We all remember applying to college. Obviously, or we wouldn’t be in college. Receiving acceptance or rejection letters in the mail was the bane of our sanity. This held particularly true if we had a sole school in mind. For me, the University of Notre Dame had been on my mind since I understood what college was. In middle school, I would tell my parents on a daily basis, “You’ll see me with the Fighting Irish! I will go to Notre Dame, just like daddy did.” Coming from Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the Wolverines, this dream was uncommon and not well understood amongst my peers. That type of environment did not support my dream very strongly, and I let it fade as high school began.
In retrospect, as hindsight is 20/20, I cannot believe that I let Our Lady’s university slip from my mind. It was not until my junior year, when writing college essays had begun, that I remembered where I wanted to end up. Unfortunately, I had allowed for myself to get sidetracked. Whenever my mom saw my performance at less than its potential, she would question my plan. Young and naïve, I’d reply that I would get where I wanted to with my charming personality. While networking is indeed important in this world, and is a tool utilized very well amidst the Notre Dame community, effort and hard work are equally as important. I undoubtedly disregarded this fact, like a fool.
I applied. Come March of my senior year, I got rejected. Although it was hardly surprising, the failure certainly stung. My dad said to me the same quote he has presented in many of my troubles: Don’t let it bring you down; it’s only castles burning. Still, I was so mad at Notre Dame. Why was I not good enough? I am bright and I am personable. I have a lot to contribute. Just because my standardized performance was not up to par, I knew I could contribute above standards.
After receiving a mix-and-match of acceptances and rejections to schools, I ended up attending Michigan State University for my freshman year. A school of nearly 40,000 undergraduates had an interesting paradox: There were endless numbers of people around me, yet the university lacked any sense of community. To resolve this, I joined the sorority Delta Gamma. As an alumna member, I am eternally grateful for the relationships I made through this sorority. Even so, I still felt overwhelmed in a sea of people. It was being a drop in the ocean that triggered my decision to apply for a transfer. I applied to Notre Dame one last time, and received word in May that I had been accepted for the proceeding fall semester. I remember the phone call vividly. Before I had even hung up the phone with the admissions director, my father and I were jumping up and down together, hugging and running around the house.
Upon my arrival to the University of Notre Dame, I felt more at home in twenty-four hours than I had after one full year at my old school. That is because of the special sense of camaraderie that Notre Dame provides. The transferring class of students all shared a similar story: We wanted to be at Notre Dame. We didn’t get it the first time, but could not give up. We understood that this university provides an incredible bond of people, be it student-student, student-faculty, student-rector, etc. The collaboration of high-caliber intelligent beings allows for the expansion and balance of one’s mind, body, and soul.
While my intentions are in no way to belittle the understanding of this amongst those accepted immediately into the university, I want to use the example of the transfer student body to emphasize how real this bond is. Do not take your four years here for granted. I already lost one. While on one hand I am sad to have one less year here than the average student, I am so grateful to have come here as a transfer student. The failure was humbling, the later-coming success tasted that much sweeter. Your resources become that much more valuable. Embrace those around you at Notre Dame to fulfill your experience. Get dinner at South Dining Hall with your friends, and tell them how happy you are to have them in your lives. Take a glance at Our Lady atop the Golden Dome and thank yourself for your own hard work. Take the time to discuss your professor’s field of research, or learn about something they are passionate about. Perhaps it will rub off on you.
Appreciating your community is something that this university is about, and makes all the difference in feeling like one drop in the ocean compared to being a drop that completes the ocean.