I just got off the phone with Eric, who's in South Bend on his Notre Dame visit. He's been enjoying the trip, which is fortunate, as Notre Dame appears to be his favorite choice right now. The last couple days have found him sitting in on seminars and meeting one-on-one with professors who share his interests. He has also received a campus tour, where he learned of the familiar names of statues and murals around campus. The one pictured here on the library, for instance, is known widely as "Touchdown Jesus" because of its proximity to the football stadium and the Son's apparent celebration near the endzone. This is what you get when you join together a Catholic university with a nationally recognized football program.
Eric related an interesting conversation to me. I will preface the story with what Eric said: "I almost didn't get into Notre Dame." Today he met with a professor nicknamed Fritz. Fritz was on the graduate committee that reviewed applications. He pulled out his notes from the experience and read what he had written about Eric. One of the comments was, "Probably won't come to Notre Dame." Fritz's opinion was that Eric would get tons of offers in top-five programs and would end up going somewhere like Rutgers. Eric's response: "I didn't actually apply to any top-ten programs." (For inquiring minds who want to know, Notre Dame is ranked eleventh.) To which Fritz replied, "That was stupid. Your application and writing sample totally rocked my worldview. Not that we're trying to push you elsewhere, but you might want to consider beginning here and then after a year or two moving to an even better institution. We haven't been investing much time in wooing you, as we were sure we didn't even have a chance."
Eric was pleased at this welcome news. A frequent doubt was that, although he excelled at his undergraduate program, it certainly wasn't respected as having much merit; how was he even going to begin to measure up with seasoned students? The Colorado seminar gave him the catalyst he needed to apply to grad schools. When the offers were rolling in, I asked him if he felt like he should have aimed higher. He didn't seem to feel cheated at all, or shortchanged. Notre Dame has been an institution that met his needs; he respected the faculty there and they are quite diverse with interests. They offered a mindset that Eric could get behind, and while other universities could offer him the same skills, Notre Dame can be quite as rigorous. When it comes down to it, had he been offered admittance to other higher-ranked programs, Notre Dame may still have won out. It has the appeal of a large department, whereas other places didn't fully meet Eric's interests.
The travels continue. Tomorrow Eric returns from Notre Dame, only for the two of us to jump on a plane to Los Angeles to visit USC quickly. Then, after a quick reprieve, a jaunt to Indiana University soon follows. I'll post when there is opportunity and inclination.