The Notre Dame Pre-College Experience

Author: Ellie Villaruz

Last summer, I worked as a Resident Counselor (RC) for Notre Dame Summer Scholars. What did I do as an RC? It was basically a mix between working as a Resident Assistant and Camp Counselor, and it was one of my favorite experiences since coming to Notre Dame. I met so many new people who also worked as RCs, experienced a beautiful South Bend summer, and served as a mentor for high school students.

Ellie Villaruz and all of the other RC's take a group picture before Summer Scholars come the next day in their signature polos!
Ellie Villaruz and all of the other RC's take a group picture before Summer Scholars come the next day in their signature polos!

Notre Dame offers three types of Precollege programs: Study Abroad, Leadership Seminars, and Summer Scholars. I have the most experience with the latter, so will be speaking primarily about that program, though most of what I write about applies to all three programs. Summer Scholars have the chance to see what it’s like to be a real Notre Dame student while still in high school. One such component is Notre Dame’s incredibly vast academic opportunities. Class offerings include Philosophy, Public Health, Accounting, Photography, Law, Engineering classes, and more! With over 30 class options, students have the opportunity to learn from Notre Dame’s world class faculty in subject areas they are interested in while in high school. Classes also take different field trips into the field, including bus trips to Lake Michigan or Chicago depending on the class.

Along with experiencing Notre Dame’s world class academics, Summer Scholars also have the opportunity to perform service for the greater South Bend community. Each class participates in service projects including trips to the South Bend Center for the Homeless, Unity Gardens, Hope Ministries, and more. They could walk dogs with the local animal shelter, make crafts with underprivileged kids in the South Bend area, or plant fruit with a local garden organization. With service at the heart of the Notre Dame community, when Summer Scholars participate in service they gain a greater perspective into what it means to be a student at Notre Dame.

The religious opportunities for Summer Scholars are limitless. The RCs put on weekly dorm masses for students as well as prayer services. Students have the option to participate in as much or as little of the spiritual services as they’d like. Nevertheless, students can get a first-hand perspective to the Catholic identity of Notre Dame, both with a “big ‘c’” and a “little ‘c’”. Notre Dame is Catholic with a “big ‘c’” in the way that it is a Catholic University with many opportunities for one to learn and grow in the Catholic faith. However, ND is Catholic in the terms of the “little ‘c’” in that it is universal; Notre Dame is accepting of all faiths and backgrounds. Summer Scholars have the opportunity to experience Notre Dame as a Catholic University.

The final, and some would argue most important, component of Notre Dame that Summer Scholars experience is the community aspect. Students live in the dorms (with a random roommate) and have a group of 8-12 other students who are in their section with their own RC. Sections have a meeting every night, hold events, and are a microcosm of the summer scholars community, just as dorms are a microcosm of the Notre Dame community. RCs hold events such as an ice skating night, white water rafting, trivia night, capture the flag, and so much more for students to gather and build community. Each of these events helps scholars meet other students and RCs (current ND students) to make friends and form their own ND community with their fellow students. Summer Scholars get a view into what it means to be part of the Notre Dame community as a student.

All in all, Summer Scholars and Notre Dame Precollege provide an extraordinary summer experience. You can get a sense for what it really means to be a part of the Notre Dame community before attending, and it could even change your life!