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Applying to Vanderbilt with low GPA

TNSDadTNSDad 11 replies3 threadsRegistered User New Member
My son plans to apply to Vanderbilt ED1 this fall. He wants to study engineering.

3.65 GPA (unweighted) NOT top 10% of his class More like top 20% His high school doesn't rate students.
34 ACT (32Math, 33Sci, 35Reading, 36Eng) He only took it once and figured he was done.

mostly vocal music and theater productions (multiple productions and audition only acapella group)
Learned to read music and play basic piano while preparing for his audition to the group.
Executive council of our church youth group in charge of fundraising.
Active in local youth cultural association .

10years of martial arts training 3rd degree jr black belt (must be 18+yo to hold full black belt) in karate, proficiency in jujitsu and aikido.

Volunteer work.
Works at local "Friends of foster kids center" (mostly grunt work)
Tutors disadvantaged kids from a local urban area though his school's HUB program
Developed the "adapt a grad" program in our church youth group where the group adopts and sponsors a kid ageing out of the foster care system and raises funds to hep them set up housekeeping in either college or work.

Last Summer
Camp counselor at local STEM camp
Worked at local industrial ceramic company archiving and organizing part designs.

This summer
Was asked back to same company running a small research project in their QC lab. He will be operating technical equipment, running the statistical analyses and preparing the report for management. (he made a really great impression on management there last summer so they asked him back for this)
CIT at local summer camp

He is also spending his summer working on a special (and we hope unique) hook to his application. But we aren't discussing that publicly yet.

Caucasian male and identifies as same.

Not the most stellar resume, but not terrible.

Clearly the lower GPA and lack of a major leadership role are the weak spots.

I should point out that he attends a private prep school in our area. About 25%-30% o this schools students are boarders from outside of the US sent there specifically for the schools rigor. The place is FIERCELY competitive and rated one o the top private schools in the US. Im not bragging, just putting the 3.65 GPA in perspective.

Had we understood the application process a little better at the time we would have kept him in a less competitive school where he would easily be in the top 10% of his class.

So here is my question.

The 3.65 GPA would put him in the lower 35% of accepted applications.
The 34 ACT puts him in the top half.

If he retakes the ACT and scores a 35 or better would that help overcome the low GPA when his application is considered?

He is confident that he could pick up a point or two in the Math and Science section and a 35 would put him in the 25th percentile for ACT at Vanderbilt.


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Replies to: Applying to Vanderbilt with low GPA

  • Eeyore123Eeyore123 1383 replies19 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don’t think test scores ever compensate for GPA. However, your school profile may help ( a lot). Do students in the top 20% normally get into Vandy and it’s peers? Just remember that it is also easy to go down on the 36 and 35 sections. People always assume that they will only go up or stay the same.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5596 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    If your school provides access to Naviance, that will be a better reference point than folks here. At the kind of school you are no doubt paying a lot of tuition to, the college counselors tend to be very savvy, and honestly, you should feel comfortable setting up a meeting to go over this. I would guess that his grades in STEM classes as well as how advanced they are may be what interests AOs most. The grade trend also matters.

    My guess is that with the "right" answers to the questions above, he could certainly have a reasonable shot.
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  • SincererLoveSincererLove 748 replies22 threadsRegistered User Member
    edited June 3
    Vandy is competitive, especially in engineering school. How do you think he will survive the competition there even if he gets in? Cal 2 is major engineering weed out. If he goes directly to cal 3, which is probably not the case, judging from 32 in math, the average GPA on that class is from 2.6 to 3.1.

    I don’t think ACT 34 put him in top half anyway, at least not the rate Vandy admission stat has been going. 32 on math is also bad for engineering school.
    edited June 3
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  • TNSDadTNSDad 11 replies3 threadsRegistered User New Member
    You raise a valid point giving the information I provided in my original post. I left some stuff out in the interest of brevity but I will expand on it here. I will also preface this by telling you that I have an undergraduate degree in engineering from a Big 10 school so I know a little bit about math even if its not on a Vanderbilt level.

    He is currently in Calc 1 and is DESTROYING that class. I believe his exam average if around a 96% He struggled a bit in the first quarter of his Sophomore year in Pre-Calc and because of that they didn't approve him for the Honors section of Calc 1 as a Junior. (too many extracurriculars) But based on his performance this year he has been skipped ahead of the curve and will take AP Calc next year. At his high school a student needs his advisor and the head of the department to sign off on all AP classes. Taking 2 AP classes a year is usually all they allow and you need an extra level of permission to take 3. (he has 3 next year, French, Calc and Chemistry)

    As an engineer I pride myself on logic and objectivity. Even where my kids are concerned. The LAST thing I would want is for him to get into a school where he couldn't compete. But this kid processes math on a intuitive level. Its almost scary to watch. Im more concerned about how he would perform in Organic and Analytical Chemistry to be honest.

    The 32 in math is one of the reasons we want him to retake the exam. HIs explanation for his lower score is that he ran into a few problems that involved material he hadn't seen since middle school and had forgotten how to solve.

    The debate now is whether to retake the ACT or to focus on the SATII subject tests.

    Vanderbilt doesn't superscore the ACT OFFICIALLY. But I have it from multiple sources that the give some weight to subject score from multiple exams.

    So would a higher ACT math score or a strong SATII Math score help him more?
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 786 replies30 threadsRegistered User Member
    I really don't think it's even worth your time to ask about your son's chances for Vandy. It's an unbelievably competitive school to get into and is not just stats driven. I would say apply and hope for the best but know the chances are slim and have target schools and safeties.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6989 replies49 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 4
    I don't think a higher ACT score is going to move the needle here. It doesn't change GPA or rank and one is not going to make up for the other at a school like this.

    FWIW, my D's valedictorian with perfect stats and amazing ECs was WL at Vandy for engineering two cycles ago.

    My advice is to go ahead and apply ED if Vandy is your child's top choice and affordable, but focus the time on a putting together great safeties and targets.
    edited June 4
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 2879 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    An 800 on math2 would be expected, and wouldn't add much to the application. Agree that you need to find some matches and check naviance-maybe from your school his gpa is sufficient if he applies early decision and full pay.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9147 replies492 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    To dress the topic of the post, applying to Vanderbilt with a low GPA puts him at an immediate disadvantage. He needs match schools based on his GPA. Nearly all colleges care more about GPA than test scores. Yes, high test scores are great, but they aren’t going to compensate for grades.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2043 replies28 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 4
    Here are some things to consider:

    GPA likely has more importance than test scores in Vandy's holistic admissions decisions. For engineering, STEM grades will be more important than SS, E and FL grades.

    GPA will be considered in context of high school, and if other students from his high school apply to Vandy they will all be compared to each other (excluding certain hooked candidates such as athletes and legacies). What does Naviance show, if your high school uses that?

    What AP calc is your S taking next year? Engineering schools have a strong preference for BC.
    The 34 ACT puts him in the top half.

    Based on admitted student data for class of 2023 this is not true....ED accepted student 25%-50% range was 33-35, but RD range was 33-36. I expect, but do not know for sure, that engineering school admission rate was lower than overall, and the test ranges higher.

    Vandy will absolutely look at and consider ACT subscores even if they don't superscore. I am not a big fan of taking more tests summer before senior year, but re-taking the ACT or taking Math 2 Subject test could make sense. However keep in perspective that even if your S gets 36 on ACT math or 800 on Math 2, the odds are still long for a Vandy engineering school acceptance. Of course, high scores would help strengthen his engineering app at other schools, too.

    I encourage you to prevent your son from developing a belief that Vandy is his dream school. He should spend much more time developing a balanced list of schools, making sure that he has matches and highly likely schools on his list that he would be delighted to attend.....because it's most likely he will be attending one of those schools.

    If he does apply Vandy EDI, consider applying to some schools with rolling admissions or EA rounds ---- early admissions are psychologically beneficial and lessen pressure when regrouping if an EDI rejection does occur.

    Good luck.
    edited June 4
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  • TNSDadTNSDad 11 replies3 threadsRegistered User New Member
    I appreciate all the feedback, believe me we KNOW this is a reach
    We do plan on applying ED1 full pay
    And we do have a very balanced list of schools including one other reach and several matches and safeties.

    What Im having trouble getting me head around is that balance between standardized test scores and GPA.

    Vanderbilt has a lower average GPA and a higher average ACT than most other schools in its class. It would seem to me then that they weight the standardized test scores slightly more than GPA. With their applicant pool it would be easy for them to have a 4.0 unweighted average GPA.

    I must be missing something.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2043 replies28 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 4
    Vanderbilt has a lower average GPA and a higher average ACT than most other schools in its class.

    We can't know this because of the HUGE variability in how schools calculate the average GPA of their incoming classes. There is no standardization or guidance for calculating this number on the CDS, or anywhere else.
    It would seem to me then that they weight the standardized test scores slightly more than GPA.

    There are more factors in holistic admission than just these two. Along with gpa and test scores, Vandy rates ECs, essays, personal qualities, course rigor as very important in the admissions decision.

    What you are trying to do is not possible, as you don't have all the data on how admissions decisions are made at the macro level, let alone at the engineering school level.

    edited June 4
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  • FilledWithHopeFilledWithHope 26 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member

    Quick question. You said you all have 2 "Reach" schools. Presumably, you would strongly consider both if offered admission in ED...correct? Have you considered applying to the other reach school in ED1 and applying to Vanderbilt in ED2 if the other does not work out? I am partial to Vandy, can't wait to get on campus this fall, and would naturally steer you in that direction. However, very few elite schools offer ED2 and Vanderbilt is one of them...so I would give strong consideration into leveraging this on your son's behalf.

    Also, given the rigor of your son's school, I would be prepared to highlight that in addition to scoring "4.0's" sorta speak in every other part of his application. Don't just do the other parts of the application well. Make sure the application, essays, recommendations, etc are EXCEPTIONAL!!! Grades are easily quantifiable so that is what a lot of people in the peanut gallery use as their ultimate litmus test to measure whether they think you will get in or not, but it isn't the only thing and none of us really know the admissions formula (if there is one). I mean think about it. There are tons of people with perfect GPAs and perfect ACTs/SATs that don't get in. If that was the deciding factor, then all of the top schools would have average GPAs of 4.0 and scores of 36/1600. Key takeaway. Scores matter, but so do other things. I say, dream big, put in the work to perfect the other parts of the application, and go for it!!
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 786 replies30 threadsRegistered User Member
    @FilledWithHope ED2 is so much more difficult than ED1. Stats like these won't likely get OP's son in for ED2.
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  • FilledWithHopeFilledWithHope 26 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @collegemom9 How do you know? Thus far, I have not found any stats that call out Vanderbilt's ED1 and ED2 stats...and I have searched relentlessly. The only thing I have ever seen published is ED stats for the entire group. Do you have any data supporting this or is this just your opinion? Who knows, maybe you are correct, but without data to support your claim, your guess is just as good as mine.
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 786 replies30 threadsRegistered User Member
    @FilledWithHope ED2 is always so much more difficult as you end up with all of the kids who were rejected from the Ivies. My evidence is anecdotal but I would never recommend leaving a school like Vandy for ED2. Ask college coaches and admissions reps, ED2 is much more difficult.OP's best chances are going to be ED1 and even that is a reach.
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  • TNSDadTNSDad 11 replies3 threadsRegistered User New Member
    FilledWithHope. His other reach is a distant second and actually tied in preference with one of his match schools. So not a lot of conflict there. We also have heard that chances are better ED1. So that's how well be applying to Vanderbilt. I really appreciate you taking the time to post. You capture the point perfectly, I've read the stories of so many kids with near perfect GPAs that didn't get in...its a little heartbreaking honestly. So much of what I hear about Vanderbilt application is contrary. Some stay holistic and others say stats driven...its very confusing. He will either retake the ACT or take the SAT2 tests in August (or both) and spend his summer putting together the best application possible.
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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3429 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @TNSDad Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You mentioned that he attends a very rigorous HS - if there is grade deflation there, that 3.5 will be put into context. As others have mentioned above, ask the GC as the counseling office may have historical data that can better gauge his chances.

    If it were my kid, I'd consider a retake of the ACT and recommend that he prep well for two well-chosen SAT Subject II tests. Normally, I wouldn't recommend a retake of a 34 ACT. However, if he tries again and then he doesn't get accepted in the ED1 round, he'll know he gave it his all and will have no regrets or "what ifs."

    Long odds but best of luck!
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  • sawqertysawqerty 1 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    edited June 4
    @SincererLove Is that statistic regarding Multivariable Calculus true? Is that for MATH 2500 (proof-based) or MATH 2300? I took MATH 2300 last semester and it seemed like most people in my class breezed through with A's.
    edited June 4
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  • SincererLoveSincererLove 748 replies22 threadsRegistered User Member
    I would think some Big 10 engineering might be more competitive than Vandy engineering!

    Not trying to discourage you, I knew some of D’s friends in engineering who struggled through school, getting C pluses on cal 2 and chem, physics and gave up any hope of med or graduate schools. My DS20 actually has the same GPA as yours. Because of his sister (rising CS premed junior), we have visited so many times. He is not applying, as he doesn’t like to hassle for anything.

    If your son loves the school and believes there is a fit, apply. But also please have some safeties in the back pocket.

    @sawqerty, it was 2300. D17 took it last year spring semester. All the professors were new at that time, and the average GPA was written in the syllabus. She chose not to take final, and settled for A minus (one letter grade down compared to where you were if you didn’t take final). A lot of kids struggled in that class.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29248 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    One of my kids went to a private school that was VERY generous to Vanderbilt applicants. Most of the kids who really wanted to go there but fell s bit short in ideal stats were accepted.

    The other went to a school that did not have that connection and I can tell you that the numbers and Naviance like charts excluded anyone with the OP’s kid’s numbers unless there was a good strong hook in the picture. My son had the school on his list, similar test score but top 10% of class, and I think he’d have had to do ED to get a reasonable chance of acceptance.
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