How to Write the Notre Dame Supplement 2019-2020

The University of Notre Dame is a private research university in Notre Dame, Indiana. It is one of the top 25 universities in the United States, and the undergraduate student body is comprised of approximately 8,600 students. Notre Dame is globally renowned for providing students with exceptional research opportunities. Off of campus, over 75% of students study abroad, and Notre Dame is ranked second in the country for producing prestigious Fulbright Scholars.

It should never be overlooked that Notre Dame is a Catholic university. You don’t need to be Catholic to go to Notre Dame, and you can attend the university and not have the religious aspects significantly impact your experience. It is more than possible to be atheist, agnostic, or of another faith and go to Notre Dame. Students are not mandated to go to services, but it’s good to know that more than 200 masses are celebrated on campus each week and that there is a chapel in each residence hall.

As a top university, Notre Dame has an acceptance rate to match. It is only 6.3%.

This year, the Notre Dame application is almost entirely new. The only hold-over from last year is the first question.  

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 recommended word count is approximately 150 to 200 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? * (150-200)

Any answer to this question should have two parts. The first is academic; the second is academic-adjacent. For the academic component, you absolutely must include your prospective major, a professor you’d like to work with, and a course you’d like to take. If you have a potential minor in mind, you should include that as well.  

The academic-adjacent part needs to be equally specific. Notre Dame is known for fantastic research programs, but the opportunity to do research is not unique to Notre Dame. Study abroad opportunities are not unique to Notre Dame either, but they do have some spectacular international programs. You could mention one that you are especially interested in.

Once you have finished writing, you need to do a specificity test. Try replacing “Notre Dame” with the name of any other large research university. If it still works, your supplement isn’t specific enough.

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

The founder of the University of Notre Dame, Father Edward Sorin, C.S.C., was only 28 when he established the University with the vision that it would become a "powerful means of doing good." We have always known that young people can be catalysts for change. What is one way that you have made an impact in your community? (150-200) 

The most important part of this prompt is “in your community.” Whatever you write here, no matter how small or how large, it must be in your local community. How community is defined can vary, it can be your neighborhood, your town, your city, or your county.  It can even be in your region if you have strong regional pride. However, you cannot pull the, “but the whole world is my community” card. To do so both rejects the premise of the question and is stale. We can promise you that you would be far from the first person to write about a trip half-way around the world under the premise that the whole world is one family.

Does something at home seem underwhelming? Don’t be afraid to write about something small but meaningful. “Impact” can sound like a crater, but small, long-term, committed actions can be far more impactful than a single large event.

If you were to bring a new friend to your hometown and give them a personal tour, what is a meaningful place you would show them? (150-200)

We love this question because it allows you to focus on a tiny piece of your life by looking at a particular place and sharing it with the reader. Try looking outside of your house, school, or something else stereotypical like a sports field. Is there a candy store that you have gone to basically since birth? Is there a corner where you used to meet your friends before walking to the library together? Look for a place that is ripe for storytelling and narrative imagery.

Defend an unpopular opinion you hold. (150-200)

This is a wonderfully tricky question, and you have to be careful. We’re going into an election. It’s easy to see this question and immediately start drafting an answer that is rooted in current political issues. Very rarely is that a good idea unless you are talking about holding an opinion that is unpopular in your family or community, but that is in line with the university’s political beliefs. This can require some research, but it’s worth it. Notre Dame is a Catholic university. As an institution, it has a set of beliefs that not every student or faculty member holds, but that are common because religious universities have a way of attracting religious students.

Secondly, when you write your answer, you need to be sure to write about yourself, not other people. Do not talk down about people who don’t agree with you, and definitely don’t purport to know something that everyone else hasn’t figured out. Show confidence, but avoid pride at all costs.  

Many high schools have books that are required reading. Thinking beyond the common examples, what book do you believe should be on your school's reading list and why? (150-200)

This is a great question! It should be evident that you cannot write about any book that is on a typical high school reading list — even if you were never assigned it. Once you have ruled out what you can’t write about, you should make a shortlist of books that aren’t common at all. Don’t limit yourself to classics or bestsellers. Be willing to look outside of typical forms and remember that poetry books and graphic novels are fair game.


Are you curious about attending a religious university but don’t know what that would mean? Send us an email. We help students find the path to their perfect college.