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Not sure how to approach the Notre Dame essay prompts? CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the Notre Dame supplemental essays will show you exactly how to write engaging Notre Dame essays and maximize your chances of admission. If you need help responding to the Notre Dame essay prompts, create your free account or schedule a complimentary advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

Notre Dame Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • Notre Dame is a Catholic university located in suburban Notre Dame, Indiana.
  • U.S. News ranks Notre Dame as a highly competitive school.
  • Answer all Notre Dame supplemental essays comprehensively and thoughtfully.

Does Notre Dame have supplemental essays?

Yes, Notre Dame requires all applicants to complete supplemental essays. 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.

What are Notre Dame’s 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 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 reasons for applying to Notre Dame as well as your background and experiences. As you write, then, remember the purpose of the Notre Dame essay prompts—to help the admissions team get to know you! View the Notre Dame essays as a chance to show your reader how you will fit into the Notre Dame community.

How many essays are required for Notre Dame?

Two. 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. Each applicant must choose one of three additional Notre Dame supplemental essay prompts.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.

How important are Notre Dame’s supplemental essays?

Well, how important are the Notre Dame essays?The University spends time each year choosing the Notre Dame essay prompts. The admissions team changes the prompts at least slightly each year, sometimes unveiling entirely new questions. This year’s Notre Dame essay prompts are quite different from last year’s. This year’s requirements also mark a shift toward quality over quantity—in the second Notre Dame supplement, students used to choose two prompts rather than one. So, 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 a clear plan for your education. These details will make your Notre Dame essays stand out.

How do I write Notre Dame’s supplemental essays?

Let’s discuss some strategies.The best 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 judge your Notre Dame supplemental essays for both content and writing ability. It’s not only about what you say, but also how you say it. It may feel daunting to fit all you want to say in two 200-word Notre Dame application essays. Accordingly, you should approach each of your Notre Dame essays with a plan. Brainstorm first, then make a detailed outline. Once you have an outline, then write and revise. Clear and concise writing will help you maximize your space. Every word matters!

Most importantly, include the “So what?” in your Notre Dame supplemental essays, particularly when describing your experiences. You should give enough context that your reader understands your narrative, but your Notre Dame essays should mostly discuss why this story matters. What skills does it highlight? What mindset shift occurred? How does your story reveal who you are? Finally, why did you tell this story?Additionally, leave yourself time to proofread and polish your Notre Dame supplemental essays. Remember, your Notre Dame essays help your reader see who you are beyond your grades and test scores. So, don’t underestimate their importance!

How to Write Notre Dame Supplemental Essays — Question 1 (required):

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? (200 word maximum).

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 address the “mind and heart” per the prompt. Notre Dame essays should go beyond your education to discuss your growth as an individual and community member. How will Notre Dame help you achieve your academic and personal goals? In this Notre Dame application essay, think about reasons why Notre Dame—and no other school—will help you achieve your dreams. As you write your Notre Dame supplements, be personal and specific. Write about particular things that made you decide to apply. Additionally, in your Notre Dame essays, include the programs, organizations, and groups that you plan to join. Why do these programs interest you? How will they help you grow and learn?

Mention your major

If you are applying to a specific major and/or minor, then 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 infuse your Notre Dame supplemental essays with details specific to you.

Strong responses to the Notre Dame essay prompts will create cohesive narratives that show the reader how you will succeed at Notre Dame. In your Notre Dame supplements, include opportunities that are less academic. 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 including these elements in your Notre Dame essays, you will address the heart as well as the mind. This will show the admissions team how you will contribute to the Notre Dame community. Remember, you only have 200 words to write this Notre Dame essay, so make each one count.

Also, in your Notre Dame supplements, don’t paint your college years as a means to an end. Notre Dame is a vibrant community where you will grow and change. Yes, you will be prepared for the “real world” and gain a vast network of alumni resources, but that’s not what the admissions team wants to read about in your Notre Dame essays. Additionally, in your Notre Dame application essay, emphasize the personal reasons why you want to attend Notre Dame. 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 Draft Key Questions:

  • Is your Notre Dame essay response both specific and personal?
  • Do you address the mind and the heart?
  • Does your essay discuss your identity as it relates to Notre Dame?

How to Write Notre Dame Supplemental Essays — Question 2 (required):

Choose one (200 word maximum). a. During the spring semester, Notre Dame faculty gave 3-Minute Lightning Talks on exciting topics within their fields of expertise. While you don’t have a Ph.D. yet, we bet you’re developing an expertise in something. If you were giving a Lightning Talk, what topic (academic or not) would you choose?

This Notre Dame application essay gives you lots of freedom; you could pick an academic topic or not. Be creative! You can be serious or funny, abstract or concrete. Regardless, your Notre Dame supplements should be well-articulated. This Notre Dame essay resembles other prompts that ask what you would give a TED Talk or teach a class about. In Lightning Talks, presenters describe the focus of their studies, their work’s importance, and a recent finding or project that excites them. You might watch samples to help you brainstorm for your Notre Dame essay. However, don’t write a transcript for a talk in your Notre Dame supplements—just discuss your topic and why it interests you.

Narrow your focus

Though this Notre Dame essay gives you freedom, your focus should remain narrow. If you were talking, three minutes would fly by! Don’t choose a general field like medicine or law. Instead, pinpoint a question or concept to explore in depth. Successful Notre Dame supplemental essays will discuss why you chose your topic alongside what you would talk about.You could be developing expertise in an academic area, interest, or hobby. Be creative, think outside the box, and feel free to give your talk a title! There is a story or meaning behind every name or nickname—both those we’re given and those that we choose. What is meaningful to you about your name?

If you don’t have a story behind your name or a nickname, then this may not be the Notre Dame application essay to choose. However, if you have a specific connection to your name, this Notre Dame supplemental essay is a great choice!This Notre Dame essay revolves around the personal and unique. Perhaps you were named after someone in your family. Does your name mean something in a different language? Was your nickname given to you by someone special to you? Did you come up with your own nickname or earn it for some reason?

Focus on you

Make sure your Notre Dame application essay is about you. Even if another person or event influenced your name or nickname, stay focused on how it connects to you. Additionally, “meaningful” can mean impactful as well as sentimental. In your Notre Dame supplements, then, you might discuss how your name has shaped how you interact with others. Don’t feel limited to your first name in your Notre Dame essay. Successful Notre Dame supplements could also be written about your middle or family name!

Also, if you haven’t yet discussed your background or identity, this Notre Dame application essay could be your chance.c. What would you fight for?This Notre Dame application essay prompt stems from Notre Dame’s “What Would You Fight For?” initiative. The series “showcases the work, scholarly achievements, and global impact of Notre Dame faculty, students, and alumni.” Successful Notre Dame supplemental essays will have a serious tone, but your essay doesn’t have to be strictly academic. Additionally, strong Notre Dame essays will revolve around impact.

How and why

In your response to this Notre Dame application essay prompt, you should include how and why you would fight for your topic. Your Notre Dame essay, then, should teach your reader something about you—not just about your topic. Make it clear why you have chosen this fight. What does the fight you discuss in your Notre Dame application essay show about your identity and values?

Don’t let the hypothetical nature of this Notre Dame application essay limit you. In your Notre Dame supplements, you could write about a cause that you have already begun to fight for. How could the resources at Notre Dame aid your fight? Each of the Notre Dame essay prompts allows you to discuss something different. There’s no right or wrong topic to choose. To select a Notre Dame application essay prompt, try brainstorming a topic or two for each. Write a few bullet points for what you would include in your Notre Dame essays. Then, choose the one that best lets you showcase your identity.

Notre Dame Essay Draft Key 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?

Additional tips for writing your Notre Dame supplemental essays

Leave yourself time to revise your Notre Dame supplemental essays! Notre Dame has two deadlines: Restrictive Early Action on November 1, 2021, and Regular Decision on January 1, 2022.

Don’t worry about the Notre Dame acceptance rate while you work on your application. Instead, try to write the best Notre Dame application essays possible. After all, you have full control over your Notre Dame essays. Don’t agonize over the topic choice or prompt selection. However, do pay attention to the message your Notre Dame supplements send. Consider the whole of your application before submitting it, and make sure that each of your Notre Dame essays says something new. No two successful Notre Dame essays are the same, just like no two Notre Dame students are the same. Each Notre Dame supplemental essay should reveal who you are and what is important to you.

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 Supplemental Essays — Final Thoughts

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!


This 2021-2022 essay guide on Notre Dame was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ’20. For more CollegeAdvisor.com resources on Notre Dame, click here. Want help crafting your Notre Dame supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a no-cost advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.