What is Vanderbilt Known For? Is Vanderbilt a Good School?

Considered a “Southern Ivy” school, Vanderbilt boasts an alumni base of national leaders, professional athletes, and Nobel Prize laureates. 

Vanderbilt enrolls just under 10,000 undergraduates each year in the bustling city of Nashville, Tennessee, ranked one of the friendliest cities in America. 

Students are undoubtedly drawn to Vanderbilt by the temperate climate, close-knit student community, and abundant research opportunities. Vanderbilt is especially committed to cross-disciplinary research

Considered one of the top 20 research universities in the world, the school’s research endeavors generate nearly $12 billion in economic impact per year. 

There are countless ways to get involved within the student community, including 16 varsity sports teams and hundreds of extracurricular organizations. 

The school recently launched the Vandy United Fund, designed to invest $300 million in Vanderbilt student-athletes and sports programs/facilities. Vanderbilt also has a thriving Greek scene, with 40% of undergraduates belonging to a fraternity or sorority. 

Ahead, we’ll share even more reasons why Vanderbilt has such a positive reputation. We’ll discuss the most popular majors, sports, and extracurricular activities and share insights into some of Vanderbilt’s longest-running traditions.

What Majors & Academics Are Vanderbilt Known For?

Vanderbilt University
BugsMeanee, Warren College, CC BY-SA 4.0

The most popular majors at Vanderbilt are economics, multidisciplinary studies, and social sciences. 

Vanderbilt economics professors are frequently published in nationally renowned econometrics journals, and economics graduates go on to fill exciting positions at consulting firms, nonprofit organizations, and prestigious universities around the world. 

Through the school’s interdisciplinary studies department, undergraduates can merge courses from separate disciplines to form their degree pathways. 

For example, the interdisciplinary BS in Medicine, Health, and Society challenges students to analyze a broad array of social and biological factors that influence personal health.

Within the Interdisciplinary Science Materials B.S. track, students can participate in groundbreaking research studies that test new methods for drug delivery and tissue engineering.

One of Vanderbilt’s most innovative offerings is Immersion Vanderbilt, a required experiential class for all first-year undergraduates. 

Students select one of four pathways and are matched with faculty advisors who assist them with what will ultimately become a final project. 

A recent student project, for example, studied the influence of popular hip-hop music on social change in Senegal.

Vanderbilt also offers two honors programs: the College Scholars Program and the 4 + 1 Program. In the former, a small number of first-year students with excellent transcripts are selected by the dean to participate in exclusive courses and independent study collaborations. 

Through the 4 + 1 Program, ambitious students can earn their B.A. and M.A. within five years.

Is Vanderbilt a Good School?

Yes, Vanderbilt is among the best colleges in the world. 

According to U.S. News, Vanderbilt is one of the top 20 universities in the United States. 

Nashville offers delicious cuisine and a thriving music scene – it’s no wonder that Vanderbilt has also been honored as a top school for the happiest students and 12th for outstanding campus food. 

Vanderbilt is an ideal environment for conducting research. Vanderbilt ranks 31st in research spending in the United States, and its facilities are top-notch. 

The Institute for Space and Defense Electronics focuses its research on developing test methods for gauging radiation hardness and creating solutions for problems related to radiation effects. It also happens to be the largest academic facility in the world!

Vanderbilt’s reputation is predicated on being a “best value” institution, meaning it offers an exceptional education at a more affordable cost than its competitors. The school’s Opportunity Vanderbilt financial aid program commits to fulfilling 100% of eligible students’ demonstrated financial need via scholarships, grants, and work-study placements.

Other university assets include a robust study abroad program. More than 50% of Vanderbilt undergraduates take advantage of the school’s study abroad programs, such as aerospace engineering in Melbourne, Australia, or legal studies in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Vanderbilt Traditions

Vanderbilt’s academic year is marked by several special traditions, starting with Move-In Weekend

In an unexpected move, returning students unload and carry all of the new students’ items up to their new dorm rooms!  First-year students participate in Founders Walk, where they are officially welcomed by Vanderbilt faculty and campus groups.

Some of Vanderbilt’s most thrilling annual events include the Rites of Spring and Commodore Quake. Nashville is Music City, after all, and what would a Vanderbilt college experience be without access to world-class musical artists?! 

Commodore Quake takes place right before Homecoming Weekend. Prominent performers like Megan Thee Stallion and Kendrick Lamar have performed at the Memorial Gymnasium. 

The Rites of Spring is an equally fun event held on Alumni Lawn in April, a few weeks before students depart campus. Artists like 2 Chainz and Miguel grace the stage while students can enjoy culinary delights from local food vendors.

Four other annual performances take place on Vanderbilt’s campus, led by various student organizations. Diwali – the South Asian Festival of Lights – is organized by the South Asian Cultural Exchange. The festival dazzles students with song and dance performances over several days.

At the end of each semester, the class rings are stowed in the Kirkland Tower before being distributed to students the next morning on the steps of Kirkland Hall. 

At graduation, Vanderbilt University offers strawberries and champagne to its graduating class and their families, along with a toast for the graduates’ accomplishments.

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt University
BugsMeanee, E. Bronson Ingram College, CC BY-SA 4.0

From student government and multicultural organizations to performing groups and recreational clubs, there are many options for students to get involved in the Vanderbilt student community.

Vanderbilt hosts the Vanderbilt University Model United Nations Conference (VUMUNC), which attracts high school students interested in international affairs from all over the country. 

The Vandy MUN travel team visits other national conferences, and they have made recent appearances in the top 25 rankings list.

Overseeing more than 15 special programs, the Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) is another popular student group on campus. 

The Meal Donation Bank is one such program designed to fight food insecurity by allowing Vanderbilt undergraduates to donate extra meal swipes to other students in need. 

The VSG also organizes transportation services to and from the Nashville International Airport at the start and end of longer breaks.

The Vanderbilt Programming Board is a great club option for students who like to be involved in planning events. 

The VPB organizes Homecoming, while one of their committees – The Music Group – oversees Commodore Quake, the Rites of Spring, and other seasonal concerts and big events. 

Feeling a little landlocked in Nashville? The Vanderbilt Sailing Club is Vanderbilt’s oldest club sport, and they practice at Old Hickory Lake. 

There is no need for prior experience – students who have never hoisted a mast or performed a tack are welcome to join.

Another great group for outdoor adventurers is Wilskills (short for Wilderness Skills 101). The group schedules a trip every weekend, including caving, backpacking, hiking, and whitewater canoeing excursions. A single trip only costs $40, and students can pay $135 for unlimited trips. 

What Sports Are Vanderbilt Known For?

The Vanderbilt athletics department is best known for its prowess in tennis and other non-revenue sports. The golf, bowling, and lacrosse teams have also enjoyed recent success.

Vanderbilt women’s tennis team ranks #8 in the nation. They finished 3rd in the SEC Conference and made it to the Elite Eight round of the last NCAA tournament. The men’s tennis team has made 17 total appearances in the NCAA tournament.

Women’s bowling is a more recent addition to the athletic department at Vanderbilt – despite their new status, they progressed to finish in 3rd place in the recent NCAA tournament. 

Vanderbilt bowlers are so talented that three of their members will comprise 75% of the USA Junior Team at the 2022 International Bowling Federation Under 21 World Championships!

The Vanderbilt men’s golf team made major moves over the past season. After achieving victories at The Prestige, Mossy Oak, and Mason Rudolph (among other competitions), they dominated stroke and match play at the SEC Championships and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Championship. 

First-year student Gordon Sargent received the 2022 NCAA Division I Phil Mickelson Outstanding Freshman Award and is the first Vanderbilt golfer to win the prize.

Vanderbilt athletes are known for their excellence on and off of the field. Their graduation success rate (GSR) is consistently among the highest of all of the schools in the SEC. 

The men’s and women’s basketball, golf, and tennis teams were among several teams that achieved a 100% graduation rate.

Why Vanderbilt?

Admission to Vanderbilt unlocks a trove of world-class educational opportunities. 

Through collaborative research partnerships with expert faculty members and study-abroad programs at prestigious universities around the world, Vanderbilt empowers students to be the architects of their educational journeys.

Vanderbilt is especially devoted to setting first-year students up for success. During summer orientation, all first-year students are placed in one of 93 Vanderbilt Vision cohorts made up of fewer than 20 students. 

These small groups meet weekly during the fall semester and provide a support network as first-year students find their place at Vandy. New students are also assigned a faculty mentor and upper-division student peer mentor (called VUceptors).

Many Vanderbilt students are so captivated by Nashville that they end up living there after graduating. Recently ranked as the U.S. city with the most economic growth, the city of almost 2 million is an ideal location for securing the first job after graduation.

To say that Vanderbilt provides a remarkable college experience is an understatement. From academics and athletics to research and community involvement, Vanderbilt’s programming creates an inspiring environment for students to think, design, and innovate.

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