I am the oldest of four girls. We all went to NDP for high school. Because we’re all close in age, for much of that time my parents had 2 or 3 private school tuitions due in the same academic year (we also have an older brother who graduated from Loyola). That was a lot of prep school tuition for my parents to fork over. Could they afford it? Not without a great deal of sacrifice and delayed gratification. No country club for my parents for a long, long time. No swim club for the kids. One car. Shared bedrooms. Hand me down clothes. A house that never quite got the makeover my mom had hoped for. Summer jobs for the 5 of us from the time we were 15 or 16. Only occasional summer vacations to visit my grandparents. None of the latest this or that for anybody. Plenty of ‘making do’ for everybody. In other words, all the usual sacrifices a family has to make when it comes to tough choices and priorities. Was it worth it? In a word: absolutely. My parents thought so then and the five us know so now. To my parents, a quality education in a nurturing environment that provided ample opportunity for personal growth and exploration was priority one. And we got just that. My brother can tell you about his years at Loyola in another forum. But I can speak for me and my sisters right here.
For each of us, attending Notre Dame was a life changing experience. One that afforded us academic, social, and extracurricular opportunities we simply would not have experienced anywhere else. Though we are extremely close as sisters, we have widely divergent personalities and interests. Yet Notre Dame proved a perfect fit for all 4 of us, allowing each of us to grow and explore in our own way and at our own pace. Most importantly, NDP provided an incredibly strong foundation: morally, spiritually, academically, and extracurricularly. One that we in turn built upon as we proceeded beyond graduation and onto college, grad school, marriage, motherhood, successful careers, special interests, and service to others. And, as is so common among Notre Dame alum, we have all maintained close friendships with our high school chums decades after graduation. I honestly think my life would be completely different on so many levels if I had not had the good fortune to attend Notre Dame.
I’m reminded of all this because it is admissions time at NDP. Plenty of young girls have visited Notre Dame, shadowed with a student ambassador, attended Open House, filled out applications, and sat through interviews. To those who have received your acceptance letter, Notre Dame has spoken loud and clear: “We want you!” Now the ball is in your court. Now it is time for you to make your choice. Now it is time to decide what is best for your daughter. Because, when it comes right down to it, nothing has changed since the time my parents had to make those very same decisions. What parent, after all, doesn’t want the best for their child? For some, the decision will be a breeze. For others it will be agonizing. To the young girls and parents in the latter group I say, “I feel your pain.” So let me just say a couple of things – from experience – that may help:
To those who had hoped for financial aid in one form or another and didn’t get it, I’d encourage you to still say “yes” to the dress. The sacrifice is worth it and will come back to you tenfold and in ways that will last a lifetime.
To those who question the value of a single sex education, I encourage you to say “yes” to the dress. Studies have shown that girls’ schools create a culture of achievement that puts young women ahead of the game in college and beyond. A single sex environment in high school develops in a young girl the confidence she needs to make it in the world.
To those who wonder if NDP is a “good fit,” I’d encourage you to say “yes” to the dress because it is impossible not to fit in at NDP. There is a place, a niche, a club, and a program for every girl no matter what her personality is or what her interests are. There is a comfort zone for every girl to safely wriggle into and a launching pad for every girl to daringly spring forward from. Better yet, there will always be someone there – a coach, a teacher, a classmate, a staff member – to hold your hand, catch you when you fall, and encourage you to try again.
To those who wonder if you’ll make any friends, I’d encourage you to say “yes” to the dress. My best friends in the whole world are my high school buddies. We went to different elementary schools and different colleges; we have different interests and lifestyles but we are NDP sisters forever. I don’t know what I’d do without them and I never want to find out.
To those who are looking for a sense of community and wonder if NDP is too small or too big for that, I encourage you to say “yes” to the dress because NDP is just right and the perfect fit. Community is NDP’s most treasured asset.
And to those who just have a hard time making up their mind, I will leave you with a refrain I hear over and over again from today’s NDP students. And that is simply: “I love Notre Dame.”
You’re already at the top of our list. So, if any of this puts NDP at the top of your list, then by all means, say “yes” to the dress! We’ve got one with your name on it! And we can’t wait for you to become one of “our girls.”