A Lifelong Decision

Going away to college. It’s all at once a rite of passage, a turning point and the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. For students whose paths lead them to Notre Dame, it’s also the beginning of an extraordinary journey filled with learning, discovery, faith and friendship.

Like generations of Domers before her, incoming freshman Emmie Mediate of Colorado Springs, Colo., was drawn not only to Notre Dame’s academics, but also to the way students here weave service into the fabric of their everyday lives.

“Notre Dame had all the characteristics I was looking for in a college – a great education, strong faith life, and a focus on social justice and responsibility in society,” Emmie says of her decision. “Both of my parents graduated from Notre Dame, and I know a few people from my hometown who have attended, so I’ve seen how Notre Dame becomes an integral part of a person’s education and personal formation.”

While Emmie says she loved her high school experience, she’s looking forward to her new independence and the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds. For her parents, the send-off is bittersweet, but there’s comfort in knowing she’s headed to a familiar place.

“When I saw the ‘welcome home’ part of her acceptance letter, I knew that Notre Dame could be a second home for my daughter, especially considering she will be so far from her family,” says her mom Vicky Mediate, a 1989 Notre Dame graduate. “That's the difference with Notre Dame. It isn't just a four-year decision – it's a lifelong decision, because it will reap benefits and provide opportunities for the rest of her life.”

In Good Company

When Emmie arrives on campus, she will be part of an incoming class that boasts some impressive statistics.

Of the roughly 2,000 members of the Class of 2015:

  • 74 percent were ranked in the top 5 percent of their high school senior class
  • 89 percent were in the top 10 percent
  • 90 percent were involved in community service
  • 75 percent were varsity athletes
Two male students carrying cushions

Getting Oriented

Entering freshmen and their parents get their first taste of what it means to be a member of the Notre Dame family during Freshman Orientation, held over a late August weekend each year.

Prior to arriving on campus, students are provided with a detailed “Checklist of What to Bring to Campus” that includes useful tips such as:

  • Leave your pets (o.k., non-carnivorous fish are welcome, but make sure the tank is no larger than 30 gallons), air conditioners and water beds at home.
  • Check with your roommate before bringing televisions, stereos, carpet/area rugs or furniture.
  • Don’t forget laundry detergent and fabric softener.

Once they arrive—with or without fish tanks—students spend three days getting acclimated, making friends, and learning about campus life, which, at Notre Dame, goes far beyond textbooks, classrooms and social events.

“Cultivating and inspiring the minds and hearts of young talent is the aspiration of many fine educational institutions,” explains Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, C.S.C, vice president for student affairs. ”But the elegant weaving of the strands of faith and reason, body and spirit, knowledge and action, person and community, contemplation and action, sin and grace, heaven and earth, into a whole cloth of integrity is the unique contribution of a Notre Dame education.”

The Freshman Orientation weekend schedule starts with unpacking, then packs in a ton of events over the course of three memorable days. Here are some highlights.

  • FridayMove-in

  • SaturdayOfficial welcome to Notre Dame

  • SundayApply for football tickets

Explore & Discover

For freshmen, Notre Dame offers an innovative First Year of Studies (FYS) curriculum, designed to spark students’ imaginations as they navigate the many opportunities available to them.

Rather than declaring majors, all first-year students enter FYS, where they benefit from a wide range of services and programs designed to help them not only ultimately choose a field of study, but also build a foundation for the “journey of exploration and discovery” that will take them through their college years and their entire lifetimes, according to Hugh Page, dean of the First Year of Studies.

“It’s really important for people to realize how special the first year of college life is,” Page says. “We want to help students begin to articulate their own hopes and dreams and to chart a course toward the realization of those aspirations.”

Part of that guidance involves helping students to develop the breadth and depth of their interests and to strike a balance amidst the dizzying array of programs and activities they’ll find on campus.

“In some ways we hope they’ll do that by saying ‘yes’ to the opportunities that are available to them, and in part by finding time to disengage so they can hear their hearts speak to them,” Page explains. “So, in a certain sense, we also help them learn how to say ‘no’ strategically so they can give their hearts and souls to those pursuits that they consider to be really important.”

Core to the program’s mission is academic advising, which pairs students with one of more than a dozen full-time FYS faculty advisors for assistance with choosing courses, building schedules and setting academic goals. FYS also gives first-year students access to their own Learning Resource Center, where they can sign up for collaborative learning groups or one-on-one tutoring, and the expertise of a University librarian dedicated specifically to them. Opportunities also are available for some students to get an early start through FYS initiatives such as the Balfour-Hesburgh Scholars Program and Summer Bridge.

Beyond these high-quality academic resources, FYS also provides some unique opportunities for students to build relationships with Notre Dame faculty. The programs known collectively as ND Ignite offer cultural and intellectual experiences to first-year students in settings both on- and off-campus, including, perhaps most notably, invitations into the homes of their professors.

“This programming is intended to create opportunities for small groups of students, no more than 15 or 16, to have dinner in a faculty home and either read a book together or talk about a timely topic in a relaxed environment,” Page says. “When you are in the home of a person who is your teacher or faculty mentor and you’re talking about important topics within a discipline, not for the purpose of getting a grade, but so you can gain understanding, and you’re doing so while breaking bread, that’s a unique learning opportunity that you may never have again.”

Student working on computer in a dorm

Settling In

There are no fraternities or sororities here. Instead, Notre Dame’s 29 single-gender residence halls offer a unique and cherished living experience. Eighty percent of undergraduate students live on-campus, and hall pride runs deep with a robust offering of special events, intramural sports and annual traditions – some for everyone, and others, like the Polar Plunge (sponsored by Badin and Dillon Halls), that are geared toward a select, adventurous few.

In addition to the many social activities, every hall also engages in community service and leads a signature campus event. With a chapel in every hall, retreats, Bible studies and Masses are easy to find. Campus Ministry ensures that students of all faiths can find services in the South Bend community, as well as transportation to their respective churches, temples, synagogues and mosques.

“It is the Holy Cross tradition of integrating the development of both the head and heart that is unique to Notre Dame,” Father Doyle says. “Each of our residence halls is a hub of integration. Students’ education, activities, service and faith all have a place under one roof.”

Play Ryan Hall Video
Ryan Hall

“Each of our residence halls is a hub of integration. Students’ education, activities, service and faith all have a place under one roof.”

Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, C.S.C., vice president for student affairs
Play Duncan Hall Video
Duncan Hall

The Graduate Student Experience

For those who are coming to campus for the first time as graduate students, the University also offers a welcoming and supportive community, one flush with opportunities for cultural and scholarly pursuits. Dedicated graduate student housing, a health plan, and support for those with families also are available.

MBA students in the Mendoza College of Business
MBA students in the Mendoza College of Business

There’s something about the Notre Dame experience that, for many, sets it apart from other top institutions. “The Ivy League community was interested in my intellectual work only,” recalls Joseph Teller, who recently received a Ph.D in English. “But here at Notre Dame, I found something different, something special—even, I think, sacred. The faculty and students I met were genuinely warm and caring. They asked personal questions, expressed true interest in me not only as a professional, but as a young father and husband.”

Whether enrolled in the Graduate School, Mendoza College of Business, Notre Dame Law School, or School of Architecture, graduate students become part of a vibrant, tight-knit learning community where they can work both independently and in collaboration with peers to reach their maximum potential. “At Notre Dame, we are addressed as future leaders and given all the possible tools to bring good to society,” says Alicja Kryczalo, a recent MBA graduate.

ISSLP student Mick Madden greets a boy in Gulu, Uganda.

The World is Our Classroom

In addition to a domestic student population that represents all 50 states, graduate and undergraduate students also come to Notre Dame from more than 100 countries around the world.

For these newcomers to campus, International Student Services and Activities provides orientation and assistance to help ensure a smooth transition and a welcoming environment.

“Being international at Notre Dame doesn’t mean you’re significantly different,” says Charles Xu, a biology major from China. “The same opportunities, experiences, and friends are there for all. Coming to terms with my internationality didn’t mean I had to somehow conform or convert; rather, it meant embracing diversity and seizing the opportunity to share my perspective. It means that no matter where you were born or where you grew up, you can always call Notre Dame your home.”

“No matter where you were born or where you grew up, you can always call Notre Dame your home.”
Charles Xu

Notre Dame has one of the highest percentages of student participation in study abroad programs of any American research university. The Office of International Studies administers more than 40 programs in 20 countries that expose students to different cultures, languages and perceptions about the world, as well as provide a deeper understanding of their potential to become leaders in a global society.

Through initiatives such as the International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP) of the Center for Social Concerns, participants gain international service-learning experiences in social concerns inspired by Gospel values and Catholic social teachings.

Home Away From Home

It doesn’t take long for new students to find their place in the Notre Dame community. Whether they’re incoming freshmen, transfers or graduate students from the U.S. or abroad, the inclusive and vibrant atmosphere on campus is hard to resist. That’s great news for newcomers like Emmie Mediate, but something of a mixed bag for her mom.

“My only worry,” she says, “is that she’ll love Notre Dame so much that she’ll want to stay for vacations and not come back and visit us.”

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