Part 1: Introduction

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine puts a strong emphasis on patient care. Everything Vanderbilt University does is centered around that, from its curriculum to its student culture. The university seeks to instill knowledge, skills and a professional attitude into its students. Integrity, inclusion and respect are among Vanderbilt University’s core values, and its mission is for constant evolvement in healthcare, and doctors who are servant leaders. 

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine implements its core mission through its values.

  • Fostering new doctors, providers, scientists and teachers who will serve others, whether at the local, national or global level
  • Supporting growth in healthcare by creating, planning and putting new practices in place
  • Helping patients understand how their conditions are treated while treating them with kindness and compassion as individuals
  • Striving to never stop learning and to always use critical thinking skills to foster innovation and continual improvement
  • Maintaining a diverse student population that helps improve all areas of healthcare

As you can see, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has some big goals for itself and for its student. As a prospective student of Vanderbilt University, you might have some questions. What programs does Vanderbilt University offer? How much does it cost? How hard is it to get in? 

These questions and more are what we will be discussing in today’s guide. If you think you might want to apply to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, keep reading to learn everything there is to know about this medical school. 

Part 2: Programs Offered at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine offers the following programs to prospective students:

  • MD Program
  • MD/PhD (Medical Scientist Training Program)
  • Medical Innovators Development Program
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery M.D. Program
  • Multiple Dual-Degree Options

MD Program

This traditional, four-year program is designed to graduate doctors who are at the top of their game. 

In their first year (or phase one), students will learn the Foundations of Medical Knowledge. This phase of the curriculum includes students working together in teams to solve patient cases. This includes physical diagnosis, clinical experience, and clinical application of scientific evidence for each patient that the team treats.

In their second year (or phase two), students expand on the skills they learned in phase one by taking more difficult classes and seeing patients who have more complicated health issues. Students will also learn about broader diagnostic and treatment options. They will have opportunities to conduct in-depth research on topics that interest them.

In the last two years of the MD program, students will fully immerse themselves in clinical rotations, including:

  • Advanced Clinical Experiences with rigorous clinical rotations
  • Integrated Science Courses with mixed didactic and clinical experiences
  • Acting Internships with supervised, intern-level responsibilities
  • Mentored research projects
  • Foundations of Healthcare Delivery with longitudinal exploration of systems of care

The MD program is designed to enroll students who will graduate as doctors and become the best in their field. 

MD/PhD (Medical Scientist Training Program)

This degree is geared toward students who want to become scientists who practice medicine. Students who graduate from this program typically go on to practice medicine in the biomedical field. 

Here’s what the program looks like:

  • Year One: Foundations of Medical Knowledge
    – Pre-clinical coursework
    – Physical diagnosis
    – Learning communities
    – Foundations of Health Care Delivery
    – MSTP Seminar
    – Foundations of Biomedical Research & Lab rotation
  • Year Two: Foundations of Clinical Care
    – Clinical internships (6 blocks)
    – Diagnostics and Therapeutics
    – Continued learning from Year One
  • Years 3-6: Graduate Research
    – Students will choose from 16 different courses of study, ranging from Biochemistry to Pharmacology
  • Year 7: Clinical Immersion

As you can see, the MD/PhD program combines the PhD field of study with the MD curriculum already in place for traditional MD students. 

Medical Innovators Development Program

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s MIDP Program is a four-year PhD to MD program. This degree is only if you already have a PhD. The program was designed to create physician-engineers who are equipped to integrate medical science with biomedical science to bridge the gaps in medicine and technology. 

Students enrolled in this program will go through the same curriculum as traditional MD students. They will also experience:

  • Innovation Forums
  • Innovation Activism
  • Innovation Design Experience and Application (IDEA) Laboratory
  • Business and Entrepreneurship
  • Industry Immersion
  • Monthly Right Brain Activities

For more information, check out the MIDP curriculum

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery M.D. Program

This unique program trains students to become medical doctors and surgeons specializing in oral and maxillofacial surgeries. The program takes six years to complete, with time split evenly between the MD and OMS programs. 

Dual-Degree Options

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine offers no less than nine dual degrees.

If you’re looking for a dual-degree option, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine doesn’t fall short. Prospective students are encouraged to apply for the dual-degree program of their choice before beginning their education at Vanderbilt, but the option remains open for the first three years of their MD education. Most dual-degree programs take seven years to complete. Students begin in the MD program, switch to the master’s program and then return to the MD program, where they finish. Let’s take a look at each of the dual-degree options that Vanderbilt offers.

MD/Juris Doctorate

To earn your MD and Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University, you’ll need to be accepted into each school. Students enrolled in this program can expect a combination of the four-year MD program and the JD program. Juris Doctorate students are required to take the following courses:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law
  • Legal Writing I & II
  • Life of the Law
  • Property
  • Regulatory State
  • Torts

Vanderbilt Law School also offers several programs:

  • Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program
  • Criminal Justice
  • Energy, Environmental & Land Use Law
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • International Legal Studies
  • Law & Business

This dual-degree program is designed to take six years to complete.  

MD/Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics

The Department of Biomedical Informatics is designed to teach students how to collect data relating to bioinformatics: health informatics specifically related to biology. Vanderbilt University’s program has been recognized on an international level for the work that the Department of Biomedical Informatics has achieved. If accepted into both programs, prospective students can become doctors and biomedical informatics researchers. This degree is ideal for students who want to perform scientific research in addition to practicing medicine.

MD/Master of Divinity

This dual-degree program presents students with the opportunity to practice medicine with ministry. The Master of Divinity program teaches students to understand the Christian faith and how it can be interpreted and practiced in daily life. Leading medical missions would be one of the many opportunities open to graduates. 

MD/Master of Theological Studies

The MD/Master of Theological Studies dual degree is a concentration within the Master of Divinity program. Students have two options: a general plan of study or a concentration plan of study. The general plan of study involves:

  • Theological studies (21 hours)
  • Electives (27 hours)
  • Project/thesis or portfolio

The concentration plan of study includes:

  • Core coursework (9 hours)
  • Electives (12-24 hours)
  • Concentration* (9-18 hours)
  • Project or Thesis (3 hours)

The School of Divinity at Vanderbilt University offers the following concentrations:

  • Black Religion and Culture Studies
  • Global Christianities and Interreligious Encounter
  • Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies
  • Prison and Carceral Studies
  • Religion and Economic Justice
  • Religion and the Arts
  • Religion, Gender and Sexuality
  • Spirituality and Social Activism

Graduates of the MD/Master of Theological Studies dual degree are prepared for many of the same opportunities as the graduates of the MD/Master of Divinity dual degree. Students who choose the concentrated plan of study often specialize in that area.

MD/Master of Business Administration

The School of Medicine and the Owen Graduate School of Medicine partnered to offer this dual-degree program. The program is designed to take five years for students to complete. The first three years of the curriculum has students in the School of Medicine. Year Four takes students to Owen Graduate School, and Year Five has students taking courses in both schools. An entire year of coursework is shaved off the curriculum since both schools accept 12 credit hours (or 2 units) from each other toward degree completion. 

MD/Master of Public Health

The MD/Master of Public Health dual degree takes an average of five years to complete. Students who care about healthcare on a larger scale (community care vs. individual care) will enjoy the research skills they gain. 

During the year you spend in the Master of Public Health program, you’ll complete three semesters instead of two. A total of 42 hours of MPH coursework is required to graduate from the program. The practicum experience and thesis research are part of these 42 hours. The Research Immersion Phase of the MD program and the thesis and practicum requirements for the MPH program can be combined together. Details of this can be arranged when you begin the program. 

MD/Master of Education

The School of Medicine and Peabody College at Vanderbilt University partnered to offer students a wealth of experience with education and medicine. This is another five-year program that integrates coursework and double counts credits to graduate students faster. This dual degree is optimal for students who are passionate about medicine and teaching. 

Like the other five-year programs, the first three years are spent in the MD program. The fourth year is spent taking education courses, and the fifth year combines School of Medicine Immersions with the Peabody Capstone. 

MD/Master of Art in Medicine, Health and Society

Like the title suggests, the Master of Art in Medicine, Health and Society curriculum focuses on the intricacies of how medicine, health and society relate to each other. This is another five-year program. For these students, a summer elective or two research electives are required during the fourth year spent in the MA program. The full curriculum can be viewed here.

MD/Master of Science in Clinical Investigation

This dual-degree program focuses on cellular physiology and human disease mechanisms through translational research and clinical investigation. Combining this skill set with your MD will prepare you for an excellent career in medicine and research. 

The Master of Science in Clinical Investigation program exists within the School of Medicine, so you’ll be earning both your degrees within the same college. This means that you don’t need to be admitted into two different schools to be considered for this program. More information on this program can be found here

Tuition Costs

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is on the pricier side, which should come as no surprise for what the School of Medicine offers. Prospective students should budget out approximately $100,000 per year. Tuition amounts to $63,610. Indirect student costs like books, university fees, housing, food and transportation make up the other $37,000. 

Please note that these numbers pertain to the MD program. Costs vary for each program, so if you have a specific dual degree in mind, check that college for specific costs.

Part 3: Getting Accepted into Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Class Statistics

For the incoming class of 2020, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine received 5,880 applications. They sent out 3,972 secondary application
 and invited 520 students to interview. At the end of the admissions process, 96 new students were admitted to the School of Medicine. Out of those 96 students 77 were traditional MD students. The MSTP, MIDP and OMFS schools received the remainder of the new students. This puts Vanderbilt University School of Medicine at a 1.63 percent acceptance, which is the toughest/lowest we’ve seen yet.

Here are some interesting stats for the Class of 2020:

  • 55% female / 45% male
  • 30% underrepresented in medicine
  • 4% international students
  • Over 175,000 hours of research conducted
  • Over 68,000 hours of combined community service
  • Over 41,000 hours of medical exposure
  • 59% took time off before matriculation

Combined, that’s over 284,000 hours of research, community service and medical exposure. If you think you need more hours, consider an internship with International Medical Aid. Our internships will provide you with the hours you need to put on your application and give you life-changing experiences that will help you decide if the medical field is right for you. 

Grades and Test Scores

Incoming students averaged a GPA between 3.5 and 4.0 and MCAT scores in the 74th to 100th percentile. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine will accept any MCAT score from a test taken in the past three years. 

Recommended Courses

To prepare for the rigorous coursework you’ll take as a student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, the university recommends the following coursework.

  • Biology: Molecular and Cellular Biology; Genetics; Organ and Organism Regulation
  • Chemistry/Biochemistry: How chemistry and biochemistry relate to living organisms
  • Mathematics/Statistics and Physics: How math, stats and physics relate to living organisms
  • Social Sciences and Communication: How social sciences and communication pertain to human beings

Timeline for Submitting Your Application

We recommend submitting your applications as early as possible for consideration in Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s next incoming class. Your primary application will be submitted to the American Medical College Application Service. Commonly referred to as the AMCAS, this is a one-size-fits-all application that all medical schools have access to. This saves you hundreds of hours by only having one application to fill out. This application opens in early May and remains open until October. We recommend beginning this application as soon as it opens. Take your time. You’ll want to make sure that everything is perfect; no detail should be left out. It should take you about a month to completely fill out and submit your AMCAS application. 

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is selective. Some medical schools automatically allow everyone to submit a secondary application. But Vanderbilt University School of Medicine will review all the AMCAS applications they receive and then decide who to send the secondary applications to. Your secondary application is the one you’ll submit individually to each medical school you hope to attend. 

So, to keep things straight, here are some bullet points.

  1. Begin your AMCAS application as soon as it opens.
  2. Take your time filling out your application. Make sure everything is perfect.
  3. After submitting your application, wait for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine to send you their secondary application. If you don’t receive it, then you aren’t being considered for their next incoming class.
  4. Complete the secondary application, including the essay questions.
  5. Submit your secondary application with the $85 non-refundable application fee.
  6. Wait, and hope for an interview!

We understand how overwhelming this process can be, especially if this is your first time considering medical school. That’s what International Medical Aid is here for. We believe in you and your ability to succeed. Our medical school experts can review your primary and secondary applications for you. Sometimes a second eye is exactly what you need to ensure that your application isn’t missing anything. Head over to our website to book your appointment with us today. We look forward to working with you!

Part 4: Secondary Essay Prompts with Samples

We find that most prospective students either love or hate the secondary application section. We understand, which is why we’re going to break down each essay question for you, in the following format.

  1. What is the question?
  2. What type of question is this?
  3. How is this question properly answered?

This will be followed by an example essay to help you put together your own essay and feel confident in your answer. Follow the process, and believe in yourself! 

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine only asks prospective students two questions. However, you are given 1,700 words between both essays. So, you’re writing around the same amount of words as you would be for universities that ask five or more questions but only give you 200-300 words to answer each one.

Question #1
Please share with the admissions committee a very difficult situation that you previously faced. Explain the challenge. Why did it challenge you? How did you handle it? If you could go back in time, would you handle the situation differently? Most importantly, what did you learn from the situation? (500 words)

This is your classic adversity essay. In your response, you’ll want to be real with the admissions committee. Acknowledge how hard the situation was, but focus on overcoming it, and how the overall experience helped shape you as a person. 

Here’s an example:

I was raised by my single father. Life was good until middle school when he lost his job. We were dirt poor, living on food stamps in government housing for low-income families. Our tiny apartment had roaches in it, and we never wanted to be home. My father got a minimum wage job to have some way to support me and my brother until he could get us back on our feet. But he was never able to. His job insisted that he was fired instead of laid off from the company making cuts. So, my dad worked two, full-time, minimum-wage jobs. He was gone for over 80 hours every week, leaving me in charge of my brother. We thankfully got out of the roach-infested apartment, but we never got back into a house. 

Growing up without my father there taught me to be a man. I knew he was gone because he loved me and my little brother, and he wanted to provide us with as good of a home as possible. I was responsible to walk my brother home from school every day until he was old enough to go home alone. I went grocery shopping so that my father could sleep when he wasn’t working. I split all the chores between me and my brother. It was hard. I won’t deny that. But seeing my father work and sleep and not do anything else taught me what hard work looks like. The few minutes we had to spend together remain as treasured memories to this day. I knew that my father’s absence was because of how much he loved me and my brother. If he didn’t work as hard as he did, we wouldn’t have been able to live in a sanitary apartment and eat a healthy diet. 

I’m grateful that I was able to help my father by doing chores, caring for my brother and preparing our meals. I learned early on how important teamwork is. When you operate as a cohesive unit, you can pull things together, no matter how hard things might be. If I could go back in time and do things differently, I would try to fight with my brother less. He had a hard time with our father not being around very much. Being three years younger than me, he didn’t always understand why it was me taking care of him instead of our father. He compared his life to his friends’ lives and complained a lot. I understand now how hard things were for him, while at the time I just wanted him to man up and accept our lives for what they were. I learned from this situation that, as important as it is to get through difficult circumstances, I shouldn’t judge how another person responds before I walk a mile in their shoes.

This essay works because it meets all the requirements. He describes the challenging situation and explains how he handled it. He addresses what he would do differently now and shares what he learned from the experience. With these essays, following the directions is as important as writing the essay because it demonstrates your ability to follow directions. Fully answering every part of the question also shows the admissions committee the full picture.

Question #2
Write a 1,200-word autobiography. Within those 1,200 words, paint yourself, your family and the most important parts of your life. Draw on the values from your upbringing that matter most to you. Additionally, if you’ve taken a break since you earned your bachelor’s degree, discuss how you have spent your time.

Writing 1,200 words is roughly twice the length of the first essay. It allows you enough space to write the autobiography, but not enough space to go into a lot of detail. Be concise. Focus on what’s important and why it’s important. The last part–how you’ve spent your time since graduation–only needs to be answered if you’re not going straight from your undergraduate education to medical school. Remember that nearly 60% of the current students at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine have taken time off between degrees, so there’s no shame in it. But if you didn’t take any time off, that gives you more space to focus on other parts of your autobiography.

Here’s an example: 

My mother had me when she was only sixteen. My father bailed when he found out that my mom was pregnant. Thankfully, my grandparents didn’t kick Mom out. She lived life as a teen mom at home, going to school during the day and taking care of baby me in all of her spare time. She lived with them until she met my step-dad, Mark. Mark loved Mom and adopted me after they got married. My earliest memories are playing with Mom and Mark. I’ve grown up with the knowledge that my life could have been far different. I’ve asked myself questions like, “What if my biological dad had stuck around?” “What if my grandparents had kicked my mom out?” “What if Mom hadn’t met Mark?” “What if Mark hadn’t wanted to adopt me?” Knowing how blessed I am to have a mother who loved me enough to sacrifice for me has influenced every part of my life. Whenever I’ve had feelings of self-doubt or worthlessness, I’ve remembered that my mom wanted me at the most inconvenient, difficult, unplanned time in her life. 

Growing up, my mom taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to. Whenever I doubted that, she would draw on experiences from her junior and senior years of high school. I was almost three by the time she graduated, and I was five when she married Mark. So, while she was caring for baby me, Mom was also going to school and attending her classes, applying to colleges and trying to get some sleep. She gave up her dream of attending Southern Methodist University in Texas because she couldn’t make it work while raising me. She taught me early on that making wise decisions was important so that my dreams could come true. She taught me this before I even knew what my dreams were.

I was in elementary school when I learned that my mom had a Caesarean section to give birth to me because she had high blood pressure. She was at a routine well visit a month before my due date when the doctor said that I needed to come out immediately. So, Mom went in for emergency surgery, and I was born less than an hour later. At first, I didn’t understand the severity of the situation. But when I learned how dangerous high blood pressure could be (that both of us could have died), I became extremely grateful for medical interventions. 

As I grew older, my curiosity about medicine grew. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in junior high, so I became aware of how my body worked with blood sugar and insulin. Properly taking care of myself ensured that I would have a good day. If I ran late or neglected to check my blood sugar levels, I was putting myself at risk. I could always go to the hospital if I got really sick, but that would never be ideal. I learned to be responsible and take care of myself so that I could live life as normally as possible. But there was one day when I forgot to prick my finger, so I didn’t know where my glucose levels were. I knew I should go home, get my glucose meter and go back to school, but I had an important test that morning that I didn’t want to miss. Sure, I’d be allowed to make it up, but I had studied hard for it and wanted it to be over as quickly as possible. That was a major mistake. I became really dizzy and had to go to the nurse’s office. I missed my exam and had to make up for it. 

While I was with the nurse waiting for my mom to pick me up, I asked her what being a nurse was like. She told me some pretty cool stories about helping students feel better. She’d done everything from helping other diabetic students to sending sick students home. She once had a ninth-grader throw up on her on the first day of school! Learning about Nurse Tucker’s life got me thinking. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew I wanted to help people.

Mom and Mark encouraged me to do well in school and pursue my interests through extracurricular activities. I was a senior in high school when I decided that I wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to help people feel better, but I wasn’t sure how. I took science classes for my extracurriculars that year, which further confirmed my decision. 

After high school graduation, I spent the summer shadowing a nurse to make sure it was what I wanted to do. What I learned was that I wanted to do more. I felt like my experience was incomplete when I left the room with the nurse I was shadowing and moved on to the next patient. I wanted to find out what was wrong with the patient and treat them. The nurse simply went from room to room, taking vitals and asking questions to profile the patients for the doctor. The thought of attending medical school was daunting and not something I was sure I could take on. But the more I researched it, the more I realized it was what I wanted to do, even if my education would take years longer than I had anticipated spending in college. 

With the full support of Mom and Mark, I decided to set the goal of becoming a doctor. I’m now a senior at Southern Methodist University (yes, where my mother wanted to go) and hope to be accepted into Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. I’m still not sure what kind of doctor I want to be, but I believe I will figure that out as time goes on, in the same way that I knew I wanted to be more than a nurse. 

I firmly believe that our choices dictate our future. By making choices that scare us and setting goals we aren’t sure we can achieve, we are shooting for the stars, which will at least land us on the moon. Knowing I was wanted and chosen in an extremely difficult situation helps me believe that I can get through anything. That includes all-nighters, long rotations and information overload. While I’m not there yet, I believe that will include making difficult decisions as a doctor and doing my best to effectively treat patients. I firmly believe that medical school is the right path for me and that I can achieve my dreams in the MD program at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

This autobiography is 1,111 words, so it makes the cut. This applicant follows all the directions. She explains how her life has been shaped and influenced by the circumstances she was born into, and how her mother adapted her life to be a good mother. Additionally, she shows how she has grown into her own person and set high goals for her life. She answered all the questions included in the essay prompt and met the word requirement. 

Now that we’ve covered the essay prompts and how to write them, let’s look at the admissions process.

Part 5: Your Interview at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Scoring an interview at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is a big deal, especially since less than two percent of applicants make the final cut. Making it to the interview stage speaks to your credibility and preparedness, as well as the quality of your application. 

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine places the responsibility on the student. Once the School of Medicine decides to interview you, it will be up to you to schedule that interview through their Applicant Admission Portal. We’d link to it for you, but this exclusive link is only available to prospective students who are invited to interview. 

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has adapted its interview process to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic. All prospective students will be interviewed via Zoom, either in the morning or the afternoon. Students who interview in the morning will begin their day at 7:30 a.m. and will finish at 1:30 p.m. Students on the afternoon schedule will begin and end two hours later. Unfortunately, while Vanderbilt University School of Medicine will try to take your time zone into consideration when assigning interview times, they don’t guarantee a preferable time. You’ll be given your assigned schedule two weeks before your interview. The virtual activities will be as follows:

  1. Virtual Check-In
  2. Welcome message and Introduction to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  3. Interviews
  4. Overview of the Curriculum with a Research Information Session
  5. Lunch break
  6. Student Experience Session
  7. Closing comments

Even without being able to interview prospective students in person, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is doing their best to make the interview process feel as traditional as possible. Interview days are Monday and Friday, and interviewees can expect two interviews: a shorter one and a longer one. For your shorter interview, anticipate up to 30 minutes. For your longer interview, anticipate up to one hour. 

Go here for more information on the interview process.


Like other schools of the same rank, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has high standards for its applicants. If you want to compare Vanderbilt University to other medical schools, check out the follow guides: As you’ll see, we’ve covered most of the major Ivy League universities.

If you need any help through the admissions process, remember that International Medical Aid is here to help. Our blog is full of resources to help prepare you for the admissions process, and our consulting services are available if you want a professional eye to view your applications or conduct a practice interview with you. Here at International Medical Aid, we want to see you succeed. We’d be thrilled to be part of your medical school journey.