Resources & Scholarships for Catholic College Students

Choosing a School, Finding a Faith Community & Getting Financial Aid

While some Catholic college students have chosen to attend one of the 250 degree-granting Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, plenty of non-Catholic students choose to attend these schools as well. With total enrollment of over 800,000 students, these institutions have a basis in Catholic beliefs, but they also deliver a high-quality education. Catholic students who don’t choose to attend a Catholic university can still find a wealth of community and campus support dedicated to practicing and even strengthening their faith at many of the non-Catholic colleges and universities around the country.

Scholarships for Catholic Students

Whether a student chooses to attend a Catholic school or opts for a public college, there is a scholarship opportunity out there for them. Here are some of the many options.

Choosing to Attend a Catholic University

Students considering attending a Catholic university should understand that these schools are private institutions, which usually means a higher tuition rate than the ones you’ll find at public universities and colleges. For the Catholic and non-Catholic students who choose to attend Catholic universities, however, the benefits of attending may be worth the extra money. Students should consider the following when weighing their options.


  • REASONS TO ATTEND A CATHOLIC INSTITUTION

    • Highly regarded institutions
      Some of the most recognized and respected academic institutions are Catholic colleges or universities. Examples include the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University and Boston College.
    • Opportunity for religious growth
      Many colleges provide the opportunity for students to attend Catholic religious services, but these will usually be off campus at a local church. At a Catholic school, most services, such as Mass, will likely be on campus. There will be ancillary events as well, such as Bible study.
    • Catholic-based curriculum
      The curriculum will be tailored in line with the school’s Catholic tradition. For example, schools of the Jesuit tradition, such as Fordham University, will have a curriculum that includes providing service to others. There will also be a large number of student service organizations available.
    • Greater access to professors
      Because Catholic schools are private, they tend to have smaller faculty-to-student ratios. That means greater availability of faculty members to the student body.


  • REASONS TO ATTEND A NON-CATHOLIC INSTITUTION

    • Potentially lower cost
      Attending a Catholic college requires private school tuition, which is far higher than that of a public college or university. Due to the separation of church and state, it’s not possible to attend a public postsecondary school affiliated with the Catholic religion.
    • More college sports
      Though there are many Catholic schools with varsity sports programs that get plenty of television exposure, namely the Gonzaga and Villanova basketball and Notre Dame football teams, the majority of the elite college programs that compete for the national title every year tend to be non-Catholic schools.
    • Larger schools
      For students who enjoy the largest study body possible, going to a major state public university is the best option. Catholic schools don’t necessarily have small student bodies, but they can’t match the massive size of major state universities.


Well-Regarded Catholic Institutions to Consider

  • University of Notre Dame
    The University of Notre Dame is perhaps the most well-known Catholic university in the United States. It also has a great academic reputation and is well established in varsity sports, especially its football program.
  • Villanova University
    Villanova University, now well-known for its college basketball program, provides an education in line with the Augustinian tradition, which emphasizes the pursuit of truth, the ability to think critically and helping others with compassion.
  • Fordham University
    A Jesuit institution, Fordham University pushes its students not just to obtain a high-quality education, but also serve others. By helping others, students will learn more about themselves and find God in all things.
  • Loyola Marymount University
    Located in the metropolis of Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount is based on three traditions: Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Sisters of Saint Joseph of Orange and Marymount. As a result, students receive a diverse and well-balanced education.

Finding & Joining the Catholic Community on Campus

There are a variety of opportunities for students to practice their faith and contribute to the Catholic community while in college. This is true even for students who attend a non-Catholic college or university. Below are some of the Catholic organizations that help students in college.

Newman Center

Also referred to as Newman Houses or Clubs, a Newman Center provides a Catholic community for students at non-Catholic institutions. Newman Centers can be on or off-campus, provide living arrangements for the students, host social events and Catholic worship services, and provide opportunities for community service and ministry. Many Newman Centers will have a chapel to hold religious services. Because it often serves as one of the main religious facilities on campus, many other students from non-Catholic Christian denominations might participate in many of the activities.

Catholic Student Center

Also known as Catholic Student Associations or Catholic Societies, a Catholic student center provides a place for students to experience the spiritual practices they would normally engage in back at home, such as ministry and worship opportunities. These centers can also foster relationships among Catholic students and local parishioners. In many Catholic student centers, students will have many chances to socialize with classmates and host events to help the community, both on and off campus.

Where else can Catholic students get support?

Besides on campus organizations, students can find support from like-minded individuals in the community and online. Below is a list of helpful resources tailored to meet the needs of the typical Catholic college student.

  • Catholic Answers
    An online resource with a variety of knowledge centers, including an encyclopedia, audio recordings and videos that discuss practical and academic questions about the Catholic religion.
  • Catholic Community Forum
    Extensive messages boards on numerous subtopics for discussions on practically any issue or concern relating to the Catholic faith.
  • TheCatholicDirectory.comAllows users to find a nearby Catholic churches and parishes.
  • Catholic Resources
    Great for those who want to research the Catholic faith, this is an online compendium of liturgical and biblical information.
  • CollegeCatholics.com
    Provides a comprehensive overview of the Catholic religion to help current followers, as well as curious individuals, fully understand the teachings and philosophies of the Catholic religion.
  • College Life
    An online program that helps Catholic college students maintain their faith and relationship with their home parish while away at college.
  • CRS University
    Catholic Relief Services promotes Catholic teachings and ideals. CRS University is a branch of CRS that focuses on college and university students.
  • FOCUS
    The Fellowship of Catholic University Students is a missionary organization that aims to share the gospel and Catholic teachings with college students.
  • The National Catholic College Admission Association
    This website contains a wealth of information for prospective students looking for the right Catholic college (including scholarship information) and a tool to find members colleges and universities.
  • The Newman Connection
    Dedicated to providing spiritual support to Catholic college students, the website contains a search locator to find a nearby Newman Center.
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Diocesan Locator
    This locator helps individuals search for the closest diocese to their school.

Other Ways to Strengthen Faith on Campus

Personal and religious learning doesn’t always have to take place during Mass or at Bible study. Many students discover new things about themselves and God by serving and spending time with others. A few ways students can strengthen their faith include:

  • Observance of Catholic traditions and practices, such as Lent, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Easter.
  • Tutor a fellow classmate who is having trouble with a class.
  • Volunteer at a local charitable organization, such as a soup kitchen, food bank or animal shelter.
  • Join student government.
  • Participate in club sports, such as intramurals.
  • Join a sorority or fraternity founded on Catholic ideals.

From the Expert

Holly Markiecki-Bennetts is a Nationally Certified Counselor and a Licensed School Counselor and Limited Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Michigan. She currently serves as the Director of College Counseling at U of D Jesuit High School, an all-male, Catholic college-preparatory school in Detroit Michigan. Holly is the President-Elect of the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling.

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.

5 Saints for College Students

Catholics love saints, and it seems as if there’s a saint for every situation. Here are a few saints with their specialties that college students can call on for some extra inspiration.

  • Saint Isidore of Seville – The Internet
    This is probably the most important saint for college students, given their affinity for technology and social media.
  • Saint Aloysius Gonzaga – Young Students
    He was named the patron saint of young students in 1729 and of all young Christians in 1926.
  • Saint Expeditus – Against Procrastination
    Procrastination is one of the biggest threats to a college student’s academic career. This saint is also the patron of expeditious solutions.
  • Saint Joseph of Cupertino – Studying
    This is one of the most important saints to any college student – or at least he should be, assuming students are keeping up with their classes.
  • Saint Jude Thaddaeus – Desperate Situations
    A desperate situation is something most college students will find themselves in at least once during their college career, whether it’s failing a class, relationship trouble or not having plans on a Friday night.

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