Q: How do I know if ND is for me?
A: This is a tough question for anyone, and honestly, it varies for everyone. Personally, I knew ND would be right when I took a tour of campus and it felt way better than the other campuses I had visited. Some people don’t have the luxury of visiting before Decision Day. Some people have their hearts set on it and know since day one, and some people don’t feel it until well into their first year. It’s a personal journey for which you just have to trust your own instincts.
The biggest tip I can give you is to connect with people from ND to learn about their experiences! To me, the people are what sets ND apart from other colleges, and it only makes sense that they’re the ones who can help you figure it out. Talk to representatives, friends of friends of friends, even one of us interns! (We love to talk to you guys!) There’s a place here for every kind of person, but ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if it’s for you.
Q: Should I apply with Early or Regular Decision?
A: This is another thing that I think varies from person to person—there’s no right answer. But I always say earlier is better! Applying early can show that you really want to go to ND—and it’s different from a lot of other schools in that the Early Action program isn’t binding, so you don’t have to agree to attend if you’re admitted. Getting an early decision can also really help with discernment, whether you’re admitted (so you know you have at least one path to go down), deferred (so you know to maybe consider others), or denied (unfortunate, but it happens, so you know to look at other options).
I’ll leave you with one quote from the Admissions site to help logistics-wise: “The Admissions Committee advises students to apply in the Restrictive Early Action process only if they are in the very top ranges of our applicant pool.” Don’t let it stop you, but if it helps you decide, more power to you!
Q: What should I have in my application to make it stand out?
A: The biggest thing? Make sure it fully represents you, and you alone! If you’re not satisfied with your testing scores and think they don’t represent you, try to take them again. If volunteering at the animal shelter or tutoring freshmen is really important to you, include that. If you haven’t yet joined that one extracurricular you were really drawn to, do it, and talk about how much you enjoy it in one of your essays.
The essays are really where you’re given the space to shine and show off what an exceptional human being you are. What are you interested in? What do you value? What makes you—you? Numbers and transcripts can describe your objective achievements, but they don’t say anything about how you’re going to change the world, starting within the Notre Dame community. The best way to stand out is to figure out what makes you different from other people and be authentic and genuine about it.