What are some of the advantages to choosing a Catholic university?
Mission and founding values are the center of a Catholic university experience. These principals guide and inform decisions made throughout the institution. Because of this, there are common themes that unite the community, regardless of the religious background of the individual members. For example, many Catholic institutions have strong volunteer programs. Students often see the Catholic identity of a school through interactions with professors and their extra-curricular activities.
What are some of the best financial aid resources available specifically for Catholic students?
As private institutions, Catholic institutions will offer both merit and gift aid to help minimize the out-of-pocket cost of attendance. Many Catholic universities offer scholarships for students who are Catholic or who have attended a Catholic High School. I always recommend students to reach out to their local Knights of Columbus chapter, Catholic Publishers and their archdiocese for any available scholarship opportunities. Many Catholic high schools have relationships with specific colleges that may offer a direct scholarship. This is most frequently found in schools that share sponsorship from a religious order. For example, students attending a Franciscan high school may receive a scholarship to a Franciscan college.
How can students at non-Catholic colleges strengthen their faith and find like-minded students on their new campus?
Many universities will have a Catholic student union or a Newman Center. These organizations provide a place for fellowship and worship. Larger communities may have a particular parish affiliated with the school. Typically, parishes affiliated with a college community offer non-traditional Mass hours, to fit the lifestyle of a college student. If there is not a parish affiliated with the school, the campus may have a relationship with a local Catholic church. In many cases, someone in a student services office is able to assist a student with making a connection at a local church.
What advice would you offer to Catholic students making the transition to higher education?
Discernment in the college process is important for any student. As a student examines what is important in their faith life, this should be incorporated into the college search process. Students who have been active in their youth groups might consider looking at schools with a strong campus ministry program. Service opportunities, religious presence on the campus, Mass times, Eucharistic Adoration, Reconciliation and music ministry are a few of the areas I encourage my students to explore. It may be helpful to plan to attend the student Mass as part of the campus tour. This will allow a student to experience the Mass with their future community.