Making the dream come true

Author: Dan Saracino ’69, ’75M.A.

In 1965, I joined the Notre Dame family as a first-year student. Through my years as an alumnus, there have been many campus changes, not the least of which was Father Ted’s historic and insightful decision to choose coeducation in 1972. This decision most certainly enhanced Notre Dame and today, talented young women comprise nearly half of our undergraduate population.

A walk across the quads this fall also reminds me of another positive change visible in our student body. More than 20 percent of our undergraduates are U.S. citizens from ethnically underrepresented groups, and an additional 4 percent are internationally born. Our ongoing admissions goals include increasing this diversity so Notre Dame grows and improves as a global community.

What may not be visibly noticeable, however, is that our current student profiles include socioeconomic diversity as well. Since 1998, University resources have served as the primary source in meeting 100 percent of the full, demonstrated need of each U.S.-admitted student. This aid policy enables us to say to every student who dreams of Notre Dame, “We can make this dream a reality for you.”

I recently began my 12th year with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and I could not be more proud of Notre Dame. We continue to commit unequivocally to the enrollment of a student body that is more than 80 percent Catholic. Through the dedicated efforts of the Office of Campus Ministry, our students experience myriad opportunities for personal reflection. An unparalleled number of hall liturgies, weekend retreats, study groups, Rites of Christian Initiation and numerous service efforts support our students as they embrace their faith and grow spiritually.

Our students live their faith beyond the majority of my 1960s classmates. The Center for Social Concerns, directed by a full-time staff and corps of students, smoothly coordinates 26 programs involving 80 percent of our undergraduates. Whether in South Bend, New York, New Mexico or one of many countries, our students are passionately engaged in making a difference in the lives of others. By their actions, they alter their own life goals and perspectives.

During my student years at Notre Dame, directed readings seemed to be the only research opportunities available to me. Now our students conduct research in every academic major. University funds, made available by the Office of Research, help our undergraduate students identify their academic interests and work directly with appropriate faculty.

During my undergraduate years, we could choose one of two sites for international study — Angers in France or Innsbruck, Austria. Today’s students choose from more than 30 locations, and currently, 60 percent take advantage of these valuable experiences. Truly, they view the world as their classroom.

The academic credentials of our undergraduates continue to improve annually. Our admitted students typically complete six advanced placement courses while in high school. Their average high school class rank is the top 5 percent, and on the SAT 1 (Critical Reading and Mathematics) half post scores between 1370 and 1490.

These students match their academic credentials equally with varied extracurricular pursuits that cause one to wonder when they sleep. More than 90 percent have been involved in community service while in high school. Enrolling students bring a multitude of personal talents that they share generously, making Notre Dame an even better place to live and learn.

When my classmates wonder whether they could gain admission today, I dismiss this question as irrelevant. Today’s Notre Dame students are standing on our shoulders, and our diplomas have never been worth more.

Dan Saracino is the assistant provost for enrollment in the department of undergraduate admissions.