate majors, economics, politics and government, and neuroscience are among the most popular. Core academic requirements known as AXLE (Achieving Excellence in Liberal Arts Education) are extensive. Those in the College of Arts and Sciences must complete three or four writing-intensive courses, including a first-year writing seminar. Thirteen additional courses are mandated in foreign language, US history, social/behavioral sciences, and mathematics and natural sciences. Juniors and seniors have the option to apply to individual department’s honors programs where they are then required to produce a scholarly or creative work. With a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, undergraduate class sizes are kept small. Last year, 28 percent of course sections contained nine or fewer students, and close to two-thirds contained nineteen or fewer; only 7 percent were large lecture hall affairs of more than fifty students. Undergraduate research opportunities can be found as part of the classroom curriculum, capstone experiences, or through the Vanderbilt University Summer Research Program that accepted eighty-seven of the 205 applicants for its cohort. Two- fifths of Commodores are adventurous enough to study abroad, and 84 percent of those who do say the experience helped them build job skills. The university offers 120 programs in forty countries.
Vanderbilt alumni are quickly scooped up by many of the world’s most desirable and highest-paying corporations. Elite graduate, law, and medical schools are equally fond of those with a Vandy diploma. The School of Engineering has a particularly strong national reputation as do offerings in biology, economics, education, and music.
Vanderbilt is a cohesive campus with 90 percent of all undergraduates living in the school’s twenty residence halls, ten of which are exclusively for first-year students. To support its recent switch to a residential college system the school has committed $600 million to build four new facilities. The university’s seventeen fraternity and fifteen sorority chapters attract 42 percent of the undergraduate student body, making Greek life a rather dominant part of the social scene. Athletics also attract a big crowd; football games draw close to 40,000 fans, and thousands of students compete at some level. The university has ten varsity women’s teams and six men’s that compete in NCAA Division I. Additionally, there are more than forty intramural leagues and thirty-two club sports that offer athletic participation to all students. Overall, there are 530+ student-led organizations presently active on campus, including roughly fifty that are focused on community service. Campus is situated only a mile and a half from downtown Nashville. Music City, USA, not only offers plenty of concerts but also all of the cultural, dining, entertainment, and shopping options one could desire.
The Vanderbilt University Career Center is staffed by fifteen full-time professionals, which equates to a student-to advisor ratio of 453:1, in the average range compared to the liberal arts schools included in this guide but stronger than that when considering the university’s size. The center has career coaches who specialize in areas such as fellowships, STEM, economics, and the social sciences as well as three full-time staff members devoted exclusively to employer relations. The office received rave reviews from undergrads as 98 percent rated their interactions with career services staff positively, and there is plenty of evidence as to why.
Last year, the office engaged in over 2,200 coaching sessions and 1,400+ twenty-minute walk-in sessions. It hosted 534 career programs and brought 311 employers from all over the country to Nashville to conduct 1,845 on-campus interviews. Large scale events such as the Fall Career Fair attract 2,000+ students and recruiters from 140 companies including the likes of ExxonMobil, Merck, Boeing, and Booz Allen Hamilton. An abundance of legitimate internship opportunities are posted online on two platforms, HireADore and DoreWays. With more than 136,000 living alumni, many of whom remain actively connected to the school, Vanderbilt students have success networking with former Commodores. Overall, thanks to an exceptional record of guiding students into elite graduate/professional schools and tons of industry connections that help students launch their careers, it is not difficult to see why Vanderbilt’s career services efforts are viewed so favorably by its own graduates.
Six months after graduating from Vandy, 83 percent of last year's class were employed or in graduate school. The cohort saw 6 percent still seeking employment and 10 percent classified vaguely as “other.” The most commonly entered industry was finance (18 percent) followed by technology (14 percent), consulting (11 percent), education (11 percent), and engineering (8 percent). Graduates landed jobs with every major financial firm, consulting company, and tech giant as well as with five NFL teams. Alumni across all graduating years can be found in droves at Deloitte, Google, Microsoft, EY, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citi, and Facebook. The greatest number of alumni in the Greater Nashville area but large pockets also assemble in New York City, Atlanta, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Dallas. Midcareer median salaries for Vanderbilt graduates are number one in the state by a wide margin and rank nationally alongside Northeastern powerhouses Boston College, Tufts, and Johns Hopkins.
Among graduates who went directly on to pursue advanced degrees, 11 percent were in medical school, 11 percent in law school, and 13 percent were beginning a PhD. Institutions where recent alumni are enrolled include Oxford, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia and just about every other elite university in the world. Vanderbilt undergraduates get into med school at a solid 66 percent clip, and acceptances included Johns Hopkins, Duke, Penn, and Yale. Those pursuing a legal education from that same graduating year landed at Vanderbilt’s own excellent law school as well as UVA, Harvard, Emory, and UNC-Chapel Hill. In sum, if you succeed at Vanderbilt you will have no trouble landing at a world-class graduate or professional program.
• “There are lots of different types of people in the city at all times. People come here for vacation, or work, which gives you different perspectives.”
• “You’re in a great, central location. We do a lot of road trips. We’ll go down to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or go to Panama City, Florida, or you can drive straight up to Michigan. You’re like 8 hours from the North and the South.”
• “Nashville has really nice weather. I think that affects things more than people think. It’s not freezing cold in the winter and people have a vibrant campus and city to explore all year.”
• “Since it’s a growing city, by the time I’m a senior there will be a lot more jobs here. There are more opportunities for students to intern and do research.”
• “The transportation infrastructure isn’t the best, so it can be difficult to drive to places.”
• “There’s not a lot of parking near campus.”
• “It’s not a major concert place for non-country music. A lot of the bands I listen to I can’t see in concert in Nashville. I have to go to Atlanta.”
• “There’s not much diversity outside of the undergraduate population.” Students' Voice: Reasons to attend and not to attend
• “Great nightlife and a good balance of work and social life.”
• “The name of the school carries some weight and can help with getting a job.”
• “It prepares you well to succeed with whatever career you end up choosing because there will be some mentor along the way, whether it’s a professor, alumnus, or career center worker that knows the field that you want to work in.”
• “There is good financial Aid.”
• “SEC sports.”
• “There are lots of opportunities to get ahead in your academic career by doing things like research or trying
something new.” [50% of undergraduates conduct research, and 1/3 of undergraduates conduct research with a
• “Greek life is dying and a lot of fraternities are getting kicked off. It’s too early to see whether that is going to resurge or not.”
• “The social life can be overwhelming. I know that some people have commented about how Vanderbilt has a really strong extrovert culture, which I tend to work well with. A lot of people who feel more introverted don’t feel like there’s as much space for them on campus. The way our campus culture is set up is you are forced to be thrown into a lot of social scenes, so I don’t think it’s supportive of all different personality types.”
• “It is competitive. Students like to complain that their grades are deflated. It is tough to stay afloat if you have a tough workload or are not used to grinding as much as the college expects from you. It can be pretty demanding.”
• ” How the [meal plan] is really expensive.”
• “Everyone is overcommitted and the campus is over-programmed, so there is a lot happening at one time and it can get exhausting, even though the things happening on campus are really great. Because there’s so much opportunity, people tend to stretch themselves really thin.”
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