Kalamazoo College vs. Notre Dame

I’m a high school senior trying to make my final decision on college (the deadline is approaching very quickly!) For me, the final choice has come down between Kalamazoo College and Notre Dame. For a little background, I applied to a couple other colleges besides these 2, but quickly decided the bigger state schools (MSU and U of M) were too big for me (I currently go to a very small school).

I toured Notre Dame and loved most everything about it, but after a frank discussion with my parents I knew it would be a financial reach for my family (we knew we wouldn’t be getting a lot of financial aid). This definitely hurt, but I decided that Kalamazoo was a good option (which was kind of ironic because I had actually only applied there on whim because there was a fee waiver). I ended up talking to K’s women’s soccer coach and decided I might want to be on the team, and things were kind of coming together.

However, after I told my parents I was leaning toward K they weren’t super receptive, and a couple days later doubled back on our former conversation and told me we COULD afford Notre Dame. This was extremely overwhelming for me because they had suddenly decided they could pay for this super expensive university when they had told me they basically couldn’t just a week ago. I have had a sneaking suspicion that if I had told them I was leaning toward UMich (which is admittedly a more “prestigious” school) and not K (which doesn’t have as much name recognition or prestige), they might not have had this freak out and changed their mind about the finances for Notre Dame. I did force them to do a virtual tour of Kalamazoo with me a while ago (thanks COVID-19), which I think made them a little more open (they have never been to K’s campus).

**Just a disclaimer, I love my parents and do understand why they doubled back on the Notre Dame finances issue, and I know I am so incredibly lucky to have parents willing to send me to an expensive school. It was a big shock for me because I had largely ruled Notre Dame out, and my family is by no means rich – it would definitely be a financial strain. Also, I have 2 younger siblings, and I don’t want to go to an expensive school if it means they couldn’t go where they wanted to when they eventually go to college

Now that you know my dramatic backstory, I want to lay out some of the things I like/dislike about each college, and hopefully hear some input!


  • small size: when I visited K originally, I didn’t like how small it was. However, after thinking on it more, I think it might actually be a good thing (my high school class size is 60). I know that I thrive in smaller class sizes, and I would love to make connections with professors/advisers. I also think the community aspect of a smaller school would be great.
  • cost: this is a big one. Obviously K is a lot more affordable than Notre Dame, and I got an academic scholarship that makes it even more affordable than state school.
  • soccer: I’ve talked to the coach at K, and I think I could probably play soccer there. I’m not exactly a “recruit,” so odds are I would be sitting the bench a lot, but I still think it would be a great way to make friends, plus if I don’t like I could just not do it again the next year


  • social scene: I will admit that I am a bit of a homebody and not a natural extrovert, but I still do want a good college social experience. From what I can tell K doesn’t have a huge party scene, which isn’t necessarily a problem for me, but I worry I will miss out on the kind of things that you might get a a bigger school (tailgates, etc.) I know WMU is right next door, but most people I’ve talked to say there isn’t a lot of mixing between the campuses.
  • academics: My parents have expressed a worry the academics won’t be rigorous enough. I don’t really share this concern, but I’m not sure if they will match up with Notre Dame.

Notre Dame

  • culture: Notre Dame has a huge football/sports culture, etc., which seems awesome very fun
  • housing: the assigned roommate system seems like a big stress reliever, and I loved the residential housing system there
  • research opportunites: Notre Dame marketed research a LOT when I visited, especially that you can do it as a freshman
  • “name brand”: as much as I hate to say it, there’s something to be said for going a widely known prestigious school. my parents seem to think this will be an advantage in going to med school/grad school or in getting a job…


  • obviously cost: once again, I am grateful that my parents are willing to help me pay… but I just don’t know if any college education is worth $75,000/year. I don’t know if I can let my parents pay that much. I worry that if my experience there isn’t perfect (perfect grades, great friends, etc.), I will feel super guilty because of the price tag
  • size: some part of me worries that even though ND is only mid-size, it will still be too big for me… I’ve grown up in a super small, tight-knit community. Along with that, I worry about being in big lectures, whereas at K I know that classes will consistently be small

I know this entire post has been obscenely long, but if you read it and have any feedback, I would appreciate it so much!

Hey, have you tried to appeal the financial aid at Notre Dame because they are normally very good with their awards. If it is still then same then I would say Kalamzoo. I don’t think it’s worth $75,000/years.

Hi- First, I must say that I’m old and attended K 25 years ago. I am from Michigan and chose to go to K over Michigan (despite my entire family graduating from UM). Funny, at the time K was the most expensive school in MI and one of the most expensive in the country. I knew that I wanted to study engineering and I wanted to take my core courses in smaller class sizes from professors and not TA’s. I went 3 years to K and applied to engineering school at UM. After graduating from UM (with a dual-degree from K), the CEO of a top MI fortune 500 company heard about this female UM engineer that graduated from K. He wanted to interview me BECAUSE I graduated from K, not UM (which was the #1 school for my major at the time). He said he was so impressed by K graduates that he wanted to interview me and offered me 3 jobs on the spot. Problem is, if people didn’t know K, and most didn’t, they figured that I went to Western Michigan.

You mentioned soccer, I played a sport at K and loved traveling around the US- great experience. I am very social and hated the social scene at K. It was the same parties with the same people in different dorm rooms. And not many WMU parties, since the K kids are considered the smart weirdos on the hill by the WMU kids. Also, it was like high school all over again- gossip, cool kids’ party vs. nerd party, etc. The classes (math and science major) were the most difficult, rigorous classes I have ever taken and UM engineering school felt so much easier compared to K. At the time (25 years ago), K had extremely strong academics. I am fluent in a second language because of K. But, K didn’t grade on a curve (check to see if this is still true) and had no problem flunking the entire class on a test. So, when I was applying to engineering schools, I remember both Michigan and Wash U telling me that they were aware of K’s rigor and converted GPAs from K as follows: A “B” from K was like an A+ at MSU (not sure if this is still true). Most schools might not know this about K and this will affect you if you want to apply to certain grads schools. I remember many pre-med students having difficulty getting into med schools that didn’t understand K’s grading. K’s problem with name recognition could also affect your job search when you graduate (ND recruiting much stronger) and you might have to work harder to compete with other grads from schools with greater name recognition… However, I must say that lots of K grads have super interesting jobs, with many working abroad.

Having said all of this, I did not enjoy my time at K and would never want my kids to go there, despite the opportunities and the great education I received. I happened to find one CEO that knew about K, but this was one of few occasions that someone in industry knew about K and its program. Although I’m not an ND fan (Michigan girl!), I think you should attend ND over K IF you can afford it. I am certain that an ND degree will open more doors than a degree from K. I know this was not your question, but weighing the costs and benefits, I’d be strongly encouraging my kids to go to UM given you are in state. That degree will take you farther than a degree from K IMO and I would think that the return on your investment would be higher from UM (in state tuition) than from ND ($75K/yr- ugh!) and K (name rec). I was worried about UM’s size before I went there, but found it easy to get help when I needed it, loved the mix of people and that it wasn’t like high school all over again (with gossip and the cool kids group, which I never experienced at UM), and loved A2. Worst case, you could try UM for a year and always transfer to ND and K if you feel it is too big/aren’t happy. Sorry for the long reply and I hope it’s not too late. If it is and you chose K, K is a great school and your experience might not be like mine (plus, my experience was from 25 years ago and things might have changed).

Good luck!!

I’ll just put my two cents in. Name recognition is extremely valuable in this world. So although I am the first to say “education is education” and that all the schools use the same books and teach the same material, you will have both good, bad and indifferent profs regardless of where you go, I will swear by ‘name recognition’. Many will poo-poo the idea because in this world we all want to believe that everything is equal but the facts remain the facts. PEOPLE (The people who are reading your future resume) love the big name Schools. So if mom and dad are willing to pay for Notre Dame then accept their generous offer. It will pa dividends in the future. In addition, my niece went to ND. You live in the same dorm for the full four years, so you do get a small town feel from that. Lastly, besides the name recognition, I agree with your parents, academically you may not be sitting next to students of the same academic caliber. Again, people might think thats mean, or rude, but its true. Sitting amongst people with similar academic backgrounds helps you to grow.

[quote=“Dungareedoll, post:4, topic:2090595”]

Lastly, besides the name recognition, I agree with your parents, academically you may not be sitting next to students of the same academic caliber. Again, people might think thats mean, or rude, but its true. Sitting amongst people with similar academic backgrounds helps you to grow.

Again, my perspective is from 25 years ago, but at K I sat next to students of the same, if not higher, academic caliber than the students at UM’s engineering school. I just found the kids at K to be much more globally focused (everyone studies abroad and must be fluent in a second language before they can graduate). Yes, I know the acceptance rate at the two schools are very different, but this was just my experience. While at K, I also worked with many people from ND when I was doing my internship at GM and did not find them to be of a higher caliber than the kids at K or UM. Again, just my experience. Of course ND is an absolutely excellent school with a much lower acceptance rate than K.

HOWEVER, I completely agree with Dungareedoll that name recognition is extremely important and I would absolutely choose ND over K if the $75K/yr is affordable for your parents. As I said, for ROI I’d pick UM of the choices you mentioned. While I am not a fan of K, I had to stick up for the extreme intelligence of their students (25 years ago…).

Of course, to be clear there are students of all backgrounds at all schools but it would remiss of anyone to assume that ND doesn’t have an overall student body that comprises of a high academic GPA etc. That’s not to be debated right? The SAT/ACT scores and GPA are more rigorous. Again that’s a fact. I would say the same thing if you compared ND to Stanford or Harvard. These schools (Stanford and Harvard) are more exclusive because of the overall caliber of student that attends. And it appears that “Undecided’s” parents have honed in on that. And I agree and think it’s important for Undecided to think about that.

Lastly, let me be clear…the vast majority of students attend less selective schools and of course they are successful. Because, at the end of the day there’s approx. 2500 public/private universities in the USA with ND in the top 1%. So of course, the majority of students do well in life without the top 1% name recognition. However,
if you can have the name recognition then that’s a bonus and it would be silly to push it to the side thinking that all things are truly equal.

I totally agree and suggested she attend ND. I was just discussing the student caliber that I experienced 25 years ago (old lady!) which could be totally different now. I would not attend K for many reasons, but especially for name recognition. It’s just that some families, especially her family with multiple kids to put through college (as she discussed), might find it hard to afford $75K/year. I suggested somewhere in-between: Michigan is just as good as ND, they both have similar name recognition, the academic caliber of the students are very similar, and her ROI as an instate student would be higher going to Michigan, IMO. Then again, she mentioned that Michigan was too big for her. So yes, I would absolutely, definitely go to ND over K. Also, very important to mention is that the alumni support from K can’t compare in any way to that of ND’s. ND’s alumni support/hiring ND grads is exceptionally high. My husband went to MI Ross and ND MBA. I though Michigan’s students and alumni were crazy- no comparison to ND’s.

Also, it really depends on what she wants to study and if she wants to go to grad school. For example, if she wants to become a teacher and likes K, then the ROI is much better and I’m not sure that spending $300K for a teaching degree from ND is worth it (no offense to anyone- just looking at return on investment). If we are talking business or pre-med, then that’s a different story.

Great point. Her major is a very important factor.

Hi, this may be too late, but I just saw this. I really recommend ND if you want to get into grad school, med school especially, or get a job at a more well-known company. Also, I wouldn’t worry about the size. I came from a small school about (100 kids in my graduating class) and Notre Dame is really committed to creating community here. Also, if you are worried about classes, don’t be. You obviously were smart enough to get into, so I guarantee you will do great academically. I can’t speak for other colleges, but the professors really care here and want you to succeed. ND also works hard to make sure you have at least 2 small classes your freshman year that are less than 15 people with Moreau and the university seminar. Wish you the best today!

I hope I’m not too late! Kalamazoo has amazing graduate placement, several preferred admission programs, and a good number of Fulbright recipients. The classes are very small, and you really have the small community feel. There is also a lot of opportunities in the city, and there are several community service programs. The trimester system is also great because you take 3 classes at a time, which is so much more manageable. we also have a month and a half break in the winter.
They really do everything they can to help you achieve whatever you want. If it’s too small for you, there is WMU right across campus and students often attend games and sometimes take classes there. It’s an amazing school. The K-Plan is well designed.