Many students in the Pacific Northwest think that the Mid-west is a place to fly over and would never consider colleges in that area to apply to, much less attend. On a recent tour of colleges in North Central Indiana I found several viable options for students who might be willing to brave the “unknown middle part” of the country. In the first of this two-part series, the colleges in the South Bend-Notre Dame area will be highlighted. They include Holy Cross College, St. Mary’s College and the University of Notre Dame. Students are able to engage in activities or classes at all three schools because of their close physical proximity, as they are all within a mile or less of each other.
Holy Cross College might be familiar if you’ve ever watched the classic football movie “Rudy” but the campus has transformed over the years and might not be recognizable as the 1974 version portrayed in the movie. Holy Cross is no longer a junior (two-year) college. Though still small, with roughly over 500 students, it offers personalized attention. The proximity to St. Mary’s and Notre Dame allows cross-registration and participation in activities at the other colleges, like the Notre Dame marching band. Though social equals with the students at the other colleges, they are academically different.
Why would a student choose Holy Cross College? The “Four Pillar Experiences” is a program unique to Holy Cross. The first pillar includes service learning which has a classroom component as well as a community experience. The second pillar requires a global experience, which can be done locally, nationally or abroad. The third pillar required of all students is a professional internship that is outcome based. Many students have more than one internship but 100 percent of all graduates have completed at least one. The final pillar is a capstone experience where students will talk about themselves and their Holy Cross experience in front of a panel of college staff and someone from their area of career interest, much like an intensive interview. For the student who wants or needs one-on-one attention with faculty and staff, likes to be engaged in a friendly atmosphere and desires to leave college feeling “career-ready,” Holy Cross is a good choice.
Just through the trees next door is St. Mary’s College, an all-women’s college of over 1,500 students plus pets. Yes, pets! They allow pets under 30 pounds on one of their residence hall floors. Though established in 1844, St. Mary’s offers state-of-the art facilities. The most popular majors are nursing, education and business. Many students add a foreign language minor and over 50 percent study abroad in St. Mary’s sponsored programs and many more study abroad through other programs. Internships are encouraged and a senior research project is required for all graduates.
Social life is not lacking at St. Mary’s as there are more than 80 groups to choose from on campus, NCAA Division III athletics, plus the option of involvement in activities at Holy Cross and Notre Dame. There is a nice path that leads to Holy Cross and a shuttle bus that goes to Notre Dame every half an hour. Even though it is a women’s college there are still men on campus, in the classroom, in activities and even during visiting hours in the residence halls. However there are abundant opportunities for women in leadership, including an office devoted to intercultural leadership.
Just down the street, literally, is the University of Notre Dame. It dwarfs its neighbor colleges with an undergraduate enrollment of around 8,500 and is much more selective with around a 21 percent admit rate. The freshmen retention rate is 98 percent and approximately 90 percent graduate in four years, both figures that are well above national averages. Notre Dame doesn’t consider itself to be better than other universities, just different. When that difference resonates with students then it might be a better option for them. They consider the education they provide to be “an education with values.” Students there gain both an understanding of themselves as well as the world around them, preparing them to thrive in a changing world. It doesn’t hurt that they have one of the widest and most influential alumni networks in the world, either!
All freshmen regardless of major take the First Year Studies program and don’t enter their selected major until sophomore year. Though students take a broad curriculum their first year, these more general classes will still be geared toward their prospective major (i.e. math for those focused to enter engineering will be different than math classes for other majors). Outside the classroom there are over 200 various clubs and organizations for students to engage in, as well as nationally recognized athletic teams. Even non-sports fans should take in a football game on campus to steep themselves in overwhelming Fighting Irish spirit!