Admission Questions

  • What is Next Steps at Vanderbilt?

    Next Steps at Vanderbilt is the university's 4-year inclusive higher education program for students with intellectual disability, providing individualized programs of study in the areas of education, social skills, and vocational training. The goal of the program is to broaden the career options and opportunities for these individuals in inclusive, age-appropriate settings. Next Steps is a federally approved Comprehensive Transition Program by the Department of Education.

  • How do I apply for admission?

    Once the completed online application and supporting documents have been received and reviewed, selected candidates are contacted for an interview. Selected candidates are then asked to participate in a preview day on campus. This day is designed to afford the potential students and Next Steps staff more time to decide if Next Steps at Vanderbilt will be a good match for all. Application deadlines are November 15th for early consideration and January 15th for regular consideration. Accepted students must complete a week-long residential orientation at the Next Steps Summer Institute before coming to Vanderbilt.

    You can find out more about how to apply and the selection process here.

  • What are the factors in selection of a Next Steps at Vanderbilt student?

    A Next Steps at Vanderbilt student is between the ages of 18 and 26, was served under an Individual Education Plan (IEP) while in high school, and has an intellectual disability. Eligible students must have a strong desire to participate in the college experience, to secure paid employment, and to achieve greater independence.

  • If my son or daughter's graduation date is uncertain, should he or she apply anyway?

    Your son or daughter may apply, and the application fee may be paid. However, if he or she applies and does not graduate, the application will not be kept in active status. He or she will need to reapply after actual graduation and application fees will need to be paid again. If you are unsure whether your son or daughter will graduate, it might be best to wait until circumstances are more certain. Because Next Steps at Vanderbilt accepts students up to age 26, there should be plenty of time for consideration. 

  • How many students are accepted into the program?

    On average, ten students are accepted each year.

Tuition and Financial Aid Questions

  • How much does Next Steps at Vanderbilt cost?

    Though fees are subject to adjustment, total semester expenses for 2022-2023 are $12,354* ($24,708 annually). 

  • Is financial assistance available?

    There are several opportunities for financial assistance. Please see a complete list of tuition assistance on our How Do We Pay for Next Steps at Vanderbilt document.


    Next Steps at Vanderbilt is a federally approved Comprehensive Transition Program. This status enables eligible students to apply for Federal Financial Aid. The Federal Student Aid website has added a page explaining financial aid for students with ID.

    The Vanderbilt Office of Financial Aid is also a resource. Contact Erika Williams for assistance: erika.t.williams@vanderbilt.edu; 1-800-288-0204 (toll free) or 615-322-3591 (local) for Next Steps financial aid assistance. 

Residential Questions

  • Is there a residential component?

    We do not currently offer a residential component as part of our program.

Program of Study Questions

  • Is Next Steps at Vanderbilt a certificate program?

    Yes.  Next Steps at Vanderbilt is a Comprehensive Transition Program. Students who complete program requirements will receive a Career and Community Studies certificate of completion from Next Steps at Vanderbilt University.

  • How does a Next Steps at Vanderbilt student participate in a Vanderbilt class?

    Each student has a Learning Agreement that modifies course requirements to meet the student's individual abilities.

    Taking part in classes provides an opportunity for the student to explore his or her interests and to move toward employment goals.  Participation also provides an opportunity for the student to learn valuable independent living skills. For example, students are expected to get to class on time and are expected to complete assignments within their Learning Agreement.

  • Do the Next Steps at Vanderbilt students follow a 9-5 Monday through Friday schedule?

    No. This is a true college experience. A schedule on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday can look very different from a schedule on Tuesday and Thursday. Depending on the student's internship, class schedule, and social events calendar, each day may look completely different.

Student Support Questions

  • How much assistance will my son/daughter get?

    Remember that part of the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program agenda is to encourage independence. Although the students are supported by their Ambassa'dores, there are times when the students will have time alone.  Ambassa'dores are encouraged to fade their assistance as early as they can and then continue to enjoy time spent together in a purely social context. 

  • What is an Ambassa'dore?

    A diverse group of individuals from the Vanderbilt University student body are selected to serve as peer mentors. The students receive training and on-going support from Next Steps at Vanderbilt staff. VU students have the opportunity to serve as academic tutors, daily planners, work-out partners, lunch partners, or campus life Ambassa'dores.

  • Are tutors available to students?

    Yes. Each student enrolled through Next Steps typically has 2-3 Ambassa'dores who will serve as academic tutors.

  • How can families get involved in supporting their son or daughter's educational goals?

    Next Steps at Vanderbilt holds bi-monthly parent and family meetings. Parents and family members can play an important role in reinforcing at home what is being learned in the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program. For example, students practice cooking healthy meals for their peers. Parents can reinforce these skills by letting their son or daughter be responsible for preparing some of these recipes when cooking dinner at home.

Campus and Community Involvement Questions

  • What are some of the extracurricular activities available?

    In their first semester, Next Steps at Vanderbilt students are strongly encouraged to join the Vanderbilt chapter of Best Buddies. Beyond that, activities available to Vanderbilt students are offered to Next Steps at Vanderbilt students. Some examples of student organization involvement include the Vanderbilt Student Government Association and Vanderbilt Baseball Club.

  • What is Best Buddies?

    Best Buddies is an international organization with a chapter on the Vanderbilt campus. Best Buddies members are students who are devoted to enhancing the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities through providing opportunities for one-on-one friendships.

  • Are internships available?

    Yes. Internships are a required component of the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program. The internships allow for valuable work experience. Internships are chosen based upon student interests.