13 Questions to Ask on a College Visit

Author: Bri Prusakowski

Mc 10

Campus Tour

During your college search and application process, you will probably have a lot of questions. And you should! Every school is different, and it’s up to you to determine which school will be the best fit for you.  

As an admissions counselor, I field a lot of questions about Notre Dame and the college search process in general. Below is a list of questions I recommend asking on a college visit, along with why it's important to find out the answers. It is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will give you a great place to start.  

Are you need-blind or need-aware?

Why ask? 
It is important to know if a school takes financial need into account in their admissions review, especially if you are planning on applying for financial aid. If a school is need-blind, a student’s financial need does not have any impact on their admissions decision.  If a school is need-aware, a student’s financial need could have an impact on their admissions decision.

Our answer: Notre Dame is need-blind for domestic students, and need-aware for international students. We meet full demonstrated need for domestic students who apply for financial aid, and offer limited financial aid for international students. Learn more.

Do you track demonstrated interest?

Why ask?
If a school tracks demonstrated interest, you will want to visit or reach out to your admissions counselor because expressing excitement about the school will factor into the review process and your eventual admissions decision.

Our answer: We do not track demonstrated interest.

When are your application deadlines?

Why ask?
Every school has their own deadline or deadlines for admissions applications. You will want to know these dates and any specific criteria or rules surrounding each deadline, so that you can be sure to submit your application on time!

Our answer: Notre Dame has two different deadlines: Restrictive Early Action (November 1) and Regular Decision (January 1). Restrictive Early Action is a non-binding deadline, and we ask that you do not submit an application for REA at Notre Dame if you are applying to a binding Early Decision deadline at another school. You can apply in REA even if you are applying to other early, non-binding deadlines, typically called Early Action or Restrictive Early Action. Learn more.

Do you superscore the SAT or the ACT?

Why ask?
Many students take standardized tests more than once, and superscoring can help strengthen your test score. Superscoring for the SAT is the practice of combining the strongest scores on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section, even if the strongest scores were received on different test dates. Superscoring for the ACT is the practice of averaging the strongest scores of the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections, even if the strongest score for each section was received on a different test date than others.  

Our answer: Notre Dame has superscored the SAT for years, and will superscore the ACT for the first time this year (fall 2018). View our FAQs for more information on standardized tests.

Are classes usually taught by professors? Also, what is the student-to-faculty ratio/average class size?

Why ask?
Students often want to know what to expect from their classes—will they be taught by faculty members, or graduate students?  How many other students will be in these classes? Student-to-faculty ratio is an indication of the opportunity for personalized attention from professors.

Our answer: At Notre Dame, over 90 percent of classes are taught by tenured faculty. Our student-to-faculty ratio is 10:1. Faculty at Notre Dame are dedicated to their work with undergraduate students—they act as teachers, mentors, and partners in intellectual inquiry. All professors hold office hours for students to meet with them and ask questions and many go above and beyond to connect with students. (Some faculty members have been known to host an entire class of students at their homes for dinner.) The average class size at Notre Dame is 27 students. Ninety percent of our classes have fewer than 50 students, and 62 percent of our classes have fewer than 20 students.

Do you have my major?  And for that matter, when do I declare my major?

Why ask?
A big part of the college selection process is matching your intended major with an institution that offers it. College students often change their major, or even add a major or minor, so you’ll want to know when you’re expected to declare your major, and if you need to apply for it.

Our answer: You can view the majors offered in each college on their websites:

College of Arts and Letters
Mendoza College of Business
College of Science
College of Engineering
School of Architecture

At Notre Dame, students spend their entire first year in the First Year of Studies Program, where they take an array of courses, some related to their intended major, some Core Curriculum requirements, some that generally interest them, and two seminar classes. Students will choose a college at the end of their first year, and declare their major in their sophomore year—exactly when during that year depends on the particular college. Students do not apply to colleges or majors at Notre Dame, but the Mendoza College of Business does require a pre-approval process that you can learn more about here.

Where can I study on campus?

Why ask?
College is about new experiences, making friends, maturing, and preparing for the “real world”—but it’s also very much about going to class and doing homework. You’ll want to know the best places on campus to get work done.

Our answer: There is no shortage of places to study on campus! Some students study in their residence halls, either in their rooms or in shared spaces in the hall such as study rooms or lounges. We also have a number of libraries, but the most recognizable is the Hesburgh Library. Within its thirteen open floors (plus the silent basement!), you will almost certainly be able to find a place to study here—although it fills up fast during finals week! Some students prefer a little background noise and they students can be found studying at LaFortune Student Center or Duncan Student Center. When I was a student, my personal favorite place to study was Remick Commons in Carole Sandner Hall, a hidden gem right by the Grotto.

What is spiritual life like for students?

Why ask? 
This is a good question to ask if you are a person whose religion is important to them. It is also a good question to ask when visiting a religiously-affiliated school if you share the same religion, or if you don’t and you are curious or apprehensive about the campus culture.

Our answer: Notre Dame is a Catholic university. That affiliation guides our educational mission, but we are a place where everyone is welcome regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof—a place that is catholic with a lowercase “c,” meaning universal. Our spiritual identity informs our emphasis on service and community, and all of our students share these values even if they do not identify as Catholic. Students who are interested in attending Mass have over 150 offerings to choose from, including Sunday evening Masses held in each of our 30 dorms. 

Campus Ministry serves all students and connects students with transportation for off-campus worship services in the community. Students can get involved with service, retreats, faith groups, Bible studies, pilgrimages, and even helping out with dorm Mass or Mass at the Basilica. Religious involvement is never required, but all students are welcome to participate in any activities that interest them.

Do students live in residence halls all four years?

Why ask?
College will be your new home for most of the next few years, so you’ll want to be informed about your housing options. Some schools have dorms or apartments on campus where most students live and some schools have large percentages of students living off-campus after their first year.

Our answer: At Notre Dame, students are randomly assigned to one of our 30 single-sex residence halls. Almost all students will choose to stay in the same residence hall during their time on campus, but you are able to transfer to another hall after the first year if you’d like.  

Students are required to live on campus for their first three years, and nearly half of the senior class chooses to remain in the residence halls for a fourth year rather than moving off-campus. Most rooms are doubles, but some students live in triples, quads, or even rooms for five or six people. Residence halls have their own chapels, study spaces, laundry rooms, workout spaces, kitchens, TV lounges, and communal bathrooms. Each is a community unto itself and has its own mascot, colors, hall government, signature events, and interhall sports teams. Students often think of their dorm as a big family. Learn more.

What kinds of activities can I get involved in?

Why ask?
Students seek out activities to find community and opportunities to become campus leaders. Clubs are also a really great way to make ​​​​​friends—you know you already have at least one thing in common!

Our answer: Notre Dame has over 400 student clubs—you can find the complete list on the Student Activities website. If you’d like, you can start your own club or get involve right in your residence hall. Every hall has its own Hall Council and commissioners plan events for their community. As mentioned earlier, many students get involved with Campus Ministry and service opportunities are available through every residence hall as well as the Center for Social Concerns. Students interested in athletics might participate in varsity, club, intramural, co-rec, or interhall sports.

What are my options for food on campus?

Why ask? 
Food is important!  Especially if you have any special dietary needs.

Our answer: Students living on campus have two different meal plan options—the default, and by far most common, is the Gold Plan. Students receive up to 14 meals per week in one of our two dining halls, either North or South, plus $500 in Flex Points that can be spent at retail food service locations on campus. The Blue Plan is one that students can opt into, which gives students 21 meals per week in one of the two dining halls and $0 in Flex Points. We have plenty of food options on campus, from the dining halls to Star Ginger Asian Grill and Noodle Bar to Smashburger. You can view them all here.

What is the surrounding community like?

Why ask?
While college campuses are their own small cities, students like to expand their experiences in college to the local city or town. This also gives you information about the type of campus you'll be on (urban, suburban, rural).

Our answer: While some people have the idea that Notre Dame is in a rural area or in the middle of a small college town, South Bend is actually its own city. More than 300,000 people live in South Bend and the surrounding area, and there is always something to do. Learn more about the local scene here or check out Visit South Bend.   

I especially love the wide array of restaurants (happy to give recommendations), South Bend Cubs games, and the South Bend Riverwalk. Like much of the Midwest, Notre Dame's location has a distinctly suburban feel. For students looking for a day of big city life, our campus is about 90 miles from Chicago—accessible for students without a car via the South Shore Line train that leaves from South Bend International Airport. Shuttles also take students and community members between campus and Chicago’s airports (O’Hare and Midway) every day.

What is the weather like?

Why ask?
If you are going to school in a different region of the country, you should know what weather to expect—and if you need to pack (or purchase) snow boots!

Our answer: Northern Indiana offers a full four seasons. You’ll enjoy hot summer days at the very beginning of the school year, throw on a sweater or sweatshirt during cooler fall days, bundle up in a good winter coat and snow boots during the winter, and shed your outer layers as everything thaws in the spring. Campus is truly beautiful in all four seasons. If you are not used to winters in the north Midwest, I suggest that you buy your winter coat and boots in Indiana. Students always have fun with winter traditions, such as the annual snowball fight at midnight on the night of the first snowfall of the season.

Safe travels to your upcoming campus visits!


Bri Prusakowski is the Notre Dame admissions counselor for the following areas: District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and transfer students.