The Notre Dame Writing Section: We Walk You Through Our Essay and Short Answer Prompts

Author: Montanna Kirven


The Notre Dame application is open as of August 1. Each year, members of the admissions team formulate new short answers prompts for the application.

There are no “right answers” to these questions; rather, these questions provide another opportunity for applicants to tell us about themselves.

Before you start writing, we'd love to share some advice and guidance to help jumpstart your essay brainstorming.

Our admissions team can't wait to review your application and read your essays! Let's dive in!

The University of Notre Dame Writing Section consists of responses to two (2) brief essay questions and three (3) short-answer responses to questions you select from the options provided.


Directions: Please provide a response to two (2) of the following questions. The word count is a maximum of 150 words per response.

Notre Dame fosters an undergraduate experience dedicated to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of each individual, characterized by a collective sense of care for every person. How do you foster service to others in your community?

Our founder Reverend Edward Sorin, C.S.C. envisioned the University of Notre Dame to be a powerful force for good in the world, and this is a purpose the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Notre Dame strive to live out every day. Building bridges through compassion, serving others, and welcoming all in our global community are all vital to the Notre Dame spirit and experience.

It might be helpful to think of this prompt as asking you two questions: How do you foster a spirit of service? How do you foster a spirit of community?

Both service and community can look different for every individual. Maybe the community you serve is as close to home as your family, or as far away as the other side of the globe. Whoever, however, and wherever you choose to serve, we want to hear about how you build up your community.

What is distinctive about your personal experiences and development (e.g., family support, culture, disability, personal background, community, etc.)? Why are these experiences important to you and how will you enrich the Notre Dame community?

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 your life experiences have 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 cultural background or lived experiences have shaped their 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 personal experiences have impacted your identity—and how you will bring that with you to Notre Dame.

Describe a time when you advocated for something you believed in and influenced others through thoughtful discourse to promote a deeper understanding of a difficult situation.

One of my favorite book quotes is, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” We want to hear how you’ve fought for something you believe in, whether that has been amongst your friends, at school, at home, or another environment.

The key word in this prompt is “advocated.” How have you created change, helped someone see a different perspective, made someone feel included, fostered a dialogue, or found a way to make an impact? We want to hear how you’ve lived out your values as an advocate.

Short Answer

Directions: Please choose three questions from the options below. Your response to each short-answer question should be no more than 50 words.

What is worth fighting for?

The moniker of the Fighting Irish is more than just our athletic mascot—it represents a spirit of perseverance, commitment, and indomitable courage.

Everyone has something that lights a fire underneath them. Tell us what that is for you.

To see how our current students and faculty answer “What Would You Fight For?”, check out the video series showcasing their work and global impact.

Everyone has different priorities when considering their higher education options and building their college or university list. Tell us about your “non-negotiable” factor(s) when searching for your future college home.

At this point in your college discernment process, you’ve probably done a fair amount of research into different colleges and universities as you’ve decided where to apply. We hope you’ve taken some time to discern what matters to you and what you are looking for next in your academic journey. The best college “fit” is different for every single student.

This question is asking you to share what that ideal fit looks like to you. For example, you might be considering a school’s physical and institutional attributes, campus culture, academics and experiential learning, or cost/financial aid. You might also be considering values and the mission of your ideal college.

All these are important questions to ask yourself as you search for where to call home for the next four years. We hope that this prompt will give you space to contemplate and share what you hope to find in your educational experience.

What is something that genuinely interests you and how does this tie to the academic area you hope to study at Notre Dame?

Notre Dame attracts a community of intellectually curious students who are enthusiastic about their areas of study. What are you curious about, and maybe more importantly, why?

Whether you feel confident or unsure whether you will continue down the path of your intended major, that is OK! This question is asking you to think about your interests and why you are inspired to pursue them. Is there a question you hope to answer? A topic that fuels your passion? A problem you feel driven to solve?

You are about to embark on a great academic journey—let us know what you are most excited to explore and discover!

How does faith influence the decisions you make?

Whatever your relationship with faith and religion, we want to know about how faith has shaped you. Has faith informed your values? Inspired you? Challenged you? Compelled you to look at something in a new or different way?

The vibrant community of Notre Dame is made up of students from a variety of faith backgrounds and religious traditions. Perhaps your faith is something you’ve grown up with, or your spirituality has changed throughout your life. Alternatively, maybe you do not consider yourself to be religious, but encountered faith through a friend or experience. Regardless, tell us about your journey.

What brings you joy?

Since our founding by the priests and brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame has striven to educate both the mind and heart, with zeal and hope.

We want to know what fills your heart with zeal and hope! Whatever makes you joyful—an activity, a person, a cause, or anything in between— we want to hear about it. Maybe it reflects the values you hold or something inherent to you as a person.

No source of joy is too big or small for this prompt.



Montanna Kirven is an admissions counselor for the Northeast region of the United States. Learn more about Montanna.