How to Write the Vanderbilt Supplemental Essays

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (200-400 words)*

First and foremost, be mindful that since the prompt only asks for you to write about ONE activity or work experience, it is important that you write only about ONE.

There are many upsides to writing about only one of your activities. The first is that 200-400 words makes for a rather short essay, but you don’t need to worry about addressing multiple activities in such a short essay. On the flip side, because 200-400 words isn’t very lengthy, you’ll want to be careful with your use of space and write intentionally.

The second great aspect of this prompt is that it is very broad. The prompt doesn’t specify whether you should write about a specific event or responsibility you held, your impact, or to reflect on what your involvement meant to you or to your community. The prompt simply asks for you to “elaborate,” so the aspect of your activity you choose to address is entirely up to you.

Despite the open ended nature of the prompt, here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you decide what you want to write:

Firstly, remember that aside from your main common app essay, this is the only opportunity for you to share your voice with your admissions officer, so you’ll want to take advantage of it. Allow your values and personality to shine through your writing. Vanderbilt is known for its active student body committed to its community. What Vanderbilt is really asking in this prompt is “What type of community member will you be if you come to study at Vanderbilt?” and “How will you contribute?”

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Vanderbilt is a school that values leadership, so if you can, you’ll want to emphasize your leadership in your activity or work. You can write about how you chose to lead, the impact of your leadership, or be even more reflective and write about what you learned about yourself and others through your own work. You can also reflect on other leaders in your club or activity who taught you valuable lessons.