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All you need to know

Observer Viewpoint | Saturday, August 21, 2004

Working in the so-called “real world” in my hometown of Canton, Ohio as a reporter for the Repository newspaper taught me a very important lesson this summer – stay in college. Stay in college as long as possible, even if Notre Dame graduate school is $45,000.

Anyone who’s ever worked 40 hours a week (i.e. your parents) understands this. Just ask them. Sure, they may like their jobs (I loved my internship), but there’s just something to be said about staying up with friends until 4 a.m., sleeping through that worthless calculus class or breaking parietals for the first time.

College is just something that can’t be duplicated – that’s why it really is the best four years you’ll probably ever have.

Think about it. What’s your job at college? Go to class, don’t flunk out and learn as much as you can from being in the classroom and, just as importantly, out of it. Geez, tough job.

Keep that in mind when you’re deciding between going out on a Tuesday night or studying for some midterm. It’s all about perspective. Grades are important, and Notre Dame is a place where you’ll have to earn your As and Bs. But it’s just as important to experience college here for much more than the textbooks and lectures. Notre Dame has countless opportunities.

As a freshman I worried about grades a lot. But as I got older, I realized that there’s too much at Notre Dame to dwell on whether I get a 3.1 or a 3.3 grade point average. Plus, ask any college graduate with a job, they’ll tell you grades don’t matter that much. Just get a degree and have a 2.5 or higher. (Suddenly, at the same time, all freshman parents cringe and hate me for saying that. Sorry, but, it’s true.)

You won’t know anyone or anything when you get to campus. That’s OK. Remember, no one else does either. Be yourself, be friendly, and soon enough you’ll start meeting people and making friends.

Make sure you give this place a chance. If things don’t seem too great at first, don’t panic, it should get better. Some people take longer to adjust to college life than others.

Love your dorm – even if it is Keenan. Always go to dances too, especially if you’re asked. As a freshman in Zahm House, the RA’s gave us this advice and it’s definitely something to remember. Who cares if your date isn’t that cute? Her friend might be. Plus dances are just fun, whomever you go with.

Go to the grotto as much as you can. Religious beliefs aside, it’s too beautiful not to see every day.

Get involved with something you love. I love college basketball and writing. So some friends and I started a basketball fan club here my freshman year. I also began working for The Observer, which has opened up a lot of doors. Students even started a Texas club and a club for girls named Katie for goodness sake. The possibilities are endless.

There are two things to never, ever do during your four years here. Don’t walk on the grass on God Quad (the area in front of the Dome). I don’t care that it’s a football weekend and everyone else is doing it, just stay on the sidewalk.

And please, for George Gipp’s sake, don’t walk up or down the staircase of the Main Building before you graduate. Ever. I mean it. Tradition says students should only do that once they’ve completed their degree at Our Lady’s University. If you have already, may God have mercy on you.

Finally, live every day keeping in mind that you’re probably the luckiest person in the world to be here. Enjoy the time. There are thousands of kids that would give up so much just to have the opportunity you do. Not to get too sappy or corny, but it’s true. Notre Dame isn’t Harvard or Purdue. It’s different from any other school in the country. Some aspects of the school may seem ridiculous and stupid – parietals, the drinking policy or the entire Frosh-O weekend – but don’t let that stuff overshadow all the good things about Notre Dame. This is a place people respect because of its academic and athletic reputations. Some of you might have already seen the effect the words “Notre Dame” have with other people. Almost every time I tell someone where I go to school, they seem impressed.

There’s some advice from a senior who wishes he was a freshman again. Take it for what its worth. Just learn as much as you can from the Notre Dame experience.

And get something out of the classes, too.

Joe Hettler is a senior marketing major and journalism minor. He’s scared to death of graduating in the spring, getting a real job and not living off his parents dollar. He claims to know more about Notre Dame football than anyone on campus and he’ll probably glue himself to the benches inside Notre Dame Stadium after the last home game so he doesn’t have to leave. Contact Joe Hettler at [email protected]

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