The application essay requirements for the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame are fairly straightforward—or at least the written one is. First, candidates must provide a brief statement of purpose covering their immediate career goal and how the school can help them achieve it. Then, they are asked to write one required essay about a situation in which they encountered a serious setback of some kind and had to push through it or even start again. Applicants must then craft a four-slide presentation that offers more information about themselves as individuals apart from their professional and academic background. An option to submit an additional essay exists, but the school clearly wants candidates to be prudent in doing so. Read on for our full analysis of all Mendoza’s prompts for this season.
Notre Dame Mendoza 2023–2024 Essay Tips
Statement of Purpose (100 words or less): Please share your short term professional goals. How does the Notre Dame Master of Business Administration help achieve your career goals?
Mendoza’s requested statement of purpose focuses strictly on applicants’ initial post-MBA job. Business schools know only too well that students regularly change their long-term professional plans after being exposed through the MBA experience to new people, information, and options and after learning new skills and ways of looking at both the world and themselves. Given that reality, asking about candidates’ long-term goals can in some ways be a waste of time, if an admissions committee is not simply doing so to see evidence that the applicant has put serious thought into their plan for attending business school. With the first part of this prompt, the school wants to know that you have thoroughly considered this next step in your career and are pursuing an MBA for very clear, specific reasons. Although the school does not ask you to lay out your background and explain how you reached this choice, providing some basic context for your goal is a good idea (just be succinct!) to ensure the admissions committee understands that your plans are reasonable and fitting for you.
Without using these exact words, the school is also asking for an explanation of “Why Mendoza?” The admissions committee wants evidence that you have researched its MBA program thoroughly enough to have pinpointed resources and offerings that directly align with your interests and needs. This is the part of our essay analysis in which we repeat our standard advice about getting to know a school beyond its website and published materials. Identify clubs, events, courses, initiatives, and other opportunities that speak to who you are as an individual and to who you want to be going forward in your career. Ideally, Mendoza offers one or more specific resources or experiences that you believe are vital to you in achieving your short-term goal and are not available elsewhere. In your response, explain how you will engage with these elements of the MBA program and what you expect to gain from them.
This prompt encompasses a few core elements of a traditional personal statement essay, so we encourage you to download a free copy of our mbaMission Personal Statement Guide for more in-depth advice. This complimentary publication offers detailed guidance on approaching and framing these subjects, along with multiple illustrative examples.
Essay: The University of Notre Dame was founded in 1842, by Father Edward Sorin, C.S.C, with a mission to become “one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country”. In 1879, Father Sorin’s vision for Notre Dame seemingly came to an abrupt end when a massive fire destroyed the main building that housed the entire university.
Instead of giving up, Father Sorin interpreted the fire as a sign that his dream was too small. He then decided to rebuild, bigger and better. The now iconic main building still stands today, topped by the gleaming Golden Dome, as an ongoing symbol of perseverance and vision.
Tell us about a time, in your personal or professional experience, when you persevered and overcame obstacles or you had to start over and rebuild. What did you learn most about yourself, and how has that influenced how you show up in the world?
Please follow these guidelines:
– Size 12 font
– Double-spaced with paragraphs
– 500 words or less
Setbacks are important learning opportunities. With this prompt, the admissions committee wants to know how you act, react, and learn when things do not go according to plan. Do you place blame elsewhere? Try to make excuses? Or do you view the experience analytically, using what it can teach you to achieve better results with similar ventures going forward? Mendoza clearly knows that many of life’s greatest successes require one to “try, try again,” as the expression goes, and that this attitude is necessary to gain and accomplish the most, not just in business school but also in the world after graduation. This essay is your opportunity to reassure the admissions committee that you have the kind of resilience and dedication that will position you to realize your goals.
Mendoza notes that the story you share in this essay can be either a personal or professional one, so explore all your career, family, and community life experiences to identify one you believe was particularly significant and influential. The school’s preamble to the main query strongly implies that Mendoza feels failures and setbacks should be viewed in a positive light—as inspiration to keep trying and even to aim higher than before. You want to convey in your essay that you are not easily deterred by setbacks and instead use them as learning tools or stepping-stones on the path to your desired outcome.
The failure or obstacle you discuss in this submission could be one you experienced as an individual or as part of a team, and its scale or scope is not as important as how affecting and influential it was for you personally. You must present a complete narrative that shows momentum toward some kind of goal, describes the inflection point at which the situation turned, and explains how the original plan was interrupted or ultimately failed, while revealing your particular role in the setback. Avoid starting your essay with a bland statement like “I had to start over when [fill in the blank].” Instead, leap directly into the action of your story and immediately convey what was at stake in the situation. Next, briefly explain the obstacle or setback you encountered, and then dedicate the rest of the essay to outlining your reaction to it and the steps you took to either soldier on despite the impediment or begin anew. Be sure to address what specifically inspired you—what kept you from giving up or changing course entirely—and how you maintained your motivation as you pursued your goal.
Finally, note that Mendoza specifically asks not what you learned in a general sense but what you learned about yourself. Explain to the admissions committee what you realized or recognized about your capabilities and/or character, and then discuss how that knowledge has subsequently influenced the person you are today and shaped how you interact with the world around you. Showing a clear cause-and-effect relationship between the individual you were (or believed yourself to be) before the situation and the individual you are now will help the admissions reader understand how and why the experience was a major factor in your personal development.
Slide Presentation: The holistic nature of the application evaluation process takes into account multiple aspects of one’s profile. In addition to a resume and transcripts, this slide presentation allows you to show aspects of yourself that cannot be seen elsewhere. Tell us about yourself and your unique qualities outside of your academic and professional experience.
Please consider the following guidelines when creating your presentation:
– Please submit four (4) slides.
– You may create your slides in any software that works for you, but you must save and upload as a PDF document.
– Do not use audio or video files.
– You are free to share anything about yourself that you think would be of value to the Admissions Committee. You can have some fun and be a bit more lighthearted in this portion of your application. Your tone should reflect your personality.
– Please be assured that the Admissions Committee will read your essay, your resume, and your transcripts in detail. Your slides are an opportunity to go beyond your academic and work history and show the Committee who you are as a person.
We imagine that the initial reaction most candidates have to pretty much any prompt that does not request a traditional essay is momentary panic (though, to be fair, that might be many applicants’ reaction to traditional essays as well), but let us reassure you a bit before we delve more deeply into how best to approach this one. This “essay” is merely a creative way of asking you to reveal who you are as an individual, apart from what all the basic elements of your application already convey about your job, your education, and your activities and interests outside of work.
In this case, you are communicating directly with a very singular audience, within a certain context, and with a very specific goal in mind. So start by carefully considering what you want the admissions committee to know about you—with the goal of sharing as many different aspects of your life and personality as possible—and what it will already be able to learn through your other essays and the rest of your application. You want the admissions committee to take away something new from each slide.
Note that the prompt does not say your slides have to be made up entirely of text. They could perhaps also include pictures, drawings, paintings, emojis, and so on. And even though getting accepted to business school and earning an MBA are serious undertakings, this does not mean that all the information in your slides needs to be serious in nature, especially if your personality is naturally more casual and cavalier. The prompt states that the admissions committee is specifically interested in aspects of your personality and life “outside of your academic and professional experience,” and later adds, “You can have some fun and be a bit more lighthearted in this portion of your application. Your tone should reflect your personality.” Even comical elements, if used judiciously, can be valid options if the resulting slide is truly reflective of your character and/or life.
That said, avoid being “gimmicky.” Your goal is not to seem “cute” or even more creative than the next applicant but really just to tell more of your personal story, albeit in a rather brief way, and thereby provide a more dynamic image of yourself for the admissions committee. We suggest you start by grabbing some paper and making an old-fashioned list of your key experiences, achievements, interests, and personality traits. Then, consider what information the admissions committee already has about you from your other essay(s) and elements of your application, and strive to showcase items from your list that best complement that information to create a well-rounded picture of you.
We also caution you against trying to squeeze too much information into your presentation or making it too “busy” or elaborate. After all, the admissions committee clearly notes that one of the goals of this submission is to “demonstrate your ability to clearly and concisely communicate,” as you will be expected to do in your career after graduation and also in the Mendoza classroom. You will need to show that you can judiciously identify relevant additive information and convey it in an uncomplicated, easily understood manner.
Supplemental Essay (optional): If there is information that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee that does not appear elsewhere in your application, you may choose to submit a supplemental essay. For example, if your undergraduate GPA does not represent your true capabilities, a supplemental essay is your opportunity to address any relevant circumstances that impacted your performance.
Please follow these guidelines:
– Size 12 font
– Double-spaced with paragraphs
– Limit to one page
Mendoza’s optional essay prompt does not specifically demand that you use it only to address problem areas in your candidacy, though it does seem to imply this preference. Ultimately, this is your opportunity to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your profile—if you feel you need to. Pay special attention to the emphasis added this year to the phrase “that does not appear elsewhere” and make absolutely sure that anything you are thinking about discussing in this essay is not addressed in your resume, the school’s short-answer questions, your recommendations, or any other application component. Do not submit an optional essay simply because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you, and of course, this is not the place to submit a strong essay you wrote for another school or to offer a few anecdotes you were unable to include in your other essays. If you feel the need to emphasize or explain something that if omitted would render your application incomplete or less than fully accurate, write a very brief piece on this key aspect of your profile. For more guidance, download our free mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how best to take advantage of the optional essay, with multiple examples.