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Four years and one lifetime ago

| Wednesday, April 22, 2015

With only two weeks left until graduation, my procrastination level has hit an all-time high. I’ve cooked, cleaned, called my parents and high school friends and even started this column before the day it was due. Big stuff. I stumbled across a gem the other day though, and I haven’t been able to shake it from my mind since. I read my college admissions essays.

Almost five years ago, 17-year-old me decided to apply to college, and specifically to Notre Dame. I had dreams and goals and a vision of myself. After four years under the Dome, some of those aspirations have even come to fruition. Everyone changes, but rarely do we get the opportunity to observe ourselves change. All I’ve been able to think about these last few days is how I would have filled out those questions if I would have known what my time here would be like.

If you could teach a course, what would it be? Although “Politics and Religion” was a pretty good answer, it turns out Notre Dame has like seven of those classes, so back to square one. I’ve had some incredible classes here, taught by professors I couldn’t possibly replace. I also haven’t thought of an academic topic that someone here isn’t already an expert in, so my class would have to be more… practical. “Relaxation in the Face of Unrealistic Expectations” would be a mandatory course for all Notre Dame freshmen. Required activities would include: watching three-minute videos your friends want you to see, learning how to nap, and (more importantly) learning how to wake up on time to alarms. Weekly affirmation exercises will involve reminding students that the job/school/career they’re vying for is well within reach. This affirmation will be the most important part of the class, and certainly the most difficult for Notre Dame’s occasionally stressed student body.

What’s my Grotto? Although this was a painfully difficult question for me to answer five years ago (I said the driver’s seat of my car – super uninspiring, Tim), now it’s way easier. “My Grotto” is The Grotto, obviously. I lived in Morrissey for three years and the walk to the Grotto was four minutes long. Before exams, elections, dates and games, the Grotto was the perfect place for me to seek peace with a dozen or so strangers searching for the same. Four days ago, I proposed to my girlfriend there. As the question prompt suggested, the Grotto is my “cherished destination on Notre Dame’s campus … to pray and take time for reflection.”

Why Notre Dame? Almost five years ago I wrote about why I wanted to be here. I talked about the Holy Cross mission and educating the whole person. I mentioned the time I spent on campus during a high school program, and the overwhelming feeling of “home” I got even before I was a student. All of which still apply today. But if I were to answer the question now, I wouldn’t write about why I wanted to be here, I would write about why I needed to be here. Notre Dame is where I made friends with guys from Ohio, Nebraska, Minnesota and New Jersey, fell in love with a girl from Illinois and lived in Washington, D.C. I’ve learned about business, politics and a tiny bit about calculus. I have cried, smiled and laughed (and laughed and laughed) at all hours of the night. Notre Dame helped me become the student, leader, friend and Catholic I have always wanted to be. I ended that admissions question by saying, “Most colleges open doors for the mind. Only Notre Dame does so for the heart as well.” After four years, I can confidently say Notre Dame has done that and so much more for me.

Reading those essays brought back great memories, and reminded me that high school Tim knew what he was talking about sometimes. I know I’ve changed these last four years. So have most people. New friends, new experiences and new perspectives are what college is about. If there is any advice I feel comfortable giving from my graduating-senior soapbox, it is to embrace the changes — but with one caveat. Change in ways that would make that optimistic high school senior proud. I can only pray that my former self would approve of my new answers and who I have become. I hope you are changing in ways that your high school self would applaud. I love this school, and I am overjoyed at the fact that I was able to shape myself as a student here. I have found friendship, family and love that I couldn’t have dreamed of when I wrote those essays.

Thank you to 17-year-old me for getting in to this incredible university, and thank you to Notre Dame for the best four years of my life.

About Tim Scanlan

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