Author: Jordan Schank

“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” - Miss Frizzle

A student is reading over his admissions essay draft

Each summer, a committee of admissions counselors is tasked with writing the essay prompts that 18,000 hopeful applicants will answer to complete their applications to Notre Dame. The committee is ready to share this year’s questions, but first, a quick look behind the scenes.

Where does the committee begin? By giving the committee a name that can be shortened into an acronym, of course. Thus, the Short Answer Prompt Committee, or SAP, was officially established. (We saved our creativity for the prompts.)

In an undisclosed location within the depths of the Main Building, SAP met to brainstorm, draft, and edit the perfect essay prompts. We took our job seriously, but also had some fun along the way. Between watching YouTube clips from the Magic School Bus and taking long strolls to Starbucks and back, we had thoughtful conversations about how our finished work is going to help us learn more about our applicants while helping our applicants learn more about what is important to Notre Dame. After filling page after page with our ideas, we found the most difficult part was picking our favorites.

Several grande iced caramel macchiatos later, SAP is excited to reveal the fruits of its labors. Here are the prompts for the 2014-2015 Notre Dame Writing Supplement to the Common Application. Seatbelts, everyone!

Why Notre Dame?

It’s short and simple, but it gets to the point. If you’re submitting an application to Notre Dame, there must be a reason, right? Here’s your opportunity to tell us. Actually, it’s more than an opportunity, it’s a requirement. For the first time in known Notre Dame admissions history, all applicants will be asked to provide a response to this question! There is no wrong answer. There is no perfect answer. There’s only your answer.

Of the following four prompts, applicants will be asked to respond to two of them. (We know you’ll want to answer all of them because they’re so intriguing, but please limit yourself to only two!)  

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

Here’s an opportunity to let your creative juices flow. Your goal? Write something so captivating, interesting or fascinating that we call to ask you for the rest of the story. Will you accept the challenge?

2) 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?

Here’s a quick history lesson that will give some context to this question: The University of Notre Dame was founded by Fr. Edward Sorin who was sent to the United States by Basil Moreau. This question goes against the nature of a typical admissions essay prompt. While you’ve spent a lot of effort sharing your achievements and amazing talents with us, we also want to know what’s missing. This question requires some honest self-reflection.

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

Remember those Magic School Bus clips we were watching? Those were the inspiration for this question. If you have an academic passion, how would you explore it beyond the classroom setting? Creativity is welcome here, too.

4) 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?

You read that right, we want you to do something. Go. Talk to somebody. Tell us about it. This essay will require some planning and action, so step away from the keyboard and out of your comfort zone. (Of course, we don’t want you to do anything that would compromise your safety. You’re smart, so you already knew that.)

For each of the short answer prompts you choose, we recommend a response of approximately 150 words. If your essay is 135 words, that’s fine. If you want to write more than 150, go ahead. However, you will not be able to exceed 200 words.

Finally, we’d like to send a shout-out to Google Docs and coffee. SAP couldn’t have done it without you.