Graduate School Application Process

Application Requirements

To ensure you are prepared to submit your Graduate School application, we recommend you review the following requirements. Once you begin your application, you can pause it and come back to it at any time so you can gather the required information. Below are the requirements for submitting your application. 

Applications are open August 15 – January 15.

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  • The Fall application deadline for many Graduate School programs is January 15, but be sure to confirm with your program of interest since deadlines may vary.  
  • Most programs release initial Fall admission offers by March 31 with a response due by April 15.  
  • The timing of admission offers varies by program, and programs may continue to extend offers after that date. 

Application Fee

The Graduate School application fee is $95.00 and can be paid online after you submit your application. If you submit applications to more than one program (maximum of two per year), only a single fee will be charged.  

You also may be eligible for an application fee waiver: 

  • U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents1 are eligible for all categories of fee waivers.  
  • In most cases, international students are only eligible to receive a discretionary fee waiver.  
  • Requesting a fee waiver does not impact your admission eligibility. 
  • There is no waiver request form for you to complete. You must start and submit your application to confirm your eligibility and receive a fee waiver.  
  • Documentable fee waivers

    To verify your demonstrated financial need or military service, you must upload one of the following documents:  

    • A letter or memo from the financial aid office of your current or previous school confirming that you are a current Pell Grant recipient or received one the previous year. 
    • An unemployment benefits statement dated within the previous six months. 
    • A GRE fee reduction certificate from the Educational Testing Service (ETS). 
    • A brief but well-reasoned explanation of how the application fee presents a financial hardship for you. Relevant factors include unemployment or underemployment, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from a recent FAFSA, economic conditions in your home country, etc. You can type your explanation on the fee waiver request page of the application form. 
    • Documentation showing current of former status of United States Armed Forces. 

    Please do not upload tax return documents or any other confidential personal information such as your social security number. Upon review, we will contact you to confirm if a documentable fee waiver has been granted. 

  • Discretionary fee waivers

    Only a small number of waivers are granted at the discretion of the program you are applying to based on recruitment priorities and other circumstances. 

    • You may request a fee waiver directly from the program you are applying to only after you have submitted your application and confirmed that a fee is due.  
    • You must submit your request prior to the application deadline and include documentation to support the reason for the request.  
    • Contact the program [insert link: Department Contacts] that you are applying to for more information.  
  • Automatic fee waivers

    Automatic fee waivers are granted to applicants that have successfully submitted an application AND participated in either a Vanderbilt-sponsored program/event or a fellowship, research, or training program that is officially registered in our system. 

     US permanent residents must be able to document this status upon request, such as a copy of a Green Card - Permanent Resident Card. 

    Vanderbilt Sponsored Programs 

    Students that are members of the following VU-sponsored programs are eligible for a fee waiver. 

    • Vanderbilt NSF REU in Nanoscale Science and Engineering 
    • Vanderbilt NSF REU in Physics 
    • Vanderbilt REU in Chemical Biology 
    • Vanderbilt NSF REU in Biophotonics 
    • Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program 
    • Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy 
    • Vanderbilt National Name Exchange (NNE) Diversity Fair 

    Fellowship, Research, and Training Programs 

    Students that are members of the following Fellowship, Research, and Training Programs are eligible for a fee waiver. You must submit documentation in your application demonstrating your participation. Contact your program director/coordinator to request a letter of verification if needed.  

    National Level: 

    • AmeriCorps, Teach for America, or the Peace Corps 
    • Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP) 
    • Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) 
    • Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD) 
    • Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program (SR-EIP) 
    • Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) 
    • Mellon Mays Minority Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF) 
    • National Consortium for Graduate Degrees in Minorities in Engineering and Sciences (GEM) 
    • NIH Postbaccalaureate Research Training Program (PREP) 
    • NIH Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Program (RISE) 
    • NIH/NIGMS Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) 
    • NIH-Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative 
    • NSF Historically Black Colleges and University – Undergraduate Programs (HBCU-UP) 
    • Ronald McNair Scholars Program 
    • UNCF Mellon Program 

    Institutional Level: 

    • California Polytechnic State University, Pomona Undergraduate Research Program 
    • Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences (DNIMAS) 
    • Penn State Millennium Scholars Program 
    • University of Baltimore Maryland County Meyerhoff Scholars Program 
    • University of Central Florida Academic Advancement Programs 

GRE requirements

Submitting your GRE scores 

  • For schools that require a score from the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), please submit it within the application. 
  • Scores are valid if earned within five years to the month of your intended first term at Vanderbilt. (For example, no earlier than August 1 five years prior if applying for the fall term). Applicants should aim to take the GRE by November to have scores for Fall admissions deadlines. 
  • The Vanderbilt Institution Code is 1871. A department code is not necessary. Visit information concerning the GRE and how to send your scores to Vanderbilt. 

Programs that do not require GRE scores

Be sure to check with your program’s admissions policy to determine the current requirements. 

Letters of Recommendation

The Graduate School application requires 3-5 recommendation letters from people that know you well enough to sell the “you” that exists beyond your scores and grades. You can submit your application independent of the recommendation letters being complete.

Best Option

If you have an Interfolio account, the recommendation can be sent to us from that account by using the account email address that was set up for the recommender. Recommenders must create an Interfolio account using a valid email address before they can submit letters. Therefore, it is the email address for the recommender that should be entered in the application recommender list. The recommendation letters should indicate your name and the program to which you applied. The recommender’s URL they receive will contain a short recommendation form that is only available online. After filling out this short form, the recommender can upload a recommendation letter. Learn more about Interfolio.

Option 2

Emailed letters of recommendation can be sent to Vanderbilt, care of

Option 3

Alternatively, letters can be mailed from Interfolio to:

Center for Data Management
Vanderbilt University
PMB 407833
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240-7833

However, if recommenders send only their comments in a paper letter, their recommendation will not include the numerical ratings for questions that appear only in the electronic form. You still must enter the recommender in your list in your application, so we have a slot to keep the recommendation letter when it arrives.

Statement of Purpose

Along with your application, you must submit a Statement of Purpose that is an essay that outlines why you are applying to the program, how you have prepared to pursue this degree and what you hope to accomplish both during and after your training. You may find other school/program-specific requirements that are listed on the application.

In general, the statement should be 1-5 pages and only contain information pertinent to the application you are submitting. There are not any word count requirements. Some programs have more specific requirements for the statement of purpose. These requirements will be listed on the Statement of Purpose page of the application.

Classroom meeting
Office meeting


Below are directions for submitting your transcript to the Graduate School:

Unofficial Transcripts
Please upload unofficial copies of your transcripts from prior undergraduate and graduate work. These can be submitted on the Academics page of your application. Please be sure that any document you upload contains your full name and, in the case of transcripts, the name of the institution. 

Official Transcripts
Official transcripts are required only after an offer of admission is made and accepted. A document is considered official only if it is sent directly to Vanderbilt from your institution. Your admission is contingent upon Vanderbilt’s Centralized Document Management (CDM) receiving an official transcript directly from the institution attended no later than August 31 of your entry year. Official transcripts can be sent either via the postal service or via secure electronic delivery to Your checklist on the Application Status page will indicate if you need to submit an official transcript.

International Transcripts
Official academic records listing all courses and grades and including a graduation certificate in the native language must be submitted with a complete English translation certified by an official translator. All records must be certified by the issuing institution or appropriate government official. Find information about non-required credential evaluations at NACES. Information about specific documents required from each country is also available.

Mailing instructions
Address transcripts sent via postal service to:

Center for Data Management
Vanderbilt University
PMB 407833
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240-7833

Please do NOT mail transcripts to the department office, Graduate School or Office of the University Registrar.

Language Proficiency

  • Language Proficiency Requirements

    Proficiency in written and oral English is required for enrollment in an academic program. This proof can be obtained by submitted scores from one of the following exams:

    • Test of English as a Foreign Language
    • International English Language Testing System
    • Duolingo (not all programs accept this test, check with department of interest)

    Applicants to the Graduate School, regardless of citizenship, must either meet our waiver criteria (below) or submit proof of English language proficiency. The online application will not require you to submit a language score if you meet the criteria for an exemption: you (will) have an equivalent degree from an English-language university in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, or the United Kingdom. 

    This policy applies to all graduate programs; the score level required for admission varies by program. 

    Please note:

    • U.S. citizenship does not automatically exempt you from taking a language test if your first language is not English. 
    • International students transferring from unfinished degree programs of other universities in the United States should present a language test score.  
    • If you have received (or will receive) an undergraduate degree from a college or university where English is the primary language of instruction, and if you have studied in residence at that institution for at least three years, you are exempt from the English Language Test requirement and are not required to submit a language test score. 
    • No exemptions are made based on an advanced degree (e.g., M.A./M.S. or Ph.D.) from any institution. 

    Minimum Acceptable Score 

    • The minimum acceptable score on the TOEFL iBT (internet- based test) is 88. Some departments list minimum recommendations or requirements on their departmental websites and may require a higher level of proficiency. Please contact your program of interest to confirm. 
    • For IELTS, the minimum acceptable score will vary by program. In many cases, a score of at least 7.0 is desirable.  
    • Many departments will accept Duolingo language test scores. Please contact your program of interest to confirm. 
  • English Language Instruction

    Students wishing to focus on improving their English language use for the context of the U.S. academic setting may take courses and participate in programming at the . Some students may be required to take these courses concurrently during the year. The ELC’s courses include: 

    • Academic Writing 
    • Academic Speaking 
    • Pronunciation
    • International Teaching Assistant Communication