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 2026, the acceptance rate fell below 13%, roughly one-third the figure seen back in the late 1980s. This begs the question—if most of the 26,000 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. Below are Notre Dame’s supplemental prompts for the 2022-23 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.

Notre Dame Prompt #1

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)

In any “Why Us?” composition, you need to show that you’ve done your homework on a given school, but you don’t want it to read like a robotic list of items that you Googled ten minutes before writing the essay.

In addition to the pure research element, a lot of the time and skill required in creating a stellar Notre Dame essay will involve connecting the classes, professors, opportunities, etc. of interest that you have uncovered to your distinct values, talents, aims, proficiencies, and future goals.

Elements of a great Notre Dame “Why Us?” essay

  • In addition to areas of academic focus, make sure to touch on the “heart” component of the prompt as well. This could involve a spiritual, charitable, or community element that will make your Notre Dame experience deeply meaningful.
  • Cite school-specific academic programs, professors, research opportunities, internship/externship programs, and study abroad programs.
  • Cite student-run organizations at Notre Dame that align with you passions.
  • Describe how you take advantage of Notre Dame’s immense resources both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Make sure to touch on both a) why Notre Dame is the perfect fit for you and) why you are the perfect fit for Notre Dame. Covering both topics is essential.

Common mistakes on a Notre Dame “Why Us?” essay

  • Talking about the Fighting Irish football team.
  • Fawning over the beautiful campus (it is quite beautiful, but they already know that).
  • Notre Dame is top-ranked, prestigious, and has a great reputation. Again, they know!
  • Too many generic expressions of feeling (e.g. It has been my dream since I saw the film Rudy to attend Notre Dame…).
  • Recycled statements from your other “Why Us?” essays that come across as stale, impersonal, or worst of all–irrelevant/inaccurate.

Notre Dame Prompt #2

Please provide a response to ONE (1) of the following questions (200 words)

Option A

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?

Some students may have a powerful and deeply personal story to tell about their racial/ethnic identity, sexual/gender identity, or religious identity; 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.

One quick note: if your main Common App essay already tackled one of these topics or includes some overlapping material, you may want to select a different supplemental prompt.

Option B

Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in.

At it’s core, this essay is a chance to illustrate that you are a mature leader who follows his or her 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.

Option C

If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it?

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 be able to use your unique talents to address an important community/global issue? How might you help eliminate some level of human suffering and injustice? You can also connect your aspirations in this realm to specific service opportunities that are available at Notre Dame.

Option D

What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you?

This is a new addition to the Notre Dame supplement family in 2022-23. We see a lot of potential here for insightful answers. There is room for a straightforward approach here. For example, someone gave you a glowing review as a human being and you really feel like it captured something about your essence. There is also the more nuanced version where perhaps the statement was not a traditional “you’re great” kind of compliment. Further, the compliment itself is not necessarily the compelling part of the essay.

Instead, the most compelling portion should be your discussion about why it was meaningful to you. This could be a great chance to tell a story about how you grew in some way. Or perhaps you realized something about yourself for the first time upon receiving the compliment. The deliverer of the compliment could be a parent, sibling, teacher, young child, boss, or complete stranger.

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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If you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Notre Dame supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.

Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).