Reilly weekend shows students academics, dorm life, service
Carolyn Hutyra | Monday, April 7, 2014
This weekend, students from across the country traveled to Notre Dame to participate in the Reilly Visitation Program from April 5-8 to learn more about the University and experience student life firsthand.
Associate director of admissions Gabe Brown said participants in the Reilly program include the top one percent of students in the University’s applicant pool.
“These are students with lots of college options so they’re being admitted to some of the best colleges and universities in the country,” Brown said. “We’re trying to show them some of the best Notre Dame has to offer over the course of about three days in hopes of having them enroll next fall.”
The Reilly program was originally created through the transformation of a scholarship fund that paid partial tuition for one student, Brown said.
“We thought it might … affect more top academic students by using that money for a visit weekend,” he said. “The donor agreed, and we were able to use that funding to be able to provide a visit weekend for some of our top admitted students.”
Reilly is an all-expense-paid program. Brown said this weekend is the second of two weekend experiences Notre Dame offers each year in the spring semester.
Those who attend not only have great academic records, but also are dynamic through their involvement in extracurricular activities, he said. Reilly Weekend gives students the opportunity to see if Notre Dame truly is the right fit for them.
“I think it’s important to ask them what types of things they’re looking for in a school, what factors are important to them,” Brown said.
He said the program allows students to see the academic challenge the University offers along with the spiritual aspect and “community atmosphere that’s unlike just about any other place in the country.”
“I think the reason so many people are passionate about Notre Dame is the people, and the people really make the place,” Brown said.
He said it’s important to let the participants know that the faculty and staff are there to support them throughout their time at Notre Dame with everything from undergraduate research to study abroad to starting various clubs and organizations.
“You’re always just surrounded by this great community and great people while you’re here,” he said.
According to the Reilly website, students participate in welcome dinners, presentations, various activities, student panels, classes and multiple tours as part of the Reilly experience.
“I hope that they see an accurate portrayal of what life at Notre Dame is like,” Brown said. “I hope they see all the things that we can offer, not only in that dimension of great, high powered academics, but that there’s a commitment to service.”
Senior Antoinette Pusateri, former Reilly participant and current member of the Reilly student committee, said one of the big program events that demonstrates this commitment to service occurs on Sunday and includes a tour of the Center for the Homeless.
“We tour the Center for the Homeless, and we get to speak to some of the staff and residents there,” she said. “We want to portray how big and integral the part of service is in giving back to the community for Notre Dame.
“We were excited for it, and it’s been well received. To students, the idea of giving back for the gift we’ve been given resonates with them.”
Another event Pusateri said students tend to enjoy is the closing press box dinner.
“It’s the big conclusion to the weekend. On Monday night, we have dinner in the press box and have a professor address everyone [with a] ‘nowhere else but Notre Dame’ kind of speech,” she said. “The sun is setting over the golden dome and the students’ names are on the scoreboard.”
Pusateri, who has worked on the committee since her freshman year, said this weekend marks her ninth Reilly experience, including the one she attended as a high school senior.
“I’ve kind of been spearheading it this year and last year, and it’s just really incredible every year just how talented but how humble these students are,” she said. “It’s a great spirit that the group has.”
The admissions counselors and student committee panel work together closely to plan this amazing program, she said.
“Together with the Reilly alumni, we basically just help facilitate this weekend,” Pusateri said. “We could not do this without the Reilly alumni who help because they’re kind enough to open their rooms and their hearts to the Reilly [prospective students] for the whole weekend.”
Past Reilly students host the high school seniors, answer their questions and make them feel at home, which she said is the number one task.
“The Reilly alums come out of the woodwork to help and really make these students’ Reilly as fantastic as ours was,” she said.
Although she wanted to go to Notre Dame since she was eight years old, Pusateri said Reilly gave her the opportunity to see herself as a student holistically for the first time at the University.
“[With] Reilly, just from the dorm community to the faith life here on campus to eating in the dining hall to going to class in Jordan Hall to going to a basketball game, I got to get the full spectrum.”
After this, she said she didn’t see any other college option besides Notre Dame.
“When I left [Reilly weekend], I didn’t want to leave. I would have been perfectly content with staying, not going back to high school. That’s how much I loved it,” she said. “Absolutely, Reilly was a huge thing. You feel a part of something much bigger than yourself.”
The greatest piece of advice Pusateri said she could give to Reilly students this weekend is to listen to their hearts in making their college decision.
“This is one of the toughest decisions, picking a college,” she said. “I think, going through four years of college and looking back, how much you learn outside the classroom, let alone in the classroom, about yourself and the people around you, I think it is a very big decision.
“I think each individual has to look at their own situation, you know what they’re looking for, the person they want to be in four years and how will this university help them in achieving that personal development, academically, spiritually, emotionally. The people that you meet and the experiences that you have will last a lifetime.”
Pusateri also said students should be open-minded and learn everything they can about each university they apply to.
“These students are among the top in the nation and they have the most incredible opportunities to various different elite places so I just recommend that they … think about what they truly want out of an education and how this four-year decision will impact the next 40 years,” she said. “Hopefully they decide that Notre Dame is the place for them.”