- Class: Freshman
- Gender: M
- High School: Mt. Lebanon High School
- Transfer Student: N
I think the best thing about Notre Dame is that virtually everyone here loves it here. So many people chose this university as their first choice, even over institutions such as the Ivies. Since everyone lives in dorms for the first couple of years, there is a real sense of community here. The school is just the right size; it is large enough that you can never get to know everyone, but small enough so that you will not feel like just another number. I am constantly meeting new people, but I also run into people I know all the time, at events, parties, the dining hall, or just walking around campus. The dorms are single-sex, which can be a blessing and a curse; it makes it significantly harder to become good friends with members of the opposite sex, but it also creates a sort of fraternity/sorority atmosphere. Single-sex dorms and especially parietals are probably the most heard complaints. (Parietals are a set of rules that mandate when students of the opposite sex can be in each others' dorms - not after midnight on weeknights and 2 AM on weekends.) The biggest thing that differentiates Notre Dame from other schools is the Catholic vibe. You have infinite opportunities to deepen your religious faith if you go here. I don't think I would be nearly as close in my relationship with God right now if I had not come to this school. The Catholic atmosphere is another factor in creating a close-knit sense of community. Also, Notre Dame is one of the top schools academically in the country, so students here spend a lot of time studying. This, of course, varies with what they are majoring in - business majors probably only study a few hours a week, while engineering majors usually study a few hours a day. Sport on campus are a big deal; we have probably the most storied sports tradition of any college, and the most spirited fans, alumni, and student body. This is one more reason why there is a real sense of community at ND.
Academics are taken seriously at Notre Dame, but I have never felt overwhelmed by the expectations, even though I was a chemical engineering intent. Classes vary from large lectures to small seminars; more of the freshman classes are lectures, whereas upperclassmen get to take more smaller classes. In the lectures, professors usually don't know who you are, but they are still accessible if you want to talk to them. Professors in small classes are very friendly and you can get to know them pretty well. My favorite class so far has been my University Seminar, a class freshmen are required to take. The classes are a variety of subjects, but they are all small, discussion-based classes with significant reading and writing portions. Mine was called "The Self and Society in American Poetry." Some of the discussions blew me away. We also got to write our own poetry and everyone shared their poetry with the class in some of the coolest moments of the semester. The professor also had our whole class (about 15 students) over to his house for dinner one night. This class was one of the reasons I decided to switch into the Program of Liberal Studies, a Great Books major in which all the classes are in the seminar format. I realized that I thrive off discussion of big ideas with other people, as opposed to just sitting in a chair and having a professor talk at me for the next 50 minutes. The Program of Liberal Studies is a unique opportunity at Notre Dame; it is a cross-disciplinary major in which students read the "Great Books" and various other primary texts, discussing everything from philosophy to political science to literature to psychology in the classes. This is one of the majors that is geared more towards learning for its own sake, along with most of the other Arts and Letters majors. The engineering, business, and pre-professional tracks are more geared towards just getting a job after graduation.
The student body here is pretty homogeneous; most people here are preppy white student-athletes. However, that is not to say you can't find different people; you might just have to look a little harder. Also, the more you get to know people here, the more you realize how interesting they are. Almost everyone has some hidden talent or interesting piece of background that you can find if you can just get past the initial "Notre Dame social awkwardness." For the most part, Notre Dame students come from middle or upper-middle class families. If you take the pyramid-shaped distribution of wealth of the real world and turned it upside down, that's the distribution of wealth at Notre Dame. The students are generally more conservative, but this is only a loose rule, as there are a good number of liberal students, too. But even more common are politically apathetic/unaware students. Notre Dame has often been described as a "bubble" in which students are sheltered or disconnected from what is going on in the rest of the world. This can be a negative, but it also allows students to focus on their studies and enjoy their college lives without unnecessary worries. As I have said, a majority of the students here are religious to some extent, and Catholicism pervades just about every aspect of campus life. For this reason, a student who has no interest in religion or spirituality would probably feel out of place here.
The Best Things
the sense of community, tradition, and spirituality
The Worst Things
the conventionality and homogeneity of most of the student body