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How to Write University of Notre Dame Essays

Updated for 2023-2024

The University of Notre Dame asks students to write and submit five supplemental essays in total; two essays of 150 words in length chosen from a list of three options, and three short-answer responses of 50 words chosen from a list of five options. It is important to note that the admissions officers do not have a preference as to which prompts you choose to answer, so you choose the prompts that most effectively allow you to tell your story. No matter which prompt you choose, be sure to start early so you have plenty of time to write strong and concise responses!

Prompt 1:

The University of Notre Dame Writing Section consists of responses to two (2) brief essay questions and three (3) short-answer responses to questions you select from the options provided.

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

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?

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Explanation:

This is your chance to write about the community service work you have been a part of throughout your high school career. Choose a specific and well-documented example of how you have fostered service to others in your community. This could be a single event or an ongoing initiative, but it should be meaningful and impactful. Because you only have 150 words, be sure to focus your writing on your specific actions and the impact you have had on others, rather than on the cause or the reason why you are committed to it! Finally, briefly share your plans for future involvement and how you intend to further contribute to positive change in the communities of which you are a part.

2. 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?

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Explanation:

Notre Dame is seeking to learn more about your personal experience through this question in order to understand what you might contribute as a member of their future campus community. To respond effectively, first take some time to reflect on the personal experiences and aspects of your development that set you apart. Consider your family support, cultural background, personal background, disabilities, and the impact of your community—what has had the greatest impact on your distinct perspective and way of looking at the world. Is there a defining characteristic or experience that informs your cultural identity or values? Then, explain the circumstances, challenges, and the role of the experience in your life and growth as a person. How have they influenced your perspective and personal growth? Finally, show that you understand what Notre Dame values in its community members and emphasize how your experiences are in harmony with these values.

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.

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Explanation:

The job of Notre Dame’s admissions committee is to build an academic community that is characterized by teachability and diverse perspectives. In asking this question, they want to understand what kind of value-add you would bring to their future community. Because they are asking you for a specific example, this essay should take the form of an anecdote where you specifically describe a time when you helped bring people together over a deeply held belief in a difficult situation and/or found ways to unite people who were previously divided. A successful essay would demonstrate not only your abilities to work well with others but also shed some light on what you believe the value of collaboration or inclusivity to be. In brainstorming your essay, start by thinking through some of your core beliefs and values—have you ever had to defend those values, convince others of their importance, or use them to influence a group of people with whom you attended class, engaged in an extracurricular activity, played on a sports team, or worked? What did that experience teach you about finding common ground with others or about the perspective of another individual or group of people?

Prompt 2:

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

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.

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Explanation:

Take some time to reflect on the qualities, characteristics, or aspects that you consider non-negotiable in your future college or university. These are the factors that are most important to you and that will significantly impact your decision. Then, share the personal, academic, or professional reason that makes this factor a priority in your college search. Finally, in one sentence or so, explain how your non-negotiable factor(s) align with your academic and personal goals. Discuss how choosing a college that prioritizes this factor(s) will contribute to your future success and well-being.

2. What brings you joy?

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Explanation:

The key to answering this question is authenticity and self-reflection. Notre Dame genuinely wants to understand where you find enjoyment and fulfillment, so share something meaningful to you!

3. What is worth fighting for?

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Explanation:

This question is aimed at understanding your core values and deeply held convictions. When you name what you believe is worth fighting for, be sure to also explain the significance of the cause or belief. This could be because it addresses a pressing societal need, upholds a moral principle, or aligns with your personal values.

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

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Explanation:

To answer this question, you should first consider the subject you plan to major in and the subdiscipline(s) within it that are most interesting to you. Then, you should research specific ways in which Notre Dame offers avenues for you to deepen your engagement with this topic. Reflect on and express the connection between your intellectual interests and curiosities and the specific curricular and extracurricular opportunities at Notre Dame.

5. How does faith influence the decisions you make?

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Explanation:

Notre Dame is a Catholic institution, and the admissions committee is seeking to understand how the religious environment and mission of the school aligns with your own personal beliefs. Regardless of your faith background, consider how your choices are informed by spiritual conviction (whether religious or secular) and how you intend to carry those convictions into the next stage of your education.