Should I Go To University of Notre Dame?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Ashley graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Science & Theology. She currently tutors many subjects in Boston specializing in Biology tutoring, ACT prep tutoringSAT prep tutoring, Essay Editing tutoring, and more. Take a look at her review of the 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?

Ashley: The University of Notre Dame is located in South Bend, Indiana, only a few miles south of Michigan and less than two hours east of Chicago. The campus is gorgeous. It is essentially self-contained, with sweeping lawns, beautiful gardens, patches of woodland, and two lakes (with lovely trails for jogging!). I quickly felt right at home on the University of Notre Dame’s campus, and it is quite safe—besides being set apart from the surrounding neighborhoods, the campus has ample lighting and many emergency call stations. Almost all undergraduates live right on campus, and you can walk nearly anywhere in about 15 minutes. Some students ride their bikes to class, and to get off-campus, most students drive, bike, or take a shuttle bus. 

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

Ashley: Very rarely did I have difficulty getting in contact with professors or advisers at the University of Notre Dame. Particularly for first-year or especially challenging courses, the professors and teaching assistants know that students will need help, and they often hold frequent office hours or tutorial sessions. Academic support in the form of tutoring and advising is also available, with a special focus on first-year students.

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

Ashley: The University of Notre Dame is well known for its unique dorm life. Almost all undergraduates choose to live on-campus for all four years. The University of Notre Dame’s dorm life is special because there are no sororities or fraternities. Instead, each single-sex dorm has a distinctive character and community of its own. Each dorm has its own chapel and Mass schedule, as well as a hall council that plans events (liturgical, social, service, etc.) to support dorm life. Students are fiercely loyal to their dorms—they celebrate their dorm mascot (we were the Howard Hall Ducks), play against other dorms’ teams in inter-hall sporting events (the inter-hall football championship is played in Notre Dame Stadium), and compete for the celebrated title of Hall of the Year. Your dorm is truly your family while at the University of Notre Dame! 

There are two main dining halls on campus, and both are fantastic (I highly recommend North Dining Hall’s pasta stir-fry and South Dining Hall’s make-your-own-pizza). In addition, there are a variety of cafes and smaller dining options scattered throughout the academic buildings and LaFortune Student Center. Most students have a meal plan, which gives them access to three all-you-can-eat meals in the dining hall each day, in addition to Flex Points that can be spent at eateries around campus. 

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? 

Ashley: The University of Notre Dame has a wide variety of majors in the College of Science, College of Arts and Letters, College of Engineering, and Mendoza College of Business. All students begin in the First Year of Studies program, where they take foundational courses that set the stage for their specialization when they declare a major for sophomore year. Most students have at least one minor in addition to their major, and many students double-major. For example, I was a Biological Science major (College of Science) with a second major in Theology (College of Arts and Letters). I loved having the opportunity to learn more about my faith by taking theology classes alongside the science classes in my Biological Science major. Even better, I had many opportunities to take elective courses—such as Greek, geology, and literature—outside of my main focus areas. 

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? 

Ashley: The University of Notre Dame is most often described as a family, and this strong sense of community begins with an acceptance letter that says, “Welcome home.” First-year students are immediately welcomed into their dorm communities, and they can participate in a variety of dorm and inter-hall events specifically designed for freshmen. In addition, the University Notre Dame hosts an event during which all of the campus clubs and organizations are present so students can browse their (nearly infinite!) options and find activities that suit their interests. First-year students also quickly get to experience the great tradition of campus football, and autumn Saturdays are a near-sacred time as everyone cheers on the Fighting Irish.

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

Ashley: The Career Center is a useful resource, which I especially used when I needed help developing a resume for the first time. Juniors and seniors often attend the several career fairs offered throughout the year, and the University of Notre Dame also hosts a service fair for students who would like to commit themselves to a service or religious organization for a few years after graduation. 

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

Ashley: The University of Notre Dame’s main library is 13 stories high and filled with desks and comfortable chairs for studying. In addition, there are several smaller libraries around campus. Many academic buildings (e.g., the Jordan Hall of Science) have designated study spaces that can be either quiet or social, depending on the atmosphere encouraged by that department. Dorms usually have at least one study lounge on each floor, but these can be louder and more crowded than the library, especially when students are hesitant to walk too far in the winter. I always enjoyed trying out new study spaces, as well as finding interesting, out-of-the-way locations in which to read or write a paper.

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?

Ashley: The University of Notre Dame is bordered by suburban neighborhoods, a larger commercial road, campus apartments, and recently-developed commercial streets geared toward students (think Chipotle, campus bookstore, ice cream, trendy restaurants, etc.). Honestly, there is so much to do that most students spend the majority of their free time on campus! The neighboring city of Mishawaka has a ton of stores and restaurants. For students willing to travel, the city of Chicago is easily accessed by bus or train, and the Lake Michigan shore is not too far away, either. 

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

Ashley: There are about 8,000 undergraduates, which was a perfect size for me—neither overwhelmingly large, nor so small that it felt constraining. As a Biological Science major, I often had larger lecture-style classes in my first two years, but class sizes decreased for more specialized upper-level courses. My Theology courses in the College of Arts and Letters were generally smaller and included many seminar-style (less than 20 students) classes. I felt that these class sizes, though diverse, were very appropriate given the nature of the courses. 

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

Ashley: My most memorable courses at the University of Notre Dame were my Beginning Greek I and II classes, which I took just “for fun” (as a science major in a classics course, I was definitely an anomaly!). Learning an ancient language required a skill set and study strategies that were very different from my typical homework assignments (memorizing biological processes, writing lab reports, or writing theology essays). Greek was by far my hardest and most demanding course that year—and yet it was one of the most fun! My professor did an outstanding job of making his lessons engaging and yet incredibly demanding. His high expectations gave us all the motivation to prepare meticulously for each class. Even though Greek was an elective for me, I also treasured the fact that my study of Greek simultaneously informed the other classes I was taking—geology, physiology, and theology are all disciplines with a Greek-based technical vocabulary.

Check out Ashley’s tutoring profile.

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