My Journey to Notre Dame: Ava Downey

Author: Ava Downey


It may be shocking for some when I say I had never heard of the University of Notre Dame before applying during my senior year. I’m from San Diego, CA, and Notre Dame just wasn’t on my radar. 

While discerning which colleges I would apply to—it ended up being almost 30 schools— a friend of mine recommended that I apply to Notre Dame. Not one member in her family had attended Notre Dame, but they were huge fans. Being that she was a good friend, I decided to look into it. 

I’ll be honest. After a glance at Notre Dame’s fact sheet, I was uninterested. I would barely consider myself a Catholic; I felt that its diversity was lacking; and I had to look it up on a map to see where it was. 

Now, you might be wondering: Why are you featured on the ND admissions page? Well, because I ended up choosing to attend Notre Dame over other great schools because one fact won me over: Notre Dame’s mission to be a force for good. 

Unlike any other school, Notre Dame strives, in the classroom, extracurricular activities, and faith, to empower students to apply their education to help others. Through conversations with other admitted and current students, it was apparent to me that Notre Dame admits young intellectuals who are driven to make a difference in the world. 

In my first year at Notre Dame, I was able to join an organization called Matriculate where I advise low-income and first generation high school seniors in the college admissions process. On top of that, I was able to give back to the Notre Dame community through joining the student government’s committee on diversity and inclusion where its mission was to provide more resources and opportunities for marginalized groups to have their voices heard.

The community at Notre Dame also proved to be unmatched—before I even confirmed my enrollment. When I was admitted, I joined text groups and chatted with other admitted students. I did not experience these conversations with people at other schools I was admitted to. Now that I am a sophomore here, I am grateful I went with my gut and chose Notre Dame even with my doubts about its diversity, religion and location. 

I discovered that you don’t have to be a practicing Catholic to go to Notre Dame. There are lots of opportunities for students of other faiths to explore spirituality. I have been able to find a strong community of people from all different backgrounds and religions. And, Notre Dame just admitted its most diverse class ever, which is a step in the right direction. As far as location, well, thanks to the South Shore train, ND is just a ride away from the wonderful city of Chicago.

In short, my fears were allayed and the benefits of attending this incredible university have outweighed my concerns by far. 


Left to right: Me at the first home football game last year and me with a friend at sailing practice