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Frequently Asked Questions

All applicants who apply for merit-based scholarships by the December 1 deadline will be considered whether or not test scores are submitted. Read Vanderbilt's statement regarding test-optional policy for fall 2025 applicants.   

For students who do not submit standardized test scores, the rest of the applicant’s academic record will take on more importance. This includes the transcript, relative position in class, rigor of coursework, grade trend over time, and teacher recommendations. As always, Vanderbilt employs a holistic, context-aware review process which considers all additional components of the application, including the personal essay and required short answer, letters of recommendation, and breadth and depth of extracurricular engagement. Read Vanderbilt's statement regarding test-optional policy for fall 2025 applicants.   

The application for the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship is required; you must apply to be considered. For the Ingram Scholarship Programs and Chancellor's Scholarship, the application is strongly encouraged; preference is given to those who apply. It is also recommended that students who wish to be considered for any Additional Merit Scholarships submit the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship Application.

Yes, you may apply for any or all merit scholarships in which you are interested.

No, applying under the Early Decision I or II deadline is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage in the merit scholarship selection process. If you do choose to apply to Vanderbilt under the Early Decision I or II deadline, however, be aware that merit scholarship recipients are not notified of their selection until late March of their senior year. If you are admitted under the Early Decision I or II decision plan, you will have to commit to attend Vanderbilt without knowing if you will be offered a merit scholarship. You will receive a  need-based financial aid award if you complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE application for financial aid online and submit it simultaneously with your Early Decision application for admission, but you will not receive notification of merit scholarship awards prior to either of the Early Decision deadlines to commit to Vanderbilt.

No, financial need is not a factor in the merit scholarship selection process. Because the number of merit scholarships is so limited, however, we strongly encourage students to apply for need-based financial aid as well. Over 40% of the 2017-2018 entering freshman class is receiving need-based financial aid to make Vanderbilt affordable. We are committed to meeting 100% of each admitted student’s demonstrated financial need. Information regarding need-based financial aid can be found at:

Yes, if you apply for need-based financial aid and your demonstrated need is greater than the amount of your merit scholarship, you will receive additional assistance in the form of need-based financial aid.

No, none of the merit scholarships awarded to incoming first year are designated for students declaring a specific major. The majority of merit scholarships for entering freshmen are identified with a particular Vanderbilt undergraduate school. Each of the four undergraduate schools awards a number of scholarships proportionate to the school’s enrollment.

Yes, international applicants are eligible to receive any of Vanderbilt’s merit scholarships.

No, transfer students are not eligible to receive any of the merit scholarships administered by the Office of Student Financial Aid and Undergraduate Scholarships that are designated for entering first-year undergraduate students.

Yes, Vanderbilt offers a handful of merit scholarships that are designated specifically for students who live in a certain city, county, or state. These areas include Atlanta, Houston, Texas and select counties in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Roughly 1% of the entire freshman applicant pool will be offered a merit-based scholarship award. The number of merit scholarships is limited, as the majority of Vanderbilt’s student financial assistance is provided in the form of need-based financial aid.

The level of competition for merit-based scholarships has increased greatly in recent years. Recipients of these awards are usually in the top 1 percent of their high school class while enrolled in rigorous academic programs. While recipients typically score in the mid-1500s on the SAT Reasoning Test (not including the writing section) and/or above 34 on the ACT, only approximately half the applicants with test scores in those ranges will receive merit-based scholarship offers. Additionally, merit-based scholarship recipients exhibit strong leadership or exceptional talent outside the classroom. Merit scholarship recipients in the Blair School of Music earn outstanding audition scores as well.

Recipients of most merit scholarships will be notified in mid-March of their senior year.

Yes, Vanderbilt provides scholarship assistance for admitted and enrolled students who are named National Merit Finalists. Students must designate Vanderbilt as their first choice school with the National Merit Corporation by the final deadline and enroll as an entering freshman student to receive Vanderbilt's National Merit Scholarship.For those finalists who also receive one of Vanderbilt's merit scholarships, we guarantee an additional $2,000 in National Merit total scholarship dollars per year from all sources (with Vanderbilt supplementing any smaller corporate or one-time National Merit Corporation awards). Beginning with entering students for the fall 2023 class, those finalists who do not receive an additional merit scholarship from Vanderbilt will receive a total of up to $6,000 per year in National Merit scholarship dollars from all sources (with Vanderbilt supplementing any smaller corporate or one-time National Merit Corporation awards). For students entering Vanderbilt before fall 2023, the scholarship total is up to $5,000 per year.

No, we do not re-award merit scholarships that are not accepted by their original recipient. We anticipate this occurrence and award merit scholarships to a larger number of students than we expect will enroll based on past enrollment data and analysis.

Yes, there are a limited number of merit scholarships that you may apply for during your first year at Vanderbilt.

Need-based financial aid is the largest source of financial assistance offered by Vanderbilt. To apply for need-based financial aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE forms online and submit them to Vanderbilt.

Students who plan to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps can apply for four-year scholarships through their high school or ROTC recruiter by December 1 of their senior year. Scholarships pay full or partial tuition, books and fees, and a monthly stipend. Vanderbilt provides a supplement to each service-selected award recipient. Recipients are typically required to serve in the military after college. Army, Naval, and Marine Corps ROTC are offered at Vanderbilt; Air Force ROTC is offered at nearby Tennessee State University.

Vanderbilt University also offers athletic scholarships to recruited athletes in six men’s and nine women’s Division I sports. For more information on Vanderbilt athletics, please visit

In 2020-2021, Vanderbilt undergraduate students received close to $7.4 million in outside scholarships. Sponsoring organizations include parents’ employers, religious organizations, fraternal societies, women’s clubs, and veterans’ groups. Resources for information and advice include your high school guidance counselor, publications in your local library, and the internet. You may access FastWEB, a free scholarship search service, through the Vanderbilt Financial Aid web page. Other helpful financial aid resource sites are the Financial Aid Information Page and the College Board site.

Based upon past experience, we anticipate that many of our first-year undergraduate students will receive outside scholarships or other gift assistance to help fund their educational costs. Any outside scholarship(s) must be taken into account as part of your total need-based financial aid package, and cannot be counted as part of, or as a replacement for, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If an adjustment in your need-based financial aid package is necessary, the outside scholarship will be used first to replace an equivalent amount of academic year and/or summer earnings expectations. Receipt of outside scholarship funds may sometimes result in a reduction of other grant/gift funds, but such reductions will be made only as a last resort and only if no other options exist.