How To Get Into Notre Dame: The Definitive Guide

Landscape photo of Notre Dame University's Golden Dome
September 8, 2022
About Notre DameNotre Dame RequirementsNotre Dame Acceptance RateNotre Dame Class ProfileNotre Dame Supplemental EssaysHow to Apply to Notre DameShould I apply to Notre DameFAQsConclusion

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/10/22

Read below to learn more about marshmallows, Notre Dame, and what you need to do to study in Indiana.

Football and marshmallows are not a common combination (and one we wouldn’t recommend eating together). 

However, at the University of Notre Dame, this is an age-old tradition. When the Fighting Irish’s last football game of the season comes around, Notre Dame’s students throw marshmallows throughout the student section of the stadium. 

Inspired by its catholic character, Notre Dame is a private research university located in Notre Dame, Indiana. It is also one of the best universities in the country; US News ranks it #19 on its’ “National Universities” list. 

This article will outline how to get into Notre Dame, what the admissions requirements are, and some top tips on how to get accepted.

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About Notre Dame

Notre Dame's mission statement reads:

“is dedicated to the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake. As a Catholic university, one of its distinctive goals is to provide a forum where, through free inquiry and open discussion, the various lines of Catholic thought may intersect with all the forms of knowledge found in the arts, sciences, professions, and every other area of human scholarship and creativity.” 

Notre Dame is a top 20 national research institution and provides you with numerous opportunities to complete undergraduate research with world-class academics. 

You can pursue creative projects beyond the classroom and engage with professors in institutes like the Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute or the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

Community is an important part of every student’s journey at Notre Dame, and every first-year student lives in one of the 33 on-campus residence halls. Students also have access to over 500 student clubs and groups

Notre Dame offers its students a global experience; 75% of its students spend time studying abroad. You can pursue over 50 international programs in 26 countries during the academic year and 24 programs in the summer. 

The locations where you can study abroad include: 

Students can also work towards a supplementary global affairs major at the ​​Donald R. Keough School of Global Affairs

Notre Dame Requirements

Before you step foot on Notre Dame’s campus as a first-year student, you’ll need to fulfill its standardized testing requirements. 

Please note that for the current application cycle, Notre Dame has gone test-optional. This means that you are not required to submit any test results aside from your English Language Proficiency scores. 

ACT

College admissions committees used the American College Test (ACT) to determine if you are ready for college by assessing you in several key areas. You must complete four multiple-choice tests and an optional writing test: 

Notre Dame’s admitted students achieved the middle 50% range of ACT scores of 33-35. While there are no minimum ACT scores you need to achieve, use these scores as a benchmark for what you should aim for. 

SAT 

Much like the ACT, the SAT Reasoning Test (SAT) is used by colleges to determine if you can handle the difficulty of college-level programs. You are assessed in three key areas: 

Notre Dame’s admitted students achieved the middle 50% range of composite SAT scores from 1460-1540. Again, while there is no required score, try to aim for the higher end of this range.

If you take either test multiple times, Notre Dame will superscore your tests. This means that the admissions committee will consider the highest scores from each section regardless of when you took the test. 

English Proficiency Testing 

If English is not your first language, Notre Dame requires you to take an English proficiency test. The accepted tests include: 

Notre Dame acknowledges that the ACT and SAT are geared towards US students. So, it states that if students achieve a high score on their proficiency exam, this can “balance a student’s testing profile.” 

While there is no minimum required scores, Notre Dame recommends you achieve the following scores: 

If you score 650 or above on the SAT’s Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, you can obtain an English proficiency test waiver. Similarly, you can obtain a waiver if you achieve 26 or above on the ACT’s English or Reading sections. 

GPA

The average GPA of Notre Dame’s admitted students is 4.07. This is an extremely competitive GPA as the average GPA of high school graduates is 3.0 

Interviews

Notre Dame does not conduct interviews in its admissions process. Hailey Oppenlander, a current student at Notre Dame, says Notre Dame looks at your essays as a “stand-in” for the interview. 

Notre Dame Acceptance Rate

Of the 26,509 applications Notre Dame received, it admitted 3,420 students. This means Notre Dame’s acceptance rate is 12.3%.

Pie charts showing the number of students Notre Dame admitted

Source: Notre Dame 

Yield Rate

A school’s yield rate tells us how many of the admitted students chose to enroll there. Of the 3,420 admitted students, 2,053 enrolled, meaning Notre Dame’s yield rate is 60%.

Tips to Get into Notre Dame

Notre Dame is extremely selective; the most competitive students are near the top of their class. 

However, we’ve compiled some top tips on how to get into Notre Dame to help you submit the strongest application possible! 

Complete Challenging Coursework 

Every student applying to Notre Dame must complete 16 units in high school. Although the distribution of your high school classes depends on what you want to pursue in college, you must take at least: 

However, while this is the minimum requirement, the most competitive applicants will push themselves. The rigor of your high school coursework is one of the first things admissions officers will look at to gain an insight into your academic ability.

Indeed, Notre Dame states, “our most competitive applicants will have four units in each major academic area and in the most rigorous level their high school offers.” 

Of course, the difficulty of the courses available to you will vary depending on which high school you attend. Notre Dame will take this into account and look at your GPA in the context of your school, and the difficulty of its programs.  

Maria Finan, an Admissions Counselor with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Notre Dame, recommends students to challenge themselves academically across several disciplines.  

You should try to choose a curriculum that demonstrates your readiness to tackle the rigor of college-level education. Take advanced placement (AP) courses, dual enrollment courses, and honors courses if you can. 

However, you also need sleep, so balancing your work and social life is crucial. If your school offers 30 AP classes, you don’t have to take them all. 

Colleges don’t want to see you take too many difficult courses and achieve a 3.0 GPA. On the other hand, they also don’t want to see you get a 4.0 in the most basic classes possible. 

Thus, it’s important to achieve the best grades while taking the most challenging courses you can manage.

Demonstrate Leadership Qualities 

Your extracurriculars matter as Notre Dame wants to admit passionate people with diverse interests. 

The activities section of your application is where you can show the admissions committee what you do outside of the classroom. This is important as it indicates who you are, something which your test scores can’t do. 

Matt Greene, an Assistant Director with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, writes that “a very important part of your activities is expressing your leadership roles in these activities and how you have grown in them over the years.”

Leadership is a quality that can distinguish you in a competitive applicant pool. It also serves as an indication of how you will make an impact on the college’s campus, clubs, and organizations if you are admitted. 

Notre Dame Class Profile

Below, we have some statistics on a recent class profile. We’ve included demographics, and faculty-to-student ratios. 

Demographics

Of the 2,063 first-year students at Notre Dame, 52% are male, and 48% are female. Almost 32.7% are US students of color, and 71 nationalities are represented in this class. 

The enrolled students come from the following regions: 

chart outlining the demographics for notre dame

Just over 20% of Notre Dame’s first-year students are first-generation students, Pell grant winners, or have a household income of less than $465,000.

Student to Faculty Ratio

Notre Dame’s student to faculty ratio is 9:1. Over 60% of its classes have less than 20 students, and 74% have less than 30.

Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

“Reflect, have fun, show us who you really are.”

Notre Dame uses your supplemental essay responses to learn more about you outside of your grades and test scores. 

Chiefly, the admissions committee wants to know what decisions you have made, adventures you have been on, things that interest you, challenges you’ve faced, and lessons you’ve learned. 

Supplemental Essay Prompts

The University of Notre Dame’s supplemental essay prompts are split into two sections: one prompt you must answer and one that you can choose from a list provided. 

Overall, you will write two 200-word responses.

Notre Dame’s required question reads:

The founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Blessed Basil Moreau, wrote, “We shall always place education side by side with instruction; the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.” How do you hope a Notre Dame education and experience will transform your mind and heart?” 

For your second response, you can choose to answer one of the following questions:  

Option #1 

“During the spring semester, Notre Dame faculty gave 3-Minute Lightning Talks on exciting topics within their fields of expertise. While you don't have a Ph.D. yet, we bet you're developing an expertise in something. If you were giving a Lightning Talk, what topic (academic or not) would you choose?”

Option #2

“There is a story or meaning behind every name or nickname—both those we’re given and those that we choose. What is meaningful to you about your name?”

Option #3

“What would you fight for?”

How to Write the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

Writing your Notre Dame supplemental essays isn’t easy as you’ll need to put a lot of thought into them. But, we’ve put together several tips on how to write stellar responses. 

Research Notre Dame

The key to answering the required prompt is simple; Emily LaPlaca, an Assistant Director in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Notre Dame, encourages you “to use this question to really examine why you are applying to Notre Dame in the first place.” 

Doing college research is an essential part of answering the required prompt, as you can use examples to explain why Notre Dame is perfect for you. However, this is easier said than done as you will have to be detailed and specific in your research. 

You should scour every resource available: Notre Dame’s student blogs, website, social media platforms, podcasts, and virtual seminars. 

There are two parts to this question - education and experience. So, you must touch on both in your response. Crucially, you must then use these examples to say how they will “transform your mind and heart.” 

For example, perhaps you are interested in learning about Irish art, culture, and literature. 

You can write that Notre Dame’s famed Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies would be the ideal place to pursue this. You can explain that undergraduate students can take classes like Great Irish Writers, Ireland on Screen, The Fighting Irish: A History, Women's Voices, and Irish Folklore

The institute also provides opportunities to meet guest writers, artists, and visiting faculty members. This can provide you with exceptional opportunities to discuss your opinions and findings with experts in the field. 

Additionally, Notre Dame’s Irish Dance Club will provide you with an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture. This, in turn, will help you meet new people and try new activities. 

Show Notre Dame that you know which resources you want to take advantage of and explain how they will help you achieve your goals or change your perspective. 

Engage the Reader With Your Story 

Choosing a topic to write about for your supplemental essays is difficult. However, the simplest way to approach something like the “What would you fight for?” prompt is to write about what you truly believe. 

Take the time to brainstorm some ideas and figure out what you truly care about. If you are struggling with choosing a topic, that’s okay! The admissions committee wants to get to know you when they read your responses. 

So, inject your personality into them, and you’ll be fine.

Maria Finan, an Admissions Counselor with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Notre Dame, notes that “the topic is often less important than how the story is told. If a story reveals something about who you are, what you value, where you’re from, or an event or person who has shaped you, that’s often a story worth telling.”

For example, perhaps you live near a national park and are passionate about maintaining its natural beauty. 

You can write about how you have raised money to help maintain its public footpaths and written to your local government official to lobby for more funding in that sector. Then, bring the message home by explaining why you feel so passionately about the topic. 

Perhaps this national park is where you always go when you are sad, or it’s part of your wider desire to help people in your local community. Whatever you write, make your response personal. 

But, what if another applicant writes about the same topic or experience? 

Admissions officers read hundreds and hundreds of essays each application cycle, so some topics will undoubtedly crop up more than once. 

Yet, writing about a similar topic to another candidate does not matter as long as you use your story to explain your unique perspective in your authentic voice. After all, no one else has experienced what you have. 

The best admissions essays are the ones that leave the admissions committee with a sense that they know you. 

Trim the Extra Fat 

Writing about your experiences is not easy, especially if you have to cram them into 200-word snippets. 

Establishing context is important, as you need to provide some background information on an experience before reflecting on it. However, dedicating too many words to context leaves you little room to explain why it is important to you. 

A great way to manage your word count is to focus on specific and detailed experiences or topics. Expanding upon one idea thoroughly is better than mentioning three and not fleshing any of them out. 

Ask Someone to Proofread Your Work 

Your essays should be well-written; Notre Dame’s admissions committee will assess your writing, grammar, and chosen topic. 

It is helpful to ask someone to proofread your work as it becomes really difficult to effectively edit your own work after staring at it for several hours. Having a pair of fresh eyes look at it is invaluable. 

So, who do you choose? 

LaPlaca recommends you choose someone who knows you well. This can include a mentor, family member, or close friends. 

Once you have identified your proofreader, ask them if your writing sounds like your authentic voice. If they read it and think it sounds like you, the admissions committee will likely feel similarly. 

Excellent proofreaders will look at your work in two stages. First, they should interrogate the content, identify areas that need work, and comment on your overarching narrative. After this, they should double-check your punctuation, grammar, style, and spelling. 

An extremely important part of this process is making sure that your voice shines through any edits made. Notre Dame wants to hear your story in your own words, not your proofreader’s. 

If you are struggling with writing your admissions essays, seek the help of an admissions expert who can guide you through the process.  

How to Apply to Notre Dame

Here we’ll provide a brief overview of how to apply to Notre Dame. 

Application Process and Deadlines

Applicants to Notre Dame must use one of three online applications:

The deadline for submitting your Regular Decision application is early January. However, before you submit your application, you must meet several admissions requirements

Letters of Recommendation  

Notre Dame requires you to submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher in a “core” academic subject. These subjects include: 

Notre Dame also recommends you submit an evaluation from your guidance or college counselor. Counselors, unlike most teachers, may be aware of your accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom, which can help the admissions committee get a clearer picture of you. 

Restrictive Early Action Date and Acceptance Rate

You must apply to Notre Dame’s non-binding Restrive Early Action program by November 1st. 

Of the 9,683 total Early Action applicants, Notre Dame admitted 1,675. Meaning its acceptance rate is around 17.3%. Although this is slightly higher than the Regular Decision acceptance rate, the most competitive applicants will apply for Early Action. 

So, if you want to apply for Notre Dame’s Early Action program, you’ll need to produce a stellar application. 

Should I Apply to Notre Dame?

If you want to join a vibrant research community with global ties, Notre Dame is the place for you. 

Of course, gaining admission to Notre Dame isn’t easy. So, we’ve assembled several questions and answers to make the admissions process as easy as possible. 

FAQs

1. Can I send another letter of recommendation?

Yes, although it is optional as Notre Dame prefers quality over quantity.  

You should only send Notre Dame an additional letter of recommendation if it provides “more context for your application.” Essentially, it has to add something to your application to be useful. 

2. Which teacher should I ask to write a letter of recommendation for me?

As noted above, your recommender should teach you in a “core” academic subject like science, English, or math. 

Most applicants submit letters from a current teacher in the 12th grade or a previous teacher in the 11th grade who recently taught the applicant. 

Aside from that, Notre Dame doesn’t state many preferences. It does stipulate that you should “ask the classroom teacher who is most familiar with your work ethic, classroom performance, and character.” 

3. What is Notre Dame’s non-binding Restrictive Early Action program? 

If you apply to Notre Dame’s non-binding restrictive Early Action program, you cannot apply to other college’s binding Early Decision programs. 

However, you can still apply to another university’s Early Action and Regular Decision programs. You may choose to wait until early May to indicate which college you want to attend if you apply to Notre Dame’s Early Action program. 

4. Can I attach supplementary materials to my application?

Yes, although only certain applicants are encouraged to attach supplementary materials to their applications. 

If you intend to study art, music, or architecture at Notre Dame, you are encouraged to attach additional materials like a creative portfolio. Any and all supplementary materials must be uploaded through the SlideRoom section of the Common Application or Coalition Application.  

5. Does Notre Dame prefer the SAT over the ACT? 

Notre Dame has no preference and will review your SAT and ACT scores equally. 

6. When should I take my standardized tests? 

You should take the SAT or ACT as early as possible. 

Many applicants sit their exams while in their senior or junior year. Make sure that you leave plenty of time to re-sit any exams if you’re unhappy with your scores. Remember, Notre Dame will superscore your tests. 

Final Thoughts

Notre Dame is one of the nation’s finest research institutions and is an extremely competitive school. 

But, hopefully, the tips listed above have helped you understand how to get into Notre Dame. The admissions officials at Notre Dame value your GPA and the rigor of your high school coursework highly, so take as many challenging courses as you can. 

Pursuing extracurricular activities that illustrate your leadership skills is also an excellent way to stand out in the applicant pool. Your supplemental essays provide you with a chance to expand upon your experiences and inject your personality into your application. 

Take the time to research for and edit your admissions essays. Good luck with your application!

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