Is Notre Dame Overrated? What Current Students Are Saying

Some students want to earn a degree while fortifying their trust in and devotion to God.

Fortunately for them, there are more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States. They may differ in affiliations, alright, but they are committed to the same things:

  • Faith
  • Social justice
  • Sense of community
  • Critical reasoning
  • Academic freedom

The University of Notre Dame is one of the many Catholic schools in the land.

Formally known as the University of Notre Dame du Lac, it’s a research university in Notre Dame, Indiana — it supports over 30 world-class core facilities and resources students and researchers on- and off-campus may use.

Due to its very high research activity, it’s an R1: Doctoral University.

ND may make a wonderful addition to your college list if you are looking for a top-notch undergraduate program in computer science, engineering, psychology, or something business-related like finance and management.

But be warned: getting into Notre Dame isn’t easy!

Its acceptance rate is 13% — up to 91% of those who get in graduated in the top tenth of their high school class and have test scores ranging from 1420 to 1550 (SAT) and 32 to 35 (ACT).

University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame Student Buildings

Having Faith in College Rankings

Take a quick look at some of the most trusted college rankers.

You will realize that Notre Dame is one of the most prestigious American Catholic institutions and degree-granting schools in general.

For instance, it’s #20 in National Universities in the eyes of US News.

It’s also #5 in Service Learning, a spot it shares with Boston College — Berea College, Tulane University, Duke University, and Elon University are faith-based schools at the top positions.

US News also highly ranks some of its undergraduate programs, such as:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Psychology

Meanwhile, Niche also gives ND plenty of impressive national and local rankings.

It ranks it #2 in Best Catholic Colleges in America (among 160 surveyed Catholic schools) and #5 in Best Catholic Colleges in Indiana (among five surveyed Catholic schools).

Niche also awards the following spots to Notre Dame:

  • #1 in Best Colleges in Indiana
  • #1 in Top Private Universities in Indiana
  • #25 in Top Private Universities in America
  • #25 in Best Test Optional Colleges in America
  • #27 in Best Colleges in America

Avoid choosing Notre Dame based solely on its high rankings.

Identify various academic- and campus-related factors that are very important to you and check whether or not it ticks all the boxes better than any other institution you also have in mind.

Grassy Field in Notre Dame
Grassy Field in Notre Dame

Academic Life in a Highly Selective Catholic School

Notre Dame isn’t Niche’s #1 in Colleges with the Best Academics in Indiana for no reason.

It’s no wonder that more than 26,500 first-year students apply to it every year — looking for another institution to enroll in, unfortunately, is the next step to take for nearly 90% of them.

ND has a retention rate of 97%, which speaks volumes about the satisfaction of attendees with academics (the average retention rate among American postsecondary institutions is 76%).

Meanwhile, its graduation rate is 94% (national average: 63%).

Notre Dame is both a Hidden Ivy and New Ivy, offering an outstanding education without the high tuition of Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Columbia, and UPenn.

All Traditional and No Online Programs

As an undergraduate student at Notre Dame, you can choose from 70+ majors.

Applying undecided is often fine, though. You may declare a major in the spring of your first year after making up your mind, but some undergraduates wait until their sophomore year to declare one.

Some of the most popular majors at ND include the following:

  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Political Science and Government
  • Computer and Information Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Neuroscience and Neurobiology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Management Science
  • Information Science
  • Accounting

Unfortunately for adult learners, there are no online degrees available.

However, as of this writing, there are 130+ online courses available that allow students to earn anywhere from one to three credits. The maximum number of seats available for learners can range from 12 to 48.

University of Notre Dame

Few Students Per Class, Few Students Per Teacher

One of the best things Notre Dame is known for is its small class sizes.

Up to 60% of all undergraduate classes consist of less than 20 students — around 15% of classes have less than 10 students, while less than 10% have 50 or more students attending them.

Being a small class allows for hands-on and individualized learning for increased academic success.

ND also has a small student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1.

There are more than 1,480 instructional faculty members around. With approximately 87% of them teaching full-time, it isn’t surprising that a teacher is available for every less than 10 students needing guidance.

The following Niche rankings say so much about what sort of teachers ND has:

  • #1 in Colleges with the Best Professors in Indiana
  • #26 in Colleges with the Best Professors in America

Travel to Earn a Global Experience and College Credit

You can diversify your studies and aim for a global career through study-abroad programs.

More than 70% of ND’s undergraduates go abroad, bringing home unique perspectives and experiences and promising career prospects. They also earn international credits toward their bachelor’s degrees.

There are study-abroad programs that last for an entire summer, one semester, or a full academic year.

Also available are programs for non-ND students — they must meet certain requirements such as being enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution or completing at least one year of college to be eligible.

ND student or not, you can choose from over 30 countries, including:

  • Brazil
  • China
  • Greece
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Poland
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Uganda

A Catholic School Where You Can Party

The University of Notre Dame is a Catholic school. As such, there are many strict rules, and you would think that the campus experience isn’t as exciting as at any other postsecondary institution.

Well, you better think again because there are parties and alcohol at ND, too!

However, there are no fraternities and sororities around — you should be willing to have no Greek experience and graduate without any idea what things like rushes and mixes feel like in real life.

The 1,265-acre suburban campus is shared by 13,100+ students, around 68% are undergraduates.

It’s also home to around 190 buildings, including those of its eight colleges and schools, such as Mendoza College of Business and Law School, School of Architecture, and the College of Arts and Letters, the largest of them all.

Touchdown Jesus, University of Notre Dame
Touchdown Jesus

Single-Gender On-Campus Dorms

Most colleges and universities make it mandatory for first-year students to live on campus for a year.

Notre Dame shakes things up: it requires all full-time students to reside in its dorms for three long years to encourage and maintain a strong sense of community and an active student body.

There are 32 undergraduate residence halls on campus, each with its unique history and a chapel, mascot, set of traditions, and signature events and activities.

Male and female students reside in separate dorms — 17 for males and 15 for females.

And now, let’s answer this question many have in mind since on-campus living is three years:

Can I Choose My Roommate?

All incoming students at ND can select a roommate, which they must do when filling out the Housing Application.

The Office of Residence Life will pair those who do not have favored roommates with students based on the personal preferences they indicate on the Housing Application.

Here are some things that exempt you from having to live on campus:

  • Being 21 or older
  • Having at least 60 credits completed
  • Residing permanently within a 20-mile radius of ND
Basilica of The Sacred Heart, University of Notre Dame
Basilica of The Sacred Heart

The Fighting Irish Fight Hard Each Time

There are 26 varsity teams, and they are the Fighting Irish.

While they compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I, they primarily participate in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), except for football.

In terms of ice hockey, it’s in the Big Ten Conference where you will see ND’s athletes.

ND has won 11 national championships in football and 14 others in sports such as:

  • Basketball
  • Cross country
  • Fencing
  • Soccer
  • Swimming and diving
  • Tennis

Non-student-athletes can participate in excellent sports, too, to engage in physical activity, acquire new skills or develop what they already have, and create strong friendships. Such is through club sports.

Some co-ed club sports I find interesting include:

  • Curling
  • Futsal
  • Jump rope
  • Nordic ski
  • Triathlon
  • Waterski

Believe It or Not, There are Parties!

Niche Ranks Notre Dame #4 in Top Party Schools in Indiana (out of 40 surveyed party schools).

So, even though it’s a Catholic school, students still have the opportunity to have some fun — of course, since there are no Greek-letter associations around, frat and sorority parties are out!

Most parties show up from mid-weeks to Saturdays. They usually happen off campus.

Refrain from assuming that only dry parties are around.

That’s because ND does not completely ban the possession and consumption of alcohol, although students must comply with university and local regulations on the matter.

Some examples of what Notre Dame, Indiana prohibits are:

  • Possessing or drinking alcohol below 21 years of age
  • Having alcohol in open containers in corridors and common areas
  • Going for alcoholic beverages containing more than 14% alcohol by volume
  • Bringing or using kegs

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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