Vanderbilt vs Princeton: A Look at Two Elite Universities

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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Vanderbilt vs Princeton: A Look at Two Elite Universities

When it comes to choosing a university, finding the right one can be a challenging task, especially for students who aspire to study in top-tier institutions. Vanderbilt and Princeton are two prestigious universities that consistently rank among the top 20 universities nationwide. In this comprehensive article, we’ll dive deep into the comparison of Vanderbilt vs Princeton in various aspects, such as location, academics, faculty, cost, and many more. By the end of it, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision about which university is the best fit for you.

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Location and Campus Features: Vanderbilt vs Princeton

When it comes to location, Vanderbilt and Princeton present students with vastly different environments. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University benefits from the thriving music, entertainment, and tech industries of the city. On the other hand, Princeton University is located in a picturesque New Jersey borough and offers easy access to the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and New York City. The campuses of both universities are stunning, with beautiful architecture and lush green spaces that promote an atmosphere of learning and excellence. Vanderbilt’s campus is more spread out, with larger buildings and more open areas, while Princeton’s campus is more compact and features Gothic-style architecture that gives it a timeless feel.

Despite their differences, both universities offer unique features that make them stand out. Vanderbilt University is known for its world-class medical center, which is one of the largest academic medical centers in the Southeast. The medical center provides students with opportunities to gain hands-on experience and work alongside leading medical professionals. Princeton University, on the other hand, is renowned for its strong emphasis on undergraduate education. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1, students at Princeton receive personalized attention and have access to a wide range of academic resources, including research opportunities and independent study programs.

Admissions Criteria: How Do Vanderbilt vs Princeton Compare?

To get accepted into Vanderbilt or Princeton, you’ll need an outstanding academic record coupled with extracurricular activities and community service involvement. Both universities have highly competitive admission rates, with Vanderbilt’s acceptance rate being slightly higher than Princeton’s. Princeton places a strong emphasis on academic achievement in the STEM fields and requires applicants to submit SAT Subject Tests. On the other hand, Vanderbilt requires the submission of either the ACT or SAT scores but doesn’t mandate the Subject Tests.

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In addition to academic and extracurricular achievements, Vanderbilt also values demonstrated interest in the university. This can be shown through campus visits, interviews, and attending information sessions. Princeton, on the other hand, doesn’t consider demonstrated interest in its admissions process. Another factor to consider is the financial aid packages offered by each university. Princeton is known for its generous financial aid program, which covers 100% of demonstrated financial need. Vanderbilt also offers need-based aid but may not cover the full demonstrated need of all students.

Academic Programs and Majors: A Comparative Analysis

Both Vanderbilt and Princeton offer a wide range of academic programs across multiple disciplines. Vanderbilt offers more than 70 undergraduate majors, while Princeton has 36 majors. While Princeton is more STEM-focused, Vanderbilt has strong programs in humanities, social sciences, and business. Princeton’s curriculum is more structured, with a heavy emphasis on a liberal arts education. Vanderbilt has a more flexible structure that allows students to explore and customize their courses and majors.

Additionally, both universities offer unique interdisciplinary programs that allow students to combine multiple fields of study. Princeton’s Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) combines coursework in law, politics, and policy, while Vanderbilt’s Medicine, Health, and Society program combines coursework in medicine, public health, and social sciences.

Faculty and Student Ratio: Which University Offers Better Learning Environment?

One of the defining aspects of an elite university is the quality of its faculty. Both Vanderbilt and Princeton boast some of the most accomplished and respected scholars in their areas of expertise. Princeton has a smaller student-to-faculty ratio, with 5:1 compared to Vanderbilt’s 7:1. This means that students at Princeton get more opportunities to interact with their professors personally, leading to more in-depth discussions and higher quality of instruction.

However, it is important to note that a smaller student-to-faculty ratio does not necessarily guarantee a better learning environment. Vanderbilt’s larger ratio still allows for a personalized and engaging educational experience with professors who are dedicated to their students’ success. Additionally, Vanderbilt offers a wide range of resources and support systems, such as tutoring and academic advising, to ensure that students receive the assistance they need to excel in their studies.

Cost of Attendance: A Complete Breakdown of Fees and Tuition

Paying for college can be a significant burden on students and their families. Both Vanderbilt and Princeton are costly universities, but they offer a range of financial aid options to help offset the costs. For the academic year 2021-2022, the total cost of attendance at Vanderbilt is $77,112, while Princeton’s is slightly lower than $73,450. However, Vanderbilt’s financial aid package is more generous than Princeton’s, making it more affordable for students from low-income backgrounds.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance includes not only tuition and fees but also room and board, textbooks, and other expenses. These additional costs can add up quickly, and students should carefully consider their budget when choosing a college. Furthermore, both Vanderbilt and Princeton offer work-study programs, which allow students to earn money while gaining valuable work experience. This can be a great way to offset the cost of attendance and build skills that will be useful after graduation.

Financial Aid Policies: How Do Vanderbilt vs Princeton Differ?

Both universities offer need-based financial aid to their students, but Vanderbilt has a more generous policy, covering full tuition and fees for students from families earning less than $65,000 per year. Vanderbilt also avoids loans in its financial aid package. Princeton’s aid policy is also notable, with a no-loan policy that ensures that students from all economic backgrounds can attain a Princeton education. The university also has a grant program that ensures that no student has to pay more than ten percent of their household income towards the cost of tuition.

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It is important to note that both universities have different approaches to merit-based scholarships. Vanderbilt offers a range of merit-based scholarships, including the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees for students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement and leadership potential. Princeton, on the other hand, does not offer merit-based scholarships, as the university believes that need-based aid is the most effective way to ensure that all students have access to a Princeton education.

Campus Life: Extracurricular Activities, Sports, and Social Scene Compared

Both Vanderbilt and Princeton offer a diverse range of extracurricular activities, including Greek life, sports teams, social clubs, and volunteer opportunities. At Vanderbilt, Greek life is a significant part of campus culture, with over 60 percent of undergraduates participating in fraternities and sororities. The university also has strong athletic programs, with its baseball team winning the College World Series in 2019. Princeton, on the other hand, has a more subdued social scene, with fewer fraternities and sororities. The university is renowned for its successful athletic teams, with the men’s basketball team making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2021.

Additionally, both universities offer a variety of social clubs and organizations for students to get involved in. Vanderbilt has a thriving music scene, with cappella groups and bands performing regularly on campus. Princeton has a strong focus on community service, with many volunteer opportunities available through the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. Both universities also offer opportunities for students to study abroad, with programs in countries all over the world.

Graduate Outcomes: Employment Rates, Salaries, and Career Prospects Compared

Both Vanderbilt and Princeton have highly successful alumni and graduates. According to the Princeton Review, both universities have high rates of post-graduation employment and a strong network of successful alumni. Graduates from both institutions are some of the highest-paid in the country, with Princeton graduates earning a median salary of $83,600, while Vanderbilt graduates earn a median salary of $67,600.

However, there are some differences in the career prospects of graduates from these two universities. Princeton graduates tend to pursue careers in finance, consulting, and technology, while Vanderbilt graduates often go into healthcare, education, and law. Additionally, Princeton has a higher percentage of graduates who go on to pursue advanced degrees, such as law or business, while Vanderbilt has a higher percentage of graduates who enter the workforce immediately after graduation.

Research Opportunities: Which University Offers Better Research Facilities?

Both Vanderbilt and Princeton are renowned for their cutting-edge research and facilities. Vanderbilt has a more significant research emphasis, with strong programs in biomedical engineering, neuroscience, and genetics. Princeton’s research focuses on theoretical and applied research across multiple disciplines. The university also partners with the nearby Institute for Advanced Study, where some of the world’s leading scholars conduct research.

However, Vanderbilt’s research facilities are more extensive, with state-of-the-art equipment and laboratories. The university has invested heavily in research infrastructure, including the Vanderbilt Institute of Imaging Science, which houses some of the most advanced imaging technologies in the world. On the other hand, Princeton’s research facilities are more specialized, with a focus on specific areas such as astrophysics and computer science. The university’s High-Performance Computing Research Center is one of the most advanced in the world, providing researchers with access to cutting-edge computing resources.

Diversity and Inclusion: A Comparative Study of Student Body Demographics between Vanderbilt vs Princeton

Both universities have made efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on their campuses. Vanderbilt has a student body that is 45 percent students of color and emphasizes diversity and inclusion in its admissions policies. Princeton’s student body is also diverse, with 52 percent of undergraduates identifying as students of color. The university also has a robust program of diversity and inclusion initiatives that aim to foster a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all students.

Additionally, both universities have implemented programs to support underrepresented students. Vanderbilt offers a variety of resources, including mentorship programs and scholarships, to support students from diverse backgrounds. Princeton has a similar program called the Scholars Institute Fellows Program, which provides academic and social support to first-generation and low-income students.

Student Support Services: Counseling, Health Services, Career Centers, and More Compared

Both universities offer comprehensive student support services to help students navigate academic, personal, and professional challenges. Vanderbilt has a well-staffed Student Health Center that provides medical and mental health services to students. The university also has a well-resourced Career Center that offers guidance and support to students seeking employment after graduation.

Three students walking outside a building.

Princeton’s services include a comprehensive Counseling and Psychological Services department that offers individual and group counseling to students. The university also has an Office of Career Services that offers career counseling, job search resources, and networking opportunities to students. Additionally, both universities have robust academic support services. Vanderbilt offers tutoring and academic coaching through the Center for Student Wellbeing, while Princeton has a Writing Center that provides one-on-one consultations to help students improve their writing skills. Both universities also have libraries with extensive collections and resources to support student research and learning.

Alumni Networks: Who Has More Successful Alumni?

Both universities have prodigious alumni networks that extend across multiple industries and sectors. Princeton is known for producing many eminent politicians, scholars, and businesspeople. Vanderbilt’s alumni network is vast and diverse, with notable alumni in fields such as entertainment, politics, and business. Vanderbilt also has a robust alumni mentoring program that connects current students with alumni in their fields of interest. Additionally, Princeton’s alumni network has a strong presence in the legal field, with many graduates going on to become successful lawyers and judges. The university also has a well-established alumni association that hosts events and provides networking opportunities for its members.

Campus Safety and Security Measures Compared

Both universities implement robust safety and security measures to ensure the safety of their student body. Vanderbilt has a University Police Department that provides round-the-clock security and other safety features, such as safety escorts for students at night. Princeton has a Department of Public Safety that provides security and crime prevention services to students, as well as emergency preparedness and response plans in place for critical incidents.

In addition to the safety measures mentioned above, Vanderbilt also has a comprehensive emergency notification system that alerts students, faculty, and staff in the event of an emergency on campus. The university also conducts regular safety drills and provides safety training to students and staff. Princeton, on the other hand, has a robust network of security cameras placed strategically across the campus to monitor any suspicious activity. The university also has a dedicated team of security personnel who patrol the campus 24/7 to ensure the safety of the students and staff.

Rankings Comparison: How Do Vanderbilt vs Princeton Rank in National Surveys?

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Both universities consistently rank highly in various national surveys and rankings. According to the US News and World Report, Princeton is currently ranked first among national universities, while Vanderbilt is ranked sixteenth. Princeton is also consistently highly ranked in international surveys, being ranked as the second-best university in the world by the Times Higher Education Rankings. However, Vanderbilt has been recognized for its strong undergraduate teaching and commitment to undergraduate education. In the Princeton Review’s 2021 rankings, Vanderbilt was ranked as the third-best university for undergraduate teaching in the United States. This is a testament to Vanderbilt’s dedication to providing a high-quality education to its students.


As we’ve seen, both Vanderbilt and Princeton are two elite universities that offer excellent academic programs, faculty, and student support services. When comparing Vanderbilt vs Princeton, each university has its unique strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to you as a student to decide which university will best meet your needs and interests. Consider factors such as location, cost of attendance, the academic curriculum, and the extracurricular activities available before making your decision. With this guide, you’re now equipped with all the information you need to make an informed choice and prepare for your future success as a student. Good luck!

It’s important to note that while academic programs and extracurricular activities are important, the social atmosphere of a university can also greatly impact your college experience. Both Vanderbilt and Princeton have unique campus cultures, and it’s worth researching and visiting each campus to get a feel for the community and student life. Remember, college is not just about academics but also about personal growth and building lifelong connections.


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