The University of Notre Dame is a private, Catholic university located in Notre Dame, Indiana. It was founded in 1842 and is widely recognized as one of the top colleges in the United States. Notre Dame is known for its athletic teams as a part of the NCAA Division I, as well as its renowned academics.
As a world-renowned university, Notre Dame is highly selective. This past year, Notre Dame received over 20,000 applications and accepted only 3,600. That gives Notre Dame an acceptance rate of 17.7%, its lowest yet.
In order to get your best shot of acceptance to Notre Dame, your essays must make you stand out from the thousands of other qualified applicants. Below are some accepted Common App essays and supplements written by a real student who was accepted by the University of Notre Dame.
Please note: all names, cities, and other personal information in the essays and supplements have been replaced to keep the authors' privacy.
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University of Notre Dame Essays
Common App Essays ()
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
A few weeks before freshman year of high school, I stood and stared wide eyed in front of the fortress that is Lincoln. I was there on a mission. Today, I would choose the language I’d take for the next four years.
The list of languages that Lincoln offered startled me. “There’s so many,” I thought, “Latin, Spanish, Chinese, and French.”
About an hour prior, my mom told me, “You need to take Spanish! You could do so much with it.” A couple days before that, multitudes of people advised me that I would regret taking anything other than Spanish.
There’s nothing wrong with Spanish, but I didn’t have a hunger for it. It didn’t seem appetizing. At first glance, I knew what I wanted. I wanted Chinese, and it was mine the moment I laid eyes on it.
I excelled in Chinese class. I passed every test with flying colors. I remembered Chinese characters like they were the names of my best friends. I could converse. Chinese attached itself to every part of my life. I translated anything I could get my hands on, like magazines and menus. It even infiltrated my dreams. I dreamt of radicals and the past life of every character. The only thing I had to do now was visit China.
China was like a far off wish, though. Until it wasn’t. A trip to China was in our school’s future. My mom couldn’t pay for a trip, though. She can’t work because of her disabilities, and I have three other siblings as well as a nephew all in one house. But I didn’t let that dissuade me, because China was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let slip away. I started a GoFundMe page, did other fundraisers, and asked for personal donations until I finally reached the whopping total of $5,500. That money covered a passport, visa, plane ticket, and a 9-day guided educational tour as well as extra spending money. As soon as I stepped off the plane, and set my eyes upon the beautiful city of Shanghai, I fell in love. In that moment, I had an epiphany. China was made for me, and I wanted to give it all my first; first job and first apartment.
Everywhere I looked there were people who spoke the language I loved, Mandarin, so I did what any rational person would do. I made conversation. I talked to moms, kids, seniors, middle schoolers, high schoolers, store clerks, food vendors, and grocery attendants. The list could go on.
Being able to talk with people who had a completely different background than I did astounded me. Some of us had nothing in common but this wonderful language. I shared stories and personal views with so many people I didn’t know, and in return I got innumerable ones from them. The Chinese gave me a piece of their culture and accepted me with open arms. There were so many things in the world that I had never experienced, but these people had. Their stories would be the ones I’d share with my children and grandchildren.
This trip helped me realized how I’m just one person--one small speck--in this world. There is so much more to learn and experience. My trip to China is the reason I want to teach English abroad. The connections I made were because I was able to communicate. Having a second or third language at your disposal makes you an asset. Whole new cultures are open to you. I want kids and adults to be able to make lifelong connections just as I did when I was in China.
“Junzi zhi xin bù sheng qí xiao, ér qìliàng hángài yish.” (Géyán lián bì) is a Chinese proverb that reminds us that we should not act for our own selfish desires, but rather try to serve the greater good.
Supplemental Essays ()
What excites you about the University of Notre Dame that makes it stand out from other institutions? (200 words max)
When I attended a Notre Dame information session, the admission representative, Zach, told us wonderful stories about campus life. One thing that especially stuck out to me was how diverse Notre Dame is. It was intriguing to think that I could sit down at a lunch table and there would be someone there from Hong Kong, Germany, and Korea. This nurtures my love of cultures different from my own. Also, I’ve spent my whole life in Kansas City, which is roughly 8 hours away from Indiana. The idea of leaving everything that I’ve grown so familiar with frightens me. A family friend who attends Notre Dame says that you form a close bond with the people in your dorm, but it extends beyond that because it’s like everyone at Notre Dame is family. Even the Alumni stay involved long after they’ve graduated. People are proud to have graduated from Notre Dame, leading me to believe that when you attend Notre Dame, you become a family for life. Notre Dame has a history and legacy of greatness, and I would love to be a part of a school that changes lives like that.
What is one thing you will definitely bring to college with you? (200 words max)
Mandy is my mentor from Big Brothers Big Sisters and someone who's changed my life. It sounds insane to bring a 38 year old woman to college with you, but don't worry, that's not my plan. As I gaze at my bedroom wall, I'm surrounded by photos of all the great adventures we've shared. These pictures showcase some of my all-time highs: from my first checking account and the first time I had sushi to me hunched over a counter trying to master the making of a great granola. When I look back, I see a girl who's been inspired to make astounding changes in her life as a result of an amazing woman. That girl is me, and when I walk into this new chapter of my life, I'll bring those pictures so that every day I'll be reminded of my mission. I want to give little girls and boys all over the world the opportunity to do something bigger than themselves--to change someone's life just as Mandy had changed mine. Some people may just see a photo of a girl holding two books, but I know she smiles because she was given a chance at success.
As a Catholic university, we strive to be a community in which the dignity of each person is respected and everyone can truly flourish. Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., challenged our community to reflect on the following statement: “Let us never do anything to make another member of our community feel unwelcome, and let us not stand by if we see others doing so. Either we walk together in mutual support, or we do not walk at all. Either we are all Notre Dame, or none of us are." Tell us about a time when you walked with others. (200 words max)
When I was in middle school, I was bullied, and ended up falling into a deep depression. No one ever tried to stick up for me or befriend me. I’d like to think if someone had, maybe middle school would have been different for me. In high school, I decided I wouldn’t let anyone make me feel worthless again. But just because I wasn’t getting bullied didn’t mean there weren’t hundreds of kids in my school who were feeling victimized. I think the meaning of “to walk with others” is to protect, to nurture, and to share all the great things in the world that go beyond school. Since Freshman year, I’ve tried to sit with a different person in the lunchroom every day. We talk and share things that make us happy, be it stories or food! As a Senior, it might seem intimidating for me to sit down with a group of Freshman, but I always have a smile on my face, and always offer a warm hug or some advice. I try to touch every soul to let them know that someone is listening, since you never know what people are quietly going through.
What excites you about the University of Notre Dame that makes it stand out from other institutions? (200 words max)
Lou Holtz once said, “You don't go to Notre Dame to learn something; you go to Notre Dame to be somebody.” While I can hardly tell the difference between a linebacker, quarterback and fullback, I know that the advice from the former football coach rings true. Notre Dame will not only provide me with a wonderful education, but will equip me with the tools to pursue a career in government.
Notre Dame’s emphasis on a practical political science education is what first drew me in. The emphasis on equipping students with the ability to do research through the Research Apprenticeship Course and the ability to complete a thesis allow for an undergraduate to get hands-on experience in helping contribute to the body of knowledge in political science.
Further, the ability to obtain internships, especially with the U.S. Department of State and the City of Chicago Law Division emphasize the experiential learning I hoped for. Real-world experience will empower me to solve real-world problems and enter the workforce.
While I may never understand football, with a Notre Dame education I know I will learn to understand political science deeply and be equipped for a successful future.
You have 150 words. Take a risk.
A Love Letter to Target
Home is where the heart is, and although I love my house, I have always felt my home is with you. I always enter with a single goal in mind and exit with an amalgam of knick-knacks, soy candles and bags of medium-roast fair trade coffee. A brigade of employees dressed in red polos and khakis watch as I enter for the smallest thing and exit with a full cart.
Target, you’ve seen it all. The frantic assembly of last-minute Halloween costumes, the first case of post-breakup Ben and Jerry’s purchases, and a giant inflatable flip-flop pool float. In many ways, the red of your walls has brought me comfort for all of high school, and I am eternally grateful for every trip. You have made every day and every shopping expedition an adventure, and I can’t wait to continue into college knowing that I’ll always have books in one hand and a bag with a red bullseye in the other.
As a Catholic university, we strive to be a community in which the dignity of each person is respected and everyone can truly flourish. Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., challenged our community to reflect on the following statement: “Let us never do anything to make another member of our community feel unwelcome, and let us not stand by if we see others doing so. Either we walk together in mutual support, or we do not walk at all. Either we are all Notre Dame, or none of us are." Tell us about a time when you walked with others.
I stand with my arms linked with the people beside me, a large group of teens like a chain link fence as far as the eye can see. We march to the cadence of the song “Found/Tonight,” and with every lyric our feet seem to more firmly hit the concrete on the sidewalk of downtown Flagstaff.
“We may have not yet reached our glory.” We step, silent.
“but I will gladly join the fight.” We march further still.
In many ways, organizing the March for Our Lives in my city was larger than myself. I called every political figure I could find to ask questions about organization, to see if they’d give a speech, to see if they would show. In one sense, I walked with others literally, but the teamwork and collaboration behind the event allowed me to walk with others in our hope of forging a better future for all.
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