What Does Notre Dame Look for in Prospective Students?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of students lounging in the campus.

What Does Notre Dame Look for in Prospective Students?

Notre Dame is a prestigious university known for its rigorous academic standards, commitment to Catholic values, and outstanding athletic programs. If you’re considering applying to Notre Dame, you may be wondering what the university looks for in prospective students. In this article, we’ll take a close look at the various factors that can influence your admission chances at Notre Dame, including academics, extracurricular activities, essays, leadership and service experience, standardized test scores, interviews, and more. So, what does Notre Dame look for in applicants?

The Importance of Academics in Notre Dame Admissions

As with many selective universities, academics are a major factor in Notre Dame’s admissions decisions. The university is looking for students who have challenged themselves with rigorous coursework and who have maintained high grades throughout high school.

Specifically, Notre Dame wants to see that you have taken challenging courses in core subjects such as English, math, science, and social studies, and that you have done well in these courses.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Notre Dame has high standards for standardized test scores. The middle 50% of admitted students have SAT scores between 1445-1550 and ACT scores between 33-35. Although test scores are just one piece of the admissions puzzle, they are still a significant factor in the decision-making process.

View of students walking in the campus.

However, academics are not the only factor that Notre Dame considers in their admissions process. The university also values extracurricular activities, leadership experience, community service, and other achievements that demonstrate a student’s character and potential to contribute to the Notre Dame community. Admissions officers review each application holistically, taking into account all aspects of a student’s profile.

Extracurricular Activities That Can Boost Your Chances of Getting into Notre Dame

What Does Notre Dame Look for in Prospective Students? While academics are the cornerstone of any competitive college application, Notre Dame also values students who are well-rounded and have demonstrated a commitment to extracurricular activities. This can include involvement in sports, music, theater, community service projects, and leadership positions in school or community organizations.

It’s important to note that quality is more important than quantity here. Admissions officers will be looking for evidence of depth, passion, and impact in your extracurricular activities. They will want to see that you have pursued your interests and made a positive contribution to your school or community.

One extracurricular activity that can particularly impress Notre Dame admissions officers is participation in a research project or internship related to your intended major. This demonstrates a strong interest and dedication to your field of study, as well as the ability to apply your knowledge in a real-world setting. Additionally, it can provide valuable experience and skills that will benefit you in college and beyond.

Understanding the Role of Essays in Notre Dame Admissions

Another important part of the Notre Dame application is the essays. There are two required essays, and both are used to get a better sense of your personality, values, and writing skills. Admissions officers are looking for students who can write well and who have something interesting and unique to say. It’s important to take the time to reflect on the prompts and craft thoughtful, well-written essays.

The first essay prompt asks you to reflect on your own background and identity, and how it has shaped your perspective. This is an opportunity to showcase your self-awareness and demonstrate how you can contribute to a diverse and inclusive community.

Two people talking in a living room.

The second essay prompt is more open-ended, allowing you to choose a topic that is meaningful to you. This is a chance to showcase your creativity and passion, and to give admissions officers a glimpse into your interests and values.

It’s important to remember that the essays are just one part of the application, and that admissions officers will also consider your academic record, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. However, essays can be a powerful tool for standing out from the crowd and showing why you would be a great fit for Notre Dame. Be sure to proofread your essays carefully, and consider asking a teacher or mentor to review them as well.

The Significance of Leadership and Community Service for Notre Dame Applicants

Notre Dame is committed to educating students who are not only academically strong, but who are also committed to making a positive impact in the world. Leadership and community service experience can strongly indicate your fit with the university’s mission.

Admissions officers want to see that you have taken on leadership roles in your school or community and that you have put in time volunteering with organizations that are important to you. This can demonstrate to them that you share the university’s values and have the desire to use your talents to make a difference in the world.

Leadership experience can come in many forms, such as leading a sports team, organizing a school event, or starting a club. It’s important to highlight how you have demonstrated leadership and how it has impacted those around you. Similarly, community service can take many forms, from volunteering at a local food bank to participating in a service trip abroad. Whatever your experience may be, be sure to reflect on how it has shaped your perspective and how you hope to continue serving others in the future.

Group of students smiling at the camera.

At Notre Dame, leadership and community service are not just checkboxes on an application. They are integral parts of the university’s mission and culture. As a student, you will have countless opportunities to continue developing your leadership skills and serving others through various clubs, organizations, and service programs. By demonstrating your commitment to these values in your application, you can show admissions officers that you are a strong academic candidate and a potential leader and contributor to the Notre Dame community.

How Standardized Test Scores Affect Your Admission Chances at Notre Dame?

As mentioned earlier, standardized test scores are an important part of the Notre Dame admissions process. Admissions officers want to see that you are capable of handling the academic rigor of the university, and high test scores can be an indicator of this.

On the other hand, low test scores can hurt your chances of admission, especially if the rest of your application is strong. It’s important to take the time to prepare for these tests and to put your best foot forward on test day.

Now that you know what Notre Dame looks for in applicants, it’s important to note that Notre Dame does not have a minimum test score requirement for admission. However, the average ACT score for admitted students is 34, and the average SAT score is 1500. Keep in mind that these are just averages, and there are many factors that go into the admissions decision.

A close up of a student taking an exam.

It’s also worth mentioning that Notre Dame offers test-optional admissions for students who feel that their test scores do not accurately reflect their academic abilities. In this case, students can choose not to submit their test scores and instead focus on other aspects of their application, such as their essays, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.

Tips for Navigating the Interview Process with Notre Dame Admissions Officers

Notre Dame offers optional interviews for applicants, and this can be a great opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the university and to provide additional evidence of your fit. If you choose to interview, it’s important to come prepared with thoughtful questions and to dress appropriately for the occasion. You should also be prepared to discuss your academic and extracurricular experiences in detail, as well as your goals for the future. Remember that the interview is an opportunity for you to showcase your personality and demonstrate why you would be a good fit for Notre Dame.

It’s important to note that while the interview is optional, it can still have an impact on your application. Admissions officers may use the interview as a way to gauge your interest in the university and to get a better sense of who you are as a person.

a female interviewing a male student

Additionally, suppose you have any extenuating circumstances or unique experiences that you feel may not fully capture in your application. In that case, the interview can be a great opportunity to share those with the admissions team. While the interview may seem daunting, it can be a valuable tool in the admissions process and help you stand out as a candidate.

Demonstrating Interest in Notre Dame: Why It Matters and How to Do It

Finally, it’s worth noting that demonstrated interest can be a factor in Notre Dame’s admissions decisions. Admissions officers want to see that you are genuinely interested in attending the university and that you have taken the time to get to know the school. This can include attending a campus visit, participating in an information session or interview, and reaching out to current students or alumni to learn more about their experiences.

Additionally, demonstrating interest in Notre Dame can also benefit you in other ways. By attending campus events and connecting with current students and alumni, you can gain a better understanding of the university’s culture and values. This helps you determine if Notre Dame is the right fit for you and provides valuable insights for your application essays and interviews. Furthermore, building relationships with admissions officers and other members of the Notre Dame community can help you stand out among other applicants and potentially lead to scholarship opportunities or other forms of support.

Unique Qualities That Can Make You Stand Out as a Notre Dame Applicant

Ultimately, there is no one “right” way to be a Notre Dame applicant. Admissions officers are looking for students who will contribute to the university in unique and meaningful ways, and there are many qualities that can make you stand out as an applicant. These can include a strong commitment to service and social justice, a talent for athletics or the arts, or a deep intellectual curiosity. The key is to showcase your authentic self and to demonstrate why you would be an asset to the Notre Dame community.

One quality that can make you stand out as a Notre Dame applicant is leadership. Admissions officers are looking for students who have taken on leadership roles in their schools or communities, and who have demonstrated the ability to inspire and motivate others. Whether you have led a student organization, started a community service project, or captained a sports team, highlighting your leadership experience can help you stand out in the admissions process.

Another quality that can make you stand out as a Notre Dame applicant is a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Notre Dame values a diverse student body, and admissions officers are looking for students who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in their schools or communities. This can include participating in multicultural clubs or events, advocating for marginalized groups, or volunteering with organizations that promote diversity and inclusion.

The Impact of Personal Character on Notre Dame Admissions Decisions

Finally, it’s worth emphasizing that personal character is an important consideration in Notre Dame admissions decisions. Admissions officers are looking for students who are not only academically capable, but also kind, empathetic, and committed to living out the values of the university. This means that your conduct and behavior inside and outside the classroom can play a role in the admissions process. It’s important to be mindful of how you treat others and to demonstrate your commitment to living with integrity and compassion.

One way that Notre Dame evaluates personal character is through the application essays. These essays provide an opportunity for students to showcase their values, experiences, and perspectives. Admissions officers seek essays demonstrating self-reflection, critical thinking, and a genuine interest in contributing to the Notre Dame community. It’s important to take the time to craft thoughtful and well-written essays that highlight your unique qualities and strengths.

Overcoming Common Obstacles in the Notre Dame Admissions Process

While the Notre Dame admissions process can be competitive, there are many resources available to help you navigate the process and overcome common obstacles. This can include working with a college counselor, attending information sessions or webinars, and seeking support from teachers, mentors, or family members. It’s important to stay focused on your goals and be proactive in seeking assistance when needed.

One common obstacle that students face in the Notre Dame admissions process is the difficulty of writing a strong personal statement. This is an important part of the application, as it allows you to showcase your personality, interests, and experiences. To overcome this obstacle, it can be helpful to brainstorm ideas, seek feedback from others, and revise your essay multiple times. You can also find resources online or through your school’s writing center to help you improve your writing skills.

Another obstacle that students may need help with is the financial burden of attending Notre Dame. While the university offers financial aid and scholarships, it can still be a challenge to cover the cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses. To overcome this obstacle, it’s important to research all of your options for financial assistance, including grants, loans, and work-study programs. You can also consider applying for outside scholarships or seeking part-time employment while you’re in school.

The Benefits of Early Action and Early Decision for Applying to Notre Dame

Finally, if Notre Dame is your top choice school, it may be worth considering early action or early decision options. These programs can offer several advantages, including increased chances of admission, faster application review times, and the opportunity to secure your spot at the university earlier in the application cycle. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of each program carefully and to make an informed decision that is right for you.

Additionally, applying early can also demonstrate your strong interest in the university and your commitment to attending if accepted. This can be especially beneficial for highly selective schools like Notre Dame, where demonstrating interest can play a role in the admissions decision. However, it’s important to note that early decision is binding, meaning that if you are accepted, you are committed to attending Notre Dame and must withdraw all other applications. Early action, on the other hand, is non-binding, allowing you to apply to other schools and compare financial aid offers before making a final decision.

Resources Available for Prospective Students Applying to Notre Dame

Notre Dame offers a wide range of resources for prospective students who are interested in applying to the university. This can include campus visits, information sessions, webinars, and resources for applying for financial aid. The university also has a dedicated admissions team who are available to answer your questions and help guide you through the application process. Be sure to take advantage of these resources to ensure that you are submitting your strongest possible application.

Low angle view of four university students on campus

In addition to these resources, Notre Dame also offers a variety of academic support services for students. This includes tutoring, study groups, and academic advising. The university has a strong commitment to helping students succeed academically and provides resources to ensure that students are able to reach their full potential. Whether you need help with a specific class or are looking for guidance on choosing a major, Notre Dame has resources available to support you throughout your academic journey.

What Happens After You Submit Your Application to Notre Dame?

After you submit your application to Notre Dame, the university will conduct a holistic review of your application materials. This means that admissions officers will consider all elements of your application, including your academic performance, extracurricular activities, essays, and personal qualities. They will also consider factors such as the strength of the applicant pool in any given year and the university’s strategic goals and priorities. After careful consideration of all of these factors, admissions officers will make their final decisions and notify applicants of their decisions by April 1st.

It is important to note that Notre Dame also offers an Early Action program for applicants who wish to receive an admissions decision earlier in the process. Early Action applications are due by November 1st, and decisions are typically released by mid-December. However, it is important to keep in mind that Early Action is a non-binding program, meaning that if you are accepted, you are not obligated to attend Notre Dame and can still consider other schools. Regular Decision applications are due by January 1st, and decisions are released by April 1st, as previously mentioned.


In conclusion, applying to Notre Dame can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By carefully considering the factors that admissions officers are looking for and by putting your best foot forward in every aspect of your application, you can increase your chances of being admitted to this prestigious university. Remember to stay true to yourself, to demonstrate your commitment to service and social justice, and to showcase your unique talents and qualities. With the right attitude and preparation, you can demonstrate why you would be a great fit for the Notre Dame community and for the university’s longstanding tradition of academic excellence and Catholic values.

It is important to note that Notre Dame also offers a wide range of extracurricular activities and opportunities for students to get involved on campus. From sports teams to service organizations, there is something for everyone to explore and become a part of. These activities not only enhance the college experience but also provide valuable skills and networking opportunities for future career paths. As you consider applying to Notre Dame, be sure to research and consider the various ways you can get involved and make the most of your time at this exceptional university.

Do you want to know more about what Notre Dame looks for in applicants? With more than 10 years in the field, AdmissionSight is well-versed in managing the complexities of college admissions. Engage with AdmissionSight now for further details on how you can effectively increase your likelihood of being accepted.


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