notre dame essay

Notre Dame Essay Guide: 2022-2023

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. 
  • University of Notre Dame Essay Requirements:
    • 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 online.

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

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. 

Notre Dame Essay Reflection Questions: 

  • 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.