The Notre Dame School of Law, established in 1869, is the United States' oldest Roman Catholic law school. The school has been ranked 22nd among the nation's top 100 law school by U.S. News & World Report, and the Princeton Review's evaluation of 170 law schools ranked Notre Dame tenth for career preparation. The school is private with just over five hundred students and trains students to practice in any United States jurisdiction, meshing rigorous academics with religious discussion. Only 18% of applicants are typically accepted to the school and the 2011 class, Wendel's class, has a median LSAT of 166, and undergraduate GPA of 3.62.
Wendel states that one of the greatest boons to being a student of law at Notre Dame is the small class sizes and opportunity to work closely with her professors. Over the past summer, instead of returning home, Wendel stayed at Notre Dame to work with Professor A.J. Bellia as a research assistant. Together, they are working on an article about a statute that has recently resurfaced after almost 200 years. Wendel is also working on the research for a federalism casebook of Professor Bellia's. Of the work as a research assistant, she says, ''Working closely with a professor has allowed me to receive immediate feedback on my work and improve skills that will be critical to my practice as an attorney, benefits that I'm not sure I would have received elsewhere.''
Wendel admits to tears before finals, all-nighters, and seemingly fruitless prayers for grades, but says that having her fellow classmates around helped to soothe the stress. ''The greatest lesson I learned during my first year of law school is that real life doesn't stop for three years. Law school is hard enough and then throw real life on top of it, and the importance of the people around you becomes immensely clear. Over the past year we've had friends marry, nieces and nephews be born, grandparents pass away, parents be diagnosed with cancer, hearts broken,'' she says. ''The difference, however, is that we did it together, and at the end of my first year of law school I can honestly say that coming to Notre Dame Law School is probably the best decision I've ever made.''