FirstGen@ND: Erik Finch-Soto ’25 Majors in Neuroscience, Finds Community

Erik Finch-Soto ’25 knew from a young age that he wanted a career that allows him to help people like his grandfather. When he was younger, his grandfather was diagnosed with a disease that affected his brain.

“It hit our family pretty hard and I just remember not knowing much about it and my family explaining it to me. I was at a relatively young age and it was upsetting to me,” he says. 

Finch-Soto remembers how hard the situation was for his grandfather and his entire family. That’s why, once he got to Notre Dame, he decided to major in neuroscience and behavior. He knows his studies will allow him to help people with neurodegenerative diseases. 

Finch-Soto is happy with his choice of major—and happy that he chose Notre Dame.

He became aware of the University in a fun way. As a kid, Finch-Soto played flag football on a community team and his team just happened to be named after the Fighting Irish. His family had never heard of the team and had to look it up. 

When Finch-Soto began researching colleges to attend, he remembered the Fighting Irish and researched the University. A video of a current student he saw online stayed with him and he decided to apply. 


During the application process, Finch-Soto ran into some stumbling blocks typical for first-generation college students. 

“One of the things I felt was a little isolation while applying to college,” he says. “I didn’t feel like there were many people I could talk to or get help from.” 

Finch-Soto’s mom was helpful throughout. She researched colleges with him and helped him map out a process for applying. But it was tough.

Neither of Finch-Soto’s parents had been to college, so, he says, there was always a question in their minds: “Are we doing the right things here?”

Despite the anxiety of applying and then waiting to hear from schools, Finch-Soto found reassurance.

“My family reminded me that I did put all my effort into this. I knew where I was and where I wanted to go. But, at the end of the day, regardless of what happens, I know that I put myself out there and that I did the best I could,” he says. 

Now a sophomore at Notre Dame, Finch-Soto is pursuing a subject he loves, while building a community for himself inside and outside of the classroom. 

He is pursuing research in a sleep lab on campus and he is part of the executive board of student government.

He loves his work with one of the student government departments he is part of, the Department of Diversity and Inclusion, which focuses on first-generation and low-income students.

He is also part of the Balfour-Hesburgh Scholars Program. And he is the head advisor for a program called Matriculate, through which current Notre Dame students mentor high-schoolers applying to college. 

Finch-Soto says the friends he has made at Notre Dame have had a huge impact on him and helped him to grow as a person. 

“When I first came here and got settled into my dorm, immediately there was a wave of community that I will never forget,” he says. 

Finch-Soto lives in Keenan Hall with one of his closest friends on campus and says the camaraderie in the residence hall is unparalleled. It struck him during Welcome Weekend of his first year that this was the community for him. 

“It clicked, this idea of always being submerged in a community and that people are always willing to interact. It took away a feeling of solitude that I had and made me feel like, wow, there are so many people," he says. "Even though they may not be the same race, the same income as me, or come from the same place, I can connect with them."

Watch the video above to learn more about Finch-Soto’s Notre Dame experience.


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Originally published by Shannon Rooney at on January 31, 2023.