Every year in late August, freshmen converge upon Notre Dame’s campus in South
Bend, Indiana, rushing from one freshman orientation event to the next. During the many
dances, activities, and the Orientation Mass, a certain phrase resonates throughout the campus:
“the Notre Dame family.” This one phrase, which has a slightly different meaning for each
student and alum, is a distinctive element of the University of Notre Dame.
The phrase “Notre Dame family” embodies three of the main characteristics of Notre
Dame: community, tradition, and Catholic heritage.
The campus setting makes it easy to foster a close-knit community. With its tree-lined
paths and two lakes, the 1,250-acre campus seems to be isolated from the rest of the world.
The university is located ninety miles east of Chicago and has more than 135 buildings on campus.
The dorms in particular are an integral part of the campus and enhance the feeling of
community. Seventy-six percent of students live on campus, and most remain on campus for
three or four years.
The school’s Catholic roots are a vital part of life at the university. Even the buildings
on campus, such as Sacred Heart Basilica, the Grotto, and “Touchdown Jesus” on the side of
the library, demonstrate the Catholic character and influence at the school. Eighty-four percent
of students are Catholic, and the Catholic nature of the school is emphasized
in all aspects of life at the university, including classes. In fact, one of the main social
activities of the week for dorm residents and off-campus students is Sunday night mass in the
The university can trace its roots back more than 165 years to when Fr. Sorin and his fellow
Holy Cross religious brothers founded l’Université de Notre Dame du lac (Our Lady of the
Lake) in three small log buildings. The campus has grown significantly since that time, but the
strong desire to educate students in the classroom and beyond remains. By the time freshmen
reach graduation day, they will realize that they are part of a unique group that extends beyond
The plethora of activities, programs, and facilities on campus allows students to
create their own experience while at the university. As the phrase “Notre Dame family” has a
different connotation for each student and graduate, so does the “Notre Dame experience.”
Although the school encourages students to be involved in all aspects of university life, students
can choose if they want to focus more on academics, service, student government, or the
arts. It is the same for social activities, where there is something for everyone.
The spirit of students and graduates proves that there is something special
about the place.
All in all, it is the last lines of the alma mater
that truly summarize how its students and graduates feel about the school: “And our hearts forever,
Love thee, Notre Dame.”
For many students entering their freshman year, this marks the first time they are required to question and
articulate their feelings about their faith, social beliefs, and politics. No longer are students
asked to simply regurgitate information as they did in high school; instead, as students learn
world history, finance, and calculus, they begin to define themselves and what is important to
As a Catholic school, the university could easily expect that students believe only what
the Catholic Church teaches, but often, the required theology and philosophy core classes
force students to take a serious look at what they believe and why. The learning
environment is a unique combination of faith and questioning.
The Colleges and Majors
The university is divided into five colleges: Arts and Letters (the largest), Business,
Science, Engineering, and Architecture. Overall, the most popular majors are finance,
psychology, and political science, with majors such as history and economics growing in
popularity. They also have a strong pre-professional studies program, which combines
medical school prerequisite courses with a liberal arts major or additional science classes.
Each college also has its own academic organizations and honor societies, including the
Arts and Letters Business Society and the Management Club.
First Year of Studies
Before selecting a college, all students are enrolled into the First Year of Studies (FYS),
a program created to help freshmen adjust to college-level academics. The FYS assigns
each student an advisor, who guides students with course selection, choosing a college
and/or a major, and with concerns about classes. The FYS center also provides students with tutors and study groups if necessary. Students must fulfill the core requirements of the
FYS before they can enter sophomore year. Usually, students do not have any difficulty completing
the required classes since approximately half of each incoming freshman class
receives class credit for AP classes and SAT Subject Test scores.
Although taking calculus for a future political science major might seem like sheer
agony, the school adheres to the philosophy of a well-rounded education, and offers its core
classes as a way to achieve this purpose. For example, while in the FYS program, all students
must complete one semester of Freshman Seminar and Composition and Literature (Comp
and Lit). Freshman Seminar is a literature class that addresses any topic the professor selects,
from reading Plato’s Republic the entire semester to studying the subject of leadership
through reading books about Ghandi. Comp and Lit is more of a grammar class that focuses on
improving the overall structure of a student’s writing through rewriting and peer evaluations.
By the end of their sophomore year, students are required to declare a major, but at
this point, most students have created a program of study simply by taking electives that
If students declare Arts and Letters as their college, they are required to complete a
unique course called College Seminar, a semester-long class with approximately thirteen
to twenty students, guided by an Arts and Letters professor. Each course is built around the
academic specialty of the instructor, but all explore the breadth of the liberal arts.
Students have the opportunity to apply for internships that pique their interest, both on
and off campus. For example, the local NBC affiliate, WNDU-TV, and the Notre Dame
News and Information office offer internships to qualified students. Many students apply to
be teachers’ assistants their senior year, a rewarding experience that allows upper- and
lower-class students to work together closely.
Many students go abroad their sophomore or junior year. In fact, among research universities,
this university has the sixth highest percentage of students engaged in international
study programs. Some of the popular year-long programs are in Angers, France;
Innsbruck, Austria; and Toledo, Spain. Students who participate in the year-long programs
tend to go during their sophomore year and are required to take intensive
language courses before they go. The favorite semester-long programs include London;
Santiago, Chile; and Fremantle, Australia. All of the abroad programs are competitive to get
into, so often students end up enrolling in other universities’ programs, although it does
sometimes affect class credit.
Physically Challenged Students
To further diversify academics, the university provides programs to accommodate
students with disabilities. For example, students with challenges can get note
takers, have extended time on exams, or use textbooks on disk to ensure equal access to all
disciplines and facilities.
Students also have access to over three million volumes in the ten libraries located on
campus. Most of these facilities have late hours and are open twenty-four hours a day
during exams. In addition, there are eight computer clusters throughout the campus, many
of which are always open.
Because this is a highly competitive college that requires students to put in long
hours of studying, it is common to see students heading off to the library on Friday and
Saturday nights to do class work. Students here are dedicated to their education and
are willing to put in the extra hours on the weekend if necessary, even if they are only going to
be studying on the extremely social second floor of the Hesburgh Library.
After four years of intense learning, students are armed with the tools of
an advanced academic environment—independence, questioning, and discipline—and
are prepared to commence learning in the real world.
Most Popular Fields of Study
The university looks for students who are Renaissance individuals—
intellectuals, leaders, athletes, artists, and volunteers. Basically, the school wants the best
In a recent freshman class, 13,945 students applied for entrance, 3,727 were admitted,
and 2,000 enrolled. On average, the students who enrolled graduated in the top five percent of
their senior class.
So, how does the school evaluate all of the applications it receives every year? There
are five areas on which students are judged: high school record, standardized tests, teachers’
evaluations, extracurricular accomplishments, and the essays and personal statement submitted
with the application.
From a student’s high school record, the quality of the school’s curriculum is considered.
Notre Dame recommends that applying students take four years of English, math, science,
foreign language, history, and electives. The admissions counselors especially look at
students who have pushed themselves by taking honors and AP-level classes, in addition to
courses such as precalculus or calculus, chemistry, and physics.
A student’s class rank, grades, and the academic competition
at the high school are also considered.
The SAT or the ACT are required tests and a great
deal of emphasis is placed on standardized tests. The mid fifty percent score ranges of entering
freshmen are 1320–1500 (SAT, based on 1600) and 31–34 (ACT).
Because the school does not interview candidates, teacher recommendations are one
way for the admissions counselors to learn about the applicants personally. Students
should have a variety of teachers, who have worked with them extensively, write their
As mentioned earlier, the school seeks enthusiastic students who have developed
themselves inside and outside of the classroom; therefore, the university weighs
extracurricular activities heavily. Students are judged on leadership positions in clubs and
student government, school and community involvement, and special talents. Also, because
service work is an important aspect of life here, the university looks for students
who have volunteered at social service organizations such as nursing homes, soup kitchens,
and day care centers.
Finally, a student’s essays and personal statements are thrown into the evaluation mix;
these compositions are vital to providing the admissions counselor with an inside look
at the student. For instance, one essay asks students to reflect on how a book, poem, play,
or piece of music has influenced their lives. Also, two long essays and
three shorter essays are required, which is more than many schools’ applications.
There are two application plans, Early Action and Regular Action. With Early
Action, a good option for people who have exceptional grades and standardized test
scores, applications are due the beginning of November. If admitted through Early Action,
students do not have to withdraw their applications from other schools and they have until
May 1 to inform Notre Dame of their decision. Most students still apply Regular Action,
however, in which applications are due at the beginning of January.
For applying students who wish to visit the campus, the school will arrange an informational
meeting with an admissions counselor and an overnight stay in a residence
hall with a student host. To get the feeling of attending Notre Dame, the prospective student
sits in on classes and eats at the dining hall. The program is a great way for students
to experience the campus and decide if this is the right fit for them.
When compared to other Catholic and private universities that are nationally recognized
for academic excellence, the overall costs here tend to be lower.
To cut back on the cost of books, students often purchase course
materials from each other or buy used books from Pandora’s Books, located on the corner of
Howard Street and Notre Dame Avenue, about three blocks south of campus. The university
reminds students to expect costs to increase annually in order to maintain a
solid academic environment.
As for personal expenses, the overall cost of living in South Bend is less than in other
cities, but students typically spent $1,000 to $1,500 per year for incidentals as well as social
and weekend activities, such as going out for dinner, movies, and other social activities.
In the last few years, the university has made aggressive efforts to substantially increase
its financial aid funding.
This growth in funding stems from generous support from benefactors, programs including
post-season football bowl games, the Affinity credit card (each time alums use their Notre
Dame credit card, money is donated to the financial aid fund), the NBC contract to
televise home football games, and licensing income from paraphernalia
sold around the United States.
When a student receives financial aid here, the university works with the
student and his or her family to create a financial aid package, often a combination
of low-interest loans (Perkins Student Loans and Stafford Student Loans), scholarship
money, and work-study. The university encourages work-study for students on financial aid
to help cover their personal expenses. Options for on-campus employment include working
in the dining halls, computer clusters, at the athletic department, and in the library.
Also, the alumni clubs across the country provide hundreds of scholarships
annually, now totaling more than $2.5 million, to incoming students.
Grants and Other Options
As part of the university’s efforts to increase the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity at the
school, the university offers the Holy Cross Grants. These scholarship programs are
awarded to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Other financial aid options include two-, three-, and four-year ROTC scholarships with
the Air Force, Army, or Navy (includes Marines). These scholarships sometimes cover full
tuition, and books, and provide a $150 monthly stipend. A little more than five percent of students are on one of the above ROTC scholarships. In fact, their Navy ROTC
unit is the second largest in the country (the Naval Academy is first).
To apply for financial aid, students are required to submit the standard Free Application
for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the PROFILE of the College Scholarship Service (CSS)
by February 15, but are encouraged to file them as early as possible.
Student Financial Aid Details
Students here are as busy with club meetings and sports during the week as
they are with their normal course load.
Although the school does not have a Greek system, students reside in the same dorm
throughout their stay and are often identified by the dorm they live in. The dorms organize a large number of student activities,
including volunteer tutoring at local schools, dinners with Brother/Sister dorms, and residence
On the non-athletic side, the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) runs more than thirty-five
community service clubs that offer students the opportunity to participate in volunteer
programs in the South Bend area, as well as across the country and around the
world. About seventy-five percent of the student body participated in programs
coordinated through the CSC, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity,
Neighborhood Study Help Program, and Recycling Irish. The center uses a holistic method by enhancing students’ spiritual and intellectual
awareness of today’s social realities through service opportunities and seminars.
The center also identifies volunteer programs to participate in around the country with service
trips to areas such as Appalachia and the inner cities. In addition, each summer, more
than 125 alumni clubs sponsor 200 students in Summer Service
Projects around the United States.
Special Interest Clubs
There are more than twenty special interest clubs including College Republicans,
College Democrats, and Knights of Columbus. In addition, the university offers twenty-three
ethnic organizations such as the African and American Student Alliance, the
Hispanic American Organization, and the Korean Club.
Although not historically known as a performing arts school, that
is quickly changing, especially with the construction of the new DeBartolo Performing
Arts Center, which opened in fall 2004. Students currently have a variety of programs to
choose from. There are a range of music groups, from Shenanigans, a song and dance
troupe, to the Liturgical Choir, and nine instrumental music groups, including Concert
Band. If students are interested in drama, a number of different troupes put on performances
throughout the year, including The Freshmen Four, St. Edward’s Hall Players, and
the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, which produces four plays. The relocation
of Actors From the London Stage to Notre Dame has prompted a surge in Shakespearean productions
For future Pulitzer Prize winners, several student-run publications are available: The
Observer, the daily newspaper; Scholastic, the weekly news magazine; and The Dome,
Notre Dame’s yearbook. All of these publications have positions for students interested in
copywriting, design, and photography. Students with a strong interest in music have the
opportunity to be DJs at WVFI-AM, the alternative music station, and WSND-FM, the classical
Additional special annual events on campus include the Literary Festival,
the Collegiate Jazz Festival, and the Black Cultural Arts Festival.
The weekends offer students plenty of
social and recreational activities as well. In the
fall, weekends are dominated by football
games, both home and away. Students often have family
and friends visit on these weekends to tailgate
before the game, follow the marching band across campus, and dine by candlelight at the
dining halls. Many people say that life here ends after football season, but, since
Notre Dame has joined the Big East, other sports, such as men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball,
hockey, lacrosse, and men’s and women’s basketball games, have become popular events.
In fact, women’s basketball games average 7,800 fans since winning the 2001 National
The school does not allow hard alcohol in dorm rooms, and the university has strict
penalties if underage students are caught drinking in the halls or carrying alcohol across
campus. On-campus parties usually end by 2:00 A.M. when parietals, or visiting hours, end.
As a university that is based on Roman Catholic values, this schol has single-sex dorms
and enforces visiting hours. If a student is found in a dorm of the opposite sex after parietals,
there are serious consequences.
Upper-class students often host parties at off-campus student housing complexes, such
as Campus View and Lafayette Square, or hang out at popular bars, such as Corby’s and
Legends, the restaurant/bar located on campus.
Many students enjoy dining out on the weekends at favorite local restaurants, such as
Macri’s Deli for sandwiches, Bruno’s for pizza, Rocco’s for pasta, and CJ’s for burgers. Also, the
Student Union Board (SUB) and the Snite Museum show recently released films on campus.
Popular Social Events
- Junior Parents Weekend
- Morrissey Film Festival
- Fisher Regatta
- Beaux Arts Ball
- Glee Club Christmas Concert
- Bengal Bouts
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Tradition is an important aspect of life here, and the most famous tradition at
the university is football. From the “1812 Overture” played at the beginning of each
game’s fourth quarter, to the world’s oldest marching band, to the legends of Knute Rockne
and the Gipper, “Fightin’ Irish” football is rich in tradition. Because of the team’s national
reputation, many believe Notre Dame is much larger than its average enrollment of 8,300
undergraduates. Overall, the Irish athletic programs annually rank among the top twenty
in the nation for both men and women.
Intramural sports are very popular. Each dorm usually offers football (men), flag football
(women), basketball, and soccer. Since the majority of students played varsity sports in high
school, and many were captains of their teams, intramural sports are extremely competitive. In
fact, this may be the only school where students play intramural football wearing full
gear. Women’s flag football is equally competitive; injuries such as concussions, broken wrists,
and cuts requiring stitches are not uncommon. In line with Notre Dame’s love of football, the
championship games for both of these football teams are played at Notre Dame Stadium.
After classes, students work out at the athletic facilities available on campus, including
the Rockne Memorial (the Rock), the Joyce Center, Rolfs Sports Recreation Center, Rolfs
Aquatic Center, and Loftus Center. Students are able to swim, run on tracks and treadmills,
ride stationary bikes, lift weights, or participate in aerobics classes at these fitness centers. In
addition, there is a new Ben Crenshaw-designed golf course for students and alumni
to play on from April through October.
After graduating, alumni locate all over the world and enter a wide
array of professions. The most popular fields graduates enter into include, law, marketing and
sales, engineering, medicine, and accounting.
To help students secure positions in the business world, the Career Center
holds seminars about writing résumés and preparing for interviews, and also counsels
students on what professional careers fit their interests. The Career Center invites a range
of companies to the campus; however, many of the companies tend to be better matches for
business and engineering students than for liberal arts majors.
Many students go on to pursue advanced degrees, in law, medicine, MBA programs, or
other graduate programs. Almost half of all grads eventually go on to
complete at least one advanced degree.
After graduation, social service continues to be an integral part of many students’ lives.
In recent years, about ten percent of each graduating class has entered into a one- or
two-year service program, domestic and abroad. The Center for Social Concerns, which
brings numerous postgraduate service programs to campus, advises students on what programs
are available and would be a good match in terms of structure, location, and activity.
Some of the more popular programs include Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Alliance for
Catholic Education (ACE, a Notre Dame-founded program), Inner City Teaching Corps, and
the Peace Corps.
In terms of alumni annual giving, the school ranks third in the nation, but alumni are
dedicated to Notre Dame more than just financially. Approximately 161,000 alums
participate in events organized by the alumni clubs, such as golf outings, happy hours, and
vacations. There are also activities meant to enhance the spiritual, educational, and
professional aspects of alumni’s lives. For example, the Alumni Association has started a program that brings graduates back to South Bend to rehab houses in the area and the
Chicago Alumni Club frequently hosts networking meetings for graduates.
When a student graduates and is unclear what area he or she wants
to enter or is looking for a career change later in life, the alumni make up a
strong support network. Graduates often look to each other for career guidance, resources,
and connections, even if they graduated generations apart.
Alums permeate every field worldwide, from politics and the film industry to medical
research and education, yet they all share the moral, ethical, and spiritual framework of the
Notre Dame family.
- Regis Philbin, ’53, Television
- Mark Shields, ’59, Political Analyst
for CNN and PBS
- Bruce Babbitt, ’60, Former Secretary
of the Interior
- Eric Wieschaus, ’69,
Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist
- Condoleezza Rice, ’75, Master’s,
Secretary of State
- Judge Ann Williams, ’75, U.S.
Appeals Court Judge for the
- James Weatherbee, ’74, Astronaut
- Hannah Storm, ’83, ESPN
The majority of classes have fifteen to twenty-five students. With classes
that size and a student-teacher ratio of twelve to one, students and teachers develop
close relationships, a crucial element of the educational experience.
Teachers often invite students to their homes for dinner to hold class discussions or simply
socialize. Professors at the university guide
their students, but allow them the necessary freedom to discover their interests and strengths.