“So, if you got your envelope in the mail this week and it was smaller than you expected, I urge you to not give up hope. Realize that there are so many ways to find yourself at Notre Dame. If it is truly the place you are meant to be, in one way or another, you will find a way here.”
Megan McCuen offered us beautiful words on her story off the waitlist. Resting on hope and faith that you truly will be where you are meant to be, I wanted to offer another perspective for students holding that smaller envelope.
When I received news I was on the waitlist, I too was crushed. Having worked hard in my classes and extracurriculars, Notre Dame had been a dream, a gift I wanted to receive, and gosh, one I thought I deserved. Little did I know, at the time, that I had more preparation to receive on my road to the Dome.
So, let’s just get all the information out there. Yes, both my parents went to Notre Dame. My grandpa did too. And so did my sister. But no, I did not receive any pressure to attend college here. I was the one painting eye black on my face watching Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija. (Yes, I did spell that last name without consulting Google. Well okay, I consulted Google…but only to spell check. And I got it right!) However, I did not receive the Notre Dame cheerleading uniform for Christmas (though, I still want it). My first words were not “Go Irish!” Yet, I grew up recognizing the amazing gifts that were both of my parents and linked their amazingness to the University that formed them. Still though, my parents truly wanted me to go anywhere that was going to be the best place for me. If that was Notre Dame, great. If not, that was great too. Ultimately, I put the pressure on myself to go for the Golden Dome.
When the waitlist decision came around, I kept going for it. Writing emails and sending in teacher recommendation letters, I wanted it but didn’t know at the time that I wanted it for all the wrong reasons. I wanted Notre Dame because I felt that it would prove I was smart enough for this place I had placed on such a high pedestal. In June, I got the “no.” Getting a “no” admissions decision was a major blow to my academic self-worth. Rejected after homework-filled weekends and with my overachieving student status, I was left questioning if I would have worked as hard for Notre Dame if I had known I was going to get a “no.” I did not have the passion for education; I had the passion for the prize.
So, I went to a different school: Saint Mary's College. I had grown up knowing alumni and, intending on studying Secondary Education, I was excited to attend a college with a thriving Education program. I had the thought of transferring in the back of my mind, so I made sure that my course schedule linked with the transferable credits at Notre Dame. I worked hard, built a strong community, and was also involved in programs at Notre Dame as well. However, I felt a major sense of imbalance. Involved on both campuses, my heart was torn; I did not know where to call “home.” As a student at Saint Mary's, I loved my professors and felt myself gaining a deeper sense of intellectual curiosity and agency within my education. I needed that time at Saint Mary’s to grow in my academic confidence and recognize my worth as a student. I needed that time to realize that Notre Dame would be an amazing gift to receive, but I was going to be a gift to Notre Dame as well. To all students on the waitlist, you are a gift to whatever community you are in next year. Please believe that.
As a senior in high school, I had put my heart into a college without truly understanding my heart’s desires. When I got my acceptance to Notre Dame a year later, I paused before saying “yes” and reflected on leaving my new family at Saint Mary’s. It was a pause full of fear for the future and gratitude for the past. It was a pause that showed that my “yes” grew from self-knowledge and confidence in my education of both the mind and heart. I will be forever grateful for my time at Saint Mary’s and feel blessed to have been formed by where the waitlist led me. Love thee, Notre Dame and Go Belles!