Author: Kacey Hengesbach

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Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. It means pumpkin spice flavored everything, getting to wear sweaters and boots, and being able to go to football games again. In college, I’ve found that fall is more enjoyable than it ever was in high school just because I look forward to coming back to my second home and seeing my friends from all across the country that were doing cool things over the summer. However, if you’re a high school senior, fall is the beginning of one of the most stressful parts of your life: deciding on post-high school plans.

For most of you, and your classmates, this will mean applying to colleges. This is a process that for some starts years before they become seniors. However, if you haven’t found your dream school and feel like you're behind the game, never fear! I was in the same boat as you.

I'm a first generation college student. This means that my parents never went to college. I'm from the village of Westphalia with a population of 1,000 in mid-Michigan. My graduating class had 76 people in it, and only two of my classmates including myself ended up going out of state for college. So as you can imagine, at no point in time prior to the summer before my senior year was the University of Notre Dame even on my radar.

If it had been up to my family, I would have gone to the local community college - the end of the conversation. My own hopes were of attending one of the local Universities in the mid-Michigan region, but nothing I had looked into really felt like home. The more I looked the more frustrated I became, and I began to assume that I would settle for a subpar fit for myself to simply fit the expectation that I would attend a college. However, one day my mom came home from work and announced that she and I were going to go on a college visit to the University of Notre Dame. This announcement came out of the blue as we had no previous affiliations with Notre Dame, and to this day she really doesn’t know why she decided to drag me to Indiana on a college visit. However, I guess it worked out.

On the way to my first visit to campus in the summer before my senior year, I was not a happy camper. As with many teenagers, my mother was not one of my favorite people to spend alone time with; and a three hour car ride was not what I wanted to do on a sunny summer day. However, as soon as I stepped foot on campus, I knew it was different. There was a certain excitement that I tried to hide as slowly but surely my tour guide sold me on all the benefits of choosing a Notre Dame education. From the dorm life, to the First Year of Studies program, and the alumni support network: I was sold. By the time I sat down in the passenger seat of the van to go home, my attitude had changed completely, and the very first thing I said was, “Mom, this is where I’m going to school.”

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There’s just something about campus here that felt like home. Maybe it was the sense of community that made it feel safe here simliarly to the sense of safety I find in my own home town, or the uniqueness of the dorms that make every Notre Dame experience different, or the friendly tour guide, or even the fun facts about the buildings and the history of campus. All I know is that it fit. I went home from my visit and began researching all that I could about the application process and the rest is sort of history.

My advice to anyone in the college application process would be to visit the schools and find one that makes you feel like you’re finding your home away from home. Don't settle, and don't sell yourself short.  For me that was Notre Dame, and I hope that it is for you too.