Notre Dame has been my dream college since 10th grade. I invested myself doing research on the University’s values, classes, programs, social life, etc. As I researched colleges, I learned that the only piece of information you cannot read online is the one you achieve from visiting and experiencing the campus yourself. Living in the Dominican Republic, it is not so easy to take a flight one weekend to tour South Bend, Indiana. So, when I found out that Notre Dame offered a two-week summer program for high school students interested in Architecture (my desired major), I knew the opportunity was too good to pass up.
The program I enrolled in is called Career Discovery for High Schoolers under the School of Architecture. The first two days I got to settle in by getting a tour of campus while I bonded with students who were also in the program. I was assigned a dorm and lived there for my two-week stay, which made my experience feel even more real. Eating at the dining hall felt surreal. I still remember telling my friends that South Dining Hall looked like Hogwarts. There is a difference between visiting campus and actually living there. You get to immerse yourself into the University community, and it makes it easier for you to visualize living there for the next four years.
Regarding classes, I had packed days in the studio building. We were constantly working on projects that were assigned to us by our professors, and I used the help of my Teaching Assistants (TA). The TAs were actual ND students, who fielded all of my questions about student life and the daily schedule of an architecture student. They answered questions that I knew I couldn’t get from a website. Furthermore, I got to bond with the professor who was leading my class, Professor Stamper. For architecture, we had reviews of our projects, and I got to internalize my professor’s comments and thinking, making me drastically improve from the first assignment to the final one. Most importantly, these classes helped me visualize what my major would look like if I attended Notre Dame, as each university has its own unique programs and values.
When it came to applying during my senior year, the summer program proved to be incredibly helpful. When writing about why I would want to study at Notre Dame, my answer was much more detailed and credible since I lived at Notre Dame and loved the experience. I wrote about my dorm, the conversations I had with my TA and Professors, and the sense of fitting in perfectly with the environment. The summer program even aided me with my portfolio. Even though a portfolio is optional when applying to the Notre Dame School of Architecture, I took advantage of the works I had done at ND and submitted them, which showed not only my architectural skills but also the fact that I completed it at Notre Dame.
Overall, my experience attending the Pre College Program allowed me to catch a small glimpse of the magic of this University. If anything, it solidified my love for Notre Dame and its ranking as my top choice while applying to college. I have been to other pre-college programs, but the sense of warmth and community is incomparable to that of Notre Dame’s. This camaraderie is not exclusive to ND’s summer programs but to the college experience in general.