University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame


These Three Rules

On my first day at Notre Dame, it was just my parents and me. We drove up to my dorm, car stuffed with boxes and clothes and lamps. We slowly pulled alongside the area where they were holding marching band tryouts, and all we could hear was the Fight Song trumpeting over the field. I’ll never forget that moment — I was home. I don’t know if you’ve felt that thrill yet, that surge of excitement and belonging. But I can tell you this — it never goes away.

If I’ve learned a few things along this crazy ride, it’s these three rules.

1. Treat everyone like they’re family.

My high school class had 17 people. On my first day at Notre Dame, I met probably 2,000 over the course of four days. At first I felt an extraordinary pressure to remember everyone’s names and be smart and funny and athletic like everyone else.

But those worries slowly melted as I got to know the girls in my hall. My RA, Claire, had the greatest, most genuine smile and she made everyone feel welcome. Soon we were gathered on the floor of her room, laughing and watching weird YouTube videos and telling each other where we were from, what we liked, what we were most looking forward to at Notre Dame.

From that day on, I knew I could rely on Claire and my hallmates to be that safe, knowledgeable foundation for when things at school got confusing or tough. All of a sudden, I had a family of 20-something women who had to deal with the same challenges I did every day. I loved coming home and chatting in the hallway, asking each other about our days and our classes, giving each other tips about which professors to take, which floors of the library are best, what time you can get an elliptical at Rolfs.

This year, you will learn how to love more than ever before. You’d think it would be hard, getting to know and appreciate all 2,000 of your classmates. But you guys will make it easy for each other. You all have fascinating histories and open hearts. Dive in. So treat each other like you’re at a family reunion long overdue. Take the time to catch up, ask what you’ve been up to, share and rejoice over your accomplishments, look forward to the future.

2. Write down your goals.

You have four years to understand what a great group you really are and what you can accomplish together. It’s like you have 2,000 energetic, talented, and ambitious teammates. What are you going to achieve?

You’re going to hear about every club, every major, every organization imaginable. And they all want you, so they will send you email after email, give away free swag, hold events. Go to all of them. Write down the people and groups that stand out to you and follow up with them. You never know which one will be your niche, your specialty, your next favorite thing ever.

The possibilities are literally endless. So start by writing down the things you think you want to do while you’re here. It doesn’t matter if you change your mind. It doesn’t matter if you follow just one goal all the way through. It does matter that you keep the long-term in mind, and that you appreciate every interaction in terms of what it could mean for you as a scholar, as an athlete, as an artist, and as a person. Because every person, every lecture, and every book makes a difference, I promise.

3. Follow your instincts and impulses.

We all have that hobby, that obsession, that odd interest that falls outside what we imagine to be our destined major or our personality profile. It’s stuck in your head for a reason. If you have something that you can do for hours without thinking about how much time has gone by, then that’s what you should be doing. The world isn’t cut into engineers, historians, and architects. Everyone does a little bit of everything.

This is what I love most about Notre Dame: the opportunity and the flexibility. The interdisciplinary lifestyle isn’t limited to Arts and Letters students. When I was in that chair, I wanted to do creative writing, learn Japanese, study astronomy, take yoga, go on a Silent Retreat, have a job, study abroad, join a Scrabble club, write for the newspaper, learn about opera, and write a thesis. And I did all of those things, with the complete support of my professors and advisors.

Be spontaneous, sign up for a class unrelated to your major, join the Humans vs. Zombies mania, study in a country whose language you don’t understand. Somehow all these things will come together to form your own Notre Dame experience.

This place, these people, this bond — it’s timeless. Even when I was thousands of miles away in London last semester, my classmates and I wrote letters, we Skyped, or we just hugged and cried when I finally came back. My classmates are part of my family for good. The goals I achieved and experiences I loved have made me the capable, creative, and curious person I am today, and I feel like next May I’ll be ready to take on something new.

Which is why freshman year is so important. How you tackle this year is going to mold how you tackle new experiences for the rest of your life. Try everything, talk to everyone, and have so much fun.

So let’s review.
1. Treat everyone like they’re family, because, they are.
2. Write down your goals, because you’re going to have a lot.
3. Follow your instincts and your impulses, because you never know where they will take you.