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Popping the question

| Tuesday, April 8, 2014

“So, why did you pick Notre Dame?”

It’s a question we’ve all been faced with at one point or another. Whether it was in our senior year of high school or just recently with the flood of prospective first-year students arriving on campus. Formulating an answer to this question is an inevitable aspect of being a student here. This past week involved my being asked ⎯ and asking myself ⎯ this very question on more than one occasion.

And, even after nearly two years on campus, I don’t know if I’ve arrived at the “right” answer.

Through working for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, I’ve been forced to think of this question more frequently. Sure, making a list of the characteristics that drew me to this school is an easy enough task: the intersection of quality academics and spirituality, the University’s commitment to service projects on the local, national and international levels, the (literally) incredible acceptance rates to medical school, the fifth-year-in-a-row, number-one undergraduate business program in the country, the world-class liberal arts education in the College of Arts and Letters, the tight-knit residence hall life, the rich history of the University and its influence. During a tour, an open house or a phone call, though, it’s important to keep things clear and concise, meaning that I had to try to find a common thread between all these seemingly unconnected attributes of the Notre Dame experience for both parents and prospective students. After all, if someone asks me about the “one thing” about Notre Dame that I love the most, giving them a list of things that they could easily glean from a visit to “www.nd.edu” isn’t particularly helpful. It took a great deal of thinking and sitting at my computer staring at this list of things I love about ND to arrive at a single “a-ha” conclusion. Then, like the proverbial light bulb, it hit me. The answer to the question “What makes Notre Dame, Notre Dame?”
The answer is you.

Yes, you, the student reading the newspaper at the dining hall, in between classes or online.

The more I thought about the above laundry list, the more I came to the realization that it is the students at Notre Dame who make this university so special. It’s students who go on ISSLP and SSLP trips to learn and serve. It’s students who get into medical or graduate school or enter the workforce with a sense of drive and purpose. It’s the students who participate in unique research projects that enhance an existing body of knowledge in the arts, sciences or related fields. It’s students who take their faith and apply it with passion and purpose to their daily lives. And, perhaps most importantly from the perspective of continuing the Notre Dame vision, it’s the students who will years from now remember ND and how it got them to where they are now.

Now, this isn’t to say that the professors, administrators and staff at ND have an insignificant role ⎯ this couldn’t be further from the truth, seeing as how they are the ones who mentor us, run innovative research labs and make possible the quality education and student life that prepares us for our various roles beyond our time at ND. The role of the student body to keep the Notre Dame fire burning even after we graduate, however, is often times overlooked while we are in the hustle and bustle of being undergraduates.

I am continually blown away by the dedication, passion and sense of purpose demonstrated by students here. Now, this wasn’t something that was immediately obvious when I was a prospective student here because, let’s face it, a campus visit or tour can only reveal so much. However, the general awesomeness of the student body has become abundantly clear after I’ve been able to interact and learn with fellow students here for the past year and a half. Being able to grow and learn with these remarkable individuals has been an absolute blessing, serving as a source of both inspiration and motivation to be the best person I can be spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. I mention this on every tour to explain why I feel Notre Dame truly is a big family ⎯ a group of people from all over the country and world, from different faiths and backgrounds, united under the slogan: “We are ND.”

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

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