Each year, a select number of high school seniors who apply to Notre Dame are neither accepted, rejected nor added to the University’s wait list. Instead, they are offered the opportunity to participate in the Gateway Program.
Former Gateway student, junior Harrison Kranz said he had never heard of the program until he was offered a place in it.
“I was in the fourth class since its inception, but now I tell others that I used to be a Gateway and the response is usually, ‘Oh yeah, I know so-and-so is a Gateway,’” Kranz said. “It’s cool to see that awareness is spreading.”
The Gateway Program was created in 2013 as a collaboration between Holy Cross College and Notre Dame. The program enrolls students at Holy Cross for their freshman year with the guarantee they will be admitted to Notre Dame at the start of their sophomore year so long as they maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher and keep good standing with both institutions.
Former gateway student junior Frankie Boley said she thought her freshman year was more relaxed because of her course load but also felt the pressure of making the grade in some courses.
“It didn’t sound that hard coming from high school, but [general chemistry and calculus] made a B seem very tough at times,” Boley said. “I would find myself putting extra pressure on myself to get good grades, not just to do well on the exam or in the class, but to ensure I made it to Notre Dame.”
Each semester of their freshman year, Gateway students take honors courses at Holy Cross as well as one course at Notre Dame. Holy Cross program directors help Gateway participants with enrollment, course selection and housing.
Kranz said Holy Cross assistant director of admissions Adam DeBeck was someone Gateway students could count on to listen to their problems and concerns both serious and silly.
“He was very relatable and sincerely cared for us, even if we were only there for a year,” Kranz said. “We still keep in contact today. We update each other on everything Bruce Springsteen.”
Gateway students are encouraged to participate in clubs and other extracurricular activities at Notre Dame and Holy Cross. To encourage their integration between the schools, they receive Notre Dame IDs, meal swipes and email addresses.
Kranz is in the process of transitioning into his new role as a senior football equipment manager, an activity he said he has been involved with since his time at Holy Cross.
“Freshman year, when I was trying out to be a manager, I would drive to the early spring practices with my friend at six in the morning,” Kranz said. “Then we would go straight (from) there to our one class at Notre Dame.”
The selective Gateway group grows close throughout their year at Holy Cross, Boley said, as some compete together in intramural athletics and others end up dating each other. Even after they transition schools, many, including Boley, say some of their closest college friends are from the program.
“There were 56 students in our program in 2016, and I say, ‘Hi,’ to every single one of them when I see them,” she said.
Those offered a spot in the program have until May 1, the national college decision day, to claim their spot. After that, a few students from the Notre Dame waitlist are offered a space in Gateway and have until June 15 to accept the offer. For some, the choice is easy, Kranz said.
“If there was a way to go to Notre Dame, I was going to take that route, so I accepted right away,” he said. “It wasn't a hard decision.”
For former Gateway student junior Reilly Connor, however, the decision was a little more difficult, he said.
“If I was accepted into Notre Dame, I would have committed the same day as it was my dream school,” Connor said. “This extra step certainly made me think much more on if it was something I was sure I wanted to do.”
While many students in the Gateway Program reflect on the experience fondly, Connor said the experience can be tough at times.
“I think that is something everyone has to decide for themselves,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate fact that Gateway is a year at a school you didn’t apply to and can feel like a hassle at times.”
But for those who are set on attending Notre Dame, the program provides that chance, Connor said.
“My family has always been huge Notre Dame football fans, and when I came to my first game, I fell in love with Notre Dame for more than the football team,” he said. “I committed myself to getting admitted which led me to Holy Cross and the Gateway Program.”
The Gateway Program may not be the way students envisioned entering Notre Dame, but the program has been important to those who choose to partake, Boley said. She said she recommends Gateway to those who are given the opportunity.
“If their goal is to go to the University of Notre Dame, then the Gateway Program will get them there,” she said. “They will take a different path than normal Notre Dame students, but there will be like 70 other people in the same boat. It gives you a family on your first day.”