Each year, members of the admissions team brainstorm new short answers prompts for the application.
We always ask one required question about why a student wants to attend Notre Dame, but the final question gives students a chance to choose which prompt to answer.
There are no “right answers” to these questions; rather, these questions provide another opportunity for applicants to tell us about themselves.
Since we know that writing the essays can be the hardest part of the application, we wanted to compile some advice for you as you tackle these Notre Dame-specific questions. These prompts are meant to be answered briefly (200 words maximum), and will hopefully give you some fun topics to think about as you’re putting your application together.
Required prompt for all applicants:
Notre Dame is a Catholic university, founded by members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, with a mission to educate the hearts and minds of students. What excites you about attending Notre Dame?
This is your opportunity to tell us “why Notre Dame.” We encourage you to reflect on what draws you to Notre Dame, and what makes it unique from other universities.
Although you may have a lot of essays to write, this is not the time to simply reuse an essay from another university and change the school name to Notre Dame. Spend some time reflecting on why you hope to attend Notre Dame, and what you might offer to our community.
Choose one of four additional prompts:
My best advice for choosing which question to respond to is to think about what else you’d like to highlight about yourself in your application. This last response can be the perfect place to tell us something new about yourself, or about some distinctive aspect of your personal story or passions.
If you are trying and struggling to respond to one of these questions, pick a new one!
1. People in the Notre Dame community come from many different places, backgrounds, and walks of life. How is where you’re from a part of who you are?
At Notre Dame, we value the distinct experiences of every student and celebrate the diversity present in the Notre Dame family. This question gives you an opportunity to share how where you’re from has shaped you.
Maybe you’re an international student who will be bringing a unique perspective from outside the U.S., or you are a student living in a rural part of the country, or someone who wants to share how their ethnic or cultural background has shaped your sense of self and identity.
Whether you’re coming from an urban city, have lived your whole life in the same suburb, will be the first in your family to attend college, or are the youngest of five kids, we want to hear how your community has impacted your identity—and how you will bring that with you to Notre Dame.
2. Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in.
One of my favorite book quotes is, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” We want to hear how you’ve fought for something you believe in, whether that has been amongst your friends, at school, or at home.
The key word in this prompt is “advocated.” How have you created change, helped someone see a different perspective, made someone feel included, or found a way to make an impact? We want to hear how you’ve lived out your values as an advocate.
3. If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it?
We’re not asking you to save the world, but we would love to hear about a problem you’re passionate about solving. This could relate to your academic interests, but we often find that our students care about causes beyond their intended fields of study.
This question is asking you to dream big and think about how you could find a solution for an issue facing your community. We hope that it’s personally meaningful to you, and that you’ll be creative about how to solve this problem. Don’t forget to share why this cause is so important to you and your community!
4. What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you?
Think about the nicest thing someone has said to you. What did they compliment you on, and why is it something that you still remember?
We want to read about the greatest compliment you have received, and what makes it so special to you. It may be significant because of who paid you the compliment, or perhaps it speaks to something inherent to who you are as a person. Maybe it recognizes the values and commitment you have demonstrated in your interactions with others.
No compliment is too big or small for this prompt.
Maria Finan is a senior assistant director of admissions for the Western Region of the U.S., along with Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong Province. Learn more.