Q: Do Freshmen get to pick their courses?
A: The simple answer to this is both yes and no. For the first semester, the First-Year academic advisors work very hard in handcrafting schedules to fit the needs of the 2,000+ incoming students. They do this based off of a form where the student indicates their intended major and select some courses in which they are interested. Usually, these courses include a university requirement, a major requirement, and a college requirement with some variation. Available courses will depend on the student's college and its requirements, but the student's academic advisor will know all of these things. (I.E. majors in the College of Science will have more requirements than the College of Arts and Letters. Architecture majors will have a more structured course schedule than Finance majors). Yet, the exact course section and professor is selected by the student's First-Year academic advisor.
I saw this to be a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. Although if a student wishes to adjust their schedule, there is an add/drop week every semester for all students to do so freely - barring full classes or time conflicts. After this week, students are unable to add other courses. As for the second semester, this is the first time that First-Years are able to complete their own registration. From the courses, the times, the professors, etc. everything is up to the student. Students are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor for guidance, but the ultimate decision is in the students had.
Q: Why are there random roommate assignments?
A: Tradition. Random roommate assignments have been going on for a long time now and they are how Notre Dame is able to both diversify dorms and create an inclusive atmosphere for students. This goes from the assigned dorms to roommates. I believe that this is a great opportunity to meet all of Notre Dame's students and avoid the safety net among friends. For me, it allowed me to have an open mind and expect the unexpected.
My freshman year roommate was from Arkansas and came from a very different lifestyle than my own in New Jersey. Sure, we often butt heads, but I think that I learned a lot about myself and how I live with another person, who is not in my family. With any and all drama/conflict that my roommate and I had, I look back and joke about some of the childish things that went on. Had there not been random roommate assignments, I would not have grown as quickly as I did during my first year. Also, I may not have been open to meeting the awesome people across the hall or in my dorm since I would have (hopefully) been really close to my hypothetical "chosen" roommate. There are many pros and cons to the roommate situation at Notre Dame and a lot of debate on whether it should continue for incoming students. I believe, wholeheartedly, that my experience is a perfect example of how this is not a perfect system, but within its flaws can come great change and development. After all, your roommate is one of the first experiences you get at learning how to adjust to the multitudes of personalities at college.
Q: How can Freshmen get involved at ND?
A: Toward the beginning of every year, Notre Dame hosts a student activity fair where all Notre Dame students are encouraged to sign up for clubs in which they are interested. There are academic, cultural, political, service, religious clubs, and so many more. Many people sign up for more clubs than are actually feasible given their course load or other commitments (@ me), but I would recommend signing up for around three. This way, there is a diverse group of other Notre Dame students to meet outside of classes, your dorm, retreats, and any other extracurricular activities. However, if clubs are not your thing, there are committees, organizations, and campus jobs that would be more than welcome to have another helping hand. Some of my favorite events on campus are also open to students of all levels, i.e. Show Some Skin. Regardless, there is always an event, club, dorm interhall sports team, committee, panels, and productions to be a part of on campus. All you have to really do is sign up!