Getting To Know: University of Notre Dame (IN)
I visited the University of Notre Dame after my Chicago college tour. I arrived having the benefit of attending a Notre Dame information session close to home, appropriately at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence Township, New Jersey. This is a long post—so read on!
No educational institution means more to America’s Catholic community than Notre Dame.
The prominence and successes of the football team as well as the powerful religious symbology on campus may be good reasons for this. No university in the US, with the possible exception of Harvard or Stanford, has stronger brand recognition than Notre Dame. This includes the Subway Alumni who mainly follow the football team. I will drop some photos into this post, but you are also welcome to check out my Notre Dame Pinterest page.
Notre Dame has just under 9,000 undergrads.
Eighty percent of the undergraduate student body is Catholic. More than half attended private, parochial or charter schools. Ninety-four percent are almost evenly divided between Arts & Letters, Business, Engineering, and the Sciences. Six percent are enrolled in Architecture and Global Studies.
The education is more personal than one might expect.
The university offers 75 undergraduate majors and many minors. However, with only 24 doctoral programs and a location nearly two hours from Chicago, students are more likely to be taught by full-time faculty, even in the introductory classes. Only 50 out of more than 2,000 undergraduate classes (about two percent) taught during the 2021-22 school year had over 100 students. Only ten percent had more than 50. As a comparison the numbers for Harvard, with about 1,000 fewer undergrads, were six and 13 percent. The numbers are four and 11 percent for Stanford, which also has over 1,000 fewer undergrads.
It is tough to get into Notre Dame.
During the last cycle over 28,000 students applied for around 2,100 seats in the current freshman class. Only 13 percent were accepted. Notre Dame allows prospective students to apply under Restrictive Early Action (REA). While students admitted via REA are not required to commit to Notre Dame, or deposit early, they may not apply Early Decision or Single-Choice Early Action to another college. Most who are not accepted early receive an early denial, possibly in time to apply Early Decision II to another school. Almost half of the current freshman class was admitted through REA. Another 1,000 REA applicants were deferred, but only 100 were later admitted.
While academic success is expected among accepted students, service to others is also extremely valued.
When I attended the information session in New Jersey, the audience was told that mission alignment was a critical factor in admissions. 80 percent of Notre Dame students will participate in service activities after they start their education. Eighty-seven percent of the students in the Class of 2027 participated in service activities before they arrived at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame does not require applicants outside of Architecture or Engineering to choose a major. But everyone must choose an undergraduate school. Those interested in business are advised to pursue direct admission; an internal transfer is nearly impossible. The business school also caps freshman enrollment at 500 students. Interestingly, about a third of the declared business students pursue a second major outside of the business school. While it is easy to switch from Architecture or Engineering to Science or Arts & Letters, it’s tough to switch the other way.
The posted profile of the Class of 2027 suggests that ultra-selective Ivies, private Ivy-like schools and public honors colleges were on many lists. Notre Dame’s yield rate, the percentage of accepted students who deposited, was 60 percent, impressive for any school of any size. It suggests that Notre Dame was the first-choice school for most who applied.
The university is upfront about its Catholic roots.
I have visited many Catholic universities. Most of their admissions offices have gone out of their way to tell students and parents that members of all faiths are welcome,. They also explain that access to ministerial support outside of the Catholic Church is on campus or close by. All of these schools, Notre Dame included, require courses in religion and philosophy which secular schools do not. However, every school I have visited went further to explain that specific courses in Catholicism were not required. But Notre Dame proudly promotes its Catholic heritage and principles within its marketing and presentations, including its mission. Notre Dame requires additional courses in Catholicism and the Disciplines within their 11 Ways of Knowing. The Moreau First Year Experience, named for Blessed Basil Moreau, professor, priest, and founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, is based on pedagogy found in Christian education.
Honesty extends to explaining the residence life.
Presenters in both information sessions acknowledged that the residence life may not be for everyone who is comparing colleges. Notre Dame has neither Greek life nor apartment-style living options for upper-class students. Eighty percent of the undergrads live on campus. During the information session I attended on campus the audience was told that incoming freshmen arrive “determined to make this place their home.”
Notre Dame students reside in one of 32 single-sex residence halls for the first three years of their education.
Some are quite old, dating before Notre Dame first welcomed women in 1972. Cramped triple and quad rooms, oft dreaded at other schools, are commonplace at Notre Dame. Parietals, limitations on the hours where members of the opposite sex may visit, are enforced by rectors, adults who live with the students. Further, Notre Dame requires students, including varsity athletes, from all undergraduate classes, freshman through seniors, to live together to build community.Each hall not only has its own events; they also have friendly competitions versus other halls. The living arrangements also require that on-campus students carry a meal plan. Notre Dame has two dining halls, one each on its North and South residential campuses. I read good reviews about the food.
While community building works best when students live in one place through their undergraduate education, students may ask to live in a different hall from one year to the next. The university also offers a $2,000 Senior Incentive Credit to the first 200 sophomores who took the offer to encourage them to remain on campus as seniors.
Honesty extends to talking up the off-campus community.
South Bend, home to Notre Dame since 1842, and the fourth-largest city in Indiana, was never overhyped in the presentations that I attended, nor on the campus tour. Notre Dame shares the city with St. Mary’s, a Catholic all-female liberal arts college, Holy Cross, a small co-ed Catholic college and Indiana University-South Bend. St. Mary’s and Holy Cross are affiliated with the Congregation of the Holy Cross, same as Notre Dame. But with the exception of Indiana University School of Medicine the campuses are not within easy walking distance of each other. Much of the social life at Notre Dame is based on campus.
Eddy Street Commons, across from Notre Dame’s main gate, serves as the off campus “college town” for all of these schools.
If you can imagine a manufactured college town with mostly chain shopping and dining, you’ll get the idea behind Eddy Street. The high-profile athletic programs bring much traffic into the community, as do Notre Dame’s arts centers. The Chicago Cubs top minor league franchise also calls South Bend home. As a result, are plenty of dining options to accommodate students and visitors in the city as well as nearby Mishawaka. But you need to find transportation to get to them.
South Bend is approximately 90 miles from Chicago, too far to travel there often during a semester.
You can get to the Windy City in about two hours if you have access to a car or take the train via Amtrak or the Southshore line from the South Bend Airport. Like Chicago, South Bend and the Notre Dame campus get the “lake effect,” cold winter winds blowing off Lake Michigan. However, the Lake Michigan beach nearest to Notre Dame, Warren Dunes, is about 40 miles from campus.
Notre Dame has one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever visited
The symbology and history through varied statues and sculpture is quite powerful as was the Latare Medal display.
This post would be incomplete without a photo of the Golden Dome and the main administration building (up top), Touchdown Jesus or First Down Moses.
Notre Dame also has one of the few college campuses that could be considered a national tourist attraction.
In fact, the best online tour that I found was recorded by Lovenesters, parents who are empty nesters. There was only one thing that I did not like: the integration of the Duncan Center, the university’s student center, into the football stadium (photos below). I understand why it was done. There was no room to place it within an academic or residential quad, and so much of the fall social season centers around football. However, Notre Dame students must do without a student center six or seven weekends each fall. Of course, many of them will be at the game.
If you saw the 1993 movie Rudy starring Sean Aston, you may recognize the Grotto (photo below) in this clip.
That’s where Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, Class of ’76, came to light candles while enrolled at nearby Holy Cross College, hoping to be accepted to Notre Dame as a transfer student. While some aspects of Ruettiger’s story were changed for dramatic purposes, visits to the Grotto have gone unchallenged. A Navy veteran and power plant worker before starting college, Ruettiger was accepted to Notre Dame for his junior year and fulfilled his dream of playing football for the Fighting Irish. Although he played for only three plays over a total of 27 seconds, Ruettiger was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates.
If you like college football, probably no program is more lauded and loved, even in bad times.
Notre Dame has won or claimed 11 national championships, though the last one came in 1988. The Fighting Irish have had seven Heisman Trophy winners and more consensus All-Americans than any D-1 school. These achievements are impressive especially considering that Notre Dame is one of the smaller and more rigorous schools that plays football at their level, and that most opponents have more amenities to sell to prospects. While other programs have had more recent on-field success, you might never know it if you watched Notre Dame play in a packed home stadium. Even the 2016 team that went 4-8 sold out every home game. While considered independent, Notre Dame plays five games against teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Parents, alumni and subway alumni must make a financial gift to the university to have the opportunity to buy tickets.
Students will pay around $250 for the season, presuming that they can get tickets. They can also make plans to go to road games. Notre Dame also attracts television ratings and audiences strong enough to be invited to play at neutral sites. This season the Fighting Irish played their opening game, a 42-3 win over Navy, at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.
The Fighting Irish have earned twenty-one Top 25 season-ending rankings since 1988. But they have gone only 11-16 in bowl games and one playoff game since then. Their highest ranking (#3) came in 2012. Notre Dame got into the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game in pandemic-ridden 2020. However, the Fighting Irish lost 34-10 to Clemson.
Other Notre Dame sports have had more success since 2000.
While championships and high-ranked success has eluded Noter Dame’s football and men’s basketball programs (last Final Four in 1979) other programs have fared extremely well.
- Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program has won two national championships and played in eight Final Fours.
- Men’s and women’s fencing programs have won eight NCAA national championships.
- The men’s lacrosse program has played in six Final Fours and won their first National Championship this spring; the women have made 13 NCAA Tournament appearances as well.
- Notre Dame’s men’s soccer program won the National Championship in 2013; the women’s program won two (2004 and 2010).
Outside of football Notre Dame plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference for all sports, excluding Men’s Ice Hockey, where the Irish play in the Big Ten. This has set up some interesting schedules, especially in basketball, lacrosse, and soccer where schools such as Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill regularly contend for conference and national titles.
The experience is expensive, though Notre Dame is need blind.
- The cost of attendance for the current academic year is over $83,000. However, Notre Dame meets 100 percent of demonstrated need.
- The average need-based scholarship awarded to freshman in the Class of 2026 was just over $52,000. However, only 35 freshmen received merit-based academic awards that averaged just under $20,000.
- On the upside, less than 40 percent of 2021 graduates had student loan debt. Those who borrowed owed, on average, just over $28,000. That’s $1,000 over the maximum that they could have borrowed through the Federal Student Loan Program.
My sense from these numbers is that Notre Dame helps those who really need the help, but also attracts many students whose families can pay.
Notre Dame is an excellent, and uniquely Catholic, institution that connects extremely well with those who choose to come, and the memories stay with them long after they leave. I must believe that those who deposit know what they are expecting from the first day forward. Ninety-seven percent of freshmen who deposit return for their sophomore year. Nearly 90 percent graduate on time. It’s clear that those who enrolled wanted to be there.
Notre Dame’s alumni communities have no fewer than 3,400 members registered in LinkedIn.com in the major East and West Coast metro areas, and over 12,000 in and around Chicago. While it will be easy to make connections for friends, work and watch parties, it is also likely that alumni will return to South Bend from anywhere during football season. They want to see their Fighting Irish get back in the national championship picture, and so do the subway alumni.
Report Card: University of Notre Dame
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: B
- Curriculum: A
- Community: A
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A
Want to know more about me?
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