Advice to Incoming First-Year Students

Author: Johnny Blote

For the past year and a half, I’ve worked at a call center here on campus where we call alumni and friends of Notre Dame. At the job, I have had the privilege of coming in contact with thousands of people and asking them a piece of advice they have for students. I’ve decided to form my own pieces of advice that I would give to someone coming into Notre Dame. Because I have only three quarters of the full Notre Dame experience under my belt, this compilation is still a work-in-progress but completely valid nonetheless. 

John Blote stands in front of frozen waterfall in the winter.

Getting good grades isn’t everything, but that’s not an excuse to not try your hardest.

To be completely honest, I was blindsided by the difficulty of keeping up with my classes when I got here. In comparison to my classes in high school, my easiest class that I’ve taken at Notre Dame would likely be around the same difficulty as the hardest class I took in high school. At a school where everyone had similar performance in high school, I found it difficult to be in an environment where I wasn’t one of the highest achievers anymore. Despite the countless hours I would put into my studies and trying to be the very best, I quickly had to accept that the playing field wasn’t the same. Speaking as a junior who is, academically speaking, very average and still managed to get an internship, I urge you to not panic if you aren’t performing as well as the best of the best on campus. With that being said, you should still be putting in everything you can to be the best version of yourself in the classroom and in your activities across campus. Having access to this quality of an education is an opportunity that very few people get, and being lackadaisical in your classes is unfair to you and the people who have invested in your life. So, if you’re like me and know that you won’t be at the top while you’re here, please still give your education the effort it needs to be useful.

Don’t be so focused on school that you miss out on the other opportunities available to you.

Although I have talked to many parents who tell me they wished they would have studied more while they were in college, I am willing to double down on this piece of advice. I have had some jobs on campus that have taught me more than a good chunk of my classes and met people that have forced me to develop better social skills and learn more about the world. Like the previous piece of advice stated, your classes are important, but they aren’t everything. There are countless jobs, clubs, and activities here on campus that greatly contribute to the holistic education you receive at Notre Dame, so being laser-focused on classes at the detriment of these other opportunities can take away from the value of your education.

Don’t order from the Eddy Street Chipotle.

My only piece of advice that isn’t super deep, but it’s just as serious. It seems like they are always out of half the menu options and the place is always a mess. If your friends still want to eat there, just know that they’re fine with people bringing in food from other restaurants on that strip. You need to trust me on this one.

Embrace it.

Don’t get me wrong - I think that the nostalgic alumni are right when they advise me to “enjoy every minute,” but I don’t think that’s the right way to look at your time here. If I were to just tweak things a little, I would tell people to embrace their time here. Despite the long days of work and countless difficulties along the way, everything you’ll experience in your time here is full of value. The difficulties of making new friends, getting homesick, and crying because you failed a test all contribute to the better you that walks across the stage at commencement. So, although not every moment will be enjoyable, don’t wish away the time you do have here. You’ll never get that time back. So embrace every day you get, and Go Irish!