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3 University of Notre Dame Essay Examples by Accepted Students

 

The University of Notre Dame is a highly selective school, so it’s important to write strong essays to help your application stand out. In this post, we’ll share essays real students have submitted to the University of Notre Dame. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).

 

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

 

Read our University of Notre Dame essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.

 

Want to know your chances at the University of Notre Dame? Calculate your chances for free!

 

Example 1

 

Prompt: A Notre Dame education is not just for you, but also for those who will benefit from the impact you make. Who do you aspire to serve after you graduate? (200 words)

 

I was ten years old when I first heard the word Alzheimer’s. While my Mom explained that Grammy would progressively lose several of her mental functions, my head spun as I tried to process my new reality. I grew up 2,000 miles apart from Grammy, and after her diagnosis, our lengthy phone calls turned into meaningless exchanges as she forgot who I was. I was fifteen when Grammy passed away, but my heart mourned the person I lost five years earlier, the side of my grandmother that disease had stripped away.

 

I aspire to honor Grammy’s legacy by serving elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At Notre Dame, I would like to work under Dr. Suhail Alam to develop therapies for treating neurodegenerative disease using epigenetic pathways. In this role, I will tie my personal connection with neurodegenerative disease to my research skills from the USC Biomechanics Research Lab, working towards a cure to serve both current and future Alzheimer’s patients. Once I graduate, I hope to build on this foundation as a physician. By working directly to treat Alzheimer’s patients and continuing with medical research, I will serve all those who have been personally affected by neurodegenerative disease.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

This is a great response that answers the prompt, has a strong emotional connection, and even ties in why this student wants to attend Notre Dame. The essay goes above and beyond what the prompt asks for without losing any of the important details and explanation needed to answer the prompt.

 

We learn that this student wants to serve people who have been affected by neurodegenerative diseases and their families by becoming a physician for Alzheimer’s patients. It’s very clear who they intend to serve after graduation. We also get emotional reflection in the anecdote at the beginning the student used to explain their motivation for focusing on neurodegenerative diseases. This essay does a really good job of establishing emotion and pathos in a story that fits with the rest of the essay. It wasn’t super detailed, but we learned how hopeless this student felt and how that translated into a need to dedicate their life to serving Alzheimer’s patients.

 

Another great aspect of this essay is how it mentioned specific resources at Notre Dame that will help them accomplish their goal of becoming a physician post-grad. The prompt didn’t specifically ask for the student to discuss offerings they want to take advantage of, but including it shows that this student feels Notre Dame will play an integral part in their future success. Mentioning Dr. Alam and the specific research this student wants to participate in is a clear sign that this student has done their research and knows exactly what they want out of Notre Dame.

 

In general, this was a great response to the prompt because it walked the reader through this student’s life. Starting with this student’s reasoning for pursuing this path when they were a child, the essay then discusses how they will develop their interest and skills in college to ultimately be able to practice as a physician as an adult. This roadmap the essay follows makes the essay very easy to follow so they reader walks away knowing exactly who this student wants to serve and how they intend to get there. 

 

What Could Be Improved

 

One way this essay could be strengthened would be to employ more showing and less telling in the anecdote at the beginning. Right now, the student tells us what happened retrospectively: “I was ten years old when I first heard the word Alzheimer’s.” Rather than explaining what happened as the current senior writing the essay, the student should have put themselves back in the moment as a ten year old kid to make the story more engaging.

 

If the essay showed the anecdote instead of telling it, it could look something like this: “‘Alzheimer’s?’ I could barely figure out how to spell the word, let alone comprehend what it meant for Grammy. ‘So Grammy isn’t going to remember me anymore?’ There must be a mistake.” Putting the student into the moment when they first heard about their grandma’s Alzheimer’s allows them to use dialogue and real-time emotions to deliver an even bigger emotional connection in the hook.

 

Example 2

 

Prompt: A Notre Dame education is not just for you, but also for those who will benefit from the impact you make. Who do you aspire to serve after you graduate? (200 words)

 

I could sense my student—Aanya’s—interest evaporate as I stumbled. My virtual whiteboard was filled with abstract art, trying to pass off as math notations. Although I was initially reluctant to let her use Khan Academy, its quality and technical sophistication blew me away. Moreover, after Aanya mastered the basics online, we explored exciting higher-order problems and she developed enduring insights.

 

The economist in me spotted the opportunity to divide labor. Imagine the power of a great teacher reaching millions of students across the world through a single video. This allows physical teachers to support students who need more help individually. Especially in underfunded schools with teacher shortages, pre-recorded lessons would be a cost-effective solution.

 

However, implementing blended pedagogy is impossible through one discipline. The pandemic exposed an alarming digital divide, and there’s a desperate need to procure laptops and provide internet access. To raise capital and gain expertise to execute these projects, I’d use resources at Mendoza for nonprofit management. I want to take political science classes because without understanding political hurdles, these grand dreams would be stillborn. 

 

After I graduate, my most far-flung-dream is to start a school, innovative in pedagogy and audacious in striving to improve social mobility.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

This essay did a good job of presenting the student’s knowledge about education and the nuances in providing a good education. Through their discussion of tutoring a student, pre-recorded lessons, and disparities in Internet access, this student establishes that they have hands-on experience and theoretical knowledge about how to best provide education. Providing these details helps display the student’s passion for teaching. By making the student’s passion clear, the admissions officers reading this essay know that this student will be an engaged student who will one day accomplish something great.

 

The essay also did a nice job of connecting the student’s future dream to what they discussed during the essay. In the last sentence we learn that this student wants to open a school that combines innovative teaching methods, they mentioned in the second paragraph, with the possibility for social mobility, that they recognized was an issue in the current education system in the third paragraph. Having this overarching idea was helpful to understand how everything they mentioned would fit together in their future.

 

What Could Be Improved

 

This essay really struggled with clarity. It wasn’t clear until the last sentence what this student actually wanted to do after graduating. The initial story of tutoring Aanya didn’t really connect to the rest of the essay and left the reader trying to find a connection in the first few paragraphs. The student’s ambition to open up a school with innovative teaching methods to overcome social mobility should have been upfront so the reader would understand how each paragraph fit into answering the prompt.

 

The transitions from ideas were also disjointed which added to some of the confusion. The student goes from talking about tutoring a student, to Khan Academy, to economics, to unequal Internet access without providing a clear roadmap of where they are heading next. These transitions could have been made clearer with the inclusion of transition words to segway from one topic to the next. 

 

It was also unclear what this student’s connection to this issue was besides tutoring Aanya. They seemed to be informed about providing education, but there was a lack of personal reflection on what inspired them to start teaching in the first place or when they realized disparities in Internet access was an issue they wanted to address. By the end of the essay, the reader knows what the student wants to do (open a school that addresses the online learning and social mobility problems addressed in the essay), but we don’t know why. The why is the most important part, so this essay needs to address that. 

 

Example 3

 

Prompt: Notre Dame has a rich history deeply rooted in tradition. Share how a favorite tradition from your life has impacted who you are today.

 

Although I despised them at the time, technology restrictions in Boarding school gave birth to a tradition close to my heart. With nothing else to do, our suitemates would gather together after “lights-out” and just talk. Sometimes it’d be consoling a friend over a bad break-up or a serious debate on the merits of Latin honors. Whatever the topic, these conversations were always compassionate, spirited, and a source of familial support.

 

This camaraderie also made studying profoundly different, as learning and fun stopped being antithetical ideas. Nights reserved for calculus were always punctuated by ping-pong sessions, but we never sabotaged each other in a futile race to the top. We were a collaborative family, where instead of selfish opportunity costs, we were driven by brotherly love. No accolade could beat this feeling of finding home, away from home. 

 

At Notre Dame, to build that sense of family, I want to create a discussion group—Night Owls—to gather at night and ponder both the grandiose and whimsical philosophical questions over hot chocolate. Think of these events as modern versions of the infamous Greek Symposia, just without the booze. This combination of conversation, family, and intellectual inquiry is what I want from college. It doesn’t sound very prudential, but it’s surely poetic.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

The student who wrote this essay did a good job of tying their previous experience with a tradition to a tradition they want to bring to the Notre Dame community. This student pinpointed exactly what they loved so much about living in a community with their peers and how they planned to recreate that experience in college. The descriptions about the types of debates or ping-pong tournaments the student engaged in create an image of an intellectual and supportive environment admissions officers want to see at their college.

 

Additionally, by coming up with a name and a plan for the discussion group, the student’s interest is evident and it shows that they took time to consider genuinely starting this group at college. In general, the student’s writing created a warm sense of family and bonding that displayed some of the student’s key values. This leaves the reader with a positive impression of the type of person this student is outside of the classroom, which was exactly what the prompt was looking to achieve.

 

What Could Be Improved

 

One way this essay could be improved would be to include concrete examples of the types of discussions the student had at boarding school or want to have at Notre Dame. Although the essay mentions discussing bad break-ups and Latin honors, adding more detail like a quote said by one of the student’s friends or an idea they discussed that made them reflect on the world would help put the reader in the room with the student. The admissions officers should have a full grasp on the impact these late-night discussions had on the student. The more details and reflections to show what memorable things were said, the better the readers will understand why this is such an important tradition to this student. 

 

More Free Essay Resources

 

How to Write the University of Notre Dame Essays: See our in-depth guide of each supplemental essay prompt for the University of Notre Dame. 

 

All of Our Essay Guides: Don’t miss our essay guides for all of the top schools.

 

How to Write the Common App Essays: Learn how to write a strong Common App essay for each of the prompts, with examples.

 

Free CollegeVine Peer Essay Review: Submit your essay and get feedback from another student. Editing other students’ essays will also help you improve your own writing skills!

 

 


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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.