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

Section #1

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.

Section #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.

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.

Notre Dame Supplemental Essays (Continued)

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.

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