Home of the NCAA Division I Fighting Irish, the University of Notre Dame is a popular destination for high school seniors looking to study at a college with exemplary school spirit. But the ~8,300 undergraduate students at Notre Dame have more to be proud of than simply its incredible athletics program. Notre Dame boasts a student/faculty ratio of 8:1 and is currently ranked in the top 30 colleges in the United States. Additionally, its alumni have gone on to work in various fields ranging from politics (former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) to media (Regis Philbin). Coupled with its beautiful campus located in South Bend, Indiana, it’s no wonder so many students yearn to study at this private, co-ed Catholic research university.

That being said, last year Notre Dame only accepted around 20% of all applicants. Since 4 students are rejected for every 1 acceptance, if students are unsure about their academic and extracurricular qualifications then their essays will need to be fantastic. Thankfully, Admissions Hero is here to help aspiring applicants tackle the unique Notre Dame writing supplement.

Please provide a response between 150 and 200 wods to the following question. (required) Why Notre Dame?

Immediately, loyal Admissions Hero blog post readers should recognize this essay question and know the drill. The “Why X” school essay is quite pervasive among college applications, and as such it will be very beneficial for applicants to answer this question accurately and creatively each time. Because you don’t have many words to spare, it is crucial that you immediately get to the point. Tie your own interests — and experiences that corroborate those interests — to specific aspects of Notre Dame that especially appeal to you. If you aren’t an expert on Notre Dame (which many accepted applicants aren’t!), you can look on the university’s website to learn more about the types of classes and clubs that you might want to join. Feel free to be creative, especially if your Common App already talks a lot about your academic interests—for example, if you are an art history buff, you could talk about the campus’s unique architecture and how it would stimulate your intellectual curiosity each and every day. Otherwise, you can name specific professors’ work that interests you or a particular club/sport that you want to get involved with. Bonus points if you can talk about how you would contribute to Notre Dame—indeed, “Why Notre Dame” is another way to ask “Why you?”

Please select two of the following four prompts and provide a response between 150 and 200 words to each.

The following essays are relatively unique to Notre Dame, so it is unlikely that you will be able to reuse an essay from another school’s application. It’s recommended that you give creative answers here to match the uniqueness of the prompts themselves. Additionally, make sure to choose the two prompts that play to your own strengths as an applicant. Tips to follow:

  • A good story starts with a good beginning. Get us hooked in the first 150 words.

If you are a good creative writer, then this prompt is your chance to hit a home run. Focus on writing engaging introductory paragraphs—the subject matter doesn’t really matter, so long as the reader is interested (although, whatever you write about should still relate to you in some way). In this case, your stylistic choices will matter a lot. Perhaps you will start with dialogue; someone will say something outrageous or somewhat vague to make the reader want to read more. Or maybe you’ll start with an abrupt short sentence that shocks the reader. Another idea would be to use a switch-up—start the sentence or paragraph making the reader think you are going in one direction, and then change it up with the last word or sentence. Finally, you can always write something humorous to make the reader smile.

A good tip would be to get many other people to read your answer when you are done. Especially for this type of short essay, you will easily be able to tell if your writing is good after showing it to a few people. Ask them, “If you encountered this intro online or in a magazine, would you keep reading?”

  • Blessed Basil Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, described education as “the art of helping young people to completeness.” How are you incomplete?

This answer requires a bit of introspection, since it essentially asks you to find something within yourself that is flawed. Especially if the rest of your essays are somewhat self-congratulatory, this answer is a good opportunity to demonstrate a humanizing aspect that will make admissions officers realize that you are a real person with humility. Thus, it’s not bad to write about a current weakness that you possess. Alternatively, you can interpret this “incompleteness” in the prompt to mean something more positive, like you are currently missing something—perhaps a chance to fulfill your desires to learn about subject XYZ. Regardless, your main goal is to convey something about yourself creatively.

  • Notre Dame students are encouraged to learn through discovery by interacting with the world around them. Describe your ideal intellectual field trip.

This prompt provides yet another opportunity for creativity. Feel free to not be bound by the limits of reality—if you think your best field trip is abroad, then be sure to specifically tell Notre Dame where you would like to go and why. Of course, you should recall that wherever you pick will directly reflect on your character and where your interests lie, so if you pick the bottom of the ocean, then it will only be assumed that you are interested in Marine Biology and love to learn about the unexplored. Thus, you might want to work backwards—based on what you want to convey to the adcoms, you should choose your location accordingly.

  • Initiate an in-person conversation with someone whom you’ve never met but who you think might be interesting. What did you learn about that person or yourself?

This question is reminiscent of a popular interview question, “If you could meet one person for dinner, who would it be, why, and what would you talk about?” Like the previous prompt, you should keep in mind that whomever you choose will be a reflection of who you are as a person. So, if you choose someone in the field of politics, then you will be assumed to enjoy politics. If you choose a musician, then it must be true that music is a passion of yours. If you choose your great grandma, then perhaps you find family and history interesting. It’s a wise choice to think about what you still have yet to convey to the adcoms, and then choose your person accordingly.

Zack Perkins

Zack Perkins

Zack was an economics major at Harvard before going on indefinite leave to pursue CollegeVine full-time as a founder. In his spare time, he enjoys closely following politics and binge-watching horror movies. To see Zack's full bio, visit the Team page.
Zack Perkins