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Vanderbilt Merit Awards

Posted by on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 in Scholarships and Financial Aid.

In the past year I stumbled across a news story which reported that many American high school students expected scholarships to cover part or most of their college costs.  As a counselor, I find this mentality alarming!  While some students will receive smaller denomination scholarships from individual institutions and/or community organizations, only a fraction of college students will receive enough merit money to cover a significant portion of their tuition bill.  As you and your family discuss college costs and family expectations for funding your education, leave scholarships out of the discussion.  If you are fortunate enough to receive a generous amount down the road it will be a pleasant surprise, rather than a disappointment if you are not as fortunate.

At Vanderbilt we award merit scholarships to approximately one percent of our applicant pool.  It is a highly competitive process and our main scholarship programs require separate applications for consideration.  Below I lay out all of the information you need to know for each of our signature scholarships.

The Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship Program

The CV Program is an umbrella program through which each of the four undergraduate colleges award full-tuition scholarships.  Students receive consideration for these awards only if they complete the Vanderbilt Scholarship Application.  CV scholarship applications are due January 3rd of each year.  Faculty committees within each of the four undergraduate colleges then select the recipients of the awards with the assistance of undergraduate admission counselors.  These committees review both your application for undergraduate admission and your scholarship application when making decisions. For students applying to the Blair School of Music, the audition will also be a factor.  The raw number of students receiving a CV award varies by year based on funding availability.  Typically, there are 50-60 enrolled freshmen who hold a CV scholarship each year.  The scholarship is renewable each year as long as the student retains a 3.0 GPA.  Furthermore, if a student wishes to transfer between the undergraduate colleges at Vanderbilt, their award will follow them.  Finally, each of these full-tuition awards includes a stipend for a summer experience in research or study abroad.

Manage your expectations.  A large number of scholarship applicants have strong high school curriculums and top standardized test scores.  Approximately 25 percent of our admitted students last year scored above a 1540 on the SAT and/or above a 34 on the ACT.  Furthermore, an overwhelming number of applicants held the top or near the top GPA in their graduating class.  Once they get past the numbers, committee members are looking for the X factor.  And who’s to say what that really is anyways?  Each of our undergraduate colleges has unique faculty members on the committee and every year there is a different mix of personalities.   Just as with freshmen admission, scholarships are a great deal of preparation and a little bit of luck.  Highlight who you are and hope for the best.  Don’t try and write what you think the committee wants to hear.

Chancellor’s Scholars

The Chancellor’s award is not an award for diverse students, but instead an award for students interested in diversity issues.  This is an important distinction and one my students often miss.  If you worked in your school or community on issues pertaining to diversity, social justice or disenfranchised groups, this scholarship applies to you.  The committee is looking to award these full-tuition scholarships to students who will build on lessons learned in high school and plan to remain active citizens at Vanderbilt.   Like the CV awards, students must complete the Vanderbilt Scholarship Application for consideration.  Also like the CV award, students receive one summer stipend to use for research or study abroad.  Although this scholarship has a clear focus on extracurricular activities, students with strong grades and standardized testing in addition to the above activities are in the most competitive position.   Read the scholarship description more fully online, check out the profiles of current scholars, and apply if you even think you might be a candidate!  It breaks my heart to see amazing candidates for this scholarship who didn’t apply.

The application deadline for the Chancellor’s award is January 3rd, and it requires a recommendation in addition to those you submit for admission to Vanderbilt.  Make sure this additional recommender can really speak to your work with social justice issues.  Each freshmen class has about 20-25 Chancellor’s Scholars in the mix.

The Ingram Scholarship Program

This full-tuition scholarship goes to students who have a strong interest in serving their communities and have a history of promoting positive change.  The Ingram Scholarship committee plans to concentrate these awards on students who intend to hold careers in business or other professional fields (law, medicine, research, etc.).  There are approximately 50 Ingram scholars on campus and these students meet weekly for group activities and discussion.  A summer stipend is available to these recipients for service projects.  Unlike the Chancellor’s and CV awards, the Ingram Scholarship has an application deadline of December 1.  You must submit two references in addition to those submitted for freshman admission.

As with the other scholarships, students with top academic qualities are most successful in the process.  Furthermore, students awarded the Ingram Scholarship go above and beyond “typical” service in their hometowns.  They devote hundreds of hours to specific goals and demonstrate a great deal of maturity in their service roles.  The service work does not necessarily have to be in your community, though, one of the finalists last year worked with an orphanage in Thailand.  Apply for this scholarship if you’ve conducted a great deal of service to-date and have a clear vision for incorporating that service into your future professional career.

Additional Information

The three scholarship programs described above are not an exhaustive list of merit money at Vanderbilt.  There are other opportunities.  However, for many of the other awards you must complete the Vanderbilt Scholarship Application.  If you do nothing else, apply for the CV so you will be competitive for all possible awards.

These scholarships are not a measure of how great a student you are or are not.  We have students with perfect test scores and the number one rank in their graduating class who do not receive merit money.  Scholarship committee members look for students who fit their vision of individual scholarships at the present moment.  Do not equate your worth or value as a student to the receipt of one of the awards.

It may seem early in the year to be talking about December 1st and January 3rd deadlines, but those dates will creep up on you if you let them.

Next steps:

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  • 2015hopeful!

    August 14th, 2010

    Thanks for the helpful response!

    Would you mind sharing the number of students who applied for the CV Scholarship last year, versus how many actually received it?


  • Kylie

    August 18th, 2010

    A total of 3,431 students applied for the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship last year (entering Class of 2014). We awarded 151 Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarships in that same year. Be aware, not all of those offered the award chose to enroll at Vanderbilt. Also, the number of awards offered will fluctuate from year to year because of funding availability.

  • Kim

    August 20th, 2010

    Of the awards offered to prospective students who did not enroll, was any of the award money awarded to students who did enroll and perhaps were not offered a scholarship before?

  • Kylie

    August 21st, 2010

    Kim, We make the awards with the knowledge that some of the students will not enroll. Therefore, there is only one round of scholarship offers.

  • Joe

    October 11th, 2010

    How many people from the class of 2014 applied for the Chancellor’s Scholarship and how many actually received it?


  • Kylie

    October 11th, 2010

    I’m looking into that for you. I’ll get you the answer as soon as I can.

  • Kylie

    October 12th, 2010

    Joe- We do not publish the number of individuals who applied for the Chancellor’s scholarship, but we can tell you that we offered the scholarship to 40 students for the entering class this fall.

  • Madison

    October 2nd, 2013

    How many prospective students applied for the Ingram Scholarship last year (High
    School class of 2013), versus how many actually received it?

  • Jay Watson

    October 2nd, 2013

    Hi Madison. While I don’t have the specific info you are looking for, you should take a look at this post by Brent Tener, Director of Undergraduate Scholarships. It will give you a good overview of the number of applications versus the number of awards. Thanks for your interest.

  • chris

    December 16th, 2016

    Hi! It was mentioned above that 25% of the class usually scores above 1540 and 34 on the SAT and ACT, accordingly. Can you tell me if students scoring below those thresholds, but graduating with a very high GPA and class rank (along with leadership, etc) are considered…or do the numbers above rule them out?

  • Jay Watson

    December 16th, 2016

    Hi Chris, thanks for your question. First, we do not use grade or test score cut offs – we consider the whole application. Second, this post is several years old, so you shouldn’t put too much weight on these specific numbers. For more current info, check out our profile at And for more perspective on the test score info we report please see this blog post Thanks!

  • chris

    December 16th, 2016

    Thank you, Jay.