How to Get Into Notre Dame

Padya Paramita

How to Get Into Notre Dame

If you’re looking for a prestigious college located in the Midwest, you should have your eyes on the University of Notre Dame. Your interest might stem from the possibility of attending a strong undergraduate business school in the form of The Mendoza College. Or you could be drawn in by the fact that 80% of pre-med graduates at Notre Dame get into medical school. That’s almost twice the national average! You’re not the only one wondering how to get into Notre Dame though, because the number of applicants at Notre Dame reached an all-time high of 22,200 in the 2018-19 application cycle. 

Currently ranked 15 among national universities, this institution has gotten increasingly selective over the years, with an acceptance rate of only 15.4%! So how do you prove to the admissions officers that your goals, interests, and background make you a unique candidate? To help guide you through the question of how to get into Notre Dame, I’ve outlined more on the undergraduate schools within Notre Dame, the academic requirements and expectations, the best ways to pursue your extracurriculars, how to take advantage of the essay components, and finally, the deadlines and protocols you must follow to ensure your application is complete.

The Different Notre Dame Undergraduate Colleges

If you’re considering how to get into Notre Dame, you might already know which among Notre Dame’s undergraduate colleges offers your choice of major:

  • School of Architecture
  • College of Arts and Letters
  • College of Engineering
  • Mendoza College of Business
  • College of Science

You have to select one of the above colleges when you apply to Notre Dame through the Common App.

How to Get Into Notre Dame

Once you’ve picked a college, you’ll get a new drop-down menu that contains all of the majors that you can apply for at the college of your choice:

How to Get Into Notre Dame

One thing to note is that if you’re a contender for the Mendoza College of Business, you can indicate a second interest area because there are very few spots:

How to Get Into Notre Dame

Although you don’t have to officially declare your major until your sophomore year, you should carefully think about the competitiveness of the pool you’re applying to, and whether your choice of discipline fits in with the rest of your profile. This way, you can convey to admissions officers that you have focused your time on building your candidacy around your interests and goals. Plus, you do have to apply to one of the colleges, so it’s best to know where your aspirations lie. 

Academic Requirements

While Notre Dame doesn’t publicize its median GPA, it’s safe to say that you should bring your A-game, considering that most students admitted to Notre Dame ranked among the top 10% of their high school. The university expects applicants to challenge themselves, so you should take available AP or IB courses to demonstrate your ability of managing a difficult course load. 

In order to qualify for admission, you are required to take 16 units throughout your high school career. Even though every candidate’s electives are likely to differ based on their interests and strengths, your high school transcript must include the following:

  • 4 units of English
  • 3 units of math - algebra I, algebra II, and geometry (4 units preferred)
  • 2 units of foreign language (3-4 units preferred)
  • 2 units of science (4 units preferred)
  • 2 units of history/social science (3-4 units preferred)

If your intended major falls within the College of Science, the College of Engineering, the School of Architecture, or certain majors within the College of Arts & Letters (Neuroscience and Behavior, Arts & Letters Pre-Health), you are required to have taken 4 units of math, including an advanced course such as pre-calculus or calculus. Additionally, if you’re applying to the College of Science or College of Engineering, you must take an additional unit each in chemistry and physics. 

Standardized Testing Requirements

Students interested in how to get into Notre Dame should also be aware that the college requires you to send either your SAT or ACT score. While Notre Dame doesn’t ask for subject tests, you may send them to show your prowess in a certain area, and the school might later use scores from your APs, IBs, or SAT subject tests for placement in different levels of classes in your freshman year, but not for advanced credit. The 25th percentile to 75th percentile SAT numbers for the school are:

  • SAT: 1410-1540 
  • ACT: 33-35

If your scores are below the median, you must make sure that you maintain a strong GPA, as that number has been built over four years. If your scores align with the median, you should step away from the SAT and instead spend time striving for leadership positions in your extracurriculars as well as thinking about the perfect topic for your personal statement.

Notre Dame also requires one letter of recommendation from a teacher who has taught you in one of the following subjects - math, science, English, social science, or foreign language. Notre Dame states - and this should be the case for any letters of recommendation - that it should come from a teacher who knows you well. 


If you’re interested in how to get into Notre Dame, you must shine outside the classroom as well. The university values "creative intellectuals and passionate people with multiple interests" so when building your profile, you need to think about how you can make an impact in your community. In order to stand out among the competition (remember, you’re up against thousands of candidates), you have to go beyond just joining common clubs with your friends. 

Instead, you should consider your biggest passion, where you thrive the most, and take initiatives to stand out as a leader. Notre Dame admissions officers expect top applicants to take charge and have sustained involvement in their areas of interest. If you’re talented in art, for example, don’t just join the pre-existing art club at your school. Find ways to diversify: start a bigger art project involving others, begin an initiative to promote the use of art towards social change, or arrange an exhibition showcasing pieces by yourself and other artists in the area. You need to think out of the box when demonstrating your strengths in any field. Notre Dame wants to know that you don’t just hope to pursue a certain major on paper. You need to show that you’ve actively done work surrounding your interest.

Personal Statement

While the Common App Activities List gives you a little bit of space to elaborate on 10 of your most meaningful activities, if you’ve got an extracurricular that you believe can help distinguish you from the other applicants, take advantage of the Common Application personal statement. Use this 650-word component to convey who you are and what matters to you. Brainstorm your topic carefully - what can you bring that others can’t? Your response could also focus on a part of your background that has shaped your perspective or it could highlight a quirky hobby that isn’t common among teenagers. You should expect to go through at least ten drafts in order to submit a polished version that will boost your profile.

Supplemental Essays

While your personal statement expands on your personality and background, the Notre Dame supplemental essays allow you to elaborate on your specific interest in the university and help admissions officers determine whether you would be a good fit for the school. The prompts are: 

The University of Notre Dame Writing Supplement consists of one (1) essay response to a required question and two (2) essay responses to questions you select from the options provided. In total, you will write three (3) essay responses. The recommended word count is approximately 150 to 200 words per essay.

Required Question

Please provide a response to the following question:

What excites you about the University of Notre Dame that makes it stand out from other institutions? 

Additional Questions

Please provide responses to TWO (2) of the following questions:

Prompt 1:

The founder of the University of Notre Dame, Father Edward Sorin, C.S.C., was only 28 when he established the University with the vision that it would become a "powerful means of doing good." We have always known that young people can be catalysts for change. What is one way that you have made an impact in your community? 

Prompt 2: 

If you were to bring a new friend to your hometown and give them a personal tour, what is a meaningful place you would show them?

Prompt 3:

Defend an unpopular opinion you hold.

Prompt 4:

Many high schools have books that are required reading. Thinking beyond the common examples, what book do you believe should be on your school's reading list and why?

In order to successfully complete your quest of how to get into Notre Dame, you need to answer a total of three supplemental essays. Yes, two of them are “optional” but to be competitive at Notre Dame, you should certainly respond. Since you only have 200 words to write the first and only required question, you really have to pinpoint one specific component of Notre Dame that makes it stand out to you. Don’t go for opportunities you can find at other colleges such as a Biology department or a love for football. Dig deeper into the website and think about unique Notre Dame offerings such as the Digital Visualization Theater or the 25,000 square-foot Turbomachinery Laboratory. Of course, the reason shouldn’t just be random. Don’t just choose a part of the school that sounds impressive - you must also connect it to your specific interests and goals. 

Given that you have four options to choose from for your next two answers, make sure that you pick the prompts that inspire the best responses out of you. You could begin by eliminating questions that might be too risky or don’t apply to you. For example, if you’re not much of a reader, you probably shouldn’t be writing about a book. If you’re worried that your unpopular opinion would raise a red flag with admissions officers, that’s definitely not a prompt you want to tackle. With these essays, it’s all about showing the school how you would meaningfully contribute to campus.

Deadlines and Requirements:

When thinking about how to get into Notre Dame, you must also consider the logistics so that you know the instructions and deadlines to follow.

The Restrictive Early Action deadline for Notre Dame is November 1, while the Regular Decision deadline is January 1

Knowing these dates can help you start working on filling out the Common App, writing all of the required essays, and giving your recommender enough time to write their letter. The material you need to submit for your Notre Dame undergraduate application is outlined in the table below:

Requirements for Notre Dame Application Deadlines and Notes
Common App personal statement The word limit is 650 words.
Notre Dame-specific essays These will appear on the Common App once you’ve chosen Notre Dame as one of your colleges.
Official high school transcript This must be submitted directly from your school.
School report This should be submitted by your counselor to summarize your academic performance, including your official transcript.
Counselor recommendation The counselor evaluation is recommended but not required.
One (1) letter of evaluation from teachers Notre Dame requires one letter from a teacher who has taught you in a core math area (math, science, English, social science, or foreign language).
SAT or ACT The last tests students can take for REA are the October ACT and November SAT. The last tests students can take for RD are the February ACT and December SAT.
Creative portfolio If you’re applying for a music major, you might consider submitting a recorded sample of your work; guidelines: Art and architecture students may also submit sample work through Slide Room.
Financial aid documents U.S. citizens and permanent residents applying for aid must fill out the FAFSA, the CSS Profile and College Board’s Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC). Deadlines: Early Action: FAFSA and CSS - November 15; IDOC - December 15 Regular Decision: FAFSA and CSS - February 15; IDOC - March 1

Next Steps:

  • Apply Restrictive Early Action - If the University of Notre Dame is your number one choice, you should definitely consider applying in the REA round. While yes, this means that you can’t apply to another EA or ED program, you can use this as an opportunity to let the school know that it’s your dream school. Plus, even if you’re admitted, you’re not bound to commit, so you can explore other RD options if you want. Last year 20.9% of the 7,334 REA applicants were admitted, while 15.3% of 22,200 candidates got in RD. Statistically speaking, since fewer students apply during the Early Action round, you have a greater chance of admission just based on probability alone. So, shoot your shot!
  • Conduct Thorough Research - Through the supplemental essays, the University of Notre Dame gauges not only your interest, but your knowledge of the school. Whenever talking about Notre Dame, you must be as specific as possible, both in discussing what appeals to you as well as what Notre Dame has to offer that you cannot find at other colleges. So, dig deep into the website and know what you’re talking about as you tackle the different prompts. 

As you continue Googling how to get into Notre Dame, you should know that there isn’t a single answer to your query. If the current pattern continues, more and more candidates will keep applying to the University of Notre Dame. But instead of fixating on the low acceptance rate, spend your time perfecting your grades, stepping up in your activities, and planning stellar essays that can wow admissions officers. If they believe that you’re a good fit, you might just see that acceptance letter slide into your inbox. 

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