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Last updated March 21, 2024

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How to Get into Notre Dame

Key Takeaway

The Notre Dame admissions office says it all: when you apply to Notre Dame, you're up against the best and brightest in the world. To be admitted, you'll need more than good grades. Your application narrative will have to be authentic and compelling.

A private research university known for its Catholic affiliation, rigorous education, and football team, Notre Dame brings in over 20,000 applications each year. With an acceptance rate around 15%, it’s also one of the most difficult to earn admission to.

In this guide, we’ll go through the most-asked questions about crafting your Notre Dame application. And I’ll also let you in on our strategy secrets, giving you some concrete ways to increase your chances of admission.

Are you ready? Let’s begin.

How to Apply to Notre Dame

To apply to Notre Dame, the first thing you’ll need is a Common Application or Coalition Account—whichever fits your fancy. Notre Dame also partners with QuestBridge, so you might find them there, too.

Once you’ve got your account created, you (and your school) will need to upload lots of good information, like your background information, high school transcript, school report, extracurricular activities list, personal statement, and recommendations.

Notre Dame doesn’t do interviews, so you won’t need to worry about those, but you can submit optional test scores if you’d like to.

When all that is out of the way, you’ll also need to complete the Notre Dame supplement, for which you’ll need to write additional supplemental essays (more on that at the end of this post).

Notre Dame Application Options

Notre Dame is one of the few schools outside of the Ivy League that offers a “Restrictive Early Action” application plan rather than an Early Decision or Early Action one.

Restrictive Early Action can mean different things. At Notre Dame, a Restrictive Early Action application is non-binding. Under an REA application, you can still apply Early Action to other schools, but you are not allowed to apply Early Decision anywhere else. You can, however, apply to a school ED II after the Notre Dame decision release.

Whew–that was a lot. You can read more about the REA application on Notre Dame’s admissions website.

Now, if you’re not willing to give up your ED, then you can also apply Regular Decision to Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Application Deadlines

Restrictive Early Action: November 1

Regular Decision: January 1

How hard is it to get into Notre Dame?

Notre Dame’s 15% acceptance rate places it somewhere in the middle of highly-selective universities.

It’s nowhere near Stanford or MIT in terms of admissions difficulty, but Notre Dame does tend to be more competitive than schools like Boston University, NYU, and the University of Michigan.

To get into Notre Dame, you’re still going to need near-perfect stats, standout extracurriculars, and compelling personal characteristics. But at 15%, it’s more of a “reach” for most people rather than a “super reach.” (Not sure what those terms mean? See our advice about school list building.)

In short, getting into Notre Dame is tough—but not impossible.

What does Notre Dame look for in applicants?

Notre Dame doesn’t tread lightly on their evaluation criteria page. They tell you how it is: “You’re up against the best and the brightest in the world.”

But you probably already knew that.

If Notre Dame is on your list, then chances are you’re already a really strong student. You’ve likely aced the vast majority of your classes and found ways to challenge yourself across the board. You’re probably deeply involved in your community and have found ways to hone your best talents.

These characteristics are all necessary to get into Notre Dame, but they’re just the beginning. Plenty of other applicants will bring the exact same credentials to the table. To really stand out, you’ll need to create a compelling narrative about how you are the perfect fit for Notre Dame.

And to do that, you’ll need to think about where your own experiences and values intersect with Notre Dame’s mission.

Consider browsing Notre Dame’s website and mission statement to find key values that resonate with you. Here are a few drawn from their evaluation criteria page: academic achievement, creativity, passion, involvement, service, and community. Infusing these values into your supplemental essays in particular can bring your application to life.

The more you can create an application that authentically aligns with what Notre Dame has to offer, the better your chances of admission.

Notre Dame GPA requirement

There’s no GPA cutoff at Notre Dame, so they won’t kick your application to the curb if you don’t have a 4.0.

BUT. A strong GPA is really, really important if you want to be admitted. As you may have read in our How Selective Admissions Offices Process 50k Applications post, your GPA can be one of the first ways of winnowing down your application’s potential pathways. The stronger, the better.

And Notre Dame GPAs tend to be strong. As you may remember from our Notre Dame Common Data Set post, a large percentage of students admitted to Notre Dame are near the top of their graduating class. In fact, of the enrolled first-year students who submitted class rank, a whopping 91% were in the top tenth of their class.

So there may not be a GPA cutoff per se, but you should be prepared to need a strong GPA to get in.

Notre Dame SAT Scores

Because Notre Dame is remaining test-optional for the time being, one strategic choice you’ll have to make is deciding whether or not to submit your scores.

We have a whole post on test-optional strategy, so you should read that for more nuance. But at the heart of test-optional strategy is something called the “middle 50%,” which tells us what SAT and ACT scores the middle half of students earned.

Here are Notre Dame’s:

SAT Reading: 700-760

SAT Math: 710-790

ACT Composite: 32-35

Of the enrolled first-year students who submitted ACT scores, for example, those who were in the middle 50% scored a 32-35. That also means that 25% scored at or below a 32, and 25% scored at or above a 35.

If you want to be a competitive applicant, then it makes sense that you’d want to be in the test score range alongside the applicants who were successful. To do that, your score should be within (or, preferably, at the higher end of) the middle 50%.

Does Notre Dame superscore?

Yep! Notre Dame superscores. They’ll take your highest scores in each section of the SAT or ACT and combine them to make one “superscore” that is your highest possible combination. Superscoring can be a game-changer (and can relieve some of the stress you feel on your test date).

What high school course work do I need to get into Notre Dame?

Notre Dame doesn’t require students to take a strict course load, but they do have some helpful recommendations. Let’s take a look:

  • English: 4 years
  • Math: 3-4 years
  • Science: 2+ years
  • History or social studies: 2+ years
  • Foreign language: 2+ years

As always, the more core academic classes you have, the better. It’s always fun to take a ceramics class or study hall or even a free period, but admissions officers prefer to see that you’re challenging yourself as much as possible. To do that, you’ll need to stock up on your core subjects.

But there’s another caveat. You don’t just want to take core subjects. You want to take rigorous core subjects, which means enrolling in AP, IB, and Dual-Enrollment classes. As we know from the Notre Dame Common Data Set, rigor is one of the few things they consider “very important,” so rigor should be one of your top priorities. (Your school doesn’t offer much in terms of rigor? Don’t worry—Notre Dame admissions officers always evaluate your transcript within the context of what your school offers. Just do the best you can with what you have.)

There’s one more thing to keep in mind. When planning out your coursework, you can think about your intended college major and plan accordingly. If you’re interested in engineering, make sure you’re on the path to take calculus and physics. If you want to do pre-med, challenge yourself with the highest-level biology and chemistry courses your school offers. Notre Dame’s website has more subject-specific course recommendations, so be sure to check them out.

As you’re planning, you might even find it helpful to imagine yourself as a Notre Dame admissions officer. If you were to look at your transcript from their perspective, what conclusions would you draw? Are your passions and talents apparent? What would you want to see more or less of?

A well-planned course load can make all the difference, so you should be off to the races when you’re done.

What extracurriculars do I need to get into Notre Dame?

We always like to talk about extracurriculars in terms of magnitude, reach, and impact. (We actually have a whole post on finding the right way to communicate your extracurriculars.) In short, this philosophy is all about highlighting the significance of your extracurriculars, no matter what they are.

Your Notre Dame application is no different. As much as you may wish it were true, there’s no singular “golden ticket” extracurricular that will get you into Notre Dame. Successful Notre Dame applicants come from all kinds of backgrounds and have been involved in all sorts of ways.

The key word, though, is “involved.” If you aren’t able to demonstrate deep involvement in some area of your life outside of the classroom, your chances of getting into Notre Dame aren’t so good.

Notre Dame has a huge emphasis on community, compassion, and engagement. Even a quick skim through the “Why ND” page will tell you that.

If you want to join a community, you’ve gotta walk the walk. Your extracurriculars are one opportunity to do that.

So as you look through your extracurriculars or choose new ones, keep a few things in mind:

  1. How does this activity contribute to one of my passions? What does it say about me?
  2. How can I communicate my involvement and engagement? Are there any numbers I can use to demonstrate my impact?
  3. Does this activity or accomplishment have high or low reach? Am I making a difference at the local, regional, national, or international level?
  4. How do my extracurricular activities align with Notre Dame’s values and mission?

Answering these questions will help you communicate about any extracurricular in a way that grabs your Notre Dame admissions officer’s attention.

Final Takeaways + Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

Finding the right application strategy is never easy, especially as you adjust it for each school you apply to. But now that you’ve reached the end of this guide, you’re ready to craft your Notre Dame application. I’m confident of it.

You’ve learned how to navigate GPA and test score expectations, plan your coursework and extracurriculars, and craft a successful application narrative.

But you’re still missing one key piece. Did you catch it? Yep—your essays.

We’ve left them out of this guide intentionally. There’s far too much to cover, so they deserved their own post. When you’re ready to start writing, head on over to the Notre Dame Supplemental Essay Guide, and we’ll show you how to write essays that will tie your entire application strategy together. See you there!



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