I requested my Notre Dame admissions file [NOT CLICKBAIT]

Title; it was disappointing (I guess it was clickbait). But we’ll get to that part later.

Your first question may be: How? My thanks to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. Remember that box you checked on the Common App when you submitted your letters of rec? You were waiving your FERPA right to “inspect” those letters — then or later. So, mine were not included with this request.

Additionally, FERPA doesn’t let you see it all. While an Observer alum who previously requested her admissions file was able to review a few vague, cryptic comments from the admissions staff, she also had to view her documents in-person and could only take notes with pen and paper. While it’s unclear if the pandemic (or the fact that I requested my file when we were on break) resulted in mine simply getting emailed, my documents were nonetheless clear of any trace of my reviewer. So if you’re reading this as a prospective student, itching to find out how you can game the system… I’m afraid this column is not for you.

Or is it?

Your second question may be: Why? I had my reasons. For one, I seem to like cringing at myself, and the comedic potential of what I wrote as an entitled, ambitious, 17-year-old “burnt-out gifted kid” was too good. (Sidenote: If you unironically call yourself a “burnt-out gifted kid” in my presence, you will soon become a deceased one.) 

I also thought there was a kind of, I don’t know, poetry, to requesting it now. As I hunker down this week for the start of my last semester in South Bend, I am suddenly faced with a host of other “lasts.” Someday soon, I will take my last final. Someday soon, I will eat my last southwest salad. Someday soon, I will drink my last Guinness at the Backer… as a student. And today, I am writing my last inside column as Managing Editor of The Observer — in truth, my last inside column, ever. 

So let’s do like the Cha-Cha Slide and “reverse, reverse!” to before I even knew that I would (or could) get into Notre Dame.

The biggest file I received is a transcript of my Common Application. Most of it is pretty standard stuff: details about my parents, details about me. I forgot there was a “future plans” section, which I marked with “writer or journalist.” Aw.

The first part I cringe at, though, are my high school activities. For one, the activities in and of themselves are cringe (my top performer was the speech team at an appalling 33 hours per week for 22 weeks per year). But I also cringe because of just how obviously I’m selling myself. LinkedIn-ese has always made me want to crawl out of my skin and straight into the ocean, and my verbs here sound like they’re trying to prove themselves. For example, in describing my high school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, I wrote I was “inducted for academic achievement and extracurricular leadership,” which like, isn’t wrong. But my induction class also included the requisite SoundCloud rapper of my grade, so take the prestige I afforded this activity with a Grammy-sized grain of salt. 

There are also some questions specific to Notre Dame. I was asked about my local parish, which is hilarious, because even though I gladly provided it, I don’t think I’d been to mass since I was pubescent. I was asked if any siblings or relatives attended Notre Dame; at the time, this question confused me, and today I’m still confused, only for a different reason. My intended major was English — also hilarious, since I can count on literally one hand every book I read in its entirety in four years of high school (if for some reason any former English teachers of mine are reading this: it’s not your fault). I was also asked about any activities I’d like to join if I went to Notre Dame, to which I checked “student newspaper.” Aw again. 

But then, there were my essays. Jesus, take the wheel.

My general Common App essay, all things considered, wasn’t that bad. In fact, I used it as the blueprint for a speech I gave at my graduation later that year. But Notre Dame’s supplemental essays were different. 

One of the prompts that year was, “What is one thing you will definitely bring to college with you?” I said… a blanket. Boi, what the hell, boi. Who do you think you are? I then proceeded to sleep all of first semester with no blanket on my bed.

But another prompt simply said, “You have 150 words. Take a risk.” I told Notre Dame, in short, that I didn’t care if I was rejected. “I know just as well I don’t need you,” I wrote. “I’ll be happy wherever I go, because where you go is not who you are.”

Four years later, I’m struck by the candor of my 17-year-old self. In retrospect, I’m not sure I actually believed what I wrote, or if I only wrote it to persuade myself. It is also a well-documented fact that I did not expect to get in, afford or attend Notre Dame, so I guess the stakes of “taking a risk” were lower for me.

But for any prospective student reading this — no, I haven’t forgotten about you — I hope you take those words to heart, even if I didn’t when I wrote them. Like many elite American universities, Notre Dame’s acceptance rate is pretentiously low; early applicants to the class of 2027 faced a 15 percent acceptance rate this December, and the overall acceptance rate for the class of 2026 couldn’t even crack 13 percent. Those are institutional lows, and I know if I were faced with applying again, I would not have gotten in. I probably wouldn’t try.

So take it from someone in your shoes just four years ago — who’s now nearly four years through with their college degree, staring down grad school in the not-so-distant future. I’ve loved my time here, but I would have loved it anywhere. And you, too, can love where you go, and not because of anything you wrote in your “why x” essay or anything a school can promise you in a promotional pamphlet. You’ll love where you go, because you go there. You. 

Where you go is not who you are, but you’ll love where you go because of who you are.

You can contact Aidan at

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


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.


Notre Dame undergraduate admissions to remain test-optional through 2024

The University’s division of undergraduate enrollment announced in a press release Tuesday that it will remain test-optional through the 2024 application cycle. The practice, which allows applicants to choose whether to submit standardized test scores, was first adopted by Notre Dame in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One-third of the students admitted to the class of 2026 did not submit a test score with their application, the release said.

“By remaining test-optional through the 2024 admissions cycle, we will have the opportunity to continue to study the impact of this practice while giving students the ability to choose whether or not they wish to include test information in putting forward their best and strongest application,” vice president for undergraduate enrollment Micki Kidder said in the release.

The policy applies to both the restrictive early action and regular decision application cycles.


University hosts Welcome Weekend

More than 2,000 first-year students will descend upon campus to begin their Notre Dame experience this year. The class of 2026, heralded as the most diverse and selective cohort to date, will move into residence halls and acclimate to the campus community around them through Welcome Weekend.

Welcome Weekend, the University’s annual process of orienting first-years, will involve the typical introduction to hall staff and fellow hallmates, connecting with faculty and staff and accessing academic, spiritual and wellness resources. In the days preceding the class of 2026’s first classes, student leaders and volunteers across campus will come together to embrace the new students.

Andrew Whittington, program director for first-year advising in the Center for University Advising, said the weekend serves as a gateway to many of the unique aspects of the Notre Dame experience. 

“Our team of faculty, staff, and students seeks to share and invite students into the unique characteristics of our Catholic, Holy Cross undergraduate experience,” he wrote in an email. 

Emily Orsini, program director for new student engagement and formation, said allowing new students to feel connected and build community were priorities. 

“The most important part of welcoming the class of 2026 is to make sure every new student feels welcome,” Orsini wrote in an email. “We want to make sure we have diverse programming opportunities that students will be able to engage in. We want to create time and space throughout the weekend where new students can form connections with one another to start to build community.”

This year’s Welcome Weekend will feature reimagined aspects, including a scaled-back vision of the Moreau First-Year Experience class kickoff. Orsini said the University will also emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion in its programming during the weekend.

Staff also looked to add flexibility to the experience, developing periods of opt-in programming.

“That allows students to pick their own adventure and do what they need or want during that time. Students will have options to attend programs that campus partners have organized, hang out in the hall, take a nap, unpack, etc. We know how busy this weekend can be and we hope this time will provide students with what they need whether that be rest or participating in an activity,” Orsini said. 

Whittington emphasized that Welcome Weekend is only the beginning of a much longer experience and no student is able to garner a complete sense of belonging in just a few days.

“But, Welcome Weekend’s combination of residential, curricular, and co-curricular engagement serves as an invitation, hopefully, an inspiring and dynamic invitation,” he wrote. “As far as my role goes, I’m in the business of communicating those first truths that each new student belongs here, can grow here, and can do good here.”

Orsini concurred that though the weekend is simply an introduction, it holds a lot of potential. 

“I think it’s a time for students to start to familiarize themselves with the Notre Dame community as well as the resources and academic opportunities that are offered here,” she noted. “We hope Welcome Weekend is a time where students get excited about their time here from both the academic and social engagement perspectives.”

As Welcome Weekend committees arrived in dorms across campus preparing to help move in the class of 2026, Whittington wrote that the weekend provided an opportunity to embrace the incoming class. 

“These new students, your new classmates, had the choice of joining any number of impressive university communities. They chose us. We’re just so darn grateful for that decision and are honored to celebrate them, learn more about them, and invite them to take their place alongside us as members of the Notre Dame family,” he stated. 

A version of this story was published in our Aug. 19 print issue.

Isa Sheikh

Contact Isa at


Notre Dame sees increase in selectivity for class of 2026

About 2,053 first-years will arrive on campus this weekend and begin their time at Notre Dame. The class of 2026 followed recent trends, with applications, selectivity and racial diversity all increasing.

The incoming first-years were the first class to be able to have in-person tours and information classes since the pandemic. Director of undergraduate admissions Christy Pratt said this change led to an “explosion of interest” in information sessions and tours, which coincided with another record number of applications.

With 26,508 students applying in 2022 — almost 3,000 more than in 2021 — the acceptance rate continued to fall and the yield rate stayed high. According to new vice president for undergraduate admission Micki Kidder, 3,412 were admitted for an acceptance rate of 12.9% and about 2,050 enrolled for a yield rate of around 60%.

“The students and families were definitely hungry to come back to Notre Dame and to be able to talk to our staff,” Pratt said.

Citing a recent report that 1.3 million students have disappeared from American colleges and universities since the start of the pandemic, Kidder said it is impressive that Notre Dame continues to see increases in applications.

Notre Dame is in its third year of test-optional applications. Kidder said 50% of applicants provided test scores. Sixty-seven percent of admitted students in the class of 2026 had a test score reviewed, according to admissions data obtained by The Observer.

Fifty states and 95 countries are represented in the class of 2026, according to the admissions website. The University also reported 159 members of the incoming class are international students, the highest number ever. 

While domestic students were able to come to campus for information sessions, travel restrictions hindered international students’ ability to come to campus and forced most of their recruitment to take place virtually.

“So I think that that speaks so much to this shared mission in service to something greater than ourselves that young leaders from all across the country and beyond are matriculating here for an excellent undergraduate education,” Kidder said.

The University will see an influx of 192 transfer students, with 95 of those coming from the Gateway program, in which students spend their first year at Holy Cross. Kidder said 95 is a much higher number than usual for the Gateway program.

Kidder said 50% of the freshmen class has received some form of need-based aid. Additionally, 19% of the class are either first-generation college students or on a Pell grant and 19% of freshmen are legacy students, meaning one of their parents attended the University.

Forty percent of the class of 2026 are U.S. students of color or international students, according to Kidder, marking consecutive years of increased ethnic diversity

“[We’re] just really, really excited to welcome in a very inclusive way, the most diverse class that we’ve seen here at Notre Dame,” Kidder said.

As the incoming freshmen acclimate to campus, Pratt said it is important to note that these are students who did not have a typical high school experience.

“These are also students that are similar to all of our other students in that they are going to engage in our communities and be excited to be here and be that force for good,” Pratt said.

Kidder added that she expects the first-year class to engage in the community in a lively manner.

“While they come in as this extraordinarily inclusive class, they’re contributing to the mission-centric conversation in a very lively, rigorous, empathetic, courageous manner, and we could not be more excited to see what they do in conjunction with the entire student body, so we’re thrilled to welcome them this week,” she said.

A version of this story was published in our Aug. 19 issue.

Ryan Peters

Contact Ryan at