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How to Write the Notre Dame Essays 2018-19

As an applicant to Notre Dame University, you’ll need to write three short supplemental Notre Dame essays.

One of these is a required “Why Notre Dame” essay, but for the others you’ll get to choose from among four prompts. Let’s look at how to pick two prompts that are perfect for you!



Please provide responses to TWO (2) of the following questions. The recommended word count is approximately 150 words per essay.

200 words max

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.

Pick this prompt if: you’ve sided with the underdog in some situation, or otherwise fought for others’ dignity, rights, and well-being. This prompt is getting at your ideas about community and togetherness, but not just in general; it’s specifically asking about how you’ve transformed your values into action. Try to balance past and future by devoting about half of your essay to describing the actions you took (and why you took them), and the other half to discussing what you learned from the experience and how it will impact your life going forward. If you’ve “walked with others” within the context of Catholicism, you might use this prompt to highlight your connection to Catholic education and values.


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

Pick this prompt if: you can think of an object—or even an intangible quality—that expresses an important part of who you are, and that will enrich your college experience in some way (even in some small, surprising, funny way). Discuss why the object has been important to you, and how it will fit into your life at college. If you pick something intangible, make sure it’s unique to you, and will pique your reader’s curiosity. Speaking of curiosity, something generic like “curiosity” probably won’t cut it; anyone could write that (and probably lots will). A more unique “intangible” might be something such as “empathy for numbers.” What does that mean? I have no idea. But if I actually/genuinely had “empathy for numbers,” I could probably write a pretty unique 150-word response about bringing that empathy to college!


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

Pick this prompt if: you want to talk about an activity you’ve done just because it was important to you and brought you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Perhaps you finally finished reading an epic trilogy/box set of novels, or perhaps you taught yourself to whistle after years of futile attempts. As long as you can explain why it’s a meaningful accomplishment for you, it’s worth writing about.


You have 150 words. Take a risk.

Pick this prompt if: you can think of some creative, quirky way to show a unique part of your personality. Go ahead, be weird and wild—but be honest! Don’t put on a fake act. Being genuine often requires the most bravery. If you’re worried about going “too far” with your risk-taking, try this: go ahead and write a draft, being as risky as you want to be! Then ask someone else to review it—perhaps a teacher, guidance counselor, or parent (or, ya know, an Essay Specialist over at Knowing that you’ll get feedback from someone you trust, and that you don’t have to submit anything you don’t like, could free up your mind to take some creative chances. So with that said…. Challenge accepted! Right???!


One Notre Dame supplement you’ll definitely have to write is a “Why Notre Dame” essay. Here’s the prompt:

Why Notre Dame?

200 words max

What excites you about the University of Notre Dame that makes it stand out from other institutions? (150 words recommended)

Take note: writing this Notre Dame essay will actually involve a bit of research!

For some great advice on this type of supplement, check out our “Why this college” essay writing guide here.


Click here for our guide to writing the Common App Essay





Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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