Stressful life events are ubiquitous and well-known to negatively impact mental health. However, in both humans and animal models, there is large individual variability in how individuals respond to stress, with some but not all experiencing long-term adverse consequences. While there is growing understanding of the neurobiological underpinnings of the stress response, much less is known about how neurocircuits shaped by lifetime experiences are activated during an initial stressor and contribute to this selective vulnerability versus resilience. We developed a model of acute social defeat stress (ASDS) that allows classification of male mice into “susceptible” (socially avoidant) versus “resilient” (expressing control-level social approach) one hour after exposure to six minutes of social stress. Using circuit tracing and high-resolution confocal imaging, we explored differences in activation and dendritic spine density and morphology in the prelimbic cortex to basolateral amygdala (PL→BLA) circuit in resilient versus susceptible mice. Susceptible mice had greater PL→BLA recruitment during ASDS and activated PL→BLA neurons from susceptible mice had more and larger mushroom spines compared to resilient mice. We hypothesized identified structure/function differences indicate an overactive PL→BLA response in susceptible mice and used an intersectional chemogenetic approach to inhibit the PL→BLA circuit during or prior to ASDS. We found in both cases that this blocked ASDS-induced social avoidance. Overall, we show PL→BLA structure/function differences mediate divergent behavioral responses to ASDS in male mice. These results support PL→BLA circuit overactivity during stress as a biomarker of trait vulnerability and potential target for prevention of stress-induced psychopathology.