University of Notre Dame

Life as a First-Year Student

This is the way to become a successful college student.

If you are here, you are a high-achieving high school student with a record of success. Becoming a college student, though, represents a significant change in academic culture and your life as a student will be very different at Notre Dame. Now is a good time to consider how ready you are for this change and what you might do to meet the challenge.

In high school, you were most likely in class for six hours a day, five days a week, and you probably studied two to three hours a night, meaning that about two-thirds of your academic time was spent in the classroom under the direct supervision of an instructor. At Notre Dame, you will be in class about 15 hours a week and your professors will expect you to put in at least two hours of independent work for every hour you spend in class. That means that your academic situation will soon be reversed, with only one-third of your time spent with an instructor and with significantly less direct supervision of your learning. Testing tends to be less frequent in college than in high school and you will have more long-term assignments. All professors maintain office hours and are available to assist you, but you must be able to tell them what help you need, making academic self-management crucial to maintaining success. Be proactive — talk with your First Year advisor about the First Year of Studies’ Program in Academic Excellence to learn more about how effective college-level learning strategies might help you. You should also talk to your advisor about resources like the Writing Center, the Learning Resource Center, and the First Year Librarian — these programs provide assistance tailored to the requirements placed on first-year students.

Along with good self-management, an attitude of curiosity and a willingness to explore are all-important to becoming a highly successful college student. Perhaps in high school you had little choice about the subjects you took, but Notre Dame’s schools and colleges offer you a veritable intellectual candy store of subjects to choose from within the framework of your University Requirements. All of these courses, most of them not part of a high school curriculum, build skills and interests that will serve you well no matter what you choose to do once you leave the University; you may be surprised by what you find if you use your options within your First Year Requirements as opportunities to try something new. Remember, there is not always a one-to-one correspondence between majors and careers. You should consult your First Year advisor and Notre Dame’s Career Center as you consider what your future might be after you complete your first year at Notre Dame and leave the First Year of Studies for your next “academic home.”