Updated on June 14, 2017
Applying for universities in North America can be confusing. There are hundreds of higher education institutions in the United States. When searching for a university in the U.S., you might want to keep several factors in mind.
- Leave time to complete your application
Applying for a U.S. university is a long process that begins with finding the right school, getting accepted, and starting your classes. Usually for universities in the United States., it takes three to four months to apply, take the required tests, and submit your application. For example, when I was applying for my master’s degree, I started looking for schools six months before the spring semester when I began classes. If you are applying for admission as a first-year student for a bachelor’s degree, you will typically want to start the process at least a year in advance.
- Search for programs and topics of interest
To search for universities that are a good fit for you, look for ones that offer the subject you want to study. What was your favorite class at school? What are your career goals? For instance, when I was searching for programs that offered a master’s degree in English, I was also looking for a program that offered creative writing as a minor.
- Narrow your search
At large universities, classrooms can hold as many as a thousand students. The advantages of big schools are that students can learn how to thrive in a competitive atmosphere and have exposure to more people with varying ideas and backgrounds. Larger universities also offer more courses of study and more classes.
At smaller universities, on the other hand, students have more opportunities to ask questions, contribute to discussions, and get to know their professors. In my experience, I preferred smaller class sizes because I wanted more attention and focus from my professors, since writing was my passion and writing requires this kind of attention.
The location of the university is another important criterion to narrow your search. Do you plan to go back to your home country often? How close is the university to an international airport, and to your home country? How is the weather where the university is located? Is it too hot or cold? How do you feel about snow?
You might want to consider if the university is in an urban or a rural area. Is it near a city? Is there is a beach close by? Or hiking areas? When I was searching for universities, I was looking for colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. I liked that the Bay Area’s weather is nice year-round, and it doesn’t snow in winter. The Bay Area has two major cities, San Francisco and San Jose. The school I applied to, Notre Dame de Namur University, is only half an hour commute to both cities, as the university is in the middle. The campus is also near three international airports. I like hiking and going to the beach, so it appealed to me that the university is close to scenic trails and the ocean.
For other students or applicants, location might not be as important as a particular area of study. For example, if you wanted to study veterinary medicine, you would probably select a school based on whether they offered this major: location might be a less important factor.
Safety and the community
The question of safety is another way to narrow your search, and it can be an important factor in choosing a university for international students. In a time like this, you might want to look for universities and communities that are welcoming to international students. When searching for a university, make sure that the university has a significant community of international students. Certain cities and states in the United States are more diverse and have larger populations of international students.
Find out about the international student community on campus
Contact the university admissions office. U.S. universities are very fast in replying via email or phone, and are usually very professional. In my country, Saudi Arabia, it is customary to make an initial contact with the campus in person rather than contacting them through email or calls, but in the U.S., it is the opposite. You can email the admissions office with questions like these:
- Can I connect with one of the international students on campus?
- How many international students does the university have?
- Is there public transportation that is convenient to campus?
Visit the campus
Visiting the campus is another way to experience the vibe and the students’ life. Many universities have ways you can stay overnight and shadow a student to get a close-up look at the university. Visiting a campus also provides an opportunity to interview in person, which could improve your chances of admission. However, most universities do not require in-person interviews for international students.
After the process of narrowing down your choices, you will probably be left with only a few U.S. universities that you are seriously considering. Once you’ve picked the universities you want to apply to, you are ready to fill out the applications. I hope to discuss this in my next blog.
Samah Damanhoori is a second-year master’s student in the English Department at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. She is also an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department. Samah is working on various writing projects, and a short story she wrote is being made into an animated short movie.
Updated on June 2, 2017
Robot surgeons, driverless cars, the Internet of Things, holographic computing, cyber and drone warfare, nanotechnology, and the initial preparations for human habitation of the moon and Mars: these are no longer science fiction. The future is here. Students now must learn to be effective, ethical and responsible stewards in the new reality of digitally mediated worlds.
Toward this end, Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) has created one of the most technologically advanced immersive learning labs in the U.S.A. for a university of our size. The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) 3D Virtual Learning Lab, housed in the university’s high-spirited Student Success Center, features some the world’s most advanced learning technologies. These include virtual reality headsets and hands by Oculus Rift and VIVE, mixed reality using zSpace specialized computers, holographic computing with the Microsoft HoloLens, and Double Robotics and Swivl telepresence robots. NDNU students now have access to a world-class level of technology. They can study the anatomy of the human heart in three dimensions, inside and out, for example, while actually seeing and feeling the heartbeat at rest and during exercise in real time.
In a screen age defined by artificial intelligence, the nature of work is continually changing. Whatever technology a campus provides, the truth is that no university can directly train students for many of the jobs of the future because these positions currently do not exist. What universities can do, however, is to educate students to be resilient, caring, ethical, creative thinkers and problems solvers. The goal is for our students to be willing to learn new knowledge, skills, and ways to perceive the world. The STEAM 3D Virtual Learning Lab offers NDNU students the unique opportunity to interact with cutting-edge and emerging technologies to improve short- and long-term memory retention and enrich the depth and breadth of learning and knowledge application in fields ranging from physics to art.
We are pioneers at NDNU in using mixed reality, a combination of virtual and augmented reality, in our support of pedagogy and assessment of student learning. Students of innovative NDNU instructors are using mixed reality to create a holistic understanding of the human body, showing students in three-dimensions how the muscles of the arm help move the bones of the hand, for instance.
Many other NDNU classes can make use of the technology in the STEAM Lab. In a course I created and teach, The Philosophy of Emerging Technologies, students are working in the Lab to explore and assess virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) and holographic technology to seek pragmatic solutions to the ethical challenges of living in a digitally mediated world. Students in history courses can now place themselves virtually in historical eras and events, such as in the trenches in World War I, to develop understandings that resonate more deeply. Art students can draw, paint, and sculpt in virtual environments that expand creativity and innovation. Students in graduate clinical psychology and the PhD program in art therapy can explore the potential of using VR/AR and holographic computing in working with clients.
The use of mixed reality to improve pedagogy and learning has profound implications for how and what we teach students to be successful in the 21st century. In keeping with our location in Silicon Valley, NDNU is emerging as a leading innovator of digitally mediated learning support. We hope to add to the latest technology the depth and experience offered by the university’s enduring hallmark values.
For information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit the Admissions page.
Posted on May 12, 2017
Jon Black is both the associate director of admissions and the head coach of the lacrosse team at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU). This year he also finished a master’s in business administration degree at NDNU and was selected as the annual NDNU graduate to receive the City of Belmont Community Service and Leadership Award. Mayor Charles Stone of Belmont presented Jon Black with a plaque at the NDNU Commencement on May 6, 2017, and then issued a proclamation honoring Jon at the City Council meeting on May 9.
During Jon Black’s four-year tenure as associate coach and then head coach, he has personally volunteered for many causes. He has also inspired the entire lacrosse team to perform many thousands of hours of community service. Under Jon’s leadership, the team has raised close to $20,000 for a variety of charities. Lacrosse athletes have collected funds to fight childhood cancer through the Vs. Cancer Foundation. With the cross-country team and the Office of Spirituality, they have organized a 5K “NicaArgo” race on campus to help fund services to children with special needs and their families in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. The project is directed by Sister Rebecca Trujillo of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
The lacrosse team’s community engagement work is often done in a playful spirit. They played a game in pink uniforms to promote breast cancer awareness. The team helped stage Halloween in the Tenderloin for kids in one of San Francisco’s most troubled neighborhoods. At one lacrosse game, Jon challenged the team to make shots from half-court at halftime and offered to donate $100 to the American Cancer Society for each goal. “They made a lot of shots!” he remembers.
In addition to completing an MBA at NDNU, Jon Black earned his undergraduate degree at the university. “I didn’t know I was going to NDNU until two weeks before freshman year started, when a coach from the university saw me playing lacrosse in a club game,” he recalls. “As associate director of admissions I have a soft spot for students who end up registering close to the beginning of their first semester.”
Since 2004, Jon has spent much of his time at NDNU, either as a student, a staff member, or coach. “I really love the mission of the university. NDNU emphasizes being a global citizen and helping the local community. That speaks to me.”
Jon also likes the challenge of working in admissions: “I enjoy being able to make an impact in a prospective student’s life. In the Admissions Office, we develop a relationship with prospective students, and we like seeing them around NDNU once they get here. There’s a feeling of community that radiates throughout campus.”
For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit the Admissions page.
Posted on April 25, 2017
Open Book Project Welcomes Elementary School Students to NDNU Campus to Choose Books and Learn about College
Each semester Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) is delighted to see the smiling faces of scores of elementary school students who come to our campus as part of the Open Book Project. Since 2010, students in the Community Psychology class have raised funds to provide children’s books for kids who lack the resources to buy books for themselves. The project focuses on the importance of reading and how it can “open the world” for children.
This week marked the eighth year of the Open Book Project. NDNU Community Psychology students visit elementary school students multiple times at their campuses and then invite the students to our Belmont campus. This year’s group were 65 first graders from Roosevelt Elementary in Redwood City, California, a school where nearly three-quarters of the students qualify for the National School Lunch Program. The students spent most of the day at NDNU on April 19, 2017, taking part in a scavenger hunt, art activities, and selecting the book of their choice to take home. In addition to reading with the children, Community Psychology students talked with the first graders about going to college and future career plans. Transportation and refreshments were provided.
The Open Book Project was designed with three main goals in mind:
- To thank NDNU’s community partners for mentoring and providing opportunities for our students to participate in community engagement.
- To provide an opportunity for different NDNU departments to work together on a meaningful and engaging project. The School of Education and Psychology, NDNU’s Library, and NDNU’s Art Therapy Program collaborate each year on this Project.
- To choose and work collaboratively with a community partner to design a project that would address its needs.
Since the Open Book Project began in 2010, NDNU students have raised approximately $6,000 for book purchases. The elementary school students who have participated have ranged from first to fourth graders. They have visited from the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District, the Redwood City Elementary School District, and the San Bruno Park School District. In addition to books for individual reading, the books purchased include classroom resources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works. Additional funds ($250–$500) are also given to each elementary school to purchase books for its school library.
Gretchen Wehrle is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at Notre Dame de Namur University. She is also the Director of the Sr. Dorothy Stang Faculty Scholars Program at the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement.
Updated on April 13, 2017
I have always identified as an artist, but art therapy was not my original career goal. I planned to follow in my uncle’s footsteps and work in the graphic design industry. As an undergraduate art student, I devoted a significant portion of my time to community service and derived immense fulfillment from serving the homeless population. When I found the field of art therapy, it felt like something clicked into place. Art therapy was a way to connect my lifelong passion for art with my interest in community service. I volunteered as an artist in residence with an art therapy youth violence prevention program, went on to get a master’s degree, and entered the field of art therapy.
My internship and early work experiences were varied: I wanted to explore a range of settings and populations to find the right fit. Looking back on my career trajectory, what remains constant is an emphasis on art therapy as a means to connect where other forms of communication are limited or not available.
Sometimes art was actually the only shared language. I worked in a day program for older adults in Queens, New York. The elder population spoke seven different languages, and we often functioned without a translator.
I also worked with hospitalized children. The art therapy sessions allowed children to connect in new ways; their medical and cognitive needs called out for the creativity and adaptive techniques of art therapy. I worked with a teen who painted using an adaptive brush held in his mouth and a motorized canvas he controlled through head movement sensors.
My most controversial job transition was from working with these children (a population likely to inspire “warm fuzzy” feelings) to working in a forensic state hospital with civilly committed men. I had never before encountered so many “Why are you working with them?” questions. Here too, art therapy provided a means for safe expression. So many of the individuals had had their words used against them in court or had used their words to deceive. The art they created in the therapy and leisure groups was a way for them to work on mental health and interpersonal concerns going back to their own childhoods and often over multiple generations.
I took a leap of faith by leaving that high-paying, stable government job to establish a new role for an art therapist in a nonprofit, elder-care organization. The new job represented a connection between the volunteer work I had done as an undergraduate and the formative experiences I had with older adults as an art therapy intern. My belief in the power of art therapy guided me as I expanded the breadth of my role—first working only in one community with one art class a week, to a full work week of art therapy groups for elders in four levels of care. My role expanded over the years, even during my studies in the Art Therapy Program at NDNU. I facilitated experiences for elders in all of the organization’s residential communities, and for the leadership. I also organized a large community art show around the theme of redefining stereotypes of age.
My experiences in the PhD program at NDNU reaffirmed my commitment to art therapy and art-based research as a viable and important way to understand and operate within the world around us. When I entered the doctoral program, I knew I would be transforming my professional practice and developing as a researcher. What I did not realize was how much I would grow as a human being.
One moment that stands out from my studies at NDNU out was the individual practicum process. The class structured time to develop a plan. I created a series of workshops in my art studio geared toward supporting the educational and self-care needs of professionals. The professors and the class process also gave me confidence to imagine and propose a new role for myself at work. They continue to mentor me as I transition into work beyond the traditional clinical setting.
When I completed my research and earned my PhD, I moved into a new role at work. My current title is Experiential Researcher-In-Residence. I am continuing my inquiry process with the elders, supporting student researchers, and establishing a community of practice for our staff based on collaboration and creativity. It is so exciting to use my skills in art therapy and research to shape the work we do with older adults. Each day, I wake up excited to go to work, excited to engage in creative practice with my coworkers, the elders, and the community. I am so grateful to have found my perfect match in the field of art therapy.
Updated on March 13, 2017
If you want a career in teaching, now is the time!
The State of California is currently experiencing a teacher shortage in a variety of areas. With many teachers currently retiring or nearing retirement age, the state needs 20,000 new teachers a year. At the same time, the number of new teaching credentials granted annually in California is roughly 11,500, leading to a critical shortage and many opportunities. (Read more)
Teaching jobs are becoming available again
A recent report from the Learning Policy Institute showed that 75% of California school districts surveyed were experiencing teacher shortages. The vast majority of these districts reported that their shortfall was growing.
What subject areas are in highest demand?
In addition to the number of teachers needed, many school districts have a particularly strong demand for qualified teachers in mathematics, science, bilingual education and special education.
How do I get started?
Only a few universities in California now offer blended programs for undergraduates to complete a bachelor’s and a credential in as little as four years. Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) is one of the few colleges in California with this option, with a strong reputation for excellence in teacher education programs.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree and are interested in a credential, you can start a program as early as May 2017 to complete by fall 2018.
If you are just getting started, an accelerated blended Liberal Studies program offered through NDNU is designed for students to finish a BA and credential in as little as four years. Providing early fieldwork experiences in education, the program’s structured advising allows for successful job placement by graduation.
That saves an additional year or two of classes and gives first-year students an opportunity to gain fieldwork experience right away.
New single-subject credential program in biological sciences
NDNU is about to roll out a new four-year program that leads to a bachelor’s degree and a single-subject teaching credential for biology. The program, offered in conjunction with the San Mateo County Community College District, prepares students for classroom teaching in middle schools or high schools with four years of study. Students can complete the first two years of the curriculum either at NDNU or at a community college, allowing for significant time and cost savings over many other teaching credential programs. NDNU will begin accepting applications for the program in fall 2017, for fall 2018 admission.
Financial aid opportunities
There are special grants and financial aid available for students going into teaching. NDNU admissions and financial aid counselors can help you identify and apply for these funding opportunities.
Teaching as a second career
Many professionals are finding that after a career in business, the military or other sectors, they are looking for a work path that allows them to pass on knowledge and opportunities to the next generation. NDNU’s teaching credential programs are ideal for second-career teachers. Class start times are designed for working adults. The campus is centrally located for San Francisco-Silicon Valley workplaces and/or residences. Classes are small in size, and there is a strong collaborative spirit that supports returning students.
Extensive Alumni Network
Notre Dame de Namur has a long history in the field of teacher education. NDNU alumni work as administrators, principals and teachers throughout the Bay Area and California. This network provides a valuable resource for those seeking teaching jobs and student teacher placements.
Request Information on Notre Dame de Namur University Teaching Credential Programs
There are special grants and financial aid available for students going into teaching, so make sure to explore these opportunities for assistance in paying for college.
Updated on April 13, 2016
Perry Elerts is the 2015-16 Associated Students of NDNU President. He is graduating this May with his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies in Issues of Social Change.
Now that I am about to graduate from NDNU in less than a month, I have started reflecting on all the wonderful experiences and opportunities I have had in college. I chose NDNU in the first place because of the small school atmosphere it offered, which allowed me to create very close bonds and connections between staff, faculty, and other students. These bonds became invaluable when it came to asking for letters of recommendation, looking for future job opportunities, and for just having fun. The Cross Country program also was a good fit for me due to their competitiveness and coaching philosophy. I can still remember the nerves I felt the first few weeks of school. It was a crazy transition period and the first time I would be living on my own. However, those nerves quickly faded as I quickly made friends with the cross-country team and was helped out by the RAs and orientation leaders. In those first few weeks I made and met my friends for life. Even though I am more on the shy side the university held a number of fun events like Broom Ball, which allowed me to get to know my fellow freshman. Thanks to the helpfulness of the upperclassmen I was well prepared for the first day of classes. Classes went well and all the professors were extremely nice, understanding, and really willing to work with me. Luckily for me the professors stayed that way as school went on and the work became more demanding.
I have numerous memorable experiences being here, but some of the best times came from just relaxing after class and joking around with the roommates. I will never forget the Bonner hangouts when we would go to the beach at night for games and self-reflection. So many great memories have been made. Yet, NDNU was able to prepare me for my future so I could go out and continue to pursue my dreams and create new memorable experiences. The academic classes and extracurricular opportunities have prepared me and allowed me to be accepted into law school. I plan on attending Santa Clara School of Law in the fall and study specifically environmental law. In a way I will be continuing the work and legacy of Sister Dorothy Stang who I learned about the very first day of classes here at NDNU. I feel confident in going forward and am excited to see what the future holds. NDNU has been a great experience and has opened many doors for me. It has also allowed me to discover my passion, dreams, and true self.
So thank you NDNU,
Updated on April 7, 2016
- Make a list of the schools you’re planning to apply to. Include deadlines, any additional application requirements, any information you can find regarding average SAT/ACT scores and average GPA of admitted students, and some of the features that you like best about each school. You’ll refer to this list later, and not just to make sure you’re not missing any deadlines!
- Draft your personal statement. Most schools you’re applying to will require a personal statement. Some schools have specific prompts and the Common Application has several prompts to choose from (read the Common App essay prompts). A good strategy is to select a broad prompt from the Common Application and then use that draft to build from in crafting more specific essays. Share a draft of your personal statement with your College Counselor, teacher, or a relative who has gone through the college application process. Your parents might be able to help, but most likely your parents are going to love anything you write. You need an unbiased opinion!
- Assemble your “resume.” Make a list of your accomplishments, your activities, volunteer work, and any leadership positions you held. Don’t participate in activities just to build your resume. Most college applicants participate in some to a lot of activities. You’ll stand out if you have deeper and/or sustained involvement. If your involvement is limited by personal circumstances (health, family, work obligations), you should explain this to the committee.
- Start working on the application. Take your time, answer the questions, and check your spelling. You don’t want to be the applicant who spells her mother’s name wrong!
- Finish your essay. When it comes time to add your essay to the application, re-read the essay prompt to make sure your essay answers the question. At this point, you’ll want to add some statements to your essay for each school you are applying to. Give an example (from your list of features that you created first) of why that particular school is a good fit. Make it clear that you’ve thought about this question. It could be that the school has a perfect location for internships in your field of interest, or that the size of the student body or average class size is a good fit for your learning style. If you’ve visited campus, you might mention that your visit confirmed your interest. Whatever you do, take a few moments to let the admissions committee know that you have given this issue some thought. And, whatever you do, make sure you do not write in your application to University X that you really, really can see yourself as a student at University Y.
- Submit. And breathe!
- If you are really serious about a school, you should try to visit. Take a campus tour and meet with an admissions counselor. Eat in the cafeteria. If your finances make this impossible, keep in touch with your admissions counselor with questions or updates on the progress of your application or with updates on your academic progress. Demonstrating a genuine interest in the school may help sway the admissions committee decision your way!
The most important thing to keep in mind is that there is a school out there for everyone. If you do your research you’ll have a list of appropriate schools where you will be happy and successful. If a school doesn’t accept you, it likely means that you weren’t really a fit for that school. Don’t get discouraged. Every year hundreds of thousands of college freshmen apply to, get accepted to, and enroll at thousands of schools around the country. With some good planning and careful submission of your applications, you will soon be joining them!
At Notre Dame de Namur University, we want you to have an application that shines. We want to be able to admit you to our community. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about the application process or the application itself. And we want to hear from you as you go through the process. Don’t be shy! One of the benefits of going to a smaller school is that the faculty and staff will get to know you and want to support you!
Posted on February 5, 2015
At NDNU we want to make sure that you achieve your academic and career goals by attaining your desired degree. To get you to the finish line, it is vitally important that you organize your financial future in a positive way. For most NDNU students this financial planning begins with the financial aid process, which in turn begins with the FAFSA. It is easy as a busy student to forget about this process. Don’t! See the helpful tips below to better understand why the completion of the FAFSA is so important.
- File early! You may qualify for more financial aid if you submit your FAFSA early. Funds for some federal programs like Federal Work Study and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant — not to mention some institutional scholarships — may already be awarded if you wait too long!
- Haven’t filed your taxes yet? No problem! You (or your parents) do not have to file your taxes before submitting your FAFSA. You can complete your FAFSA based on last year’s taxes and then update later. As long as nothing has dramatically changed, it shouldn’t impact your award too much.
- Look out for state deadlines. If you don’t submit by state-specific deadlines, you could miss out on certain awards. Those eligible for Cal Grant should submit by March 2; you might qualify for close to $9,000 in grant money from the state.
- FAFSA wants to know about your parents, too. If you are considered a dependent student for purposes of the FAFSA, you must provide your parents’ income information, even if your parents are not helping you pay for college. If your parents are divorced, you must provide the information of the parent (and step-parent, if applicable) with whom you primarily reside.
- It doesn’t hurt to submit your FAFSA. 97% of NDNU undergraduates receive some sort of financial aid.
- Ask for help! Don’t be embarrassed to give us a call and ask for help. Filing your FAFSA correctly on the first attempt saves you work, frustration, and avoids errors, so we are happy to help. If you are confused, make an appointment to come in to meet with a Financial Aid Counselor. We would be happy to sit down and help you and your parents make sense of the FAFSA.