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Experience Notre Dame outside the classroom

Kara King | Friday, August 21, 2009

In the second class of my freshman year, my professor informed me that someone was paying approximately $100 per class for me to be there. I think he used this piece of information to try and guilt trip the impressionable freshmen into attending every lecture. It didn’t work.

You don’t come to college for the classes (sorry Mom and Dad). Notre Dame will give you a great education but the classes here are pretty much the same as anywhere else you could have gone, contrary to the much-hyped U.S. News’ annual rankings.

You come here for the name, for the prestige, for the experience. You come because it’s Notre Dame and nowhere else can compare.

So while some of what your parents – or your alumni club, or your financial institution – are paying goes to your classroom education, I doubt I’d attribute quite so heavy a weight to the statistic as my physics professor did three years ago. Remember you came here for the experience, so don’t miss out on such a crucial aspect of college life by sitting in your room studying on a Friday night. No test will ever be worth it and no bad grade will hold you back as much as most freshmen seem to think. Your GPA can only get you an interview; it won’t help you once you’re through the door. Go find something other than group projects to BS about. Besides, it’s Notre Dame, and, as long as you’re not a science major, it’s pretty hard to get anything below a B.

Focus on really learning here. Don’t completely neglect your classes – I’m not endorsing scholastic failure, I’m just saying a B isn’t the end of the world – but realize what you learn in them won’t have as much influence on your future as the life experience you gain here. I like to think of classes as a necessary evil, a way to signal to employers that I actually care enough about my future to broaden my horizons, even if everything I learn will be outdated in the next five years (Literally. IFRS will soon replace every accounting standard I’ve studied).

Find out who you are and know what you can accomplish. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for advice; their goal is to help you succeed. Take a class with Carl Ackermann, who understands the importance of real world skills, and even devotes a portion of his class to them. As with every professor here, he’ll go above and beyond what you expect.

There will be times when you hate this place. (Every year, someone finds it humorous to submit a Letter to the Editor listing these instances. If you ever feel so compelled, please refrain.) Maybe you’re already regretting your decision to attend based on the awkward interactions and forced prancing that is Frosh-O. If you haven’t yet found a reason for bitterness, rest assured you will. There will be days when you blame everything from a bad grade to a bad night out on the fact that you chose to attend Notre Dame rather than State U back home. I do it all the time and am always fascinated by how I can loathe and love a place so much.

Notre Dame is exclusive, and that exclusivity gives plenty of people many more valid reasons to harbor resentment. It’s fine to be angry and bitter, but don’t waste too much energy or you won’t find the time to realize all Notre Dame has to offer.

You are lucky to be here. Regardless of how hard you worked in high school or your athletic inclination or who you’re parents are, I guarantee that for each of you here, there are numerous equally-qualified people willing to take your spot in the Notre Dame family. Do not forget that.

I love Notre Dame and (almost) everything about it. It has given me all I could have asked for in preparing me for the next phase in life. You will become someone new here, and not because of your time in the classroom. But, given the hiring rate of Notre Dame grads, I’d say that’s a good thing.

Kara King is a senior accounting and economics major. She would like to apologize to any of her professors who may have been offended by the priorities listed here. She plans on working for Ernst and Young after graduating before pursuing a law degree. Winning the lottery has fallen to a distant third on her list of career goals. She can be contacted at kking5@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.