How to Write the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Padya Paramita

How to Write the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

The University of Notre Dame prides itself on its close-knit community and strong alumni network. It says a lot about a school when the biggest stereotype surrounding it is that the people are exceptionally friendly. But simply being a nice person will not help you stand out in your college application! If you want to get into this Indiana college, you must take advantage of the Notre Dame supplemental essays 2020-2021 to convey how you would fit in with this lively community. . 

At Notre Dame, students can major in one of the 75 programs available across the School of Architecture, School of Business, College of Arts and Letters, College of Engineering, School of Global Affairs, and School of Science. No matter the field, this Indiana university has a program to suit your academic interests. So let the college know who you are and what you can bring to your chosen program by presenting informative and well-written essays. To guide you through the Notre Dame supplemental essays 2020-2021, I’ve outlined the prompts, the dos and don'ts of your response, and more tips to provide you with a smooth-sailing process.

Prompts for the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

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. The word count is a maximum of 200 words per essay. 

Required Question

Please provide a response to the following question:

The founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Blessed Basil Moreau, wrote, “We shall always place education side by side with instruction; the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.”  How do you hope a Notre Dame education and experience will transform your mind and heart?

The first and only required prompt among the Notre Dame supplemental essays 2020-2021 asks the classic “why this school” question. Admissions officers want to know which features of the college appeal to you the most and how the resources at Notre Dame can benefit you compared to those at other schools. The key to writing this essay lies in going beyond a listing of things that make Notre Dame an exceptional school. Since these essays are for your college application, your answer should be geared as specifically to you as possible, especially because the word limit is so restricted.

You need to spend a considerable amount of time digging into the university’s website, taking note of which opportunities support your aspirations the most, and letting your knowledge of Notre Dame shine through in your essay. Because your word limit is so tight, you don’t have space to wander all over the place.. Pick one or two criteria that are important to you. Look through academic programs, research opportunities, and extracurricular offerings. How does the particular college within Notre Dame that you’re applying to stand out over other similar undergraduate programs? Are there any particular courses that the university offers in your field that you can’t find elsewhere? Is there a student organization that perfectly aligns with a current club you enjoy? Highlight how you will grow. Make sure your essay can’t be applied to any other college on your list, and convince the admissions officers that Notre Dame is the school for you.

Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!


Optional Questions

Please provide responses to TWO (2) of the following questions:

Prompt 1

A Notre Dame education is not just for you, but also for those who will benefit from the impact you make. Who do you aspire to serve after you graduate?

On its website, Notre Dame states that it looks for students “who are involved—in the classroom, in the community, and in the relentless pursuit of truth.” Part of this means showcasing that you’re a driven individual who has goals that centre around making an impact, and helping others. 

You can tie your aspirations to your academic interests. If you’re a prospective biology major and wish to pursue medicine eventually, what kind of patients do you want to help out when you’ve become a full-fledged MD? If your goals revolve more around architecture, who do you hope will benefit from your designs. Don’t spend too much time describing what your aspirations are. Focus more on why you’ve chosen a particular group of people. Does it connect with the way you grew up? Is there something you’ve always wished to help people who come from the same ethnic background as you with? You should also talk about how those you wish to serve would benefit from what you may have to offer? Why is it crucial that you serve this particular group of people? Finally, if you have space, outline how a Notre Dame education can help you get there.

Prompt 2

In response to the rising momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement during June 2020, G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean of the Notre Dame Law School, penned an open letter entitled, “I am George Floyd. Except I can breathe. And I can do something.” He issues a call to the Notre Dame community saying, “Each of us must do what we can, wherever we are.” What is one action you are taking “to change this world for the better?” 

Choosing to tackle this second optional prompt within the Notre Dame supplemental essays 2020-2021 is a good way to inform the university about your role as an impactful leader and change maker. Admissions officers don’t want a detailed description of the logistics of the action. Within the given 200 words you must focus on how you are taking efforts to make a difference in your community - so you should take a more reflective approach. Think about your most significant involvement, but stay wary of commonly cited activities such as service trips. Remember that “change the world” doesn’t have to signify a large-scale activity. You could have helped your entire neighborhood or school, or you might have helped one or two individuals who belong to it, and still made a difference. Because the prompt specifically mentions the George Floyd story, your story could revolve around social justice.

Use a short anecdote to highlight the role you played in the activity. What were some of your tangible achievements? How did you involve the rest of the community? How would the result have been different if you weren’t present? What have you learned in the process? While you definitely don’t want to undermine your role in the activity, remember that you shouldn’t sound arrogant either. Talk about your achievements in a way that still conveys humility and portrays you as both a team player and respected leader. And of course, make sure your account is truthful and not overly exaggerated. Don’t write about an initiative your brother has really spearheaded and try to pass it off as your own story.

Prompt 3

God and the Good Life is an interdisciplinary course created by the departments of Philosophy and Film, Television, and Theatre that asks students to consider moral questions about what they believe and how they want to live their lives. What do God and a good life mean to you?

This is an essay option that can appeal to students with various interests — philosophy, religion, or applicants who are interested in media studies. First and foremost, you should visit the God and the Good life website and learn as much about the course as possible. It’s crucial that you have a baseline understanding of what the class offers before sitting down to write an essay about why you would be interested in exploring the topics within the class. Watch the course trailer, look at the upcoming topics, and skim through the readings for the next lesson. If you believe that you’d want to take this class and are keen on learning more about the lesson materials, this option is a good one for you.

Now we come to the two parts of the actual essay. First, consider the moral questions about what you believe in and how you want to live your life. Is there a unique outlook you have on morals and ethics that have always guided you? Second, what kind of role has God played in your journey and how would you define a good life? Notre Dame may be founded on a Catholic principle, but it welcomes students from all backgrounds. This essay has a lot of nuance and hidden layers, so be very careful about how you tread the waters. Allow admissions officers to learn more about you through this essay, and make sure you haven’t written anything that can offend or harm any individual or group of people. If your view on what God is or what a good life means is unpopular, you may need to be especially sensitive about how you are writing about it. You never know who could be on the other side reading your application.  

Prompt 4

Notre Dame has a rich history deeply rooted in tradition. Share how a favorite tradition from your life has impacted who you are today.

Pay attention to the words “impacted who you are today.” A good way to start your brainstorming process would be to think about your background and experiences. Is there a part of your identity that you feel adds a unique element to your story? Does your favorite club, neighborhood, or family background allow you to celebrate a particular tradition that has shaped you? Notre Dame prides itself on its diverse student body - how do you feel you can add to it? The word “diverse,” while a buzzword, can help you try and figure out the focus of your essay. While it may definitely evoke your cultural identity, sexual orientation or religious views, you can also think out of the box when it comes to tradition. You could talk about nearly anything, from what the preparation of food from your family’s culture has taught you about community to how your tradition of annual hikes with your friend group has changed your worldview.

Because this is part of your college application, you should also look to answer the question of how the perspective from your experiences would help you contribute to Notre Dame if you have space. Similar to the other essays, don’t talk about what you think admissions officers want to hear. What are you genuinely excited about participating in at Notre Dame? What kinds of activities have you led in high school that you believe have prepared you to continue to make an impact in while at Notre Dame? 

Prompt 5

What brings you joy?

This is the most open-ended question among the Notre Dame supplemental essays 2020-2021. The school values students who are particularly invested in activities and topics that are meaningful to them, no matter what the scale. If you have a meaningful hobby that isn’t a conventional extracurricular per se, or you have a favorite movie that you watch over and over again, Notre Dame is telling you to write about it. Just the introductory paragraph to most essays requires over 200 words - you might find it difficult to restrain yourself while talking about your favorite pastime. In order to get your point across, you need to put less emphasis on describing the activity or object - limit it to one or two sentences - and more on what about it brings you joy. Why is it your favorite? How does it recharge you in a way others may not? Has it shaped your perspective in a significant way?

Since admissions officers will see your activities list through the Common App, you should find ways to include anecdotes which will convey additional information about yourself. While you should not pick a purely academic activity or something that you think Notre Dame wants to hear, you also should think of something beyond sleeping, eating, or hanging out with friends. Your outlook on the activity or subject should be unique, and help you stand out among your peers.

Additional Tips for the Notre Dame Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

  • Choose Your Optional Prompts Wisely - Since the Notre Dame supplemental essays 2020-2021 have provided you the liberty of picking only two of the four optional essays, you must take advantage of this circumstance. Go through all of the prompts carefully and decide which ones can inspire the most powerful essays from your perspective. You could begin by eliminating prompts that might be too risky, for example, if you feel like your view on God might lead to red flags from admissions officers, it’s better not to write that essay.
  • Don’t Repeat the Personal Statement - Choose a topic where you don’t have to repeat information that’s already included in the rest of your application. If your personal statement highlights the people you wish to help out later in your career, choose essay prompts from the four other options. Your Notre Dame supplemental essays 2020-2021 are designed to provide new information about you. Narrating the same story won’t work in your favor, as admissions officers might think it’s a waste of their time.
  • Be as Specific to Yourself As Possible - Remember these are your supplemental essays. In all of the responses, it’s easy to be tempted to elaborate more generally on the topics - whether it’s Notre Dame’s resources or your most meaningful activity. But resist that urge! You’re under a very strict limit. Use it wisely - connect the majority of your points to yourself. Why does it matter to you if Notre Dame has particularly good resources? What is your personal connection to an unpopular opinion? Avoid generic responses at all costs. 


The Notre Dame supplemental essays 2020-2021 ask questions which provide admissions officers with the chance to get to know you in order to gauge how you would fit into the community. Don’t miss this chance to show your perspective and convey what makes you a unique and memorable candidate. You got this!


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