You're probably wondering what it's like being an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame. Well, it's not all that different from being an undergraduate anywhere else in America - but there are a few distinctions.
One of these distinctions is that this is a top 15 university in the United States and your peers here are also extremely talented, brilliant, and exceptional individuals, like yourself. That's right, you are also all of these things. There are several thousand applicants who also fit into these categories.
That is something that you will notice in your first year on campus: everyone here is academically exceptional... So why did they pick you? This version of imposter syndrome is something that many undergraduates face when they first arrive, and it is something that you can conquer by understanding that your admission to Notre Dame is symbolic of two things.
First, they chose you. The University decided to bring you into its great family based on your academic success, personal achievements, and all other attributes that you can offer this campus. There were thousands of applicants, but they chose you!
Secondly, you picked Notre Dame. For whatever reason, whether a triple legacy student, first-generation or even a financial aid package, the stars aligned and fate brought you to Notre Dame, Indiana for the next four years. Why? That is only something you can ask yourself. There is no one on this campus like you, and that's something to be proud of, not something to be worried or insecure about.
Besides having a few existential crises on campus, it is also common for students to struggle to adjust to the high demand for academic, social, physical, and emotional success that we often see on social media. College is a time for parties, memories, football, and occasionally learning something new, right? At Notre Dame, this is just a half-truth. Notre Dame is known for excellence in every category and sometimes that can be overwhelming. I have struggled with balancing my coursework with my friendships and my free time with sleep. The only thing that can get you on track is knowing that self-discipline is an unwritten prerequisite to thriving at the University of Notre Dame.
Self-discipline could be putting in the extra hour of studying before meeting up with your friends or even stopping by office hours even when you are pretty sure you understood that one concept in Chemistry. At the end of the day, it takes some time to realize that the girl posting all the tailgate pictures on the weekends just survived four exams the week before, and the guy who always shows up tired to philosophy is working a part-time job. There is something behind every person and we often enjoy placing ourselves as the only one when there are many other students who are just trying to balance it all, too.
Getting to the good parts, Notre Dame is not just some school. Notre Dame is home to the Fighting Irish, D1 Athletics, holistic education, an incredible community, and home to the most active alumni chapters network in the world. Whenever you wear your Notre Dame shirt off-campus, at the airport, in your hometown, there will be at least three people that ask, "do you go to Notre Dame?" This University is your ticket to the world, and your admittance is just the first step. Some people refer to this University as Catholic Disney World but, I would call it College Disney World. There are very few American universities that feel different when you step on-campus. I would go as far as to say that there are only a handful. Notre Dame, the Golden Dome, the Basilica, the Lakes, the Grotto, the Jesus mural, the Quads, the people, the fans, the air is different. It is just unparalleled.
You're going to want to stay here for a lifetime. For many, this University is truly a home under the dome. Hopefully, it is for you, too. I find myself wishing I was on campus during winter and summer breaks, and even when I go home for Easter or Thanksgiving. While I am always grateful to spend time with family, especially those who are distant, I find my heart pulling back towards Indiana. I know that it is weird to hear me say that. As a girl from New Jersey, never in a million years would I have thought about spending four years voluntarily in northern Indiana, but here I am, joyfully so.
I pray the same can be said for you when you come here. You'll have all the firsts: the first dance, the first football game, the first class, the first club, the first break, the first bestie, and a dozen others. Each one of them will be better than the last and beyond your wildest expectations.
So, what is it like being an undergraduate at Notre Dame? The best answer is that it is exactly what you'd expect and so much greater than your wildest dream