Evaluation Criteria

There’s no shortage of extraordinary applicants at Notre Dame.

Over 22,000 students applied for the 2,065 places in the first-year class of 2019.

As we evaluate applications, we admit students who excel within the context of our highly competitive applicant pool. We are proud of the students we enroll, and we understand that we can’t admit every incredible student who applies.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

1. Academic performance in high school

There’s no minimum grade point average or class rank required, but know this: You’re up against the best and the brightest in the world. The more rigorous your course selection, the better your grades, and the higher your class rank, the more competitive your application will be.

2. High school academic requirements

The University requires the completion of the following high school courses in order to be considered for admission. A unit is equivalent to the credit for a year of satisfactory work in an accredited secondary school. The two language units must be in the same language and a language offered by the University of Notre Dame.

Students are required to take 16 units during their high school career. This distribution will differ slightly based on the student’s intended area of study, but must include the following:

  • 4 units of English
  • 3 units of Mathematics - 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)

*For students with an intended major 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), 4 units of Mathematics are required, which must include an advanced Mathematics course (Pre-Calculus or Calculus).

**Students with an intended major within the College of Science or the College of Engineering must take a unit of Chemistry. Additionally the following majors require a unit of Physics:

  • Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry with Business
  • Chemistry with Computing
  • Mathematics (within the Colleges of Science and Arts & Letters)
  • Physics
  • Physics-in-Medicine
  • All Engineering majors

It is also strongly recommended that students with the following intended majors take a unit of Physics:

  • Architecture
  • Biological Sciences
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Neuroscience and Behavior (within the Colleges of Science and Arts & Letters)
  • Science Preprofessional Studies
  • Arts and Letters Pre-Health
  • Science- Business
  • Science- Computing
  • Science- Education
  • Statistics

Although we require at least 16 academic units for admission, our most competitive applicants will have four units in each major academic area and in the most rigorous level their high school offers. We do include algebra and/or foreign language courses completed during eighth grade in our count of admissions requirements. For example, if you earned credit for one full-year introductory French course as an eighth grader, then completed French II in ninth grade, both credits will be counted.

3. Standardized tests

All applicants are required to take either the SAT or ACT test. Applicants may self-report their SAT and/or ACT scores via their application. Once an admitted student confirms their enrollment to Notre Dame, they will be required to submit official score reports from SAT and/or ACT before they enroll. 

Please note that we will verify scores for all enrolling students, and any discrepancies between official and self-reported scores may jeopardize a student's place in the class.

If you submit multiple scores, we will superscore the tests for our evaluation. This means we will consider the highest composite score and highest scores on each section, regardless of test date. Note that we do not require the writing portion of the ACT or the SAT. 

For first-year applicants seeking fall 2020 enrollment, the final acceptable testing dates for the SAT are:

  • Restrictive Early Action: November 2, 2019 (must be received by November 30, 2019)
  • Regular Decision: December 7, 2019 (must be received by January 19, 2020)

For first-year applicants seeking fall 2020 enrollment, the final acceptable testing dates for the ACT are:

  • Restrictive Early Action: October 26, 2019 (must be received by November 30, 2019)
  • Regular Decision: February 8, 2020 (must be received by February 28, 2020)

SAT Subject Tests, AP tests, and IB tests are not required and are only used in the application process if scores enhance an application. They may also be used for credit and placement in the first year program. 

For students studying outside the U.S., please refer to our information for international students on standardized testing and test flexible policy.

4. Extracurricular activities? More like passions.

World-class pianists. Well-rounded senior class leaders. Dedicated artists. Our most competitive applicants are more than just students—they are creative intellectuals, passionate people with multiple interests. Above all else, they are involved—in the classroom, in the community, and in the relentless pursuit of truth.

5. Letter(s) of evaluation

We require one letter of evaluation from every applicant. You may choose any high school teacher to write your letter, as long as he or she has taught you in a core academic subject area (math, science, English, social science, or foreign language) and knows you well. Your school counselor may also complete a counselor evaluation. The counselor evaluation is recommended but not required.

6. Essay: Reflect, have fun, show us who you really are.

The Essay portion of both the application and the Notre Dame Writing Supplement gives our Admissions Committee the opportunity to get to know you.

Your essays are the most enjoyable part of the application reading process. Why? Because we learn about important decisions you’ve made, adventures you’ve survived, lessons you’ve learned, family traditions you’ve experienced, challenges you’ve faced, embarrassing moments you’ve overcome.

We do not offer an interview as part of the admissions process, so it is through your essays that we are able to hear your voice, learn your sense of humor, empathize with your struggles. We get to know the real you, beyond lists of courses, numbers, and activities. Check out the current essay questions here.

Additional Requirements

Home-schooled applicants

In addition to our standard application requirements, three SAT Subject Tests, one each in History, Foreign Language, and Science, are recommended for home-schooled applicants. Students may choose the exams they wish to take within these subject areas. If a home-schooled student has an AP exam in one of these subject areas, it can substitute for the SAT Subject Test. 

If you have any questions about applying as a home-schooled student, feel free to call the Admissions Office at (574) 631-7505.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Students earning the IB Diploma program are asked to submit their predicted IB marks.  In general, students that apply for Notre Dame are enrolled in three higher-level IB courses and three lower-level IB courses.