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University of Notre Dame 2017-18 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

University of Notre Dame 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 3 essays of 175 words each

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why; Oddball; Community

Home to a fine athletic tradition, Notre Dame knows the importance of a good warm-up. Their supplement starts out nice and easy, with a garden variety why essay, before ramping up to some pretty probing questions about your morals, values, and very sense of self. The key to nailing this application is pacing yourself — and reading through all of the questions ahead of time so you know which ones are worth the effort!

The Writing Supplement for first year applicants seeking Fall 2018 enrollment includes the following directions: The University of Notre Dame Writing Supplement consists of one (1) essay response to a required question and two (2) essay responses to questions you select from the options provided. In total, you will write three (3) essay responses. In honor of our University’s 175th anniversary, the recommended word count is around 175 words per essay.
Please provide a response to the following question:


What excites you about the University of Notre Dame that makes it stand out from other institutions?

Why Notre Dame? You have 175 words to explain to Admissions Officers at University of Notre Dame why you are taking the time to apply and fill out these supplements! As with any other why essay, your goal here isn’t simply to regurgitate facts from the admissions highlights page. Take your research to the next level and dig for the kinds of classes and opportunities that spark your interest. By using carefully-selected details, you’ll show admissions not only that you care about the school, but also what kind of student you’d be when you get there.

Your answer can refer to academics: majors, classes, professors, or the community: clubs, events, student body, or anything that makes you want to be a Notre Dame student: campus culture, sports, your dad’s stories of his glory days. This is where you prove that you have done your homework on Notre Dame. Feel free to explore their website for little bits of information that excite you. Maybe you want to join their Culinary Appreciation and Outreach Society. Do they have a Race and Gender in Reality TV class that you would love to take? Let them know! Lastly, remember to connect your own experiences to the ones you hope to have at Notre Dame.   

Please provide a response to two (2) of the following questions:


The University of Notre Dame is a Holy Cross institution whose educational philosophy has been formed around five core principles inspired by Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. These principles, or pillars, of a Holy Cross education are Mind, Heart, Zeal, Family, and Hope, and they continue to shape our students today. Which pillar or pillars resonate most with you? Why?

Listen, cannibals are scary, but right now you should specifically be concerned about college essay cannibalism! This prompt could practically be a sub-question to the main why essay, and if these principles matter to you, you will need to be careful about where you address them. If Notre Dame’s religious affiliation floats your boat, it’s certainly worth mentioning in your why essay, but you might want to save the details for this separate essay! If you’re simply intrigued by the question but aren’t quite sure where to start, you should still keep in mind the connection between this essay and the why essay. Both are sizing up your fit for the Notre Dame community.

All in all, this is a wonderful question because it offers you five different paths to explore! Notably, it gives you the opportunity to talk about your family. So, if you haven’t yet shared much about your upbringing, this is the perfect opportunity for you to tell a story about how your family has shaped your values and turned you into the person you are today. That said, you can take this prompt in any direction you choose! Reflect on why the pillar you chose is so important to you. Or, simply tell a story that you want to include on your application and then draw a connection with one of the pillars. Whatever you do, make sure to project what it will continue to mean to you in the next four years. How will that principle affect your time on campus with professors, students, faith, and your studies?

For whom are you responsible?

This is an “Oddball” question. It’s not quite like the others you’re going to run into in the supplemental essay jungle this application season. It’s a loaded question, but also open-ended and applicable to a myriad of contexts. Maybe you’re the leader of a school club and you want to highlight that experience by describing your personal sense of responsibility to the other group members. You might also say that you are responsible for your family’s well-being as you work after school to contribute to rent or help take care of your live-in grandparents. Maybe you’re responsible for your neighbor’s dog, who you walk every evening. Perhaps you’ve even had to teach yourself to take a step back due to an injury or mental illness and realize that it’s ok to just be responsible for yourself. Whatever the case, your answer should showcase your maturity and awareness of how your actions affect others.

What is one thing that you know for a fact? Why are you certain?

This is an opportunity for Notre Dame to see how you reason, understand the world around you, and persuade others. Your response can be academic or personal, so have fun with it! What is the one thing you know for a fact? Is it that atoms make up a molecule? Are you certain because science has been your favorite subject since you were a wee little lad and you can always trust science? Is the one thing you know for a fact that good will always prevail? Are you certain because you see kindness win out in everyday life when you’re walking down the street? Or maybe the only thing of which you can truly be certain is your dog’s tail-wagging response to the smell of bacon. Think about what you really believe is a fact and then, in turn, why that might matter to an admissions officer. What might it reveal about your analytical abilities, personal values, or sense of humor?

Tell us about something significant that recently occurred in your community. Why does it matter to you?

If you thought you dodged a bullet by skipping “for whom are you responsible?” think again. Tricky Notre Dame has disguised another question about responsibility in a community essay. While the point of entry may be different, the basic qualities you should display in your response are the same: empathy and concern for others. That said, this essay should still be about you, so put yourself first. What news has rocked your world recently? Maybe it was a story of national or international scale, but it could also have been some niche development for vintage resellers on Etsy. To find your “something significant,” list a handful of recent events that you just can’t let go. Then, pick one that connects directly to a community you identify with.  

Remember that your community can be based on location, race, gender, sexuality, a love of hip hop, your High School, your church, so on and so forth. When you’re telling Notre Dame about what recently occurred, think less about explaining the scenario and more about explaining the impact that it had on you. Beyond your immediate reaction, can you tell a story about your long-term response? Do you take the lead in making things right? Can you boost morale with a few sentences uttered through a megaphone? Or, if you used to be a silent member of your community, how have recent events spurred you to action? Admissions wants to know how you will react to something significant when your community is (hopefully) Notre Dame.  

Please note: the information below relates to last year's essay prompts. We are going to update this guide with the prompts for 2021-22 as soon as they become available. Check back soon!
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