Is Notre Dame a Good School? My College Tour

Last summer we visited Notre Dame for an information session and campus tour and I want to share my impressions from the college tour.

If you are a student in your junior and senior year of high school you may be considering adding the University of Notre Dame to your college list because it’s considered a Hidden Ivy and a New Ivy.

And you may be wondering if this school is good and if it’s a good fit for you. Here’s what I think.

Notre Dame is good for those who like to earn business-related undergraduate degrees such as accounting, finance, and management. This private Catholic research university is also known for engineering and math. There are plenty of research opportunities at ND given that it has a Carnegie R1 designation.

University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame Student Buildings

Information Session

The information session tool place in Notre Dame’s Golden Dome. Atop of the Dome stands Virgin Mary, well she is more glued up there, but we will say she just stands there for now.

“Notre Dame” means “our lady” in French, so I liked the connection between the universities name and the important Christian figure that stands on top of their most famous building.

Many of the buildings we saw in Notre Dame as we walked along were quite modern, but the Golden Dome hadn’t seemed to change in style since it was built; I am not complaining.

I loved the wood doors, walls, staircases, and tiled floor, and the crown molding along the walls and ceilings.

The actual dome from the inside had some sort of Biblical drawing which I could not exactly define, but it did give a hint to what I would be learning about Notre Dame’s catholic community.

Every student registered received a sling bag (mine broke halfway along the walking tour), a large 3D drawing of the campus, a big booklet with all of Notre Dame’s statistics and dates called “This Is Your Journey”, and a smaller booklet with information about financial aid at Notre Dame.

And there is more!

A small brochure that talks about the history of Columbus’s travels and how that shaped America and specifically Notre Dame’s catholicism, a lined Journal with the majors and clubs of all levels offered at Notre Dame, and finally, two small booklets with even more Notre Dame statistics.

Overall View of Notre Dame

We dove straight into how important helping your community is at Notre Dame. We watched a video that included a bit from the Mendoza College of Business.

If you are a finance major, not only do the professors discuss how to save and invest money with you, but they also say to give any leftover money to your community or a charity.

Fun Fact: Professor Karl Ackermann is a favorite of Mendoza because he gets to know his students very well and is known for asking how they are doing or going out for coffee. On the students first major assessment, Professor Ackermann dresses as an ape and chases a banana.

One of the professors featured in the video said, “If the students merely accumulate the money and then use it for material things, I will have failed.”

Another topic discussed was something that I thought was very unique and one of the coolest things about Notre Dame: Their 5-year architecture program.

It belongs in the School of Architecture and is the only major offered, but it is a once in a lifetime experience.

In your junior year, you will live that entire year in Rome next to the Pantheon.

Read that again. You will be able to live next to the Pantheon.

In Rome.

For a year.

Not only do you live in Rome, but your history lessons are not taught in an ordinary classroom.

You walk around Rome with your professor(s) and classmates, pointing out different buildings and discussing their history. The professors believe that certain things can’t be taught to their fullest through a PowerPoint presentation.

The last main area covered in the video was research. Students begin research as early as the fall of their freshman year.

A specific example was an upperclassman who had dreamt of studying physics and working for CERN (European organization that operates the largest Particle Physics laboratory in the world) based in Switzerland.

He came to Notre Dame, and now, he is working/researching for CERN even as a student who hasn’t graduated yet.

Dorm Life in Notre Dame

Another area of Notre Dame in which the Catholic faith is very prominent is the dorms. Rectors are in charge of each dorm; those rectors can be a priest or a nun depending on whether you live in a girl’s or guys’ dorms.

Living in the dorms along with the students are 2 assistant rectors, 2 graduate students, and an RA in each hallway which is always a Notre Dame senior.

Each dorm has a chapel and holds masses two times a week (130 total masses in a year overall), but you are not required by any means to go.

Another part of a student’s life that ties in with Notre Dame’s faith is that all students need to take 2 semesters of theology which has many different types of classes you can take, a semester in philosophy, and the 4th course in philosophy or theology.

As a student, you are assigned a residence hall randomly: 16 male residence halls and 14 female residence halls (all dorms are single-gender). Along with being randomly assigned a residence hall, you are randomly assigned a first-year roommate.

If two people are from different hometowns, then they will be put together (this random assignment applies to siblings, you won’t be put together). Unlike most universities, they have no survey you can fill out before settling in Notre Dame.

But beyond your first year, you choose who you want to be roommates with. All dorms have their own mascot, colors, t-shirts, one signature event they throw throughout the entire year, and you sit together at pep rallies (Notre Dame loves football).

Within these dorms, intramural sports are played.

You need to gather your friends and make it as competitive as you want it to be. Your final “championship” is played in the Notre Dame stadium where you will have a grand audience total of 80 out of 60,000 potential watchers.

There is also no greek system in Notre Dame which may freak you out, but our tour guide said there is more than enough to do on campus, so not having greek life is not affecting her experience as a college student.

Lastly, you need to live on campus until your junior year and about 40% of seniors choose to stay.

When do you declare your major at Notre Dame?

Like many other universities, you declare your major at the end of sophomore year in which you will officially belong in one of the following colleges:

The School of Arts & Letters, Mendoza College of Business, College of Science, College of Engineering, School of Architecture, or the newest school, the Keough School of Global Affairs, which offers a master’s degree and a supplementary major.

You will submit which college you want to belong to in your application to Notre Dame (this will not affect if you are admitted or not), but you do not have to stick to this college and whatever your intended major was.

Notre Dame has something called the “First Year of Studies,” in which all students take relatively the same courses to at least figure out which college they want to be part of (by the end of your first year, you will belong to a college).

University of Notre Dame

Research opportunities are offered at Notre Dame

One of my favorite stories that we were told was about a former Notre Dame student is the story of Mary Atwood (Sorry Mary, I hope that’s how you spell your last name).

Mary Atwood took classes about the language called Quechua, spoken by the Inkan people (approximately 1 million people speak it today in Peru).

She traveled to Peru to do research and heard stories at marketplaces that she had never heard of before in any of her classes and conducted interviews to collect these stories.

From these accounts that have been passed for generations by the tongue, but never written, she wrote children’s books in both Quechua & English.

In addition, Mary drew some of the stories for her thesis, which I think ties her in-class learning to the real world very nicely.

In the College of Sciences, students research less known or less popular diseases that not many people have or are a problem in underdeveloped parts of a country.

For example, Niemann-Pick Type C, also referred to as childhood Alzheimers, currently has a therapeutic drug in the trial process for this disease.

3 of 4 grandchildren of Ara Parseghian, who is a national championship-winning football coach of ND, were diagnosed with this disease.

Engineering students in the College of Engineering construct footbridges every summer for communities in need. Recently, students decided to build a footbridge across a river in Nicaragua.

This is because the people of Nicaragua had to walk through a river for resources, but sometimes the river conditions were unbearable, and these people could not have access to their basic needs.

So as a result, engineering students raised funds at Notre Dame, fabricated a plan for the bridge, and returned to build it.

Notre Dame application review

I think my eardrums are going to burst because of the number of times a “holistic application process” has been mentioned in a college information session.

If you are fortunate to have never heard this term before, it means that a college looks at your application as a whole and doesn’t simply reject it when you may not have the ideal GPA or one bad grade.

There are three parts of your Notre dame application … you wish. The first thing Notre Dame requires is your high school transcript. These are your grades up until the first semester of your senior year.

They look at the courses offered at your school and evaluate whether or not you academically challenged yourself or not.

If you do get admitted into Notre Dame and decided to go, they will require the rest of your high school transcript from your last semester of senior year.

Just because you got in, that doesn’t mean the admissions officers can’t overturn that offer, so you’d better work hard even though the application process is over.

Grassy Field in Notre Dame
Grassy Field in Notre Dame

The second part of your transcript is your class ranking.

Are you in the top 10% of your class? Top 5%? Top 1%?

If there is no definite class ranking, then Notre Dame will contact your guidance counselor to see where you relatively are.

Notre Dame is now allowing you to self-report standardized test scores. I think this is because they don’t want you to stress over getting the official scores, but I don’t get it because if you are admitted, then you need to submit the official transcript.

They also do superscore on both the SAT and ACT.

Notre Dame would also like your extracurriculars.

Ugh, they demand so much. What have you done in school that is non-academic? What have you done outside of school for fun? What are your hobbies?

I can’t say for certain because I am not an admissions officer at Notre Dame, but I would recommend that you do something that benefits the community.

Our information session guide stressed the community part of Notre Dame, so I believe if you do something for your community, then they would like to know about that and may think of you as the right fit for their school.

Another part of your application (we’re almost there) is your letters of recommendation from a teacher and a guidance counselor (you can submit letters if you wish as well).

If you are still a freshman or sophomore, then it would be ideal to butter up one of your teachers, preferably a teacher who teaches a class you are good at.

Your letters can reveal something about you from the perspective of a person who has known you in the classroom setting and can reveal how you would adjust to Notre Dame’s rigorous academics.

They also should highlight your strengths, so Notre Dame knows how you will benefit them.

How are you going to change their school? What do you have to offer?

Are you a leader? Are you ambitious? Are you innovative?

Who are you?


We have made it to the last thing that is required for your application. Notre Dame, whether you submit a coalition or common app, you will need to write 2 different short answer prompts and a writing sample that is longer.

I know I said the writing samples are the last part, but I want to touch on a few important things:

  • AP credits allow you to take a minor maybe or more classes in-depth, strong AP scores help application
  • You can not apply to early decision anywhere else if you apply early to ND
  • Mendoza is different, you need a separate application to change intended major because they have a limited amount of space
  • You can say that you are Catholic in your application, but it is not necessary

Financial Aid

Notre Dame meets 100% of your demonstrated need, but this also includes loans in the aid package.

Yes, they do have grants which you do not have to pay back, and work-study, which you can do, but you still have a loan to pay back.

There are also 60 merit scholarships offered for $25,000 (per year, so you earn $100,000 in total). If you apply to Notre Dame, you are automatically eligible to receive one of those scholarships.

These scholarships do affect your financial aid by taking the place of loans which serves to your benefit since you do not have to pay it back.

Walking Tour of Notre Dame

We could choose our tour guide, and I chose the girl who stayed asleep when a tree fell on top of her house. This walking tour was the shortest I have ever been on, but it was awesome nonetheless because of the beautiful campus and nice weather.

As we walked towards the LaFortune Student Center, somebody in the group asked about the different activities that students can get involved in.

Our tour guide Kathy said that free performances are available to students throughout the year. They are acted and sung by students, so you may see your friends perform for free!

We entered LaFortune and I was surprised by the amount of food they had there. They have a Subway, a convenience store, a Taco Bell, a Starbucks, a Smashburger, and a Pizza Hut.

You can use your flex points at these stores.

What are flex points?

Good question: Flex Points are $500 that are put on your card every semester and are part of your meal plan. You can use these flex points at any restaurant on campus, and you can use them for meals in the dining halls.

We passed by/walked through North Quad, which is one of the main residence quads, which means there are a bunch of residence halls surrounding the quad.

North Quad is very big and grassy, so according to our tour guide, people like to play sports here on a nice day, but it looked as vacant as a farm field in Kansas to me.

We entered Hesburgh Library, which had its two floors completely renovated and looked super modern, with white practically everywhere you look. Though the higher up you go, the library is more traditional, with wooden tables and bookshelves.

Here, you can rent out a room for up to 2 hours at a time for studying, but if no one has reserved the room after you, you can continue to use it.

We walked out of the Hesburgh Library and saw Touchdown Jesus.

Touchdown Jesus is about 150 feet tall and is making this notion with his hands: \ _/.

He looks down at the reflection pool, which is a whopping 4 inches deep. So deep that fish could drown in it.

Touchdown Jesus, University of Notre Dame
Touchdown Jesus

Then we moved to the Notre Dame football stadium that we, unfortunately, were not allowed to go into, but I’m sure you can find pictures on google.

Football is the only sport you need to pay for. It costs $200, but the tour guide said it is well worth it and a good bonding experience, but if you decide that you don’t want to go, you can sell tickets for $50 apiece.

Our last stop before we headed back to the Dome was South Quad, the quad where our tour guide lives in.

In my opinion and hers, it is the prettier quad. It does have a big lawn like North Quad, but the architecture around it is older, and they have cute little trees everywhere.

If your dorm is assigned a professor as a rector, then there are assigned Priest’s that come to your dorm and hold masses.

I asked if faith plays a big role in her life, and she said she is not very religious and doesn’t go to mass weekly, but she said it is present because of how many opportunities there are to practice your faith.

We decided to visit “The Basilica of the Sacred Heart” since it was next to the Golden Dome, where our tour had ended.

It wasn’t enormous, but it had tall stained glass paneling everywhere and painted ceilings illustrating many Biblical scenes. Many arches tied in with some of the gothic architecture of the rest of the school.

Basilica of The Sacred Heart, University of Notre Dame
Basilica of The Sacred Heart


Is Notre Dame Prestigious?

US News ranks Notre Dame #18 in National Universities 2022 to 2023, a spot that it shares with none other than the elite Ivy League school, Columbia University.

Niche, on the other hand, ranks it #19 in Top Private Universities in America 2023.

Locally, though, the same well-known college ranking site ranks ND #1 in Top Private Universities in Indiana 2023 and #1 in Hardest Colleges to Get Into in Indiana 2023, which speaks volumes about its selectiveness.

Is Notre Dame an Ivy League School?

Because of its low acceptance rate, it’s not uncommon for some high school students to assume that the University of Notre Dame is an Ivy League. However, the institution is not a part of the group consisting of Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and the rest. Still, ND is dubbed a Hidden Ivy and a New Ivy.

Obtaining an undergraduate degree from ND may also give you a high-paying, satisfying career.

The average salary of Notre Dame alumni members 10 years after enrolling amounts to $89,800 per year —  that’s around 162% higher than what’s considered the national median for annual salary!

Is Notre Dame a Catholic School?

The University of Notre Dame is a Catholic school. As a matter of fact, it was founded by a French priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross named Edward Sorin. However, according to the administrators of Notre Dame themselves, students from all religious backgrounds are welcome to apply and attend.

Because it’s a Catholic school, it isn’t surprising why the vast majority of the attendees of Notre Dame are Catholics. As a matter of fact, as much as 82% of its student body is from the Catholic faith.

On the other hand, ND believes that commitments to faith and reason are not only compatible but also complementary and mutually beneficial. The school adds that it pursues knowledge and faith with equal rigor.

What Majors is Notre Dame Known For?

Notre Dame tends to attract students who would like to foray into the business and finance industry.

Among its various undergraduate engineering programs, most graduates majored in chemical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and aeronautical engineering.

Let’s take a look at some of Niche’s 2023 ND rankings program-wise:

  • #3 in Best Colleges for Accounting and Finance in America
  • #7 in Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America
  • #12 in Best Colleges for Design in America
  • #13 in Best Colleges for Architecture in America
  • #14 in Best Colleges for Political Science in America
  • #17 in Best Colleges for Business in America
  • #17 in Best Colleges for Economics in America
  • #19 in Best Colleges for Anthropology and Sociology in America
  • #19 in Best Colleges for Math in America
  • #19 in Best Colleges for Performing Arts in America
  • #21 in Best Colleges for Engineering in America
  • #22 in Best Colleges for Philosophy in America

Is It Hard to Get Into Notre Dame?

The acceptance rate at the University of Notre Dame is 15%. With less than a fifth of all applicants accepted per admissions cycle, the private Catholic research university is the most selective institution.

Students who apply early have higher chances of getting in because ND’s early action acceptance rate is 28%.

Having a low acceptance rate — this is one of the reasons why Notre Dame is seen as a competitive institution, with some students assuming that it’s an Ivy League school.

Up to 91% of all admitted freshman students graduated in the top 10% of their high school class.

Notre Dame, as of this writing, has a test-optional policy. About 48% of admits submitted their SAT scores.

On the other hand, around 52% of admits submitted their ACT scores. The institution’s middle 50% SAT score ranges from 1410 to 1550, while the middle 50% ACT score ranges from 32 to 35.

Above, I mentioned that the early acceptance rate at ND is higher. You can apply early action, which, unlike early decision, is non-binding. EA deadline at Notre Dame is November 1.

Is Notre Dame University safe?

According to a Niche poll, 100% of the respondents say that they feel extremely safe and secure on campus. In 2020, the most number of on-campus crimes reported was burglary (3). It’s followed by rape (2), fondling (1) and aggravated assault (1). Generally speaking, ND’s campus is a relatively safe place for students.

Is Notre Dame a party school?

Niche ranks Notre Dame both #181 in Top Party Schools in America 2023 and #4 in Top Party Schools in Indiana.

However, some people consider Notre Dame more of a drinking school than a party school.

Read Also: Carnegie Melon University

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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