A Day in the Life at University of Notre Dame

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Kate is a Los Angeles tutor and 2011 graduate of University of Notre Dame. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Vocal Performance and tutors several subjects such as Essay Editing tutoring, GRE prep tutoring, and Reading tutoring. Check out what Kate had to say about her time at University of Notre Dame:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Kate: The University of Notre Dame has a very beautiful and idyllic college campus, with a great combination of old, ivy-covered Gothic buildings, and newer structures with fantastic amenities. There are very few roads that run right through the campus, so it is pedestrian- and bike-friendly. Campus is moderate in size. A bike is the most anyone would need to get from class to class, and that is only if the buildings are at opposite ends of the campus. Most students walk, although students who live off-campus may drive or bike.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Kate: For a highly-respected research university, the faculty have been incredibly accessible in my experience. In my Vocal Performance and English majors, I got to know the professors very well, and they were instrumental to my success. My friends who studied in the Colleges of Science, Engineering, and Business often had larger lecture classes, but professors and teaching assistants still went out of their way to answer questions and assist students. First year advisers can be helpful, but take the things that some of them say with a grain of salt. Reach out to your professors with questions on career advice and choosing a major – since they work in the field, they can give you the best answers.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Kate: Dorm life is a huge factor at the University of Notre Dame, as well as a rather controversial topic. Some people love the current, traditional system, and others think it causes a lot of campus issues. Since the University of Notre Dame does not have any Greek life, dorms fill the void and become a source of identity for their students. This can be great if you click with the fellow freshmen who are assigned to your dorm, but if you do not, it can make your social life a little more difficult, since a lot of socialization is dorm-centric. All the dorms are single-sex, and some students feel that this leads to awkward gender relations. Campus can be a bit of a bubble, so socializing as underclassmen is often confined to dorm rooms and campus social spaces. If you are the type of person who thrives in an urban environment and who wants to constantly go places, this can be difficult, but you can make it happen. It also becomes a lot easier when you turn 21! The University of Notre Dame does have a huge variety of great student activities, so it is easy to get involved with just about anything you are interested in.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Kate: All the majors seem very well supported, but I do think the College of Arts and Letters, in which I studied English and Vocal Performance, needs to do a better job of focusing these two majors. Too often, I ended up signing up for English electives rather aimlessly, and I did not have a lot of opportunities to figure out what would be best given my career goals. I have heard this sentiment echoed from other College of Arts and Letters majors as well. All the colleges produce very successful people, but the other four develop much more of a career focus in their students. I do not see why the College of Arts and Letters cannot strive to do the same (though they do make you into an excellent thinker, reader, and writer).

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Kate: There is no Greek life on campus, but dorm activities fill that socialization role, and people have a lot of dorm pride. It is very easy to meet people, but surprisingly difficult to make friends outside of your dorm group, at least during your first few months. I would recommend making friends in your classes and activities as early as possible.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Kate: The Career Center is an incredibly valuable resource – I just wish professors and advisers began encouraging students to take advantage of it before their senior year. The University of Notre Dame’s College of Business is always very highly ranked, so many companies recruit on campus. These include the “Big Four” of finance, Target, and others. Additionally, a huge amount of graduates do a year or two of service after graduation – in Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Alliance for Catholic Education, and many others. We even have an entirely separate Service Fair after the Career Fair. Notre Dame’s Catholic identity plays a big part in this service ethic, and since I did two years of AmeriCorps after graduating, this path comes highly recommended.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Kate: The University of Notre Dame has so many fantastic study areas for people who prefer different noise levels, amounts of foot traffic, snack options, etc. Rest assured that there are tons of perfect places to study, no matter how you work.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Kate: I grew up in South Bend (where the university is located), and it is experiencing a great renaissance, with a lot of student-friendly restaurants, bars, cafes, and live music venues opening up downtown! There is a theater that gets traveling Broadway national tours, an art museum, a minor league baseball team, some great boutiques and stores, a few new breweries, and a lot more. Downtown is not really accessible from campus without a bike, car, or using public transportation, but the areas between campus and downtown have been improving recently. Students have a stereotype of staying on campus, but that has been gradually changing. I would encourage anyone who goes to the University of Notre Dame to break out of the campus bubble and patronize local businesses as much as possible! Students ride free on South Bend’s public bus system with a valid ID. For older students, South Bend has some pretty good college nightlife, with a good variety of dive bars, nice bars, and a club or two. There is also a nearby town called Mishawaka that has a mall and all the typical retail stores and chain restaurants that you would expect. Finally, there is a new area right by campus called Eddy Street Commons that has a good mix of stores, apartments, and restaurants – and it is easily walkable.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Kate: The undergraduate student body numbers about 8,000. I had no issues with class size (although I was spoiled in the College of Arts and Letters).

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Kate: I enjoyed my “townie” status, having grown up in South Bend. My childhood neighbor down the street ended up being my favorite English professor and my honors thesis adviser. I also had the chance to sing a full opera role (the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro) as a senior, which is very unusual for an undergraduate Vocal Performance major. The University of Notre Dame’s small but talented music department gave me a lot of memorable performance opportunities.

Check out Kate’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.