A private research university located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University is famous for its heritage of distinguished academics stretching back to the university’s founding in 1873. Today, along with maintaining a world-class reputation for top-tier faculty, cutting-edge research, and an atmosphere of intellectual freedom, Vanderbilt is also home to a number of notable alumni. It’s the alma mater of Pulitzer Prize winners, actors, novelists, and politicians, including former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
With high rankings from major publications and more than a century operating as a hub of collegiate excellence in the United States, Vanderbilt is often assumed to be a member of the Ivy League.
After all, like Vanderbilt, most Ivy League schools offer plentiful academic resources and a rigorous yet supportive educational environment where students are encouraged to challenge themselves to do more. Of course, Ivy League schools are also known for helping students connect with like-minded thinkers, and Vanderbilt does this. Pupils and alumni have the network they need to get a head start after graduation and far into the future, whether that’s within the professional world or in terms of academia.
Vanderbilt certainly provides all the advantages of an Ivy League school. But the question remains: Is Vanderbilt Ivy League?
Is Vanderbilt an Ivy League School?
Vanderbilt is not an Ivy League school. However, that does not stop Vanderbilt from being recognized as one of the very best universities the United States has to offer.
The Ivy League’s eight members are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. All eight of these schools are not only some of the oldest schools in the country, they were also all originally part of a collegiate athletic league that formed in the 1950s.
While the term “Ivy League” is no longer limited to talking about intercollegiate sports, the eight original members of the league have preserved their collective reputation for educational distinction. It is this reputation that attracts some of the most promising students internationally.
The history of the Ivy League as compared to Vanderbilt’s own past gives some clues as to why Vanderbilt was not traditionally considered to sit amongst its collegiate peers to the north.
Whereas the majority of Ivy League schools were originally “Colonial Colleges,” founded prior to the American Revolution, Vanderbilt came to be amidst the federalist era of the post-Civil War United States. Since then, Vanderbilt has taken its own path, becoming one of the first universities to award a degree to a woman in 1879, gaining membership to the Association of American Universities in 1949, and joining the selective ranks of America’s best schools to become a top-20 college starting from the 1960s.
Why Vanderbilt Is Often Confused As an Ivy League School
While Vanderbilt has some key differences when compared to the other eight schools in the Ivy League, it’s also true that Vanderbilt is no less prestigious, rigorous, or competitive than the rest of the Ivy League.
Vanderbilt is often confused as an Ivy League school because of its long history and reputation for providing a top quality education to the accomplished, ambitious learners who come through the university’s doors. In fact, many people say that Vanderbilt is an “Ivy in the South” and there is talk about the school belonging to a separate league of “Southern Ivies.”
Other prominent institutions in the southern states of the U.S., such as Duke University in North Carolina, Rice University in Texas, and Emory University in Georgia, are also contenders alongside Vanderbilt for this designation of “Southern Ivy.”
Indeed, as a beacon of academic excellence, it’s little wonder why Vanderbilt is often confused for an Ivy League school. Vanderbilt is known for its ability to continually set and re-set the standards of what it means to be a top American university: from the recently launched investment fund to inject $300 million in the school’s student athletics program, to the work of Vanderbilt grad students to develop a new genome screening technique that can identify cancer sooner, to the groundbreaking work of leaders within the school that make Vanderbilt a benchmark for equity, diversity and inclusion.
Vanderbilt: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More
Prospective students with hopes of attending Vanderbilt should be aware that despite not being an Ivy League school, Vanderbilt rates very highly on college ranking lists, sometimes higher than those of the Ivy League.
Vanderbilt comes in at #14 in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the best colleges in the nation. Nabbing a coveted spot in the top 20 is no easy feat and speaks volumes to all the qualities that make Vanderbilt a top choice for many students. The university also takes a top-10 spot in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the nation’s Best Value Schools, coming in at #9.
Washington Monthly, which ranks colleges in terms of their contribution to public good and what they do for the country, gives Vanderbilt similarly high marks. Vanderbilt comes in at #41 in the overall rankings for colleges in the United States, with Washington Monthly noting an eight-year graduation rate of 93% and giving Vanderbilt a research rank of #30.
Vanderbilt also appears at #8 in Washington Monthly’s rankings for “Best Bang for the Buck” amongst colleges in the south. Indeed, the net price of attendance for families with an income under $75,000 averages $6,363, according to the publication – not bad when considering the predicted median earnings for graduates 10 years after entering college is $65,119.
Facts and figures provided by Vanderbilt itself provide plenty of evidence as to why the university is so highly ranked in these and other national lists. Over 90% of classes have fewer than 50 students, the student-to-faculty ratio is just 7:1, and entrants have a rich selection of more than 70 majors to choose from.
The campus is home to over 475 student organizations, as well as 10 women’s varsity teams and six men’s teams. There are more than 40 intramural sports leagues as well as 32 club sports. On top of all this, Vanderbilt boasts an unbeatable location just one and a half miles from downtown Nashville, where students can find a major metropolitan center replete with shopping, restaurants, entertainment and of course, one of the best live music scenes anywhere in the United States.
With superb rankings and features like these, it shouldn’t come as any shock that admission to Vanderbilt is extremely selective. U.S. News & World Report cites Vanderbilt as having an acceptance rate of just 9% – one of the lowest anywhere in the United States. For the class of 2024, more than 32,000 applications were received, with only 2,907 students receiving an admissions offer to the school.
How to Get Into Vanderbilt
Because Vanderbilt is equally as competitive as any school in the Ivy League, there are a few critical factors to consider for any student hoping to attend this esteemed university.
To get accepted to Vanderbilt, students will need to show the admissions committee that they are no stranger to balancing scholastic responsibilities within an academically rigorous environment. Advanced Placement classes, or another form of upper-level course in math, science, English and so on, will undoubtedly feature on the transcript of many a hopeful applicant to Vanderbilt.
In terms of standardized test scores, it’s helpful to know that most incoming undergraduates at Vanderbilt are entering the school with an SAT score that hovers around the 1460 to 1560 range and ACT scores of 33 to 35. The university does stress that while standardized examinations like the SATs and ACTs are important, test scores aren’t everything. It’s also critical to show extracurricular activities, which may include a volunteer position in the wider community or working at a job outside of school.
For potential applicants for whom cost is a concern, it’s good to know that Vanderbilt is committed to keeping education accessible to students regardless of their economic circumstances. Under this commitment, the school conducts a blind admissions process that doesn’t make a family’s ability to pay part of the admissions criteria. Vanderbilt also strives to meet 100% of admitted students’ demonstrated financial needs, and doesn’t include loans that must be paid back within financial aid packages, to help ensure that students can graduate debt-free.
Recap: Vanderbilt Is Not an Ivy League School. However, it is One of the Best Universities in the World
While the university doesn’t carry the official title of Ivy League, there’s no doubt that Vanderbilt is one of the best universities in the United States and indeed, anywhere around the globe. The school is not only highly ranked: It is home to exciting academic initiatives that give students an intensive learning experience both inside and beyond the classroom, inviting every kind of learner to discover what they are capable of and see how they can make a difference in the world.