Scholarships for Catholic College Students

By Genevieve Carlton

Published on September 2, 2021

Scholarships for Catholic College Students

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In 2018, 94% of students at Catholic colleges received financial aid to pay for school, according to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Scholarships and grants do not require repayment, making them more appealing than student loans. 

College students can explore many Catholic scholarships to help fund their education. This page introduces scholarships and grants for Catholic students and offers religious student resources and information about resource centers for Catholic students.

 
 

Exploring Catholic scholarships and schools

Can I go to a Catholic college if I am not Catholic?

Yes. Catholic students are the minority at Catholic schools. In 2017, 43% of students at Catholic colleges and universities identified as Catholic.

What are the Catholic Ivy League schools?

Catholic Ivy League schools include elite institutions like the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, and Boston College. These institutions rank among the nation's best colleges.

Are Catholic colleges strict?

Catholic colleges vary in their student policies. Prospective applicants should research student life at their potential schools.

Do Catholic colleges offer scholarships?

Yes. Many Catholic colleges and universities offer scholarships. In 2018-19, nearly 89% of Catholic college students received institutional aid.

Catholic scholarship applications often require different application materials than other scholarships. For example, some Catholic scholarships require proof of regular church attendance or a recommendation letter from the applicant's pastor. Many also award scholarships to graduates of Catholic high schools or students from a particular diocese.

Applicants stand out by writing custom essays and other application materials for each scholarship. They can also request recommendation letters from people who can speak to their faith, including religious leaders.

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Scholarships


Many organizations offer scholarships for Catholic students. Our list of Catholic scholarships includes awards for students attending specific institutions, graduates of Catholic high schools, and students who meet various other eligibility requirements. 

In addition to this list, Catholic college students should also contact their local Knights of Columbus council or archdiocese to learn about scholarships. This page provides information about financial aid and college.

Archdiocese of Detroit Scholarships

The Archdiocese of Detroit offers multiple scholarships for high school seniors and first-year college students. For example, the Lilo Wendell scholarship supports Catholic women.

Award: $2,000-$4,000
Deadline: June

Angel Scholarship for Social Work, Peace and Justice Studies

This scholarship supports students pursuing a degree in social work, social justice, public health, or a related field at a four-year institution in Arizona. Applicants must attend a Catholic high school in the Diocese of Phoenix.

Award: $5,000
Deadline: March

Aquinas College Scholarships

Aquinas College offers multiple scholarships for students with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Recipients can renew the scholarship each semester by maintaining their GPA and any other criteria specified by the donor.

Award: Varies
Deadline: Varies

Bernard B. and Mary L. Brusin Scholarship Fund

This scholarship supports graduating seniors in St. Louis County who practice Judaism or Catholicism. Applicants need a 3.0 minimum GPA and an adjusted gross family income of under $75,000.

Award: $5,000
Deadline: January

Briana Tigue Medina Nursing Scholarship Fund

This scholarship supports aspiring nurses pursuing a degree at a four-year college or university. Applicants must attend a high school within the Diocese of Phoenix. Saint Mary's Catholic High School graduates receive preference.

Award: $1,000
Deadline: March

Catholic Order of Foresters Scholarships

The Catholic Order of Foresters offers multiple scholarships, including the Fraternal Scholarship for high school seniors and the Educational Award for members enrolling at an accredited institution.

Award: Up to $5,000
Deadline: Varies

Catholic United Financial Scholarships

This organization offers one-time scholarships to Catholic United members pursuing a degree. Recipients receive $500 for attending a Catholic institution or $300 for attending a non-Catholic school.

Award: $300-$500
Deadline: April

DeSales University Catholic Schools Grants

DeSales University offers grants to incoming students who graduated from Catholic high schools. The university also offers leadership, merit, and transfer student scholarships.

Award: $3,000
Deadline: Varies

First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association Scholarship Program

This scholarship supports FCSLA members who hold a policy with the organization. Applicants receive funds based on their academic record, church or community service, and school involvement.

Award: $1,250
Deadline: February

Gerald P. Gorman Memorial Irish Catholic Scholarship

This scholarship supports a Duquesne University student, with a preference for applicants who identify as Irish Catholic. As an endowed scholarship, the award helps students afford their education.

Award: Varies
Deadline: Varies

Ignatian Heritage Scholarship

John Carroll University offers this scholarship to first-time, first-year students who attended Catholic high schools. The first-place recipient earns a full-tuition scholarship.

Award: Full tuition
Deadline: January

Italian Catholic Federation Scholarships

Since 1964, the federation has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships. Applicants must be Catholic and of Italian descent while also living in Arizona, California, Illinois, or Nevada.

Award: $400
Deadline: March

John A. Lyons Fellowship

This fellowship awards full tuition, student health insurance, and a stipend to recent graduates of Boston College or students born within 20 miles of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts.

Award: Full tuition
Deadline: Varies

Kenny Schall Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship supports graduates of Centennial High School in Arizona who attend a college or university in the state. Applicants must show financial need and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Award: $875
Deadline: March

Knights of Columbus Scholarships

The Knights of Columbus offers a scholarship to incoming first-year students at a Catholic college or university in the U.S. Applicants must be a member of the Knights of Columbus or the child of a member.

Award: $1,500
Deadline: April

Kolping Society of the United States Scholarship

This scholarship supports students attending an accredited college, university, or trade school. Applicants must be an active Kolping member or the immediate family member of a member.

Award: $3,000
Deadline: April

Loyola University Catholic Heritage Award

This award provides four years of support for incoming first-year students who graduated from a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Chicago or the Diocese of Joliet.

Award: Full tuition
Deadline: Varies

Lucile Murray Durkin Scholarship for Women Discerning Priestly Ordination

Women pursuing ordination qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to ministry, and women and nonbinary people pursuing ordainment as Catholic priests may receive preference.

Award: $2,200
Deadline: April

National Catholic Committee on Scouting

This scholarship supports high school seniors who participate in Boy Scouts of America and practice Catholicism. Applicants must be an Eagle Scout or hold the Summit Award or the Quartermaster Award.

Award: $5,000
Deadline: March

Patricia L. McCarthy Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship supports first-year students attending a four-year college or university. High school seniors who participate in the Church of the Resurrection may apply.

Award: $750
Deadline: April

Polish Roman Catholic Union of America

PRCUA supports students in the Polish American community, including through educational scholarships. The union plans to award $20,000 in scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students.

Award: Up to $2,000
Deadline: June

Putnam County Community Foundation Scholarships

In 2021-22, the Putnam County Community Foundation plans to award over $300,000 in scholarships, including awards for graduates of particular schools in Indiana.

Award: Varies
Deadline: January

Ralph M. Knight Chemistry and Engineering Scholarship

Students attending a Catholic high school in the Diocese of Phoenix qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must major in chemistry, engineering, or a similar field.

Award: $5,000
Deadline: March

Ruth K. Jacobs Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship supports full-time students with an interest in church music. Music majors with strong academic records may apply. Candidates who demonstrate an interest in children's and youth choirs receive preference.

Award: $1,500
Deadline: June

St. John's University Catholic Scholarships

St. John's University offers several scholarships, including the Catholic School Scholarship, which awards $10,000 to a graduate of a Catholic high school. The Catholic Scholars Program also provides $5,000 per year for undergraduates.

Award: Varies
Deadline: Varies

The Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma Scholarships

Catholic high school students in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City qualify for several scholarships. Applicants complete a single online form to demonstrate their academic ability and financial need.

Award: Varies
Deadline: March

The Catholic Foundation of Ohio Scholarships

The foundation supports Catholic students attending a college or university. For example, the Thomas L. Smith Memorial Scholarship awards funds to a senior graduating from a Catholic high school in Columbus.

Award: Varies
Deadline: March

The Catholic University of America Scholarships

The Catholic University of America offers multiple scholarships to students based on their academic merit, leadership, or community service. The school awards admission scholarships to first-year and transfer students.

Award: Varies
Deadline: Varies

The National CCAA Scholarship

Students enrolling in a National CCAA member institution as a first-time, first-year or transfer student qualify for this scholarship. Prospective recipients submit an application to receive the one-time award.

Award: $1,000
Deadline: April

V.J. Guinan Presidential Scholars Program

This scholarship funds incoming first-year students attending the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Applicants provide parish information, an essay on Catholic traditions, and information on their intended major. The scholarship also requires recommendation letters.

Award: Full tuition
Deadline: February

Choosing to Attend a Catholic University

Prospective students considering Catholic colleges and universities must weigh their unique needs and circumstances to find the best fit. Some students thrive at Catholic institutions, while others prefer a nondenominational school. This section explores reasons to attend or not attend a Catholic institution. 

While students bring their own perspective to the college decision process, researching the options helps them make an informed choice. Check out our Christian student guide to choosing a college.

Reasons to Attend a Catholic Institution

Why attend a Catholic university? For many students, a Catholic institution offers a welcoming atmosphere where shared values shape the curriculum and life outside of the classroom. Below, we list some reasons to attend a Catholic institution.

Built-in Catholic Community
While only 42% of Catholic school students identify as Catholic, these institutions offer a built-in community of people with shared values and religious beliefs. At a Catholic institution, undergraduates connect with Catholic students, faculty, and staff.
Faith-based Education
Catholic colleges integrate faith into the curriculum. Undergraduates study theology, Western philosophy, church history, and social justice. Religious studies or theology majors devote themselves to exploring faith and the relationship between religion and society.
Commitment to Religion
At nondenominational schools, Catholics connect through faith-based religious centers or student groups. At Catholic colleges, faith shapes the education and extracurricular activities. Advisors and counselors help students grow as individuals and Catholics rather than providing a secular approach.

Reasons Not to Attend a Catholic Institution

Catholic institutions are not the right fit for every student. When evaluating Catholic college versus public college, for instance, some prefer the larger class sizes, greater variety of majors, and lower tuition rates at public colleges. Below, we list some reasons not to attend a Catholic school.

More Options
Students who choose to attend a Catholic college limit their choices to around 200 colleges. However, Catholics who choose a nondenominational college can explore many more choices, including top-ranked institutions.
Tuition Savings
The average cost of tuition at Catholic schools exceeded $30,000 per year in 2018-19. While 94% of undergraduates receive financial aid and nearly 89% of undergraduates receive institutional aid, nondenominational schools may offer tuition savings over Catholic universities. For example, in-state public institutions charge around $9,000 in tuition and fees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Larger Schools
In 2018-19, around 850,000 students attended a Catholic college in the U.S. These schools enroll around 2,600 students, with only a small number enrolling more than 10,000 students. For undergraduates seeking a large campus, nondenominational schools offer more options.

Finding and Joining the Catholic Community on Campus


Whether Catholic college students choose a Catholic school or a nondenominational college, they can connect with the Catholic community on campus. Local organizations like Catholic student centers or Catholic student associations help new students find their local church, learn more about their parish, and volunteer their time. 

Resources like the The Catholic Directory also help students find local Catholic organizations. Online learners attending a school outside of their local area particularly benefit from this kind of resource. Catholic organizations on campus differ depending on the school and the size of the campus Catholic community.

Newman Centers

With chapters on more than 2,500 college campuses, Newman Connection brings Catholics together as a national nonprofit. The organization runs a national outreach program to connect college students with campus ministry, hosts a national prayer hour, and designs educational programming for students.

Catholic Student Centers

Many colleges and universities host a Catholic student center, where students connect and share their faith. Catholic student centers host events, including online events for distance learners. They may also organize daily masses, Bible study groups, and worship services.

Catholic Student Associations or Clubs

At most colleges and universities, students connect through student associations or clubs based on interests, career goals, or faith. Catholic student associations unite students in informal settings where they can set goals, give back to the community through volunteer activities, and share their faith. Catholic student associations may also accept online learners.

Catholic College Resources and Support


Catholic college students face many of the same stressors as other undergraduates, such as balancing their classes, getting enough sleep, and managing distractions. However, Catholic students also experience unique issues like finding the right college and choosing between a religious school or a nonreligious school. These resources help students thrive in college.

External Resources

Catholic Answers helps current, former, and non-Catholics learn more about Catholicism and the Catholic Church. The site provides answers to common questions and offers an accessible way to learn about the Catholic faith. A humanitarian agency for the U.S. Catholic community, CRS University runs campus chapters to prepare college students for leadership roles in Catholic relief services. A Catholic outreach group focused on higher education, FOCUS promotes Catholicism on college campuses. The organization hosts Bible studies, outreach events, and trips to spread Catholicism. Founded in 1959, CCAA represents more than 120 Catholic colleges and universities. The nonprofit encourages Catholic higher education while providing resources to prospective students on attending a Catholic college. USCCB represents Catholic bishops in the U.S. The site includes resources on mass times, Bible study materials, Catholic news and resources, and prayers.

Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.

See articles by Genevieve

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