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August 30, 2023

2023-2024 University of Notre Dame Supplemental Essay Prompts

An aerial view of Notre Dame University's center of campus.

The University of Notre Dame has published its 2023-2024 supplemental admissions essays for applicants to the Class of 2028. This year, in addition to the Personal Statement on The Common Application , Notre Dame applicants are asked to respond to two of three essay questions in a maximum of 150 words and three of five short-answer prompts in 50 words or fewer.

2023-2024 Notre Dame Essay Topics and Short Answers

Applicants are asked to respond to two of the following three essay questions in 150 words or fewer:

1. Notre Dame fosters an undergraduate experience dedicated to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of each individual, characterized by a collective sense of care for every person. How do you foster service to others in your community?

Notre Dame, as a Catholic University, wants to see how you serve humanity. Ideally, applicants will showcase how they serve their community through their singular hook.

If their hook is applied mathematics, it would behoove an applicant to highlight how they’re addressing a community issue — like recycling or the school budget. If their hook is political science, they should write about how they’re agitating for change from a political standpoint with their town or city board (or its equivalent).

2. What is distinctive about your personal experiences and development (e.g., family support, culture, disability, personal background, community, etc.)? Why are these experiences important to you and how will you enrich the Notre Dame community?

In the wake of the Supreme Court outlawing the practice of Affirmative Action , many highly selective universities like Notre Dame have included this sort of community question in their supplements. To answer this essay question powerfully, students need not be underrepresented minorities to write a powerful response. The question is intentionally open-ended. If a student wishes to write about their faith and how they’ll bring their spiritual beliefs to Notre Dame, that works! If a student wishes to write about their disability and how they’ll bring a sense of activism for people with disabilities to Notre Dame’s community, that works too!

3. Describe a time when you advocated for something you believed in and influenced others through thoughtful discourse to promote a deeper understanding of a difficult situation.

Notre Dame’s admissions committee wants to understand what matters to a student, what makes them tick, and how they’ll go about agitating for the change they wish to see in the world — starting on Notre Dame’s campus. In order to get a sense of the change they’ll fight for each day, the best predictor is the change they’ve fought for to date.

So Notre Dame applicants will ideally zero in on one specific story — one that hopefully ties into the singular hook they present to Notre Dame ( rather than well-roundedness ) — and, through that story, make it clear what matters to them and why.

Also, it’s important to note that students do not need to have successfully swayed others to take action. Maybe they failed to persuade their peers. That’s ok! The mere act of trying to agitate for change in a specific area, ideally related to the student’s hook, will present the applicant in a good light — even if they’re ultimately unsuccessful. In fact, their failure will only make them more human and more likable to the admissions committee.

Short Answers

Students are asked to respond to three of the following five short-answer essay prompts.

1. Everyone has different priorities when considering their higher education options and building their college or university list. Tell us about your “non-negotiable” factor(s) when searching for your future college home.

Students will ideally pick something that sings Notre Dame! Because the admissions committee isn’t asking, “ Why Notre Dame ,” students do not need to include a specific reference to a Notre Dame program, institute, activity, or tradition. But they should choose something that Notre Dame either does extraordinarily well or one can’t find at most other top universities.

2. What brings you joy?

Too many applicants choose a topic that’s simply silly for this prompt, which is a common short-answer essay question among the elite universities. While the prompt need not relate to a student’s hook, it should always highlight how they think. It should always highlight a student’s intellectual curiosity. It can’t just be silly.

3. What is worth fighting for?

Here’s an opportunity for applicants to get deep but we encourage them not to pick too grandiose of a topic. They should instead choose something that they can genuinely change in the course of their lifetimes. Applicants should think locally, not globally.

4. What is something that genuinely interests you and how does this tie to the academic area you hope to study at Notre Dame?

This prompt presents applicants the chance to tie in a Notre Dame specific that doesn’t apply to any school but Notre Dame — so long as it relates to the student’s academic interest (which ideally relates to the hook they’ve demonstrated in the activities section and in other essays). Applicants should avoid name-dropping professors and listing classes when tying in their academic interest with Notre Dame.  

5. How does faith influence the decisions you make?

As a Catholic University, Notre Dame wants to understand how an applicant’s faith drives how they live their life. Students need not be religious to earn admission to Notre Dame. In fact, students need not even be Catholic. But Notre Dame’s admissions committee wants to feel that you appreciate the role faith can play in the lives of your peers and that you’re open to believing in  something  bigger than yourself.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Notre Dame Essays

If you’re interested in giving yourself the best chance of earning admission to Notre Dame by submitting essays that wow Notre Dame admissions officers, fill out Ivy Coach ’s free consultation form , and we’ll be in touch to go through our college counseling services for seniors.

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Notre Dame Supplemental Essays 2023-24 Prompts and Tips

September 8, 2023

notre dame supplemental essays

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 2027, the acceptance rate fell just below 12%, roughly one-third the figure seen back in the late 1980s. This begs the question—if most of the 28,000 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. There are two parts to Notre Dame’s writing supplement and you must select a total of five prompts—two short answer (150 words or fewer) and three very short answer (50 words or fewer). Below are Notre Dame’s supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.

Notre Dame Supplemental Essays 2023-24

Please choose two questions from the options below. Your brief essay response to each question should be no more than 150 words. 

Notre Dame fosters an undergraduate experience dedicated to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of each individual, characterized by a collective sense of care for every person. How do you foster service to others in your community? 

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 continue the work you’ve been doing? You can also connect your aspirations in this realm to specific service opportunities that are available at Notre Dame.

What is distinctive about your personal experiences and development (eg, family support, culture, disability, personal background, community, etc)? Why are these experiences important to you and how will you enrich the Notre Dame community?

Some students may have a powerful and deeply personal story to tell about their racial/ethnic identity, sexual/gender identity, family background, cultural background, or religious identity, among others; 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.

Notre Dame Supplemental Essays (Continued)

Although this prompt’s open floor plan may feel daunting, a good tactic is to first consider what has already been communicated within your Common App personal statement and activities list. What important aspect(s) of yourself have not been shared (or sufficiently discussed)? The admissions officer reading your essay is hoping to connect with you through your written words, so—within your essay’s reflection—be open, humble, thoughtful, inquisitive, emotionally honest, mature, and/or insightful about what you learned, how you grew, and how you hope to impact the Notre Dame community as a result.

Describe a time when you advocated for something you believed in and influenced others through thoughtful discourse to promote a deeper understanding of a difficult situation.

At its core, this essay is a chance to illustrate that you are a mature leader who follows their 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.

Please choose three questions from the options below. Your response to each short-answer question should be no more than 50 words. 

  • Everyone has different priorities when considering their higher education options and building their college or university list. Tell us about your “non-negotiable” factor(s) when searching for your future college home.

If you choose to answer this question, know that you’ll need to think very deeply about your answer. Admissions officers are going to receive scores of responses about aesthetically pleasing campuses and top-ranked sports teams. As such, dig deep into what your non-negotiable factors are, and think about which ones will be genuinely satisfied by attending Notre Dame. The strongest responses here will likely speak to some aspect of Notre Dame’s academic structure, social community, or general ethos . Ideally, the answer will communicate something important about how your academic and extracurricular priorities are a great fit for what Notre Dame has to offer.

2) What brings you joy?

What brings you glee, exuberance, jubilation, delight, elation, bliss…joy? There are a multitude of universal and highly relatable experiences that bring joy to one’s soul. For example, it could involve family, pets, hobbies, habits, scenes of natural beauty, literature, travel, etc. However, you could also talk about dreams for the future, more bittersweet moments, abstract thoughts, moments of glorious introversion, or a time that you  unexpectedly felt joy.

3) What is worth fighting for?

Out of everything on this Earth, what makes you tick? What keeps you up at night? What issue could you talk about or debate for hours? If you could address one problem in the world, large or small, what would it be? What values do you hold most dear? If you are answering at least one of these questions, you are on the right track with this essay.

4) What is something that genuinely interests you, and how does this tie to the academic area you hope to study at Notre Dame?

What subject makes you read books and online content until the late hours of the night? Which topics have you encountered in or outside of school that pique your curiosity? What confuses, surprises, or makes you want to learn more? Whatever your answer is, remember that you’ll need to speak to how it ties into the academic area you’d like to pursue in college, so you’ll need to be able to make a clear connection between the two. For example, your obsession with creating the perfect soufflé may have natural tie-ins to a potential chemistry major but not so much to computer science. As such, you’ll likely want to brainstorm a variety of interests so that you can choose one that clearly relates to your major.

Alternatively, you might find it helpful to approach this essay in reverse—first, consider your academic area of choice, and then, identify interests that relate to it. Or, you can take on the challenge of finding how two seemingly disparate interests/areas overlap, of course (if you end up writing an essay about soufflés and computer science, please send it to us!).

5) How does faith influence the decisions you make?

Notre Dame is a Catholic university, and religion will be part of your education and experience. If you do consider yourself to be a religious, spiritual, and/or faithful person, how does that inform the way you move through life and make decisions?

If you’re not a religious or spiritual person and do not feel that faith has any impact on your decisions, you’ll likely want to avoid answering this one.

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.

Want personalized assistance with your Notre Dame supplemental essays?

If you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Notre Dame supplemental essays, we encourage you to  get a quote  today.

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Dave Bergman

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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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 4 tips for writing amazing notre dame essays.

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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:

  • What is the essay asking you to do?
  • What makes for a good answer?
  • What are some potential essay topics?
  • Are there pitfalls you should avoid?

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:

  • First, there's the mandatory essay . This is the prompt that everyone who applies to Notre Dame must answer.
  • For your other essay, you're given a choice between four prompts and must answer one.

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:

  • Talk about how you hope to contribute to a specific ongoing research project with professor in your department.
  • Explain your future career goals and mention how joining specific campus organizations will help put you on the path to success.
  • Discuss how you want to take classes in two departments in order to think about a problem in your future profession in new ways.

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 .

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We 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 to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

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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Notre Dame Essay Guide: 2022-2023

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Notre Dame Essay Guide Quick Facts: 

  • University of Notre Dame acceptance rate: 19% — U.S. News ranks Notre Dame as a highly competitive school. 
  • Notre Dame application: Notre Dame accepts the Common Application, the Coalition Application on Scoir, and the Questbridge Application. 
  • Common App or Coalition Application essay
  • 1 (200-word) required Notre Dame essay question
  • 1 (200-word) additional essay: applicants must respond to 1 of 4 prompts
  • Notre Dame is a Catholic university located in suburban Notre Dame, Indiana.
  • #1 Notre Dame Essay Tip: Start early so you have enough time to focus on the Notre Dame essays. Supplements are just as important as your Common App essay, so don’t leave them to the last minute.

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: 

  • Is your Notre Dame essay response both specific and personal?
  • Do you address why this school attracts you in this Notre Dame essay?
  • Does your Notre Dame application essay discuss your identity as it relates to Notre Dame?

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. 

  • Does your choice of the Notre Dame essay prompts allow you to best show who you are?
  • In your Notre Dame application essay, do you avoid repeating content from elsewhere on your application?
  • Is your Notre Dame essay clear and concise?

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 CollegeAdvisor.com 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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Last updated April 14, 2023

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Blog > Essay Advice , Private University , Supplementals > How to Write the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

How to Write the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University Admissions

Key Takeaway

If you’re applying to the University of Notre Dame, then you’ll be writing two supplemental essays, each of a maximum of 200 words. You’re required to answer the first essay prompt, but you have some strategic choice with the second one.

Let’s get into it.

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.

This is a Why Us essay if ever I’ve seen one. But you’re not just starting from scratch. That first sentence of the prompt gives you a humongous hint about what you should be writing about.

See, Why Us essays can be tricky because there are so many topics you can focus on: academics, campus life, values, and more. You want to show that you understand the campus climate in a broad and deep way.

The first sentence is a hint because it gives you a few values with which to start: the fact that Notre Dame is a Catholic institution with “a mission to educate the hearts and minds of students.”

As you’re crafting your answer, you can think about why your values align with those of Notre Dame. What is exciting about how your heart and mind will be educated as a Notre Dame student? Be specific.

In your response, feel free to include particular details from the school’s website, interactions with people on campus, or information you gathered in an information session or campus tour. Your essay should make it clear that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re a natural fit for the Notre Dame community.

Now, the common question: do you have to be Catholic to apply to Notre Dame? Do I have to write about Catholicism? Notre Dame accepts students of all religious beliefs as well as no religious beliefs. That being said, the school skews heavily Catholic. You do not need to be or write about Catholicism or try to connect with the faith if it isn’t your own. If it is, great, this is a place to lean into that. If not, you can feel free to stick to the “educate the hearts and minds” bit.

Prompt #2 (choose ONE to respond to)

You’ve got a lot of options to choose from among these four. Each will add a particular kind of narrative to your application, so my advice for choosing which prompt to write about is this: a) find the area where you have the most compelling thing to say, and b) think about what parts of you are absent from the rest of your application.

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?

If you have a particularly interesting backstory, or if there’s something about your background context that isn’t revealed anywhere else in your application, then this might be the best prompt for you to choose.

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

This second option is a good way to show value alignment with Notre Dame. By explicitly writing about something you believe in, you can demonstrate that your values match up with Notre Dame’s institutional values. When writing your response, also be sure to focus on action steps. Notre Dame admissions officers want to see how you can take action for something you believe in.

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?

Again, we have another prompt that focuses on actions. But instead of writing about something you’ve already done, this prompt lets you dream a little. Notre Dame wants to see that you can identify a significant problem and plan for a solution. What you choose to write about will reveal a) what part of your community you value most and b) your critical thinking skills.

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

This prompt is kind of a quirky one. Should you write about the time someone complimented your new shoes? Probably not. You’ll want to choose a compliment that holds a lot of underlying meaning or significance. Maybe a teacher complimented your work ethic or a stranger complimented your kindness. What you write about should teach your Notre Dame admissions officer something about who you are.

And with that, you’re ready to get started on your Notre Dame supplemental essays! If you still need a little more guidance before jumping in, check out our How to Get into Notre Dame guide or sign up for the Essay Academy—our comprehensive digital college essay course. Happy writing! 👋

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Notre Dame Supplemental Essays 2024 | Strategies and Insights for Success

Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

The University of Notre Dame, nestled outside South Bend, Indiana, stands as a prestigious Catholic institution drawing admiration from brilliant high school students worldwide, regardless of faith. Despite its allure, with an acceptance rate dipping below 12% for the Class of 2027—significantly lower than figures from decades past—admission remains fiercely competitive. Among the myriad factors influencing selection, the Notre Dame supplemental essays play a pivotal role. These essays provide a platform for applicants to demonstrate their writing prowess and unveil their unique identities. Divided into two segments, comprising two short-answer and three very short-answer prompts, applicants must strategically navigate these prompts to craft compelling narratives.

Below, we delve into Notre Dame’s supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle, offering insights and tips to help applicants excel in their submissions.

Also read Notre Dame Acceptance Rate | Strategies and Insights for Admission Success 2024

Notre Dame Supplemental Essays

Question 1: Notre Dame prioritizes the holistic development of individuals, fostering a culture of care and service. How do you contribute to serving others in your community?

To grasp the essence of this question, one needs to reflect on Notre Dame’s mission: to nurture moral citizens dedicated to alleviating injustice and poverty. If you’ve engaged in community service, delve into the details and articulate your future aspirations in this area. Consider aligning your endeavors with Notre Dame’s service opportunities.

Question 2: What unique experiences and backgrounds shape your identity, and how will they enrich Notre Dame’s community?

Whether it’s your cultural heritage, family dynamics, or affinity group involvement, your distinct identity holds significance. Share personal anecdotes or insights that demonstrate your potential to contribute to Notre Dame’s diverse community. Be candid and reflective, revealing how these experiences shape your worldview and aspirations.

Question 3: Describe a moment where you advocated for your beliefs, fostering deeper understanding through thoughtful discourse.

This prompt invites narratives of moral courage and leadership. Share a challenging instance where you advocated for your convictions despite opposition. Reflect on the complexity of the situation and the impact of your discourse on others. Emphasize the depth of your convictions and your ability to navigate difficult discussions with integrity and empathy.

Notre Dame Supplemental Essays 2024

Question 1: What are your “non-negotiable” factors when choosing a college? (50 words)

Dive beyond surface-level preferences to articulate the essential elements that define your ideal college experience. Consider how Notre Dame aligns with your academic, social, and personal priorities, emphasizing aspects like academic rigor, community engagement, or cultural values.

Question 2: What brings you joy? (50 words)

Explore the sources of genuine happiness in your life, whether through cherished relationships, fulfilling activities, or profound experiences. Delve into moments of delight, contentment, or inspiration that illuminate your character and aspirations.

Question 3: What is worth fighting for? (50 words)

Identify the causes, principles, or values that ignite your passion and drive for positive change. Reflect on issues that resonate deeply with you, motivating you to advocate, innovate, or take a stand for what you believe in.

Question 4: What interests you, and how does it relate to your academic pursuits? (50 words)

Highlight a subject or passion that fuels your intellectual curiosity and ambition. Articulate its relevance to your academic goals at Notre Dame, demonstrating how your interests intersect with your desired field of study and contribute to your academic journey.

Question 5: How does faith shape your decision-making process? (50 words)

If faith guides your worldview and values, reflect on its influence in shaping your choices and actions. Discuss how your religious or spiritual beliefs inform your moral compass and decisions, particularly in navigating life’s challenges and opportunities.

Also see Notre Dame Transfer Acceptance Rate 2024 | Strategies and Insights for Success

How Important are the Essays at the University of Notre Dame?

When it comes to evaluating applicants, Notre Dame places significant emphasis on certain factors. Among these, the rigor of the secondary school record and character/personal qualities stand out as “very important.” Additionally, factors like class rank, GPA, recommendations, extracurricular activities, and, notably, the essays, are deemed “important.”

The essays, therefore, hold considerable weight in Notre Dame’s admissions process. They serve as a vital tool for the admissions committee, offering valuable insights into applicants’ personalities, values, and aspirations. In cases where candidates boast similar academic credentials, such as GPA and test scores, the essays can be instrumental in distinguishing between them and aiding in the selection of the most suitable candidates for admission. Thus, crafting compelling essays is paramount for prospective students aiming to secure a spot at Notre Dame.

While Notre Dame evaluates various aspects of applicants’ profiles, the essays emerge as a crucial component. Aspiring students should recognize the significance of crafting thoughtful, introspective essays that highlight their unique qualities and contributions. Ultimately, these essays can make a significant difference in shaping the admissions committee’s perception and increasing the likelihood of acceptance into this esteemed institution.

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Notre Dame Supplemental Essay Examples

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.

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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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How to Write the University of Notre Dame Admissions Essays 2018 – 2019

notre dame supplemental essays

The University of Notre Dame, located in South Bend, Indiana, is a private Catholic research University ranked #18 on the U.S. News and World Report’s Best National Universities List .

Boasting a football team with 11 national championships, the nation’s top Italian program, world-renowned business and architecture schools, rich alumni connections, Notre Dame offers all the benefits of a small tight-knit college community in the context of a larger top-notch research institution.

Over 80% of the university’s undergraduate students live on campus in one of the 31 single-sex residence halls, each with its own traditions, legacies, events, and sports teams. There is no greek life on campus, but the majority of students live in the same residence hall for all four years. The university is affiliated with the Congregation of Holy Cross, with over 47 chapels on campus, however, religious affiliation is not a criterion for admission. The university boasts over 120,000 alumni, including noteworthy graduates like Condoleezza Rice, Nicholas Sparks, and Joe Montana.

Notre Dame’s acceptance rate for the class of 2022 was roughly 17.6% with applications up 4% over the previous year. With three 150 word short responses, Notre Dame’s writing supplement allows you to set yourself apart from the 20,000+ applications that vie for the coveted spots.

To apply to Notre Dame, candidates may submit either the Common Application, or the Coalition Application. The college does not prefer one or the other. Candidates may apply through the Restrictive Early Action process (due November 1st), or the Regular Decision process (due January 1st).

In addition to the required essay in the Common Application or Coalition Application, Notre Dame requires three supplemental essays: applicants are all required to complete the first prompt, but may choose from 4 different options for the second and third prompts. Read on to find out how to tackle them!

Want to learn what University of Notre Dame will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take?  Here’s what every student considering University of Notre Dame needs to know.

Prompt #1 ( Please respond in about 150 words)

What excites you about the university of notre dame that makes it stand out from other institutions  .

Like other schools, Notre Dame has a “Why X School?” prompt to understand why the applicant is passionate about applying to Notre Dame. While this type of essay will rarely be the reason why an applicant is accepted to a certain school, it can demonstrate commitment and understanding of that school. Simply put, Notre Dame wants to understand why you want to attend their institution over all the other schools you are applying to — what makes them unique in your list.

There are a few qualities that will make your essay stand out . Be as specific as possible — specificity is the key to writing a good, eye-catching essay. Try to include specific details about Notre Dame. Is it the non-existence of greek life, the religious dedication of the school, or the research-based curriculum that intrigues you? Is there a specific program that Notre Dame offers that other schools don’t or is it the rich alumni connections that provide you stronger internships and job prospects that you really care about?

These are the type of details that Notre Dame wants to hear from you — how do the programs, opportunities, and curriculum that they offer fit into what you are looking for in your college experience?

Generic statements like “Religion is important to me”, or “I enjoy the study abroad options available” are too broad and non-unique , they are cookie-cutter and can be used for many universities across the US (many colleges have a religious affiliation and most colleges offer opportunities to study abroad). Rather, turn this around to demonstrate how going to a strong Catholic institution will strengthen your spiritual roots or how a service trip that Notre Dame offers to Nicaragua can give you the chance to work with underserved communities and utilize your Spanish skills.

The more specific, the better your essay will be and the more you will stand out. Don’t be afraid to refer to specific professors, labs, internships, study abroad opportunities, and even classes that you are excited to take. This shows that you have done the research for Notre Dame and aren’t simply using another school’s essay and replacing the school name to Notre Dame.

Prompt #2: Please choose two of the following prompts and respond in about 150 words:

A quick note about choosing prompts. Before immediately setting your mind on two prompts, try brainstorming ideas for each of the four options provided. Start to draft mini paragraphs and sense which prompts you may be more passionate about. There is no right of wrong prompt, but some prompts will allow you to unleash more of your personality or tell more of your story — which will frame your application in a more positive light.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you choose your prompts, especially for Notre Dame:

  • Which prompts will allow you to really showcase your personality (especially aspects of generosity and true character)?
  • Which prompts are you more passionate about?
  • Which prompts do you think will allow you to have a stronger, more confident voice?
  • Which prompts will allow you to discuss something meaningful that cannot be found anywhere else in your application?
  • Which prompts will allow you to further showcase your desire to attend Notre Dame?

Option 1: As a Catholic university, we strive to be a community in which the dignity of each person is respected and everyone can truly flourish. Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., challenged our community to reflect on the following statement: “Let us never do anything to make another member of our community feel unwelcome, and let us not stand by if we see others doing so. Either we walk together in mutual support, or we do not walk at all. Either we are all Notre Dame, or none of us are.” Tell us about a time when you walked with others.

Essentially, this prompt is asking, “How have you supported others?”

The stronger essays will be more personal about a time you helped out a family member, friend, neighbor, or community in need. You want to show how you specifically had an impact on someone else and were there to support them through a rough time. Avoid talking about raising money for an organization or 5Ks (or 10Ks) that you did for a certain cause. While those activities may mean a lot to you, they don’t show the direct impact your actions had to support someone.

Rather, something more powerful to write about would be the time your friend was really confused in math class and you sat down and helped him/her through the homework problems even though you had to skip tennis practice to do that. This shows your more humane, compassionate side — which is what Notre Dame wants to see.

Really try to focus on the small gestures that had an impact on someone else.

For example, you could write about the time you acted as a mentor to underclassmen, showing them around school on the first day when they were lost. While this may seem like a nonessential action that you took, it demonstrates how you supported freshmen and made them feel welcome in their new high school environment. The essay really wants you to show how you welcomed, supported, and helped a person (or group of people).

Another thing to note is that your action doesn’t need to have an earth-shattering impact on someone else. However, the more reflective you are, the stronger the essay will be. Talk about how you felt helping someone else(were you worried? Confident? Nervous?) — add a more humanizing element to the essay to show that you are more than your GPA and test scores.

Focus on a time you supported someone, be specific, provide details, and include how your actions impacted that person. This essay is straightforward, and with only 150 words, make sure to be concise, yet include specific details and reflections to make the essay stand out.

Option 2: What is one thing you will definitely bring to college with you?

This prompt is very open-ended , and allows you to be creative. You could write about anything from a pet, a lucky pencil, or even a stuffed animal that you will bring to college with you. The college admissions officers are not going to judge you for what you necessarily say as the one item (make sure to keep it appropriate of course), but what they care about is your explanation of why that certain item means a lot to you.

For example, if you are bringing your favorite stuffed animal that is a pig, they want to know why this stuffed animal is so important to you. Have you had this stuffed animal since you were a small child or was this the stuffed animal that you always went to when you were down and made soaking wet with your tears? This type of detail and personal touch will make your essay stand out from the more generic ones. Adding specific elements that are personal and showcase the reasons why that object is important to you will help the college admissions officers understand you as an applicant better.

You may also want to consider bringing something that is not tangible. Bringing certain emotions, memories, or ideas can be a spin on this essay. For example, bringing an inspiring phrase your grandmother always told you or your dedication to saving the environment, can take this essay in an interesting direction.

Whatever one thing you choose, make sure to include personal details explaining why it means a lot to you.

Option 3: What is your proudest accomplishment for which you did not receive recognition?

While this question may seem straightforward, it is definitely one of the harder of the 4 essay options. Rather than starting with how to answer this prompt, let’s start with how not to answer this question . Do not talk about the time that your parents didn’t say “good job” for your stellar grades, or how your teacher didn’t notice that you were the one that put together the entire presentation by yourself (even though it was a group presentation). Also, do not compare yourself with a sibling and comment how your sibling always gets praised and you don’t. These are all situations that come off as whiny, immature, and accusatory .

Instead, the way to go about this essay is talking about the personal accomplishments you made over the past four years. Talk about your own personal goal to run a mile everyday for a year or your new resolution to eat dessert only once a week. These may all seem like trivial aspects of your life — but they give insight into who you really are. Running a mile everyday for a year shows college admissions officers that you have the drive and hard-work necessary to continue something for an entire year while eating dessert only once a week demonstrates your self-control and discipline. You may not have received recognition for these actions (as many may not even know that you are doing them), but they mean something to you .

Another way to approach this essay is to talk about a personal challenge you had to overcome. Maybe it was a social problem you had to face in high school forcing you to stand up for a close friend, or a friend that passed away. These type of situations may not come off directly as proud accomplishments, but can be turned around to demonstrate how proud you are afterwards for sticking up for that friend or for being able to move on and be level-headed after that funeral.

These type of situations show college admissions officers that you are able to turn lemons into lemonade. Your proudest accomplishment doesn’t have to be about the good times, it can also be about the bad— but if your choose this route, make sure to clearly explain why you it was a proud moment.

Option 4: You have 150 words. Take a risk.

This option allows you to be completely creative and take a bold risk . You could write about a community service project you are part of, why you think McDonalds is better than the West Coast In-N-Out, or your passion for figure skating (even though you always fall). The best essays will be ones where you unleash your inner personality and give insight into who you really are.

You can take this in two ways. If you are funny, take a jab and write a humorous piece about the life of a high school AP Chemistry student. If you are very serious, maybe take time to reflect on how being serious your entire life has helped, or even hurt, you. Notre Dame wants you to take that risk with this essay and really express who you are (keep in mind you only have 150 words to do this though).

If you have taken a creative writing class, or done some personal writing that is on the more creative side, this is the prompt for you. Explore with different forms of writing — poetry, satire, comedy, or even an extremely short 150 word story. This will be sure to stand out from the other applicants.

If you feel uncomfortable with creative writing, you can go the more traditional route and talk freely about something you are passionate about. This more traditional essay pairs well if you have dedicated your past four years towards something you are really passionate about whether that be a certain political movement, club that you started, an organization you are on the board for, or research that you have done every summer. If you have something like that, this essay gives you the opportunity to expand on why those personal projects mean so much to you.  

This essay could go incredibly well, or easily come off the wrong way to someone who doesn’t know you. So be sure to have other people read your essay (especially someone who might not know you well!).

Taking this option, while it may have a high risk, also has high rewards.

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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Tips from Counselors

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Write Your Best Essay: Tips from A Notre Dame Admissions Counselor (Part 1)

Published: July 29, 2020

Author: Maria Finan

Essay Graphic

Why is it so hard to write your college essays?

I asked myself that question a lot when I was in high school, and even after teaching high school English, and reading thousands of application essays, I still think they are hard essays to write.

It may be the first time you’re trying to tell your life story, and you don’t necessarily have very many words to convey who you are. Establishing the right tone, and picking something that’s both interesting and revealing can be a tough process. Depending on who you ask, you may even receive conflicting advice.

My fellow admissions counselor  Zach Klonsinski and I recently gave a whole presentation on Understanding the College Essay  and did our best to offer advice to tackle them.

We outlined steps and activities that will help with selecting the topic for your personal statement, brainstorming, writing, and even editing your essays.

You may find it helpful to make a copy of the Understanding the College Essay handout we created so you can work through the prompts and activities yourself.

We received more questions than we could answer during our live session, so we’ve decided to tackle some of them in a two-part blog post.

We hope this helps you as you write your personal statement and supplemental essays. 

Let's get started!

Question #1: What makes a story interesting enough to tell?

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. 

One of my favorite essays was about a student’s hair color. Zach loved an essay about shrimp.

Without reading these essays, the topics may not sound that interesting, but they were! The applicants were able to convey who they were through things that defined them, and they picked things that made them unique.

Question #2 How do you decide the core story that you want to tell?

When you’re trying to decide what story you want to tell, you should spend some time brainstorming or talking with someone who knows you well.

Ask yourself: What makes you unique? What are you passionate about? What experiences have defined you? What are your values? Who are you?

You probably don’t have complete answers to all of these questions, but hopefully one or two of them have answers that you think get at who you are.

When I wrote my personal statement on my college essay, I brainstormed a lot of topics. I eventually settled on an experience that had shifted my worldview. It was a good topic for me, because I knew no one else had experienced the exact same thing I had. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my personal statement revealed a lot of the values that are still important to me today. 

Take the time to think, brainstorm, and talk over your topic before you write. If the essay doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to start again or even pick a new topic.

Question #3: Are there topics we should avoid?

The answer to this question is yes and no.

We said this in our presentation, but it bears repeating: Any topic can be a good topic if done well; any topic can be a bad topic if done poorly.

Students often wonder if it’s okay to write about controversial issues. My take on it is yes! If you’re passionate about something, and you believe in it, you shouldn’t be afraid to write about it. You should avoid being hateful, but you shouldn’t avoid a topic simply because you think someone might not agree with you.

On a different note, we do tend to see some topics repeated more often than others. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about something that someone else may write about, but you should really focus on making sure you talk about why it was significant to you. 

For example, if given the opportunity to pick an essay topic, it might not be the best to argue why pineapple belongs on pizza. It’s not telling us much about you, and other students will also pick the same topic. If you’re confident that you can write THE best essay on the topic, then it may be a good fit for you, but if you think someone else could write a better essay on a certain topic, you might want to choose something else.

Question #4: Can you write about deaths of friends and family, how you overcame them, and what you learned from them—or is that too dark?

If a death or loss in your life was a defining experience for you, you can write about it.

One of the great privileges of working in admissions is reading the stories that students share with us. I always feel honored when a student is willing to share a difficult experience. It takes a lot of courage and reflection to be able to write about hard moments. If you feel like an event or experience has defined you, it’s definitely something you can write about. 

Alternatively, if you aren’t ready or willing to share about a loss or difficult experience, you can write about something else. A student does not have to write about overcoming a difficult situation to write a great college essay. If you would prefer to write about a lighter topic, then please pick the topic that’s right for you!

Question #5: How should students from a low-income background approach the personal statement? Should they focus on the challenge aspect or the passion aspect?

Regardless of your background, you should write about something that best reveals who you are. If your family’s financial circumstances, and the perspectives you’ve gained from those experiences, best show who you are, then you can certainly write about challenges you’ve faced.

That being said, if you come from a low-income background, and your passion for science (or another subject) is what you want to share with us, go for it! 

Your life experiences may have shaped your worldview, but that doesn’t mean they have to be the focus of your personal statement.

For example, sometimes students are passionate about history because of some event or experience in their family’s own history.

A student could focus more on the academic aspect, or on the personal aspect, or weave the two together. There’s no one right way to write about something. The more important question is: What story are you trying to tell?

Question #6: I’ve heard that you should not write your essay about something already listed in your application. Does that mean, for example, that I can’t write about my experiences volunteering because my application already lists my hours?

I both agree and disagree with this advice. On one hand, you want your application to tell us as much about you as possible. On the other hand, the Activities Section doesn’t give you much space to tell us a lot about your specific activities.

If one of your activities really captures what you’re passionate about, and your values, it might be a great topic to write about. 

You may want to spend some time looking at colleges’ supplemental essays to see if your activity is a good fit for your personal statement, or to illustrate something in a shorter supplemental essay. If you simply feel you need to explain an activity in more detail, that’s not a good essay topic.

You could ask your counselor to write about it in their letter or you could briefly explain it in the Additional Information section.

You should not use the Additional Information section to copy and paste your resume or an expanded resume. 

Question #7: Would it be alright if a student applying for a specific major wrote about a different passion in their application? Should applicants be worried about shaping their entire application around a central idea or interest?

You can definitely write about something that is not what you intend to major in! Many of our applicants have diverse interests and passions, and they demonstrate that through their application.

If you’re an engineering intent with a passion for music, tell us about that!

Fun fact:  Engineering is the most represented college in our marching band ! We live in an interdisciplinary world—your application can definitely reflect that dynamic.

If you are someone who is more focused, that’s okay, too. 

Some students are passionate about STEM and that’s evident in every part of their application. You shouldn’t leave something out because it doesn’t “match” with your other interests.

Include what’s important to you—we want to get to know the real you. You should spend less time focusing on what you think we want to see and more time discerning who you are and what you love.

If you’re a theater kid with a passion for mock trial, astronomy, and soccer, that’s great! If you spend your time conducting research, hiking, volunteering at hospitals, that’s awesome, too! Be yourself. 

More Questions?

You may still be looking for more advice, which is completely understandable!

Zach answers additional questions in his blog post , and if you need more help, you can refer back to the handout we created. Your high school counselor is another great resource.

Best of luck on your essays! Go Irish!

Maria Finan is an admissions counselor with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. She is the regional counselor for Colorado and parts of California. Read Maria's profile.


University of Notre Dame 2019-20 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

University of Notre Dame 2019-20 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 3 essays of 200 words.

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why , Oddball , Community

Please provide a response to the following question:

What excites you about the university of notre dame that makes it stand out from other institutions (200 words).

Why Notre Dame? You have 200 words to explain to Admissions Officers at University of Notre Dame why you are taking the time to apply and fill out these supplements! As with any other why essay, your goal here isn’t simply to regurgitate facts from the admissions highlights page. Take your research to the next level and dig for the kinds of classes and opportunities that spark your interest. By using carefully-selected details, you’ll show admissions not only that you care about the school, but also what kind of student you’d be when you get there.

Your answer can refer to academics (majors, classes, professors), the community (clubs, events, student body), or anything else that makes you want to be a Notre Dame student (campus culture, sports, your dad’s stories of his glory days). This is where you prove that you have done your homework on Notre Dame. Feel free to explore their website for little bits of information that excite you. Maybe you want to join their Culinary Appreciation and Outreach Society. Do they have a Race and Gender in Reality TV class that you would love to take? Let them know! Lastly, remember to connect your own experiences to the ones you hope to have at Notre Dame.   

Please provide responses to TWO (2) of the following questions in 200 words:

The founder of the university of notre dame, father edward sorin, c.s.c., was only 28 when he established the university with the vision that it would become a “powerful means of doing good.” we have always known that young people can be catalysts for change. what is one way that you have made an impact in your community.

This prompt wants you to think back on a time you worked for the greater good and put others before yourself. From the time you volunteered as a crossing guard to the winter you organized a coat drive for local people experiencing homelessness, all stories of impact and service are relevant here. Admissions wants to know that you not only look out for others, but also have community-awareness, an ability to recognize when your actions affect others.

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

It’s The Bachelor “hometowns week” and this is your shot at showing admissions where you come from and what it means to you. The prompt only asks for one place, so take a mental memory tour of your town and see what sticks out to you. Is there a restaurant that your family always goes to for Sunday dinner? Is there a soccer field where you finally figured out what “give & go” meant? Maybe your formative years were spent at church, or the mall was the only place you could have some independence with your friends. Wherever you end up, take a moment: What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Bring the reader there mentally with sensory-rich words. Once you’re “there together,” explain the significance of this place and share why it’s so special to you. Like with all supplemental essays, your response should reveal something new about you to admissions.

Defend an unpopular opinion you hold.

Um, we kind of love this new prompt. From pineapple on pizza to the American Office being better than the British Office , you know you have one. While this can be taken seriously (e.g. you believe that all schools should require uniforms), it’s also a chance to get creative and add a little humor. We all have unpopular opinions, and defending them can elicit some really entertaining and fun responses. At the end of the day, this is really an opportunity to show your logic and reasoning skills. Get specific! Show the reader your point of view and give concrete details/examples. The opinion you choose isn’t as important as the effort and passion you put in to defending it. Think of something you love (or love to hate) and break it down. Choose your fighter.

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

This reminds us of people who still say “The Great Gatsby” is their favorite book at the age of 35. Not to knock it, we love us some 20s glamour and a dead body in a swimming pool, but have they read it since their sophomore year of high school?! (Whew, sorry. Had to get that off our chest.) Admissions wants to know that you’re expanding your mind beyond your required reading list. Don’t worry about getting too intellectual here, just think of something that has spoken to you or made your imagination soar. Maybe you finally got around to reading the memoir of your favorite historical figure. Maybe you discovered Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and became entranced. No matter the book, be sure to answer the “why?” part of the question comprehensively.

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