How to Write the University of Notre Dame Supplemental Essays: Examples + Guide 2022/2023

notre dame supplemental essays examples


What are the notre dame supplemental essay prompts.

Notre Dame asks for three supplemental essays—each limited to 200 words. 

But before you dive right into the prompts, get an extensive, by-the-numbers look at Notre Dame’s offerings in its Common Data Set , and for deeper insights into how the university wants to grow and evolve, read its strategic plan .

The University of Notre Dame Writing Section consists of one (1) essay response to a required question and one (1) essay response to a question you select from the options provided. In total, you’ll write two (2) essay responses. The word count is a maximum of 200 words per essay.

Notre Dame University Supplemental Essay Prompt #1

Notre Dame is a Catholic university, founded by members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, with a mission to educate the hearts and minds of students. What excites you about attending Notre Dame?

Notre Dame University Supplemental Essay Prompt #2

Additional Prompts - (You choose 1) People in the Notre Dame community come from many different places, backgrounds, and walks of life. How is where you’re from a part of who you are? Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in. If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it? What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you?

How to Write Each Supplemental Essay Prompt for University of Notre Dame

How to write notre dame supplemental essay prompt #1.

Notre Dame is a Catholic university, founded by members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, with a mission to educate the hearts and minds of students. What excites you about attending Notre Dame? (200 words)

This is a short “Why us?” essay. Because it’s short, the key will be finding 5-7 reasons that set Notre Dame apart from all the other schools you’re applying to. 

To help get a strong understanding of how to write to this prompt, check out our “Why us?” essay guide —and pay particular attention to the Cornell example, which is one of our favorites. While that example is longer, you’ll also find advice in that guide on tackling shorter “Why us?” essays, and the Tufts essay is a great example. 

Don’t have the time to read the full guide? Here’s the TL;DR version:

Spend 1 hr+ researching 5-7 reasons why Notre Dame might be a great fit for you (ideally one or two of those reasons will be unique to Notre Dame and connect back to you). Why this many reasons? You’ll likely only end up including only some of these, but it’s better to have more than you need. Plus, you’ll learn more about the school if you find this many.

Make a copy of this chart to map out your college research.

Create an outline for your essays based on either Approach 1, 2 (recommended for Notre Dame), or 3 in the full guide above.

Write a first draft!

As you write, try to avoid these common mistakes: 

Five Common Mistakes Students Make on “Why Us?” Essays

Mistake #1 : Writing about the school's size, location, reputation, weather, or ranking.

Mistake #2 : Simply using emotional language to demonstrate fit.

Mistake #3 : Screwing up the mascot, stadium, team colors or names of any important people or places on campus.

Mistake #4 : Parroting the brochures or website language.

Mistake #5 : Describing traditions the school is well-known for.

Mistake #6 : Thinking of this as only a "Why them" essay.

Here’s a great sample essay for this prompt. You may not be applying to the Mendoza College of Business like this student was, so don’t worry about that bit of detail. Instead, focus on the specifics and other details he uses, as we’ll discuss in the Tips + Analysis section below.

At the Mendoza College of Business, I am eager to develop my whole self, by incorporating liberal arts and theology into finance. Understanding finance and how it relates to societal functions fascinates me. Through following the NYSE after school, I’ve learned the ability to analyze markets is one of the most important skills in our ever-changing, diverse economic landscape. Professor Bergstrand’s article “Should TPP Be Formed? On the Potential Economic, Governance, and Conflict-Reducing Impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement” captivated me. I agree there are limitations in computer business models, and in order to allow for greater diversity human analysts cannot be replaced.  A business major is one thing, but Notre Dame’s unique Poverty Studies minor will expand my understanding of the life billions of people live everyday, allowing me to make financial decisions with a higher purpose in mind. I would be thrilled to couple this learning with working alongside the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, while also advancing my knowledge of the Catholic faith. I aim to study the magnitude of the statistical mark I make as an economist, while concurrently viewing the outcome as a humanitarian. — — —

Tips + Analysis:

Be specific. We’re talking about courses, professors, research studies, clubs: Use their formal names, and make sure to spell them right. Note how this student doesn’t just name a professor he’d want to learn from; he also researched his publications and spoke to why one in particular resonated with him (“I agree there are limitations in computer business models, and in order to allow for greater diversity human analysts cannot be replaced.”). That depth of detail is a great way to show you’ve done your research and aren’t just listing what you saw in the course catalog. 

Demonstrate a range of interests. The broad scope of this prompt is intentional. It’s not just asking about your chosen major or your academic interests; it’s probing for details about the breadth of your interests. This student doesn’t do a whole lot of that, and it’s not a do-or-die must, but we definitely recommend it. So, after talking about, say, courses and professors and programs that interest you, talk about campus life—clubs, activities, sports or other extracurriculars. But note that the prompt asks you to share about more than how Notre Dame will transform your “mind”—school officials  also want to know about your heart. Given this ...

Speak to your desire to give back. As a proudly Catholic institution (with over 80% Catholic enrollment), Notre Dame values a culture of service. In fact, the first goal in its strategic plan revolves around character : “We strive to build a community that inspires the pursuit of truth and teaches respect, love, and service so that our learning serves the Church and the world, particularly for those who are most in need.” Your budget limit is tight, so keep it brief. This student makes some nice “heart” connections in the final paragraph.

how to write Notre Dame Supplemental Essay Prompt #2

1. People in the Notre Dame community come from many different places, backgrounds, and walks of life. How is where you’re from a part of who you are? (200 words)

This prompt asks you to reflect on where you come from and how that has shaped who you are. It’s a diversity essay , as Notre Dame seeks to know how your experiences would add to the diversity of the college community. While diversity can refer to ethnicity, class, religion or sexuality, think broadly about the elements of your unique context that have influenced your character, which may also include geography, perspectives, ways of living, etc.

This is a new prompt for Notre Dame this year, so we don't have something exactly on point, but this essay, written for another school, would work great.

My great-grandpa’s eyes twinkle as my 5-year-old self struggles to stir the giant pot of cioppino. Like this traditional seafood dish, I too am an Italian-American originating from California.  My very loud family crowds my house each holiday, relegating me to an air mattress, a sacrifice I’m more than willing to make. The rooms fill with stories and laughter as we down pizzelles and compete in a cutthroat cookie-decorating contest. Likewise, my California beginnings, though brief, had a sizable impact on my life. I was a year old when we left, but California’s adventurous culture is part of my identity, reinforced by annual trips to visit relatives. From hiking San Jacinto Peak, to days at Disneyland, where my grandparents and mom worked, each excursion left me giddily exhausted. The true centerpiece of our get-togethers isn’t the cioppino, but the stories and experiences that connect us as family. — — —

Tips + Analysis

Identify the identities and communities that have shaped you. This author presents themself as an Italian-American from California. What’s your particular personal constellation? Make a list. Keep in mind that communities can be defined by ...

Place: Groups of people who live/work/play near one another

Action: Groups of people who create change in the world by building, doing, or solving something together (Examples: Black Lives Matter, Girls Who Code, March for Our Lives)

Interest: Groups of people coming together based on shared interest, experience, or expertise

Circumstance: Groups of people brought together either by chance or external events/situation.

Give a taste of each one. Here, great-grandpa’s eyes twinkle as a five-year-old stirs a pot of cioppino. Brainstorm a detail or example for each identity or community using one of your five senses. What does each one look/smell/taste/sound/feel like? The details bring us into the experiences: sleeping on an air mattress when family comes, eating pizzelles, hiking San Jacinto Peak. Bonus points for proper nouns! Bring the reader into your world—the more specific the better.

Show why it matters. This student describes their cultural roots and traditions, but ultimately, they’re talking about the importance of family. Think about your values. How has the way you’ve grown up impacted how you perceive and engage with the world around you? 

2. Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in. (200 words)

This prompt is wide open. That may make it feel more intimidating, but one way to narrow it down is to look at your Activities List and ask: Is there anything here that shows me championing a cause? Or advocating for change? Maybe it’s the recycling program you started in your school cafeteria. Or the BLM protest you participated in last summer. Look for something that, instead of a one-time effort, shows an enduring interest/belief/mission. The key will be talking about it in a way that shows it’s important enough to “fight for.”

It’s time to dig into an example to see what that might look like. This is also a new prompt for Notre Dame (they’ve been busy in the admission office this spring!), but this essay, written for a slightly shorter prompt, would work well here.

In eighth grade, I created an art piece addressing a stereotype I had faced and posted it online, encouraging my friends to do the same and hashtag it #StereotypeProject. The drawing snowballed into a viral movement, gathering the attention of over 1,000 youth artists worldwide, each contributing their own stories and drawings. The Stereotype Project has since grown, extending into local schools and calling on the next generation to stand strong against the biases they face due to race, gender, sexual orientation, mental illness, and more. In a time of increasing youth activism and reminders of the potential we have as young revolutionaries, the Stereotype Project is an outlet for creative expression, unity, and a means of imparting a positive impact on the world. Our website continues to be live and accept submissions: — — —

Don’t feel like you have to save the world. Writing about how you’re changing “the world for the better” may feel daunting. What if my actions aren’t having a global impact? Breathe. We have good news for you: Notre Dame doesn’t expect you to have started a non-profit at the age of 17 (but if you have, cool). The Notre Dame culture of service to others means they’re looking for students committed to making an impact—if not on the world at large, at least on the world around them. That “world” could mean your town, your school, your Debate Club, your friend group, or, as in this case, your online audience. The world you’re impacting isn’t as important as the action you’re taking to help make it better. With that in mind ...

Consider this an extracurricular activity essay of sorts. We have a full guide to that type of essay here . Comb through your extracurricular activity list , specifically looking for an example of how you’re taking action to effect positive change. The extracurricular essay guide has two great brainstorming exercises that can help you find a great topic: the BEABIES and the Elon Musk exercises. Pro tip: Focus on the problem-solving aspect in both exercises. 

Keep the topic current. The prompt specifically asks you about “an action you are taking”—with intentional emphasis on the now. So choose something that a) you’re still actively working on, or b) you worked on/launched earlier but built it in a way that continues to effect positive change. The essay above offers a great example of the latter. Besides directly answering the prompt, writing about a current/lasting endeavor shows an ongoing commitment to action.

You don’t have to be tackling Society’s Biggest Challenges. Although we mention issues like racism and the environment in our introduction to this prompt, you don’t necessarily have to write about huge social justice issues for your answer to be legitimate. Even though this essay is on a somewhat relevant topic, the key to its success is in how the student spotlights an issue that has personal meaning to her (a stereotype she herself faced) and details 1) how she took action (posted her art piece online using a hashtag and urged others to do the same, and 2) its impact (“creating an outlet for creative expression, unity, and a means of imparting a positive impact on the world”). In short, the winning formula here is: Issue of Personal Importance + Action You Took + Impact It’s Having = Great Essay.

3. If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it? (200 words)

This is an essay focused on community service and civic engagement. That means you specifically want to talk about values that show how giving back has deep meaning for you (think purpose and enrichment, but also resourcefulness, leadership, empathy, even laughter and adventure). This Values List will help you identify those that resonate. 

Do you have meaningful examples and anecdotes that bring those values to life—like the club you started to teach chess to fifth-graders, or the recycling project you led in your neighborhood, or taking care of your younger siblings or cousins? Your topic of choice should be something you genuinely care about and want to change for the better. You’ll find it much easier to write with enthusiasm if you talk about something you actually find important and interesting.

Like Prompt #2, you can approach this using the tools for extracurricular essays . Read through your Common App Activities List . If you can identify not just one but a few things you can talk about to show you’ve already contributed to the “common good,” they could become an excellent topic for this Notre Dame essay. Then invoke what we call the Elon Musk method ( head here for an explanation + examples), like in this sample essay (which was written for a different school but would work well for this new prompt).

Every school year, I walk around campus, arms and backpack chock full of heavy textbooks. In the classroom, I read the textbook, review a lesson, and complete a worksheet. Rinse and repeat. And not just me: nearly every other student has had this experience. Enter personalized learning. Personalized learning could mean allowing students to master concepts at their own pace, or it could refer to computer programs designed to match one’s personality. For example, some learn kinesthetically, while others learn visually. The possibilities to unlock true learning potential through personalized learning are endless.  As an engineer, I want to develop teaching methods that help both the young and the old acquire new skills and enhance learned ones. Through computer science, I can devise an intelligent tutoring system. And after designing a personality quiz, I can create an algorithm to match the student’s preferred learning style and determine which multimedia is best to teach them. Although I personally do not have a learning disability, a close friend suffers from autism. Surprisingly, if you met him, you probably could not tell. From a young age, he was placed in a regular classroom, not a special ed one. As an extrovert, this personalized learning system enabled him to be a social butterfly while also learning at his own pace. Therefore, I believe that by advancing personalized learning experiences and minimizing inflexibility in education programs, we can reduce perceived learning disabilities. The future of intelligence will be much more well-rounded and diversified. — — —

Identify the problem. This student is beleaguered by the boring burden of traditional learning. What is an issue that really concerns you, and why? Help us understand why you care about it. Who is affected and how? What is the consequence if this issue is left unaddressed? 

Lay out your plan to solve it. Be specific. The question asks how you’d accomplish your task. Describe the actions you’d take, the tools or programs you’d develop. Let your reader see how your brain works; how do you solve complex problems? Call on your strengths and previous actions. This student approaches the issue through their tools and experience with engineering and computer science. Are you already working on this issue? What have you done so far that you’d expand on? 

Name the impact. What will the world look like when you’ve had a chance to do something about this problem? Who or what will be affected and how? Imagine yourself already having achieved it, and let your reader celebrate with you. For this student, this what impact looked like: “As an extrovert, this personalized learning system enabled him to be a social butterfly while also learning at his own pace.”

Think BIG. The prompt offers you unlimited resources to address the issue! You seek to join an institution that could give you access to deep financial support and networking opportunities. Notre Dame is signaling that it’s seeking candidates who are prepared to make a major impact with the resources the school can provide. Show you’ve got vision: How would you leverage these vast resources for the common good?

4. What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you? (200 words)

Also a new prompt this year, this one is your Time to Shine. You could try to remember the best compliment someone’s ever given you (and by all means, if it comes to mind, go for it) ... OR, you could think of that quality or skill of yours that you love the most and highlight that. What’s your superpower? What do people love about you? What do you most appreciate about yourself? Then roll back to a time you received a compliment about it and go from there. This is a great opportunity to reveal something about you that hasn’t come through elsewhere in your application. 

Bring the compliment to life with examples. Where does this quality or skill show up in your life? What are some times it’s had an impact in your life, on other people or in your community? Give brief, descriptive details of these moments to show how this quality or skill is meaningful to you AND how it’ll contribute to the college community you’ll join.

Always bring it back to values. Something that people celebrate in you says a lot about what’s most important to you. What does this skill and your examples reveal about your core values? Connect each example to a value. You can use the Values List for inspiration.

End with insight. What have you learned about yourself or the world thanks to your superpower? Wink as you walk away (show your capacity for self-reflection).

Want advice on dozens of other supplemental essays? Click here

Special thanks to Shira for contributing to this post.

notre dame supplemental essays examples

Shira Harris is an alternative educator, amateur ambassador, former civil rights attorney and queer activist, who received her BA from UC Berkeley and law degree from New York University. Currently, she studies Arabic, Hebrew, migration and mediation in the Mediterranean; upon completion of the masters program, she intends to work for peace in Israel Palestine. Shira loves hiking, camping, traveling, learning, cooking with friends, the CEG community and fourth-grader jokes.

Top Values: Integrity | Curiosity | Love


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notre dame supplemental essays examples

Notre Dame Supplemental Essay Examples for

Notre Dame Supplemental Essay Examples

Taking a look at Notre Dame supplemental essay examples is a top-notch method for learning how to write your own responses to the essay prompts.

Supplemental college application essays are one of the best ways to stand out and show your top-choice school why you are a perfect applicant for their program. They allow you to showcase your personal self, and that is the best way to stay in the minds of the admissions committee and go from an applicant to a student.

How to write a college essay can be tricky; there is a lot to say within a word count that might seem big, but gets eaten up quickly. Studying sample college essays will illustrate writing methods and give you tremendous insight into how to go about creating your own essay.

This article will provide samples to the Notre Dame supplemental essays.

Note : If you want us to help you with your applications, interviews and/or standardized tests, book a free strategy call . If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page .

Article Contents 11 min read

Notre dame supplemental essay examples.

Please note that all Notre Dame supplemental essays have a maximum word count of 200 words.

Applicants are required to answer two prompts in total. All applicants must use the first prompt, but may choose from three additional prompts for their second essay.

Need more tips for writing?

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?

Sample Essay #1:

These days we see science and religion as enemies, fighting with one another.

Born Catholic I started my life unquestioning my religion. When I was in high school, I began walking two paths: one towards science, the other away from faith.

I was frustrated with the Church, avowed there was no God and picked fights with family and friends about it.

My studies gave me the opportunity to visit a particle accelerator. One of the scientists who gave us the tour was, as I found out, religious. I stayed behind, grilling him about how he reconciled faith and science, and he talked about the mystery of the universe. His pursuit for Truth in science was because he loved the profound expanse of nature. His love of God came from the same place.

Notre Dame prides itself on its religious origins and its Catholicism. I have come to a place where I want to explore the universe in an institution that advances science, but remains humbled by the profundity of Creation. I think that these qualities of Notre Dame’s will help me to reconcile the struggle my values and find my place in the universe.

During the spring semester, Notre Dame faculty gave 3-Minute Lightning Talks on exciting topics within their fields of expertise. While you don\u2019t have a Ph.D. yet, we bet you\u2019re developing an expertise in something. If you were giving a Lightning Talk, what topic (academic or not) would you choose? ","label":"1st prompt (of 3)","title":"1st prompt (of 3)"}]' code='tab1' template='BlogArticle'>

I spent a lot of my recent years trying to read as many important books as I can, tracking down lists of books everybody “should” read, mostly composed of classics, academically-sanctioned works of genius, and the most seminal benchmarks of literature throughout the ages. All of this has made reading a chore – a list that I check off. I’m not saying they aren’t great works, just that I put the canons of others ahead of my own enjoyment.

My Lightning Talk would be on literary enjoyment – reading for pleasure – and how this act opens up the mind and the imagination. When I was a boy, I read tirelessly, mostly seeking out the sort of science-fiction and fantasy novels that were likely to have a Frank Frazetta painting for a cover. They were pulpy explorations of pretend worlds that fueled my mind and let me push my imagination to its limits.

I would like to unpack the idea that literature can be fun and still beneficial. I would talk about those pulp-fantasy novels and how they have opened my mind to new worlds.

Sample Essay #2:

Jumping out of a plane is safe enough that they’ll let untrained members of the public go skydiving. But if it’s so safe, why do people get a thrill out of it? Shouldn’t we relax up there?

I’m a bit of a thrill-seeker, spending hours at skateparks, trying to learn parkour, and driving a little faster than I’m supposed to. Recently, I’ve started to wonder “Why?”

I’ve been reading a lot of articles and books about adrenaline and people who go looking for that rush. Freud posited the death wish. Psychologists call it “sensation seeking”. Some people claim it’s for fun, others for a challenge. Adrenaline junkies get worse and worse, needing more of a “hit” as though these heightened brain chemical reactions are the same as a drug.

My talk would be about the reasons why we go looking for thrills and about how it affects our minds and bodies. Knowing why people seek out adrenaline-inducing experiences would help us master our habits and pursue our passions.

Sample Essay #3:

I was listening to the Howard Stern Show, and two of the guys on the show were really yelling at each other. Howard’s program is filled with these moments and it’s one of the most popular shows of all time.

Contentious posts rate higher on social media. Youtube videos with titles like, “So-and-so DESTROYS Somebody” gain millions of views. Why do we fight? Is there a value?

I’ve begun to research why we argue and if there are benefits to it. There are! We work out ideas together as a group that way, we engage with each other, and we can either work out problems or discover who is problematic.

There is a strong movement for social media companies to take responsibility for their users’ speech and shut it down if it gets out of hand. Ironically, the discussions on this topic – free speech and censorship – are as divisive as the speech itself.

My Lightning Talk would be about our fascination with, and the uses for, argumentative behaviors, and about whether or not we should be allowed to say anything we want.

There is a story or meaning behind every name or nickname \u2013 both those we\u2019re given and those that we choose. What is meaningful to you about your name? ","label":"2nd prompt (of 3)","title":"2nd prompt (of 3)"}]' code='tab2' template='BlogArticle'>

My name, Dipti, has been a source of relentless pain and teasing, bringing me down constantly, and I hated it.

When we moved to the US, nobody said anything mean to the three-year-old me, but as soon as I went to school, I was bullied. It was my clothes, so I stopped wearing “weird” clothes. It was my food, so I got mom to pack “normal” lunches. It was my name, and I couldn’t escape.

I tried to be called “Dee”, but I was “Dipti” in roll-call.

Dipti means “light”, but it felt heavy. It’s my grandmother’s name, but I didn’t remember her. I had to meet her again when we got enough money to bring her over to stay with us.

Grandma Dipti was Light. I barely understood her words, but I understood her love, and felt shame for trying to abandon her name, like I was abandoning her beautiful spirit.

Now I don’t care who dislikes my name. Embracing who I am found me friends who love me for me. I am working on a family tree, plunging into my personal history, and I love knowing where I come from.

Now my name is a joy and a light in my life.

I share my name with a month of the year and with a general; my name is Julian.

First, I learned of Caesar’s conquests and power. It set a high standard to strive for, and led me to run for student council – Julian the Senator. My connection to a famous historical figure also gave me a love of history; I study it, love it, and hope to become a history professor.

But, in my studies, I also discovered Gaius Julius Caesar’s abuses of his power, precipitating the fall of the Roman republic and the rise of the Roman empire. This is a cautionary tale: use power for good.

Some people nickname me Jules or Julie. “Girls’ names!” That used to annoy me a lot, but I have gained two perspectives in consequence of these labels: the first is that I need a thicker skin; little things shouldn’t bother me. The second is that teasing might sting a bit, but others have it worse with aggressive misgendering, or severe bullying.

I know that I have certain powers on student senate and if I ever cross the Rubicon, it will be for the rights of the bullied, not to become a tyrant.

My parents just liked the sound of the name “Alan”, so that’s my name. I have no relatives named Alan, they didn’t have any close friends named Alan, and Alan doesn’t even mean anything. Some people speculate that it means “deer”, but there are others who think it means, “little rock”, or “handsome”, so it could mean anything.

I gave this very little heed growing up, although I did get annoyed once when my siblings and I were all looking up our names and they had substantive meanings but mine just means nothing.

Some people have names they have to live up to. Their names are grand. Mine is plain. But I like that. I like that, with my name, I don’t have to live up to my name, but I can fill it.

I wasn’t captain of the debate team because I had something to prove, no; it was because I loved debating. My passion led me forward, not some silly high bar set by a name.

This lack of meaning in my main moniker taught me to strive for individuality.

While your essays will be personal, you should use the academic essay structure to make your story flow.

No. You have some choice, but you must complete two essays.

All applicants complete the first essay prompt (Prompt #1), and then choose one from the three other sub-prompts (three entries in Prompt #2).

Generally-speaking, any time you are given the option to submit an essay, test, or short answer, take advantage of the opportunity to showcase your application and make it more memorable.

Essentially, consider everything mandatory, because good quality submissions will all help your application.

Consider them strict, yes.

Keep to the directions you are given, find your creative voice within those boundaries.

Colleges look for people who think outside the box, not those who color outside the lines.

Notre Dame doesn’t use interviews in its admissions process, so the essays are the best way that the admissions committee has of seeing the “you” beyond pure numbers and data. While you can give a picture of yourself through extracurriculars, the essays allow you to speak directly to the committee and show your passion and your journey that is taking you to your top-choice school.

You will be talking about yourself, but specifically highlighting experiences you’ve had, knowledge you’ve gained, and traits and abilities you’ve acquired that will appeal to the school you’re applying to (in this case, Notre Dame).

Try to highlight courses, research, or values that the school has, even if only in oblique ways.

Valuable qualities to show are leadership, curiosity, perseverance, dedication, problem-solving, studiousness, and creative thinking.

If you can showcase that you learn from failure, that can also be beneficial.

Your goal is to say something meaningful about yourself, something memorable that will stick with the admissions committee, and something that will make you connect with the college you’re applying to. If you’ve done that with fifty words to spare, there’s nothing wrong with coming in under the word count.

On the other hand, if you’ve only written fifty words out of two-hundred, it’s likely that you haven’t said enough.

Avail yourself of college essay advisors so you know when you’ve said what you’re trying to say.

Notre Dame is open to all denominations, faiths, and persons from non-religious backgrounds. No matter who you are, you are welcomed into Notre Dame’s studies, and your application is not contingent on your spirituality or lack thereof.

Many universities and colleges in the US were founded by religious institutions or religious persons, but none of those schools will penalize a non-religious applicant or make them feel unwelcome on campus or in class.

When you’re applying to a variety of schools, and we do recommend you apply to 8-10, there may be some overlap in college essay topics . As always, do your research. Before writing all of your essays, take a look at the different topics, and if you find areas of overlap, you can certainly reuse writing.

With that said, colleges are looking for values in line with theirs, so you may need to make sure that your essays align with multiple colleges in every way, not just the specific prompts.

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Notre Dame Essay Guide: 2022-2023

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Notre Dame Essay Guide Quick Facts: 

Not sure how to approach the Notre Dame essay prompts? Our guide to the Notre Dame essay supplemental essays will show you exactly how to write engaging Notre Dame essays and maximize your admissions odds. If you need help responding to the Notre Dame essay prompts, create your free account or schedule a complimentary advising consultation o n line .

Does Notre Dame have supplemental essays? 

Yes, Notre Dame requires all applicants to complete Notre Dame supplements. You will submit your Notre Dame supplemental essays in addition to your personal statement on the Common App or Coalition App.  

Need some help writing your Common App essay? Get great tips from our Common App essay guide .  A strong Common App essay, in addition to well-written University of Notre Dame supplemental essays, will only bolster your application. 

Notre Dame essay requirements:

There are two Notre Dame supplemental essays. Both of the Notre Dame supplemental essays are required for all applicants. 

The first Notre Dame essay prompt essentially asks, “Why Notre Dame?” The second of the required Notre Dame essays, however, is more open-ended. For the second essay, each applicant must choose one of four additional Notre Dame supplemental essay prompts to answer.

Keep reading this guide for a breakdown of each of the Notre Dame essay prompts. Every Notre Dame application essay has a limit of 200 words. So, you don’t have many words to impress Notre Dame admissions with your Notre Dame essays.

What are the Notre Dame supplemental essays?

The Notre Dame supplemental essays are on the Common App site . You can also visit the Notre Dame Admissions site for details about each of the Notre Dame essay prompts. The Notre Dame website also offers a full list of their evaluation criteria beyond the Notre Dame supplemental essays.

In your Notre Dame supplemental essays, you will discuss your motivations for applying to the school as well as your background and experiences . As you write, remember the purpose of the Notre Dame essay prompts—to help the Notre Dame admissions committee get to know you. 

Don’t view the Notre Dame essays as just another part of the Notre Dame requirements. Instead, think of the Notre Dame supplemental essays as opportunities to tell your story and persuade the reader that you will contribute to and benefit from the Notre Dame community. 

Notre Dame Essay — Prompt 1 ( Required ):

Notre dame is a catholic university, founded by members of the congregation of holy cross, with a mission to educate the hearts and minds of students. what excites you about attending notre dame (200 words)..

This Notre Dame application essay essentially asks you, “Why Notre Dame?” 

While you’ve likely seen this sort of “why school” essay prompt, the best Notre Dame supplements will specifically address specific details. Your Notre Dame essays should go beyond your in-class education to discuss your growth as an individual and community member. How will Notre Dame help you achieve your academic, personal, and life goals?

In this Notre Dame application essay, think about reasons why Notre Dame specifically will help you achieve your ambitions. As you write your Notre Dame supplements, try to be personal and specific. You may want to use this first required Notre Dame essay to write about particular moments or people that have shaped your decision to apply. Additionally, in your Notre Dame essays, include the programs, organizations, and groups that you plan to join. Why do these programs excite you? How will you grow and learn? 

Mention your intended majors and minors

If you are applying to a specific major and/or minor , mention it in your Notre Dame application essay. Are there classes that interest you? Professors you would like to do research with? Your Notre Dame essays also might discuss a unique intersection of fields you would like to study. Try to seamlessly infuse your Notre Dame supplemental essays with details specific to you. A successful response to the Notre Dame essay prompts will be a cohesive narrative that shows the reader that you will succeed at Notre Dame.

In your Notre Dame supplements, include opportunities that are less academic in nature. Perhaps you want to get involved with Campus Ministry or the Center for Social Concerns. Do you want to play intramural sports ? Study abroad? By integrating these elements into your Notre Dame essays, you will show the admissions team how you will contribute to the Notre Dame community. 

Make every word count

notre dame essay

You only have 200 words to write this Notre Dame essay, so make sure every word counts. In your Notre Dame supplements, don’t paint your undergraduate years as a means to an end. Notre Dame is a vibrant community where you will inevitably grow and change. Yes, you will be prepared for the “real world” and gain an immense network of alumni resources. However, that’s not what the admissions team wants to see in your Notre Dame essays. 

In your Notre Dame application essay, don’t just write about common traditions, emotional connections, or your attachment to Notre Dame’s Catholic theology. Instead, in your Notre Dame essay, focus on the specific parts of Notre Dame that interest you. 

Notre Dame Essay Reflection Questions: 

Notre Dame Essay — Additional Questions:

Choose one of the following options (200 words), #1 – people in the notre dame community come from many different places, backgrounds, and walks of life. how is where you’re from a part of who you are.

With the first prompt, Notre Dame admissions wants to see how your background has shaped who you are today.  Strong Notre Dame supplemental essays will not only show how applicants’ backgrounds have formed their identities, but also how they will bring that diversity to Notre Dame’s campus . 

You can respond to the first of the four Notre Dame supplemental essays in many ways. Perhaps you’re a first or second generation immigrant, and a certain culture has played a large part in your upbringing. Or, perhaps you’re the first born sibling of eight and have teetered the line between older sibling and extra parent. Or, maybe you just live in a small town that has its own traditions that have shaped your childhood. Anything that has played a role in who you are today is fair game in this Notre Dame application essay. 

If responding to this prompt, make sure you choose something that you can write passionately about. Remember, Notre Dame admissions needs to see what you will bring to campus in these Notre Dame supplemental essays. How has your community shaped you, and how will you share that with the Notre Dame community? Strong responses to the University of Notre Dame supplemental essays will not only show who you are, but what you will be able to share with the Notre Dame community during your time on campus. 

#2 – Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in.

The second of the Notre Dame Supplemental essays is all about passion for a cause. Notre Dame admissions looks for students who actively pursue their values. So, this Notre Dame application essay should show how you publicly supported a cause that you believe in.

For this Notre Dame essay, “advocacy” can mean a variety of things. A moving response to this Notre Dame application essay could be something as simple as writing about a time when you spoke up and helped someone to understand a different perspective. When writing this Notre Dame essay, think about how you have created some sort of change or made an impact by speaking up about something you value.

Respond to this prompt, like the other Notre Dame supplemental essays, with as much detail as possible. In this Notre Dame application essay, talk about why you advocated something and how it made a change. How did the experience with advocacy affect you? How might it affect your future?

#3 – If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it?

Choose the third of the Notre Dame supplemental essays if you think of yourself as a passionate problem-solver. The solution to the problem you tackle in this Notre Dame essay doesn’t need to “save the world.” You don’t have to write about solving something as grandiose as climate change in your Notre Dame application essay. In fact, successful Notre Dame supplemental essays will speak on a solution to a problem that is meaningful to you. 

In your Notre Dame application essay, you may even choose to address a problem that you’ve started working towards already. What else could be done to solve the issue? How would it create change? Strong Notre Dame essays will revolve around impact.

Don’t forget the “why”

notre dame essay

In your response to this Notre Dame application essay prompt, you should include how and why you would want to tackle this particular issue affecting your community. Your Notre Dame essay should teach your reader something about you—not just about your topic. Be sure to articulate why you have chosen to help solve this problem in this Notre Dame essay. What does your Notre Dame application essay show about your identity and values?

Students may choose to write about something related to their intended area of study in the third of the four Notre Dame supplements. However, don’t feel limited to make the problem and your solution relate to academics in this Notre Dame essay. Remember that in all of the Notre Dame supplemental essays, Notre Dame admissions wants to learn more about you. You certainly have interests outside of academics; talk about them in this Notre Dame application essay. 

Dreamers may be inclined to respond to this Notre Dame application essay. Get creative with your solution. Just make sure that your passion for solving this particular problem shows in this Notre Dame essay. 

#4 – What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you?

The last of the Notre Dame supplemental essays asks applicants to think about the best compliment they have ever been given. When writing this Notre Dame application essay, try not to get too caught up in the actual compliment. This Notre Dame essay, similar to the other Notre Dame supplemental essays, is all about how it relates back to you. Strong Notre Dame essays will show the impact that compliment had on you. Out of all the compliments you’ve ever received, why did that particular one get logged in your memory?

When responding to this Notre Dame essay, show why the compliment was so meaningful. In this Notre Dame application essay, the compliment itself doesn’t matter; its importance to you does. Does the compliment speak to who you inherently are? Or was it from someone that you particularly admire? This Notre Dame application essay is all about the depth behind the compliment. 

Successful University of Notre Dame supplemental essays will not brag. A strong response to the last of the Notre Dame essay prompts will focus on the impact the receiving that compliment had on you.

Which Notre Dame essay prompt should I choose?

notre dame essay guide

Each of the Notre Dame essay prompts allows you to discuss something different. There’s no right or wrong topic to choose when it comes to the Notre Dame essays. Instead, choose the prompt that speaks to you most. 

The best strategy to choose your Notre Dame application essay is to brainstorm a topic or two for each. Think about how you might respond to these Notre Dame essay prompts by writing a few bullet points for what you would include in your Notre Dame essays. Then, choose the Notre Dame application essay that best lets you showcase your identity. 

How do I write Notre Dame’s supplemental essays?

How do you write strong Notre Dame supplements that will enhance your Notre Dame application? Let’s discuss some strategies for responding to the Notre Dame essay prompts. 

The most successful Notre Dame supplemental essays will be genuine, personal, and specific. You should choose engaging and authentic topics for your Notre Dame essays. Remember, your readers evaluate your Notre Dame supplemental essays for both content and writing ability. It’s not only about what you say in your Notre Dame essays, but also how you say it.

It may feel daunting to fit everything you want to say in two 200-word Notre Dame application essays. Approach each of your Notre Dame essays with a plan. Brainstorm first, then make a detailed outline for each Notre Dame application essay. Once you have an outline, write and revise. Clear and concise writing will help you maximize your space. Every word matters in the University of Notre Dame supplemental essays. 

The “so what?”

Most importantly, include the “so what?” in your Notre Dame supplemental essays, particularly when describing your own experiences. You should provide enough context that your reader understands your narrative , but your Notre Dame essays should ultimately answer why this story matters. What skills can you highlight in each Notre Dame application essay? How did your mindset shift? What values does your story reveal about who you are? Why did you choose to tell this story?

Leave yourself time to proofread and polish your Notre Dame supplemental essays. Remember, your Notre Dame essays help the admissions team understand who you are beyond your grades and test scores. So, don’t underestimate their importance. These Notre Dame essays are much more than mere Notre Dame requirements. Think of each Notre Dame application essay as a chance to at depth to your Notre Dame application narrative.  

How important are Notre Dame’s supplemental essays?

Well, how important are Notre Dame essays to the Admissions Committee? 

The University spends time each year determining their Notre Dame essay prompts. The admissions team changes the prompts at least slightly each year, and they sometimes unveil entirely new questions. This year’s Notre Dame essay prompts are significantly different from last year’s. This year’s Notre Dame requirements also signify a shift toward quality over quantity—in the second Notre Dame application essay, students used to choose two prompts rather than just one. 

Ultimately, what does Notre Dame look for in essays? Authentic and well-written stories about what makes you who you are. Use this essay guide to write Notre Dame supplemental essays that stand out. Engage your reader through interesting stories, vivid descriptions, and an actionable plan for your time on campus. These details will make your Notre Dame essays stand out.

5 Tips for Writing the Best Notre Dame Supplemental Essays: 

Successful Notre Dame supplemental essays will vary based on an applicant’s personal experiences and future goals. However, there are certain things that will help when taking on any of the University of Notre Dame supplemental essays. 

How to write stand out Notre Dame essay responses:

#1 – start early.

Give yourself time to edit and revise each of your Notre Dame supplemental essays! Notre Dame has two deadlines : Restrictive Early Action on November 1, 2021 and Regular Decision on January 1, 2022. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the Notre Dame requirements.

#2 – Ignore the stats

Don’t worry about things like the Notre Dame acceptance rate when you are working on each Notre Dame application essay. Instead, try to write the best Notre Dame essays possible. Forget all of the Notre Dame requirements and just focus on the Notre Dame supplements when writing. 

#3 – Opt for passion

You have full control over your Notre Dame essays. Choose a topic that you can write passionately about and pay close attention to the message that your Notre Dame supplements send. Each Notre Dame application essay serves as your introduction to the admissions committee. 

#4 – Look at the big picture

Consider the entirety of your application before submitting. Make sure that each essay says something new. No two successful Notre Dame essays are the same, just like no two Notre Dame students are the same.

#5 – Be yourself

The Notre Dame supplements really are the best opportunity to just be you. Don’t focus on what you think admissions wants to hear in each Notre Dame application essay. Let your experiences, passions, and goals leap off the page and impress Notre Dame admissions. Successful Notre Dame supplemental essays will show who you are and what’s important to you. 

Notre Dame Supplemental Essays — Final Thoughts

Notre Dame is an undoubtedly special university to attend. Don’t try to tell the admissions team what you think they want to hear in each Notre Dame application essay. Be yourself and tell your story . Do your research to make sure each of your Notre Dame supplemental essays shows why you belong at Notre Dame. Remember that passion is key, so get excited about your responses to each Notre Dame application essay. Good luck!

Want to learn more about the Notre Dame admissions process? Check out this Snapchat take over from a current Notre Dame admissions counselor for tips on essays and insight into the university’s holistic application review process.

Notre Dame is an undoubtedly special university to attend. Don’t try to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear. Instead, be yourself and tell your story. Finally, do your research to make sure each of your Notre Dame supplemental essays shows why you belong at Notre Dame. Good luck!

notre dame essay

For more resources on Notre Dame, including stories from CollegeAdvisor students who were accepted to Notre Dame , click here . Want help crafting your Notre Dame supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a no-cost advising consultation online .

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notre dame supplemental essays examples

3 University of Notre Dame Essay Examples by Accepted Students

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Early decision and early action deadlines are about a week away. You can still get a professional review of your college essays in time for early deadlines on CollegeVine.

notre dame supplemental essays examples

The University of Notre Dame is a highly selective school, so it’s important to write strong essays to help your application stand out. In this post, we’ll share essays real students have submitted to the University of Notre Dame. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Read our University of Notre Dame es say breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.

Prompt: 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? (200 words)

I was ten years old when I first heard the word Alzheimer’s. While my Mom explained that Grammy would progressively lose several of her mental functions, my head spun as I tried to process my new reality. I grew up 2,000 miles apart from Grammy, and after her diagnosis, our lengthy phone calls turned into meaningless exchanges as she forgot who I was. I was fifteen when Grammy passed away, but my heart mourned the person I lost five years earlier, the side of my grandmother that disease had stripped away.

I aspire to honor Grammy’s legacy by serving elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At Notre Dame, I would like to work under Dr. Suhail Alam to develop therapies for treating neurodegenerative disease using epigenetic pathways. In this role, I will tie my personal connection with neurodegenerative disease to my research skills from the USC Biomechanics Research Lab, working towards a cure to serve both current and future Alzheimer’s patients. Once I graduate, I hope to build on this foundation as a physician. By working directly to treat Alzheimer’s patients and continuing with medical research, I will serve all those who have been personally affected by neurodegenerative disease.

What the Essay Did Well

This is a great response that answers the prompt, has a strong emotional connection, and even ties in why this student wants to attend Notre Dame. The essay goes above and beyond what the prompt asks for without losing any of the important details and explanation needed to answer the prompt.

We learn that this student wants to serve people who have been affected by neurodegenerative diseases and their families by becoming a physician for Alzheimer’s patients. It’s very clear who they intend to serve after graduation. We also get emotional reflection in the anecdote at the beginning the student used to explain their motivation for focusing on neurodegenerative diseases. This essay does a really good job of establishing emotion and pathos in a story that fits with the rest of the essay. It wasn’t super detailed, but we learned how hopeless this student felt and how that translated into a need to dedicate their life to serving Alzheimer’s patients.

Another great aspect of this essay is how it mentioned specific resources at Notre Dame that will help them accomplish their goal of becoming a physician post-grad. The prompt didn’t specifically ask for the student to discuss offerings they want to take advantage of, but including it shows that this student feels Notre Dame will play an integral part in their future success. Mentioning Dr. Alam and the specific research this student wants to participate in is a clear sign that this student has done their research and knows exactly what they want out of Notre Dame.

In general, this was a great response to the prompt because it walked the reader through this student’s life. Starting with this student’s reasoning for pursuing this path when they were a child, the essay then discusses how they will develop their interest and skills in college to ultimately be able to practice as a physician as an adult. This roadmap the essay follows makes the essay very easy to follow so they reader walks away knowing exactly who this student wants to serve and how they intend to get there. 

What Could Be Improved

One way this essay could be strengthened would be to employ more showing and less telling in the anecdote at the beginning. Right now, the student tells us what happened retrospectively: “I was ten years old when I first heard the word Alzheimer’s.” Rather than explaining what happened as the current senior writing the essay, the student should have put themselves back in the moment as a ten year old kid to make the story more engaging.

If the essay showed the anecdote instead of telling it, it could look something like this: “‘Alzheimer’s?’ I could barely figure out how to spell the word, let alone comprehend what it meant for Grammy. ‘So Grammy isn’t going to remember me anymore?’ There must be a mistake.” Putting the student into the moment when they first heard about their grandma’s Alzheimer’s allows them to use dialogue and real-time emotions to deliver an even bigger emotional connection in the hook.

I could sense my student—Aanya’s—interest evaporate as I stumbled. My virtual whiteboard was filled with abstract art, trying to pass off as math notations. Although I was initially reluctant to let her use Khan Academy, its quality and technical sophistication blew me away. Moreover, after Aanya mastered the basics online, we explored exciting higher-order problems and she developed enduring insights.

The economist in me spotted the opportunity to divide labor. Imagine the power of a great teacher reaching millions of students across the world through a single video. This allows physical teachers to support students who need more help individually. Especially in underfunded schools with teacher shortages, pre-recorded lessons would be a cost-effective solution.

However, implementing blended pedagogy is impossible through one discipline. The pandemic exposed an alarming digital divide, and there’s a desperate need to procure laptops and provide internet access. To raise capital and gain expertise to execute these projects, I’d use resources at Mendoza for nonprofit management. I want to take political science classes because without understanding political hurdles, these grand dreams would be stillborn. 

After I graduate, my most far-flung-dream is to start a school, innovative in pedagogy and audacious in striving to improve social mobility.

This essay did a good job of presenting the student’s knowledge about education and the nuances in providing a good education. Through their discussion of tutoring a student, pre-recorded lessons, and disparities in Internet access, this student establishes that they have hands-on experience and theoretical knowledge about how to best provide education. Providing these details helps display the student’s passion for teaching. By making the student’s passion clear, the admissions officers reading this essay know that this student will be an engaged student who will one day accomplish something great.

The essay also did a nice job of connecting the student’s future dream to what they discussed during the essay. In the last sentence we learn that this student wants to open a school that combines innovative teaching methods, they mentioned in the second paragraph, with the possibility for social mobility, that they recognized was an issue in the current education system in the third paragraph. Having this overarching idea was helpful to understand how everything they mentioned would fit together in their future.

This essay really struggled with clarity. It wasn’t clear until the last sentence what this student actually wanted to do after graduating. The initial story of tutoring Aanya didn’t really connect to the rest of the essay and left the reader trying to find a connection in the first few paragraphs. The student’s ambition to open up a school with innovative teaching methods to overcome social mobility should have been upfront so the reader would understand how each paragraph fit into answering the prompt.

The transitions from ideas were also disjointed which added to some of the confusion. The student goes from talking about tutoring a student, to Khan Academy, to economics, to unequal Internet access without providing a clear roadmap of where they are heading next. These transitions could have been made clearer with the inclusion of transition words to segway from one topic to the next. 

It was also unclear what this student’s connection to this issue was besides tutoring Aanya. They seemed to be informed about providing education, but there was a lack of personal reflection on what inspired them to start teaching in the first place or when they realized disparities in Internet access was an issue they wanted to address. By the end of the essay, the reader knows what the student wants to do (open a school that addresses the online learning and social mobility problems addressed in the essay), but we don’t know why . The why is the most important part, so this essay needs to address that. 

Prompt: Notre Dame has a rich history deeply rooted in tradition. Share how a favorite tradition from your life has impacted who you are today.

Although I despised them at the time, technology restrictions in Boarding school gave birth to a tradition close to my heart. With nothing else to do, our suitemates would gather together after “lights-out” and just talk. Sometimes it’d be consoling a friend over a bad break-up or a serious debate on the merits of Latin honors. Whatever the topic, these conversations were always compassionate, spirited, and a source of familial support.

This camaraderie also made studying profoundly different, as learning and fun stopped being antithetical ideas. Nights reserved for calculus were always punctuated by ping-pong sessions, but we never sabotaged each other in a futile race to the top. We were a collaborative family, where instead of selfish opportunity costs, we were driven by brotherly love. No accolade could beat this feeling of finding home, away from home. 

At Notre Dame, to build that sense of family, I want to create a discussion group—Night Owls—to gather at night and ponder both the grandiose and whimsical philosophical questions over hot chocolate. Think of these events as modern versions of the infamous Greek Symposia, just without the booze. This combination of conversation, family, and intellectual inquiry is what I want from college. It doesn’t sound very prudential, but it’s surely poetic.

The student who wrote this essay did a good job of tying their previous experience with a tradition to a tradition they want to bring to the Notre Dame community. This student pinpointed exactly what they loved so much about living in a community with their peers and how they planned to recreate that experience in college. The descriptions about the types of debates or ping-pong tournaments the student engaged in create an image of an intellectual and supportive environment admissions officers want to see at their college.

Additionally, by coming up with a name and a plan for the discussion group, the student’s interest is evident and it shows that they took time to consider genuinely starting this group at college. In general, the student’s writing created a warm sense of family and bonding that displayed some of the student’s key values. This leaves the reader with a positive impression of the type of person this student is outside of the classroom, which was exactly what the prompt was looking to achieve.

One way this essay could be improved would be to include concrete examples of the types of discussions the student had at boarding school or want to have at Notre Dame. Although the essay mentions discussing bad break-ups and Latin honors, adding more detail like a quote said by one of the student’s friends or an idea they discussed that made them reflect on the world would help put the reader in the room with the student. The admissions officers should have a full grasp on the impact these late-night discussions had on the student. The more details and reflections to show what memorable things were said, the better the readers will understand why this is such an important tradition to this student. 

Where to Get Your Notre Dame  Essays Edited

Do you want feedback on your Notre Dame essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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College Essays


The University of Notre Dame is one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. It attracts the best and brightest students from around the country, and its acceptance rate shows that. For the 2021-2022 school year, they admitted only 15% of applicants . Because most applicants have amazing grades and transcripts, your Notre Dame application essays will be one of the most important ways for you to stand out from the crowd!

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about writing Notre Dame's application essays. First, we'll give you an overview of the Notre Dame supplement. Then we'll walk you through each essay individually and answer the following questions:

And finally, we'll give you four top tips for taking your Notre Dame essays to the next level. So let's get started!

Why Are the Notre Dame Application Essays Important?

The hard truth is that getting into Notre Dame is tough. Only 15% of applicants in 2020/2021 were accepted, which makes Notre Dame even harder to get into than schools like Georgia Tech and Vassar !

And because Notre Dame attracts top talent, admitted students also boast excellent standardized test scores. In fact, the average Notre Dame student scored between a 1460–1540 on their SAT or a 33–35 on their ACT.

So what kind of applicants get admitted? According to the Notre Dame Office of Undergraduate Admissions , Notre Dame is looking for well-rounded, passionate students who excel in the classroom and are involved in the community. Here's how Notre Dame sums up the importance of the essay portion of your application:

"The writing supplement gives us an opportunity to get to know you in a more personal way outside of your stats. So, let your personality shine, take risks, and remember that there is no right answer."

In other words, admissions counselors want to know the  real  you. These essays are your chance to show admissions counselors that you're the whole package, especially since Notre Dame does not conduct admissions interviews.

That means your essay responses will be one of your only opportunities to show admissions counselors that you're an excellent fit for their university .


Let's take a closer look at the Notre Dame supplement, which you'll have to fill out as part of your overall application.

An Overview of the Notre Dame Supplement

The Notre Dame supplement is available through either the Common App or the Coalition App websites. The Common App and the Coalition App are online platforms that let you apply to multiple colleges at once. If you aren't sure what they are or how to use them, check out our guides to filling out the Common App and the Coalition App , which include tips for tackling the personal essays!

Here's where things get a little bit tricky: the Notre Dame supplement is submitted in addition to the application you have already filled out. That means you will be submitting additional essays specific to Notre Dame on top of the essays you've written for your universal application package. That's why it's called the Notre Dame supplement!

The 2 Parts of the Notre Dame Writing Supplement

The supplement itself asks you to write and submit two additional essays, which are split into two groups:

The online portals give you a maximum of 200 words to respond to each prompt. That's not very much space! But remember: your admissions essays are about quality, not quantity.

Now that you have a general sense of the Notre Dame supplement, let's take a closer look at each essay topic.


Essay 1: "Why Notre Dame?"

Notre Dame is a Catholic university, founded by members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, with a mission to educate the hearts and minds of students. What excites you about attending Notre Dame?

Remember: this essay topic is mandatory, which means you must answer it to complete the supplement. But don't worry...we're going to walk you through the process!

What Is the Essay Asking You to Do?

This prompt is essentially the "Why This College?" question. This is a common supplemental essay question designed to help admissions counselors understand why Notre Dame—and literally no other university!—is the perfect school for you. The "Why Notre Dame" prompt also serves another purpose: it helps them get a sense of how you, as both a student and as a person, will contribute to the Notre Dame community.

Y our job is to show admissions counselors that you're the perfect fit for Notre Dame, and vise versa.

What Makes for a Good Answer?

If you want to knock this essay out of the park, here's what you should do.

#1: Do your homework.

The key to writing an amazing "Why Notre Dame?" essay is showing admissions counselors that you've really dug into the resources and opportunities available at the school. Doing this proves you're more than interested—it shows you're passionate and motivated, too.

As you research, look at specific classes you might be interested in taking and/or professors you might want to research under. ( Here's a list of all the colleges and departments at Notre Dame to get you started !) For example, if you want to program the next Alexa, you'll want to mention taking classes like Artificial Intelligence and Software Development Practices. Or if curing cancer is more your thing, you can mention working with Dr. Jessica Brown , who is researching RNA to better understand how cancer works.

#2: Not sure what you want to major in yet? No problem.

This is a common question we get when it comes to the "Why This College?" essay. The simple answer is: it's okay to not know! Admissions counselors know that your major isn't set in stone, but they do want to see that you're thinking about the future. Even if you're not 100% certain about what you want to do in the future, pick a potential academic field for the sake of writing this prompt.

#3: Plan to address the "mind" and the "heart."

You probably already noticed that the application prompt very specifically mentions two concepts: the "mind" and the "heart." Notre Dame is a religiously affiliated institution, and while they don't require all students to be religious, part of their core mission is to foster "the development...of those disciplined habits of mind, body, and spirit."

So in your response, you need to make sure you're doing more than just talking about how Notre Dame will shape you academically. Admissions counselors also want to see how the school will shape you as a person. You'll have to address both of these things in order to accurately answer the prompt!

#4: Don't overlook the Notre Dame community, either.

The prompt specifically asks you about how the Notre Dame experience will impact you, which means admissions counselors want to know more about how you'll fit into the Notre Dame community.

For instance, if you were in theatre in high school, you might want to participate in Shakespeare at Notre Dame ! Also, many departments have their own student organizations (like the American Studies Club or Beta Gamma Sigma , a business honors society). Make sure you check departmental pages for this information.

One quick note about religion: Notre Dame is a Catholic university, so many of i ts community programs are religiously affiliated . Unless you're serious about becoming a member of one of these groups, don't mention it in your essay. Admissions counselors read thousands of applications every year, and they will know if you're being sincere!

#5: Start narrowing things down.

Now that you've done your research and have a list of classes, professors, programs, and extracurriculars, choose the two or three things that stand out most. You only have 200 words, so you need to give yourself space to talk about the items you've chosen!

#6: Relate your topics to your goals .

Remember, your job is to show admissions counselors that Notre Dame is the only school for you. Explain how the classes, programs, and activities you've mentioned will put you on the path to achieve your goals while growing as a person.

For example, if you want to study adolescent psychology, explain how your coursework and experience at Notre Dame will help you go on to research how social media affects adolescents' brain development. By making it personal, you'll be able to emphasize how Notre Dame is the only place that can set you on the path to success.

What Are Some Potential Essay Topics?

Along with the examples we mention earlier in this section, here are a few other topics you might consider for this essay:

Are There Pitfalls You Should Avoid?

Avoid these mistakes so you don't leave the wrong impression with admissions counselors.

#1: Avoid generalities

Make sure you're being as specific as possible about what makes Notre Dame special. Don't just say you're excited to attend because of the school's study abroad programs—most, if not all, major colleges in the United States offer study abroad. What specific programs does Notre Dame offer that you can't find anywhere else?

The same goes for talking about your career interests. Don't say that you want to stop climate change. How do you want to do that? How will specific classes, professors, and research opportunities at Notre Dame help you save the world?

#2: Leave sports out of it

We know, we know: part of the appeal of Notre Dame is joining the legion of Fighting Irish. But unless you're joining one of the athletic teams, focus on academics, career, and service opportunities instead.

#3: Don't sound bored

The question asks about what makes you excited to attend Notre Dame, so let your passion show through in your writing.


Essay 2: Choose Your Prompt

For this section of the Notre Dame essay supplement, you're given three essay prompts, and you'll choose one to answer. Again, you'll have a 200 word limit. 

How to Choose Your Prompt

For some people, choosing the prompt is the hardest part! There are a few things you can do to make this easier.

#1: Choose the prompt that lets you share new information

Go through the list and rule out any prompts that you've already discussed as part of your Common App or Coalition App. Some of the Notre Dame supplement essays involve talking about similar topics to the Common App and Coalition App essay prompts. Make sure you choose a Notre Dame essay prompt that lets you talk about something fresh and new!

#2: Brainstorm every prompt

Take an afternoon and write down potential ideas for every prompt below. Don't worry about whether the ideas are good or not—just write them down! Once you're done, take a look at which prompts give you the opportunity to share something new that you haven't already mentioned in your application.

#3: Read ahead

Take a minute to read through the Notre Dame essay example topics below. See if any of the ideas or strategies jump out to you!

Now let's take a closer look at each prompt and how to answer them.

People in the Notre Dame community come from many different places, backgrounds, and walks of life. How is where you’re from a part of who you are?

What Is This Essay Asking You to Do?

The purpose of this essay prompt is to learn more about what makes you who you are. This is your change to (briefly!) show how your background, be it cultural or geographical or anything else, has shaped you into the person you are now. You don't have a lot of room, but try to be as specific as possible.

A major part of this essay is explaining how it relates to who you are as a person, so be sure to choose a topic that you feel will give readers a bit of a better insight into who you are.

What Makes a Good Answer?

#1: Be honest. Don't be tempted to choose a topic that you really don't care that much about but feel will "impress" Notre Dame. It'll result in a weak essay they'll see right through. 

#2: Explain why your background is important to you. This probably the most important part of your response since it shows readers what makes you tick.

#3: Give examples. Give specific examples of how your background has shaped you. Do you have certain family or cultural traditions? Places you visit? Holidays? Go into detail!

#1: Lying . As we mentioned above, don't make up an interest to try to impress the admissions team. Faking your background is a very bad idea, and won't help your application. Notre Dame wants to get to know the real you. Show them.

#2: Forgetting to tie it back to yourself. So your town has an annual rubber duckie festival? Great! But how does that relate back to you? Notre Dame didn't ask this question to learn more about your home; they want to know about you!.

Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in.

In this essay, you get the chance to not only show what you believe in, but what you're willing to do in order to defend it. In short, it's a great way to show off your character, something Notre Dame cares a lot about. The causes closest to you offer great insight into who you are and what you value.

#1: Choosing an appropriate topic. You may care very, very much about which order the S tar Wars movies should be viewed in, but try to pick something that shows your character and beliefs.

#2: Reflecting on your actions. Remember to say why you felt compelled to advocate for what you believed in. What were the stakes? What did it mean to you? And how did you feel after?

#1: Spending too long setting the scene. You only have 200 words, so you'll need to establish the setting as quickly as possible.

#2: Being vague. Another major pitfall in answering this question is being too vague and general. For example, stating something like, "After I told the school board we needed to focus more on sustainability in our school and lunch supplies, it felt good" isn't quite enough. Why did you feel good? What else did you feel? And what happened afterward?

If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it?

This essay prompt asks you to choose something in your community that you want to fix. This works in two parts: first, you get to show what you care about in your community. Are you focused on environmental justice? A specific neighborhood? A school? A group of people?

Second, you get to dream big and solve the problem yourself , which shows off your creativity and dedication.

#1: Explaining the problem. You'll need to begin by describing the problem, and stating clearly why it's so important to you to solve. Why this specific issue? Why does it matter, and what are potential consequences? How would it help your community?

#2: Describing the solution . In order to show how much thought you've given to this problem, you'll need to take care in providing the solution. You have unlimited funds to solve it, but this isn't the time to get goofy. Instead, think forward to the future: make sure your solution isn't a quick fix, but something more long term.

#1: Not taking the prompt seriously. Make sure you choose a real problem in your community. You may personally find it terrible that there's no frozen yogurt place in town, but try to dream a little bigger. Notre Dame takes their prompts fairly seriously, and they want to know what you value.

#2: Being too general. You only have 200 words, but try to get as specific as possible. If you're advocating for a community skate park, for example, say precisely how that will help the area, who will be positively impacted, and what your unlimited funds will go toward.

What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you?

This essay prompt wants you to think about how you see yourself, and why . There are many types of compliments you can choose from, but try to choose one that reflects your values. Perhaps someone pointed out your helpfulness, which made you realize how much you value service. Or maybe you were praised for a talent or skill you've worked very hard on.

#1: Sincerity. This is a tricky prompt. It can be really hard to talk yourself up, and that's precisely what they're asking you to do. Be your truest self, and make sure you do a lot of inner reflection about which topic you choose.  

#2: The right topic . There are many different types of compliments, and they all feel great! But not all of them will reveal what Notre Dame wants from you. It feels wonderful when someone compliments your eyes, but that could be a little tricky to translate into a short essay.

#1: Humblebragging. It's hard! In a lot of ways, this essay is asking you to brag about how awesome other people think you are. But remember to focus this essay on how you accepted the compliment, and what happened to you internally. 

#2: Not reflecting enough. Remember the last part of the prompt: you need to say why this compliment was meaningful to you. Really think about this part. Did it give you confidence that you needed? Did it make you see yourself in a new light? Did it change the way you acted?


4 Tips for Writing a Killer Notre Dame Essay

Follow these four tips to write a great Notre Dame essay that'll show the school who you are and why they want to admit you.

#1: Be Authentic

You're unique, with your own passions, experiences, and beliefs. Admissions counselors want to try to learn more about the "you" behind the transcript, so don't be afraid to let your personality shine through in your essays. Even more importantly, don't try to fabricate stories about yourself that you think will impress the admissions board. We guarantee that there are plenty of compelling things about you! Besides, admissions counselors have a finely tuned lie detector; they'll know if you're making things up.

Admissions counselors look to your essays to learn more about you. That's why it's important to be yourself! Here's what the Notre Dame Admissions website has to say about being authentic: "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."

#2: Deal With the Religion Question

Not everyone who gets into Notre Dame is religious, but it's important to know that some older demographic surveys show that the student body is up to 85% Catholic . Likewise, institutionally reported data indicates that a student's religious affiliation and/or commitment is considered in the admissions process . So if you are religious and haven't already mentioned that elsewhere, you might consider discussing it in your Notre Dame application essays.

But be careful! Make sure you review Notre Dame's mission and commitments to make sure your answers align with the university's beliefs. Additionally, don't beat a dead horse. Every response shouldn't revolve around religion—Notre Dame is looking for well-rounded students with a variety of interests and passions.

And if you're not religious, don't lie to try and make yourself a more appealing candidate. Like we mentioned earlier, admissions counselors read thousands of applications every year. They'll be able to tell if you're being honest or not.

#3: Jump Right In

Abandon the long-winded introduction! You only have 200 words, so make every one count. To do that, get right into your topic from the very first sentence. If that feels weird, don't worry: you can write a sentence or two of introduction to get you started, then delete it when you start revisions.

#4: Show, Don't Tell

Use descriptive words to paint a picture for your reader. Don't say "I was so nervous to sing in the talent show." Instead, say something like, "My palms were sweaty and I thought I might faint, but I walked on stage and sang anyway." One tells the reader what you did, and the other gives the reader a glimpse at your experience.


What's Next?

Notre Dame is one of the top 20 colleges in the US , so you know admission is competitive. Using an acceptance calculator can help you better understand your chances of getting in .

Notre Dame accepts both the Common App and the Coalition App. Not sure which one you should use? Don't worry: we've got a handy-dandy guide to make your decision a breeze .

Both the Common App and the Coalition App require additional essays beyond the ones we discussed in this post. (Yep, that means even more writing! Yay!) Thankfully, we have in-depth guides for both the Common App essays and the Coalition App essays .

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Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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The Admissions Strategist

How to write the notre dame supplemental essays 2020-2021: a captivating guide.

The University of Notre Dame is a private Catholic research university located in South Bend, Indiana.

Becoming one of the Fighting Irish isn’t easy: The acceptance rate is about 18%.

There’s a lot to like about Notre Dame: It’s a nationally ranked college , has excellent sports programs, and boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation.

To help you tip the admissions scale in your favor, we’re supplying all the tips and info you need to successfully complete the Notre Dame Writing Supplement.

What Are The Notre Dame Supplemental Essay Requirements?

Notre Dame accepts either the Coalition Application or the Common Application . When you add Notre Dame to your college list on either application, you’ll gain access to the Notre Dame Writing Supplement.

This portion of the application is required, and you’ll write three essay responses in total. This is in addition to the essay required through the Coalition or Common apps.

First, you must answer the following 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?

You’ll then select two of the following five questions to answer:

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?

Notre Dame recommends a response between 150-200 words.

But here’s the catch:

The maximum word count is 200 words per essay. Stick to a word count close to this number. That doesn’t give you many words to work with, but don’t worry! We’ll give you some tips for making the most of your 200 words in the next section.

General Tips for the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

There are some general tips that apply to most application essays you’ll write:

Now for some advice from the university itself:

Notre Dame admissions counselor Maria Finan writes, “ When I’m reading applications, I find that the most interesting stories are the ones that leave me feeling like I really know the applicant. 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.” 

According to Zach Klonsinkski , “ The most memorable (I think that’s a better adjective than “outstanding”) essays always help me get to know the applicant: what they believe, what interests them, and/or what they are super passionate about. Who is this person potentially coming to our campus and what can I imagine them doing here?”

He reminds students to keep the essay about them and their beliefs, values, or actions—not elaborate on a backstory. He suggests making an outline or bullet points for your essay to ensure you include all the important points. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of Notre Dame’s essay questions!

The Required Notre Dame Supplemental Essay

This essay is about “how you fit in” at the university. Notre Dame wants to know what educational impact you foresee the university having on your life. You will need to cover two things:

And remember, you have a maximum of 200 words to do it!

For the first part, do your research : 

Make a list of things that made you want to apply to Notre Dame. Look at the list and determine how these things fit with your goals and ambitions. Colleges want to ensure that applicants aren’t applying only because they recognize the name or want to attend a prestigious school.

Rather than listing a variety of reasons Notre Dame stands out to you, focus on one or two aspects of the school, then go into as much detail as possible. This will help maximize your word count.

Most importantly, talk about how these classes or opportunities relate to your future plans. Remember, thousands of students could write these exact same answers — and many probably will! 

If the study abroad program stood out to you, the two most important parts of the essay are to explain why do you want to study abroad through Notre Dame specifically, and how will that program impact your mind (educationally) and your heart (emotionally or compassionately).

This is about you taking a role as a responsible global citizen after college, not you landing a high-paying job in a corporate office. Tell Notre Dame how their experience will impact you holistically as you prepare for your future.

Remember, Notre Dame wants to learn more about you, so be personal, authentic, and specific as you develop your answer. This is your chance to show that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about Notre Dame.

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Notre dame supplemental essay 2a: aspiring to serve.

Now that we’ve discussed the required essay, we’ll take a look at the five additional essays.

Remember that you only need to answer two of the following five questions.

Get right to the point. Don’t give backstory or an extended anecdote.

We recommend answering the two questions that allow you to provide the most meaningful, important information about yourself. As with the required essay, you only have 200 words max for each question.

The key to this question is considering how you will serve and positively impact your community through your Notre Dame education. How will the knowledge and skills you gain in college allow you to improve and/or give back to your greater community? 

Think about the program you plan to pursue. If you’re interested in something like public service, health, or education, it might be easier for you to make a direct connection to how your education will serve others. Choosing marketing, computer science, or architecture, though, might prove a little more challenging.

Consider the following:

Whatever direction you choose, give specific examples, and make sure that it relates directly to you. Avoid spending too much time explaining the “what” or “who”  and focus on the “how.” Reserve two or three sentences making the connection between your education and who you will serve, and spend the rest of the essay telling the reader how you will serve.

You don’t need to have a final ending to your essay. As long as you explain your action steps, you can end the essay in whatever manner you like.

Notre Dame Essay Supplemental 2B: Change the World

There is no shortage of polarizing topics in our country at the moment—from issues of social justice to politics to a global pandemic. When considering this essay, think about what it is truly asking. Although this question opens with the dean’s quote referring to the strength of the Black Lives Matter movement, the essay does not ask you to comment on it. 

Instead, the question focuses on the dean’s passionate response to the movement to pose a question about how you would change the world for the better. He wants students to make a difference while they can. 

First, identify a problem or issue that is important to you. It might be something big like the BLM movement, disparities in health care, or the growing inequalities in education. Or, maybe it hits closer to home with your community’s response to homelessness, food insecurity, or injustice.

Once you identify that issue for which you are passionate, determine what you can do to improve that outcome. How can you, as one person living today, positively impact the world?

Avoid thinking too big and, instead, localize your impact. Think about how the topic or issue you chose can be addressed in your own community. Consider:

Only choose to write this essay if you are passionate about this topic. If it is a struggle to come up with an answer, then move on! The answer to this essay should be authentic and specific to you. 

And remember, be sure to answer with specific steps on the action you will take.

Notre Dame Essay Supplemental  2C: God and a Good Life

This essay will require some research and personal reflection. 

First, it’s important to know the values and morals that Notre Dame holds high as a Catholic university. Spend some time understanding what the university stands for and hopes to develop in its students. 

Notre Dame states that it wants students “ to learn not only how to think critically and creatively, but also how to live fully.” The university’s values lead back to its founder, Reverend Edward Sorin, C.S.C., who wanted Notre Dame to be a “powerful force for good in the world.” 

Next, think about how these values and morals are reflected in your own life. Understanding Notre Dame’s values is important, but ultimately, they want to hear what God means in your life. Consider:

Now, the essay wants to know what God and the good life means to you. You will need to define what the good life is to you. Of course, think about this with the lens of your relationship to God as well as the values that define your life and the university.

Jot down your thoughts or make a list about what these things mean to you, then organize them into your 200-word essay. Remember to be sure you are passionate about this question and that your answer reflects your own thoughts and values.

Notre Dame Essay Supplemental 2D: Favorite Traditions

Sharing traditions is a great opportunity to give admissions counselors a glimpse of who you are and what’s important to you. This can be fun and light, while still sharing a lot of information that helps counselors get to know you as a person.

Maybe there is one tradition with family or friends that has happened as long as you can remember and it’s clear this will be your subject. Or, there could be a tradition that you do solo that helps you to unwind, refresh, or reset.

This essay opens up a wide range of possibilities. Remember to show passion and personality in your answer. 

And don’t forget the last part! How has this tradition impacted who you have become? This essay is all about you!

Notre Dame Essay Supplemental 2E: Finding Joy

This is a very open essay! Surely, there are plenty of ways you find joy in your life. The essay is almost overwhelming with possibilities. 

It might be helpful to define joy, then use that to frame your answer. Thinking of the definition, make a list of things that bring you joy. Explain what joy means to you. Think about which things on your list will help you develop the strongest essay. 

Strategy 1: Pillars

Notre Dame espouses five pillars. If you’re finding some of your current ideas uninspiring, think about your experiences that fit in with one of the pillars.

These are the pillars:

You could take a couple of different approaches for the “heart” pillar.

Anyone can write about how meaningful family is, so be sure to use specific, vivid details and explain exactly how your family has molded your identity.

Reflect on what you learned about life, hope, and yourself from this experience.

Of course, the examples above aren’t the only ways to address these five pillars; they’re simply meant to give you some inspiration.

Most importantly, use vivid details and explain why the pillar you’ve discussed is so meaningful. How has it shaped your identity or future goals?

Strategy 2: Responsibility

Think about the people in your life for whom you are responsible.

This is a fairly open-ended exercise that may inspire a variety of responses.

For example:

Write about a responsibility that reflects your individual values and allows you to share something new with admissions officers.

Be sure to explain what you’ve learned from this responsibility and how it has helped you grow as a person.

Strategy 3: Fact

Ask yourself: What’s one thing I know for a fact?

Here’s an opportunity for you to be completely creative, even infusing your response with humor if that fits your personality.

Clearly, your answer to this question doesn’t need to be entirely serious. But it should show your thought process.

Convey passion for the subject you talk about, even if it’s a somewhat silly one.

And keep in mind that you don’t have to be silly—if there’s something you strongly believe in, you’re welcome to write about that too.

Make sure to avoid overly controversial issues, however. You never know who will be reading your essay or what they believe!

Strategy 4: Significance in Your Community

Ask yourself: What is something significant that happened in your community? Why does it matter to you?

Notre Dame is a geographically diverse university, and admissions officers are interested in learning about both you and your community.

Make sure you write about something that genuinely matters to you, and be prepared to explain why it’s significant in your eyes.

Conclusion: Writing the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

In order to be admitted to Notre Dame, you’ll need to write three short essays. You’re required to explain how a Notre Dame education will impact your mind and heart, but you can choose the other two essay topics from five options.

Focus on providing specific details and helping admissions officers get to know you.

Your personality should shine through in each essay, and the admissions team should be able to picture you on Notre Dame’s campus—and the contributions you’ll make in the future.

If you start early, follow the tips here, and polish your essays carefully, you’ll increase your chances of joining the Fighting Irish in the fall!

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2022-23 Notre Dame Supplemental Essays – Prompts and Tips

The University of Notre Dame is a famed Catholic institution located outside the city of South Bend, Indiana. It is a dream college for many brilliant high school students around the globe, across all faiths. For the Class of 2026, the acceptance rate fell below 13%, roughly one-third the figure seen back in the late 1980s. This begs the question—if most of the 26,000 applicants to Notre Dame are academically qualified, how does the school decide which 3,400 to accept? While the answer to that question is, of course, multifaceted, one of the answers is that you need to take advantage of the Notre Dame supplemental essays.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into the University of Notre Dame? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into Notre Dame: Admissions Data and Strategies  for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

Your mission is to write compelling, standout compositions that showcase your exceptional writing ability and reveal more about who you are as an individual. Below are Notre Dame’s supplemental prompts for the 2022-23 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.

Notre Dame Prompt #1

Notre Dame is a Catholic university, founded by members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, with a mission to educate the hearts and minds of students. What excites you about attending Notre Dame? (200 words)

In any “Why Us?” composition, you need to show that you’ve done your homework on a given school, but you don’t want it to read like a robotic list of items that you Googled ten minutes before writing the essay.

In addition to the pure research element, a lot of the time and skill required in creating a stellar Notre Dame essay will involve connecting the classes, professors, opportunities, etc. of interest that you have uncovered to your distinct values, talents, aims, proficiencies, and future goals.

Elements of a great Notre Dame “Why Us?” essay

Common mistakes on a Notre Dame “Why Us?” essay

Notre Dame Prompt #2

Please provide a response to ONE (1) of the following questions (200 words)

People in the Notre Dame community come from many different places, backgrounds, and walks of life. How is where you’re from a part of who you are?

Some students may have a powerful and deeply personal story to tell about their racial/ethnic identity, sexual/gender identity, or religious identity; others may feel that there isn’t anything particularly compelling about their own identity in any one of those categories. Alternatively, you could also talk about your place in an affinity group. Perhaps your involvement in an affinity group centered on Dungeons & Dragons, anime, volleyball, chess, painting, being a fan of a sports team, film, or any other interest one can fathom that is a core, essential, can’t-imagine-life-without-it component of your identity. If so, this essay will likely be a perfect fit for you.

One quick note: if your main Common App essay already tackled one of these topics or includes some overlapping material, you may want to select a different supplemental prompt.

Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in.

At it’s core, this essay is a chance to illustrate that you are a mature leader who follows his or her conscience. After all,  this kind of young person would be a welcome addition to the Notre Dame community. Your essay is likely going to be strongest if the task of standing up for something you believed in was difficult. There is likely to be an element of friction to this story, perhaps a sacrifice of some kind.

Advocating for something we believe in is easy when it jibes with the beliefs of the majority group or an institution to which we belong. The more revealing anecdotes will likely come from instances of disagreement with your family, a coach, a teacher, a religious leader, a group of your peers, etc. As you consider whether or not to select this essay, assess whether or not you have a truly dynamic and personal story to tell in this realm.

If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it ?

To truly understand where Notre Dame is coming from with this question, one needs to look no further than the school’s own mission statement: “Notre Dame wants to educate and inspire its students to be moral citizens within their communities and the larger world, to use their talents to the best of their ability, and to develop the generous sensibilities needed to relieve injustice, oppression, and poverty in all of their manifestations.”

If you have been involved in some type of charitable/community service endeavor throughout your high school years, this is a great opportunity to speak about that venture in more detail. Looking forward, how might you be able to use your unique talents to address an important community/global issue? How might you help eliminate some level of human suffering and injustice? You can also connect your aspirations in this realm to specific service opportunities that are available at Notre Dame.

What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you?

This is a new addition to the Notre Dame supplement family in 2022-23. We see a lot of potential here for insightful answers. There is room for a straightforward approach here. For example, someone gave you a glowing review as a human being and you really feel like it captured something about your essence. There is also the more nuanced version where perhaps the statement was not a traditional “you’re great” kind of compliment. Further, the compliment itself is not necessarily the compelling part of the essay.

Instead, the most compelling portion should be your discussion about why it was meaningful to you. This could be a great chance to tell a story about how you grew in some way. Or perhaps you realized something about yourself for the first time upon receiving the compliment. The deliverer of the compliment could be a parent, sibling, teacher, young child, boss, or complete stranger.

How important are the essays at the University of Notre Dame?

There are only two factors that Notre Dame considers to be “very important” to their evaluation process. They are: rigor of secondary school record and character/personal qualities. The next tier of “important” admissions factors includes: class rank, GPA, recommendations, extracurricular activities, and the essays. Without question, the essays play a sizable role in the admissions process at Notre Dame. They can help the committee decide who to admit when choosing between similarly-credentialed (GPA, test scores, etc.) applicants.

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Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

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The 2022-23 Short Answer Prompts: A Quick Guide from a Notre Dame Admissions Counselor

Published: August 05, 2022

Author: Maria Finan

A student is reading over his admissions essay draft.

Each year, members of the admissions team brainstorm new short answers prompts for the application.

We always ask one required question about why a student wants to attend Notre Dame, but the final question gives students a chance to choose which prompt to answer.

There are no “right answers” to these questions; rather, these questions provide another opportunity for applicants to tell us about themselves.

This year’s short answer prompts can be found here.

Since we know that writing the essays can be the hardest part of the application, we wanted to compile some advice for you as you tackle these Notre Dame-specific questions. These prompts are meant to be answered briefly (200 words maximum), and will hopefully give you some fun topics to think about as you’re putting your application together. 

Required prompt for all applicants:

Notre Dame is a Catholic university, founded by members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, with a mission to educate the hearts and minds of students. What excites you about attending Notre Dame?

This is your opportunity to tell us “why Notre Dame.” We encourage you to reflect on what draws you to Notre Dame, and what makes it unique from other universities.

Although you may have a lot of essays to write, this is not the time to simply reuse an essay from another university and change the school name to Notre Dame. Spend some time reflecting on why you hope to attend Notre Dame, and what you might offer to our community.

Choose one of four additional prompts:

My best advice for choosing which question to respond to is to think about what else you’d like to highlight about yourself in your application. This last response can be the perfect place to tell us something new about yourself, or about some distinctive aspect of your personal story or passions.

If you are trying and struggling to respond to one of these questions, pick a new one!

1. People in the Notre Dame community come from many different places, backgrounds, and walks of life. How is where you’re from a part of who you are?

At Notre Dame, we value the distinct experiences of every student and celebrate the diversity present in the Notre Dame family. This question gives you an opportunity to share how where you’re from has shaped you.

Maybe you’re an international student who will be bringing a unique perspective from outside the U.S., or you are a student living in a rural part of the country, or someone who wants to share how their ethnic or cultural background has shaped your sense of self and identity.

Whether you’re coming from an urban city, have lived your whole life in the same suburb, will be the first in your family to attend college, or are the youngest of five kids, we want to hear how your community has impacted your identity—and how you will bring that with you to Notre Dame.

2. Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in.

One of my favorite book quotes is, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” We want to hear how you’ve fought for something you believe in, whether that has been amongst your friends, at school, or at home.

The key word in this prompt is “advocated.” How have you created change, helped someone see a different perspective, made someone feel included, or found a way to make an impact? We want to hear how you’ve lived out your values as an advocate. 

3. If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it?

We’re not asking you to save the world, but we would love to hear about a problem you’re passionate about solving. This could relate to your academic interests, but we often find that our students care about causes beyond their intended fields of study.

This question is asking you to dream big and think about how you could find a solution for an issue facing your community. We hope that it’s personally meaningful to you, and that you’ll be creative about how to solve this problem. Don’t forget to share why this cause is so important to you and your community! 

4. What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you?

Think about the nicest thing someone has said to you. What did they compliment you on, and why is it something that you still remember?

We want to read about the greatest compliment you have received, and what makes it so special to you. It may be significant because of who paid you the compliment, or perhaps it speaks to something inherent to who you are as a person. Maybe it recognizes the values and commitment you have demonstrated in your interactions with others.

No compliment is too big or small for this prompt. 


Maria Finan is a senior assistant director of admissions for the Western Region of the U.S., along with Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong Province.  Learn more.


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