Essay Scoop: How to Answer Notre Dame’s Essays

Located in Notre Dame, Indiana, the University of Notre Dame is a Catholic university at least partially known for its sports teams. Here’s how to answer Notre Dame’s essays and be well on your way to becoming one of the Fighting Irish yourself!

What excites you about attending Notre Dame? (required response 150-200 words)

This is a very straightforward “why us” question that requires research on aspects specific to Notre Dame that match your interests. Show that you have done some research on academic programs, professors, courses, clubs, or traditions, and mention your extracurricular activities that prove your interest in those specific Notre Dame areas. It is important to talk about both Notre Dame and why you would be a good fit.

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

Similar to the approach in Rice University’s questions, Notre Dame pushes you to reveal two crucial sides of a story with an added nuance: A. What do you hope to utilize in your time at the university and how? (previous prompt) B1. What problem area would you like to tackle and why is it an issue? B2. How do you hope to make progress on it?

The latter half of this college essay can be answered through any of the two prompts below with the difference between the permutations simply being framing. Unless your interest has a connection to the subject matter in questions 1, 4, or 5, we suggest answering 2 and 3 since they are a problem/solution pair. In question 2 you should reveal the backstory to your goals in the future. You likely have an idea of what you’d like to do with a degree but why are you interested in that? Question 3 expects a solution-oriented response touching on the specific way in which you hope to address an issue in the field you mention for 2.

Option 1: Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, 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.

This is a heavy prompt – usually we recommend focusing on the others if possible. First, stick to a 5 paragraph structure. The first body paragraph should be the specific civil rights issue and the state of affairs you are targeting. Prove you know what you are talking about. The second should be the progress, and the third should be the problems faced today. The thesis should be at the end of the first body paragraph, and the conclusion should restate it. Each body paragraph should have one idea maximum.

Option 2: What question fascinates you? Tell us why.This is a creative prompt – so focus on an actual question that fascinates you. In fact, the question does not matter as much as your thought process and reasoning. Show how you think with this question.

Option 3: What’s broken, and how would you fix it?

The admissions officers purposefully left this open ended – in an attempt to see how you will answer. Like the previous prompt, the proof of the pudding and the strongest college essays focus on not an interesting idea, but rather the approach to that. How will you fix it is the most important part.

Option 4: Blessed Basil Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, described education as “the art of helping young people to completeness.”

This is a religious prompt, but the question is universal. It is about helping others – so if you have strong community service experience, this is your prompt. Strong college essays will mention what they did, what it means to them, and why it is important to their future growth or goals.

Option 5: How are you incomplete?

Again, like prompt 2-3, this is open ended to see how the reader will react. Think of something personal, and always mention a few ways you hope to work towards it. Make sure to use plenty of I statements that show why you are incomplete instead of telling.

Option 6: Identify a recent Facebook post, Tweet, text, Instagram photo, Snap, blog post, or WeChat post of yours. What does it reveal about you and your digital footprint?

This is a newer prompt and one that shows the school’s personality. The post matters, make sure it is appropriate. Beyond that, it should tell a story. Usually we stick to a 5 paragraph structure with this one and any unstructured prompt in order to give students a guideline of how to write. Focus on the moment, what it means to you, and how it shows who you are.

Good luck!

Questions? Let us know!