Dear Notre Dame,
When I was first admitted, the first thing my mom said was "OMG." We were so excited, tears were flowing, and for some reason, we were in our driveway. It's a memory that will last me a lifetime and then some.
It was March and I was preparing to go on Notre Dame's Spring Visit. I was absolutely thrilled! I was going on my first college visit, which was to an elite university and most importantly, I had been admitted!
This excitement rushed through my veins as I sat in the passenger seat of my mom's car - tears flowing and still screaming with joy.
Then it hit.
My mom said the words that many parents say when their child is experiencing joy and hope that could very well be snatched away by too many dollar signs. Her face dropped and she said, "now we just need to wait on financial aid, then we can make a decision."
She was right. Going to a college as a first-generation student from a single-parent household with a household income well below $60,000, my attainable options seemed to be community college or state schools. A nationally recognized, top 15, private university was not in my cards.
I still went to Spring Visit. After all, it was fully funded (even flight and transportation). After arriving on campus on a Friday afternoon, I was greeted by a plethora of administrators and student leaders as well as my wonderful student host! Everyone was so nice, welcoming, and genuine. I dropped my stuff off in my host's dorm room and she walked me to our first Spring Visit event.
There, we did so many ice breakers. Thankfully, through it all I made some good friends that were in my boat too: we got in, but we were waiting on financial aid.
After the first day, I was filled with enough free food, handed enough pamphlets, maps, and t-shirts that I was genuinely concerned about whether I would be able to bring it all home in my already stuffed suitcase.
On the second day, I had to make it from Pasquerilla West (my host's dorm, where I slept) all the way to South Dining Hall. My host offered to walk me there, but my fear of intruding forced out "thank you, but I think I can make it there. We ate dinner there last night and I have this map! I should be ok."
I was not ok.
But as I wandered God Quad with my prospective student lanyard, drawstring bag, and nametag, a wonderfully nice student approached me and asked if I was lost.
I was. Actually, I was more lost than she could even have known. Or perhaps she was in the same shoes as me once before. I was lost because after stepping foot on this campus, I felt at home. I felt a pull toward the people and most importantly, I knew that this University would mold me to be an even greater student, woman, and community member than I could have ever imagined.
Also, I had no idea where I was going.
She was also headed to South Dining Hall, so I walked with her. She told me she was from the Midwest, both her parents went here, she was a green-bleeding Fighting Irishman, and hoped I would also come to Notre Dame.
I asked her about financial aid and she said that Notre Dame has incredible financial aid and offered her the most out of every other school she applied to with a whopping $10,000 a year…
I knew simple math at the time and no amount of geometric proofs, econometric regressions, nor derivatives could make $10,000 in aid enough for me to enroll.
Now, there are many factors that go into financial aid and each person has a personalized financial aid package at whichever institution they attend. I was positive her financial aid package would look vastly different than mine.
What I didn't know was later that day, Spring Visit had planned a meeting with the department of financial aid for each and every one of us to have one-on-one meetings with those who oversaw our financial aid packages.
When we got to the LaFun Ballroom, where these meetings were to take place, there were tables separated enough for each meeting to be private and personal. I was called to one table, with a nice woman, who slid over a sheet of paper, upside down and across the table, as you see in the movies.
I flipped it over and did the familiar zoom in on the bottom of the invoice where the bolded word 'TOTAL' appeared with a miraculously tiny number. My financial aid advisor asked me if I had any questions and I certainly asked, where did all of this come from. She took the next five minutes to break down my aid packages into three categories: Academic aid, University Scholarship, and other Scholarships.
I quickly said "Thank you", shook her hand, and left the table before she could have taken back anything she said previously. I left the Ballroom, called my mom, screamed with excitement, and had more tears flowing down my face.
Because of Notre Dame's enormous endowments, alumni networks, and other donations it receives, I have been able to enroll at the greatest University. Because of my financial aid, I have made lifelong friendships, met the love of my life, and jump-started my future career with an endless network of alumni, companies, friends, coworkers, and experiences.