Journey to Notre Dame

My journey to Notre Dame was not that of the average Notre Dame student.

During my senior year of high school when applying to colleges, I knew wholeheartedly that I wanted to be at a college that had a warm and welcoming, yet academically rigorous environment, much like the college prep, Jesuit high school I was attending in Chicago. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Notre Dame checked all of those boxes and then some.

When it came time to submit college applications, Notre Dame was at the top of my list. Like many other students, I spent countless hours trying to perfect my essays. When it came time to write the “Why Notre Dame?” essay, I vividly remember wondering whether or not I’d be able to say everything I wanted to say without exceeding the word limit. There were so many reasons why Notre Dame was the perfect school for me and why I wanted to cheer on the Irish as part of the Class of 2025. 

When I felt my application said everything I could possibly articulate about my love for Notre Dame, I clicked submit and was filled with hope (and nervousness) for the future. I began praying that my dream would come true, and that I would find myself home under the dome that fall. 

A few months later during the spring of my senior year, my parents were getting ready to go watch my brother play hockey when I got the email. Every Notre Dame student knows the email I’m talking about. It was the email that stated that application decisions would be released that evening. 

My mom decided to stay home with me because she knew I would anxiously be awaiting the decision. I could barely focus that evening, as Notre Dame was all I could think about. Every minute that passed felt like an hour, and every hour that passed felt like an eternity, as I anxiously paced the floors of my living room.

When it was finally time to open the decision letter, I remember my heart pounding and my hands feeling numb. No other college decision evoked this much emotion from me. This was the moment I had been waiting for for such a long time. It felt like all four years of high school — the sleepless nights spent studying, the stress of AP classes and the hours spent participating in extracurricular activities — had all been leading up to this moment. Within one click, I knew I would find out my fate for the next chapter of my life. And unfortunately, within one click, I received the news I had not been hoping for. The news that said, “we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you admission to Notre Dame.” I was instantly crushed and experienced the heartache that I know many others can relate to. 

I knew life was moving quickly and that I had to make a decision. A few months later, I decided to accept admission into the honors program at the University of Michigan. As much as I tried to envision myself there, my heart kept leading me back to South Bend. 

A few days later, it was as though God had heard my prayers. A mentor had told me about the wonderful community at Holy Cross College. God was laying out His plan for me; I just had to decide whether or not to follow it. 

Even though it was not in the way I had expected, I still found myself in South Bend that fall. From the first day I stepped foot on Holy Cross’s campus, I immersed myself in my classes and the tri-campus community. Although I wasn’t in the Gateway program, I was not giving up on my dream of attending Notre Dame just yet. 

At the beginning of the school year, I received an email that Notre Dame would be playing the movie, Rudy, on their football field — an experience that was sure to be unforgettable. As much as I wanted to go, I couldn’t bring myself to watch something that hit so close to home. Although our stories are a little different, I related to the longing desire of making your dream a reality. 

During second semester, I submitted my transfer application, filled with the same hope and nervousness that had consumed me months earlier, maybe even more so because I was able to experience the magic of Notre Dame’s community firsthand. 

Flash forward to today, and I am grateful to be writing this in my dorm room at Notre Dame. I am also grateful to my high school (Saint Ignatius), Holy Cross, my parents for believing in me and the many mentors that stood in my corner along the way. 

We all have our own journeys in life to follow. If there’s one thing this experience has taught me, it’s that sometimes we have to be open to following a slightly different path in order to reach our final destination.

Isabelle Kause is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying sociology and minoring in journalism. When she’s not busy, you can find her listening to country music or Taylor Swift or trying out new makeup/skincare products. She can be reached at
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


Grant to help provide pre-college programming for underserved high school students

The Notre Dame office of pre-college programming has received a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc, a private charitable organization based in Indianapolis. The funding provided by this grant will go towards providing pre-college programming for teens from underserved high schools in Indiana. 

The Lilly Endowment has offered other grants in the tri-campus community, including one to promote mental health in Notre Dame residence halls called the ‘People With Hope to Bring Initiative.’

To be eligible for the grant, Paul Mueller explained that high schoolers must come from an underserved high school in Indiana.

Mueller, who is the director of the office of pre-college programming, said his department determines which schools are considered underserved using a variety of factors. 

 “We use professional judgment from our admissions counselors that visit these high schools to flag schools that they thought might fit an underserved criteria. In other cases, we use federal rules to determine whether a school was underserved or under-resourced,” he said.

The grant will be used to reach out to high school students who otherwise might not have been thinking about college, Mueller said.

“Our traditional ‘Summer Scholars’ student has already been thinking about college. So, this population that Lilly is funding is a little bit of an outreach population to get their college search activated,” he explained.

Because of the additional funding from the endowment, Mueller said the pre-college office has grown its ‘Summer Scholars’ program to accommodate more students.

 “We’re growing summer programs, probably by about 25 percent next year and another 25 percent the subsequent years as a result of this,” Mueller said.

The ‘Summer Scholars’ program brings students onto Notre Dame’s campus where they take a course taught by Notre Dame faculty. Last year, there were 450 students in one session of the program, however, Mueller said that by next year it is expanding to two sessions with the total number of students between 555 and 575.

One of the main changes brought on by the grant is that the program will now include a college fair as a way of connecting students to other Indiana schools, Mueller said.

“The biggest difference for the students will be that we’re adding a college fair, where we’re asking our other Indiana colleges to come up and talk about what they have to offer. It’s a recognition that especially from the Lilly-funded students, not all of them will be able to get into Notre Dame, so let’s give them the opportunity to explore what other options they might have in the state,” he said.

Muller explained that the goal is to help underserved high school students put themselves in college students’ shoes and begin to think about the possibility of attending college. 

“The biggest benefit is to get them onto campus and get them projecting themselves at a four-year college, thinking about ‘this is possible. I can do this,’” he said.

Notre Dame students can get involved with pre-college programming as resident counselors, Mueller said. The students are hired as staff in the dorms. 

“[The summer staff] provide leadership. They show students the ropes, they get them to the dining halls on time and into their classes on time. So, it’s a terrific summer employment opportunity for people that are really interested in working with high school students,” Mueller said.

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