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What Not to Fret About

Posted by on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 in Application Process.

I had a writing block this week.  I think my head is full of all the writing my students put into their applications, which is amazing, but a block of sorts for my own words.  I’ve been stewing for days and as I summarily rejected numerous ideas I put them into a mental category I titled “What Not to Write About”.  Somehow this wordplay on a popular cable show morphed into “What Not to Fret About”.  Thus, I hereafter present you with the four application pieces that should not cause your blood pressure to rise.

Financial Need

The Common App asks each applicant if they intend to apply for need-based financial aid.  Most schools in America must use this piece of information in the admissions process because of limited financial resources.  Like all institutions of higher education, Vanderbilt also has limited financial resources; however, our budget allocates enough monies to student financial aid so that we can be need-blind in admissions.  This means that when I read an application I do not consider whether you check “yes” or “no” in regards to need-based aid.  In fact, I have little to no information about a family’s financials when I read an application.  The Office of Student Financial Aid and Undergraduate Scholarships deals with the information a family submits through the FAFSA and the CSS Profile in a separate office.

Although we are need-blind, we do not ignore students who overcome significant financial obstacles.  For example, one of my former applicants (now a VU student) wrote his essay about working as the sole provider for his family.  Both of his parents had lost their jobs and he was the only source of income for several months.  This intangible piece of his file was a significant point of discussion in committee.  Family circumstances may come up in discussion if you or a recommender bring the issue to light, but we aren’t categorically addressing students based on their financial needs.


Last year we had students from all 50 states on campus.  This year we have students from 48 states represented.  We would love to add a student (or two) from South Dakota and Alaska to bring that number back to 50, but we are not going to give applicants a “bump” in the process just because they’re from those areas.  In fact, we had students (good students) apply from both of those states last year.  We are looking for the absolute best students, regardless of their origin.  If you come from an underrepresented state, I may personally find that awesome, but your admission status will depend on the other pieces of your file.

In a similar vein, you will not be disadvantaged as an applicant if you come from an area where it feels as if every single student in your school applies to Vanderbilt.  Last year we had nearly 80 applications from one high school!  We’re not limiting the number of individuals that can come from an area; we may admit all 80 students if we love each application.  My largest pool of applications last year was 44.  Of those 44 applicants we admitted 12 students and 7 are a part of the Class of 2014.  My point is to focus your application on you and your fit and don’t fret about what others in your school are working towards.


Women presently account for 57 percent of undergraduates in America and they will likely account for nearly 60 percent of undergraduates by 2019, according to the American Council on Education.  More pronounced at selective institutions, many universities must now consider gender in the application process.  *Knock on wood* we don’t have to use gender in our decision-making.  Our freshmen class is 51 percent male through no manipulation of ours – that’s just how the cookies crumbled.

Legacy Status

Over 2,400 legacies applied for spaces in the Class of 2014 at Vanderbilt.  We only have 1,600 spaces total.   Legacy admission is a supply-demand problem for us.  Do we love Commodore families?  Absolutely.  We love our multi-generational families so much that we make sure to ask about it on the supplement.  We want to be conscientious decision makers.  However, getting in to Vanderbilt requires a student be outstanding regardless of familial ties.  Every student that walks through our gates does so because they earned their spot on their own accord.

I hope this information gives some food for thought.  I received great questions this week on the blog and via email.  Keep them coming!

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  • greg

    December 2nd, 2010

    The application process is stressful enough without worrying about changing something you have virtually no control over, such as what Kylie wrote about. This is a nice reminder that Vanderbilt admissions recognizes these as out of your control and will not punish you for being Gender from Hometown, USA. Thanks Kylie!

  • Dalton

    December 2nd, 2010

    Thank you Kylie for doing this blog. These topics have really helped me relax a little bit more.

  • Clay

    December 6th, 2010

    As a freshman, all I hear about at school is “For college…” It seems like a stressful process, but this blog makes me feel like it isn’t as bad as it sounds :) Thanks for the help!

  • Sari

    December 11th, 2010

    This is wonderful to know! Thank you.