Notre Dame has always been a university for high-achieving students. In 1986, the home of the Fighting Irish admitted 43% of applicants. This group, the Class of 1990, sported an average SAT score of 1200; 75% earned a place in the top 10% of their high school cohort. By the turn of the new millennium, Notre Dame’s acceptance rate fell to 35%; by 2010, it was 28%; and by 2019, it had reach an all-time low of under 16%.

Given that the process of gaining acceptance into Notre Dame becomes increasingly challenging with each passing year, this blog is designed to provide you with:

1) An understanding of how highly-selective the Notre Dame admissions process truly is.

2) Data that will help you better assess how you measure up to the competition.

3) How the Notre Dame admissions committee operates and what they look for in a successful candidate.

To accomplish these goals, we will touch on the following topics:

  • Notre Dame’s Class of 2024 acceptance rate
  • Notre Dame’s REA acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Notre Dame applicants
  • Admissions trends from the Class of 2024
  • The demographics of current Notre Dame undergraduates
  • Notre Dame’s yield rate
  • How Notre Dame’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
  • Tips for applying to Notre Dame
  • How to assess whether applying to Notre Dame is even worth the $75 application fee (for you)

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.

Notre Dame: Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024

Notre Dame received 21,273 applications for its 2020-21 freshman class and accepted 4,055 students for an acceptance rate of 19%, higher than the 15.8% acceptance rate for the Class of 2023 or the 17.6% mark for the Class of 2022.

Notre Dame: Restrictive Early Action (REA) Acceptance Rate

In constructing the Class of 2024, the university admitted 44% of their class via Restrictive Early Action and 56% during the regular round. Out of 7,294 REA applications received, 1,540 were accepted, 933 were deferred, and the rest were rejected. This acceptance rate of 21.1% was slightly higher than the acceptance rate in the regular round.

Notre Dame Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank

Among Notre Dame’s enrolled Class of 2024, the middle-50% SAT range was 1430-1540 and the ACT range was 33-35. For the previous year’s class, 90% of freshman ranked in the top decile of their high school class, while 99% finished in the top quartile.

Admissions Trends & Notes – (Class of 2024)

  • 12% of Class of 2024 admits are legacy students; they will compose 21% of the incoming class.
  • The school admitted 125 ROTC applicants compared to 94 last year and 65 in 2019.
  • Notre Dame admitted 398 first-generation college students; that figure was 232 the year before.
  • The Class of 2024 was made up of individuals from all 50 states and 80 countries around the globe.
  • Applications decreased slightly from the previous year when the university received 22,000+ apps.

Who Actually Gets Into Notre Dame?

Let’s look at the demographics of Notre Dame undergraduates:

Geographically, the Class of 2024 included the following breakdown:

  • East Coast: 26%
  • South: 14%
  • Midwest: 15%
  • Midwest-Plains: 19%
  • West/Southwest: 18%
  • Outside the United States: 8%

As with all selective colleges, those from lower-populated, more remote areas of the country (e.g. Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho) enjoy a boost to their admissions prospects.

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of students entering the Class of 2024 was as follows:

  • Asian American: 10%
  • Hispanic: 19%
  • African American: 6%
  • Native American: 1%
  • White: 57%

The breakdown by gender of all students in the Class of 2024 reveals slightly more men than women, a rarity in today’s postsecondary landscape (outside of engineering-heavy schools).

  • Male: 50.7%
  • Female: 49.3%

The Class of 2024 hailed from the following types of high schools:

  • Public: 44%
  • Catholic: 40%
  • Private/Charter: 16%

What will the Class of 2024 be studying—a breakdown by college:

  • College of Arts & Letters: 25%
  • College of Engineering: 12%
  • Mendoza College of Business: 24%
  • College of Science: 28%
  • School of Architecture: 2%

The Majority of People Who Get Accepted Choose to Attend

Notre Dame’s yield rate — the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted — was 58% last year. For comparison, schools like Stanford, Harvard were over 80%, and the University of Chicago, MIT, and Yale all sported 70%+ yield rates. Notre Dame finished ahead of elite private institutions such as Vanderbilt (47%), Rice (42%), and Carnegie Mellon (37%).

How Notre Dame Rates Applicants

There is only one factor that Notre Dame ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record. Rating as “important” are: class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, first-generation status, legacy status, and volunteer experience. They “consider” an applicant’s religious affiliation, racial/ethnic status, work experience, and level of demonstrated interest.

In the words of Notre Dame admissions officers themselves: “The most competitive applicants to Notre Dame are well-rounded, so we take a well-rounded, or holistic, view of students’ applications. That holistic review means that admissions counselors at Notre Dame evaluate both the academic and non-academic components of the application.”

The holistic review conducted by the university also dives into a student’s unique circumstances. The “context of a student’s application is also incredibly important to the admissions process at Notre Dame. The context revolves around where the student goes to high school and what opportunities are available to a student. Context means not comparing different schools and different applicants from those different schools, however.”

Tips for Applying to Notre Dame

If you plan on joining the 21,000+ Notre Dame hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • There are no interviews offered through the university. Notre Dame states that “it is through your essays that we are able to hear your voice, learn your sense of humor, empathize with your struggles.”
  • Notre Dame does consider “demonstrated interest” so it is important to make contact with the admissions office, connect through social media, and (when COVID-19 is no longer an issue) visit campus or meet Notre Dame reps at college fairs near you.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to three supplemental essays required by Notre Dame. In the 2020-21 cycle, the instructions/prompts are as follows:

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 a list of options provided. In total, you will write three (3) essay responses. The word count is a maximum of 200 words per essay.

Required Question:

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?

Additional Prompts (You choose 2):

  • A Notre Dame education is not just for you, but also for those who will benefit from the impact you make. Who do you aspire to serve after you graduate?
  • In response to the rising momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement during June 2020, G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean of the Notre Dame Law School, penned an open letter entitled, “I am George Floyd. Except I can breathe. And I can do something.” He issues a call to the Notre Dame community saying, “Each of us must do what we can, wherever we are.” What is one action you are taking “to change this world for the better?”
  • God and the Good Life is an interdisciplinary course created by the departments of Philosophy and Film, Television, and Theatre that asks students to consider moral questions about what they believe and how they want to live their lives. What do God and a good life mean to you?
  • Notre Dame has a rich history deeply rooted in tradition. Share how a favorite tradition from your life has impacted who you are today.
  • What brings you joy?

The key to tackling these essays is best summed up by the university themselves. The admissions office encourages you to “let your personality shine, take risks, and remember that there is no right answer.” The point here is to reveal deeper aspects of your personality that may not be discernable though stats and activity lists alone. Be sincere, be thoughtful, and make sure to leave time to go through multiple drafts, with feedback from adults you trust in between. Submitting three polished essays can greatly enhance your chances of being admitted to this prestigious university.

Should I Apply to Notre Dame?

With Notre Dame growing more competitive each year, you will likely need to possess stellar SAT scores, near-perfect grades, and earn a place in the top 5-10% of your high school class. Applying REA can provide a small edge if you find yourself “on the cusp” from an admissions standpoint.

All college-bound teens need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in conjunction with an admissions professional (including your own high school counselor).