How to Write the Notre Dame Application Essays 2016-2017
Having risen to prominence with its D1 athletic teams, The University of Notre Dame, a private Catholic research university located in Indiana, is also known for its rigorous academic environment, having produced alumni such as the former president of CBS, the CEO of the Bank of America, and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It is one of a handful of universities to consistently rank in the top 25 for academics and at the top of Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings of the best overall athletics programs.
Notre Dame is comprised of four colleges: Arts and Letters, Science, Engineering, and Business. Studying abroad is popular with students, with over half of them studying abroad for at least a semester. The Fighting Irish are also fiercely loyal, boasting a graduation rate among the top five in the country.
The Notre Dame supplement to the Common Application (check out our latest blog post How to Write the Common Application Essays 2017-2018) includes three short prompts, which CollegeVine essay specialists have briefly analyzed below.
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University of Notre Dame Application Essay Prompts
Please provide a response between 150 and 200 words to the following question (required):
Notre Dame is an adventure that will develop more than just your intellect. Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, believed that, to provide a true education, “the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.” What excites you about attending Notre Dame? (required response, 150-200 words)
This is a standard “Why this school?” prompt, and although it is not given as much weight as other essays or different parts of your application, an extremely well-written response (or alternately, one that is obviously not your best piece of writing) may be what determines whether you are admitted to Notre Dame. The key to this type of essay is to avoid generic statements such as “the campus is beautiful,” or the “students have a tight knit community,” as those could apply to literally hundreds of schools around the country.
Admission officers want to see that you are interested in Notre Dame because it is appealing for reasons other than the fact that it is a top-notch institution. Accordingly, in your essay, you want to refer to factors that are specific and unique to Notre Dame. We at CollegeVine have provided a brief list of unique characteristics of the university, but strongly suggest you personally research the school to come up with more personal and tailored reasons for wanting to attend Notre Dame.
- Notre Dame’s intramural sports program was named best in the country by Sports Illustrated multiple times, with Princeton Review citing the university as one where “everyone plays intramural sports.”
- Although religious affiliation is not a criterion for admission, more than 93% of the student body identifies as Christian.
- The dining hall hosts an annual Harry Potter-themed event in the South Dining Hall, which is known for its similar style to the hall used in the HP movies.
- Notre Dame boasts seven Heisman trophy winners, the highest number of in the country.
There are many more reasons to love Notre Dame beyond those mentioned in this list, but we hope these will get you started!
Please select two of the following four prompts and provide a response of approximately 150 words (not to exceed 200 words) to each.
The word limit is really tight here, so while you are free to write as much as you want in the brainstorming process to get ideas flowing, be sure to go back through your essay and edit for clarity and length.
Home is where your story begins. Tell us about your home and how it has influenced your story.
“Home” is loosely defined here. You can choose to talk about your physical home and family and how they have influenced you. You can also choose to write about a more unconventional “home.” Were you really close with your lacrosse team, and did going to the state championships with them influence you in a strong way? Write about it!
While applicants often think that the only thing the admissions office cares about is the end result (winning the state championship, getting first place at the robotics competition, etc.), they actually care just as much about the process by which it took to get there and how you grew through it.
As this essay prompt is asking about how an environment has influenced you, just choose the one that has had the greatest impact on you, whatever it may be. While brainstorming, keep your mind open, as your “home” could be anything from another country in which you lived to the 7th
grade classroom where you were a teacher’s assistant for a couple years.
Think about when you first meet people. What is a common first impression they might have of you? Is it a perception you want to change, or what else do you want them to know about you?
Notice that this is a three-fold question, and is made all the more difficult to answer given the limited space you have. Be honest and state how you think people view you. If you are told you come off as arrogant even though you believe you are just confident, state that, but if you think there is something you can do to change incorrect/negative perceptions of yourself, touch on that as well.
Balance that candid confession with a positive aspect of yourself that would shed light on a unique facet of your personality. Have you read the entire Harry Potter series aloud to your little sister? Do you wake up early every morning to take a walk around your neighborhood to focus your mind and start the day off on a calm note?
The “little” things you do can say a lot about your character. Don’t overthink this prompt; just offer up a unique aspect of your person that may not be present in the rest of your application and that you think might help those who are reading it understand you better.
The late Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president from 1953 to 1987, served as a trusted adviser to U.S. presidents and popes. A champion for human rights, Fr. Hesburgh was one of the architects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Reflect on the current state of civil rights, the progress that has been made, or the problems still being faced today.
Again, although the word limit doesn’t allow for a lot of deep reflection, take this opportunity to provide a candid personal assessment of the state of civil rights today. Be sure to express all three parts of the prompt, including the current state of civil rights, the progress that has been made, and where you think there is room to improve.
Feel free to talk about the broader civil rights atmosphere in the U.S., although with the word limit we suggest you choose one aspect of the civil rights movement that you are most passionate about, and expound upon that.
If you choose job opportunities, for instance, reflect on the current status of job opportunities for minorities (acknowledging the progress that has been made), and room for improvement and suggestions you might give to solve those problems. It is best if you choose a topic that you have personal experience with (if you experienced discrimination in the workplace or at school, for example) and connect that to the broader national picture.
This is your chance to take a risk.
A “tell us anything about you in any way” essay — this prompt is giving you a chance to express parts of yourself that may not be present in the rest of your Common Application. The prompt is encouraging (practically forcing) you to think outside the box for this particular essay. Do not feel as though you need to write in traditional paragraphs. Rather, you can choose to write lists of quirky “favorites” with brief explanations for each one (favorite flower, favorite song to sing in the shower, favorite Pokémon).
You could also write a short poem or a rap about an aspect of your character, or write a letter to your future college roommate or your future self. Keep in mind that the medium you choose for this essay can reveal a lot about who you are, so take time to think about creative ways with which you could present yourself to Notre Dame.
Because you don’t have much space, don’t try to reveal a deep aspect of your character or develop your application any further, necessarily. Have some fun, put yourself in the mindset of entertaining admission officers who have to go through thousands of essays, and you will most likely be memorable.
Although there is a bit more writing in the Notre Dame supplement than in applications to some other schools, these prompts give you ample space to give the officers a taste of who you really are.
If you find yourself seeking additional help as you continue researching this exceptional institution, CollegeVine’s highly trained essay consultants from the nation’s top schools can help you ensure your Notre Dame application is the strongest it can be. Best of luck in becoming a future Fighting Irish!
Still have questions about filling out the Common Application? Check out our blog post How to Write the Common Application Essays 2017-2018.