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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.

Meet the Expert

Holly Markiecki-Bennetts Director of College Counseling at U of D Jesuit High School

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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.

All Catholic College Students

Catholic Door Scholarship for Catholic Students

Three scholarships ranging in amounts of $100 to $500 are awarded to Catholic students who will attend an accredited four-year university.

Ralph M. Knight Chemistry and Engineering Scholarship

Offered by the Catholic Community Foundation for the Diocese of Phoenix, this $5,000 scholarship is for graduates of a Catholic high school in the Diocese of Phoenix, practicing Catholics and those entering a chemistry or engineering college program.

Ruth K. Jacobs Memorial Scholarship

This $1,500 scholarship is for Choristers Guild members who demonstrate an interest in choral music and are preparing for a career in church music ministry.

Kiernan-Fallon Scholarship

This scholarship is for students of Providence College who are studying for the Dominican brotherhood or priesthood.

Father McGivney Vocations Scholarship

This scholarship is for men who have entered a major seminary with the intent of becoming a Catholic priest.

The Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma (CFO) Scholarships

The CFO offers several scholarships to Catholic students who are residents of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Steven L. and Salena A. Hitchens Scholarship Fund

Graduating high school students from Newark Catholic High school who intend to study nursing are eligible for this scholarship from the Catholic Foundation.

Paul and Jackie Greer Scholarship

This two-year renewable scholarship is available to students who are about to graduate high school and attend All Saints Catholic Church in Fremont, Michigan.

St. Paul the Apostle Church Ladies Guild Scholarship

Eligibility for this $500 scholarship includes membership at the St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church. The student must be a Putnam County high school senior with at least a 3.0 GPA.

The National Catholic College Admission Association (CCAA) Scholarship

Multiple $1,000 scholarships are available to college students who will enroll in a National CCAA postsecondary institution.

V.J. Guinan Presidential Full Tuition Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded on the basis of academic and personal merit to students who attend the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.

St. John’s University Catholic School Scholarship

This $2,500 renewable scholarship is graduates of a Catholic high school who will enroll at St. John’s University.

James R. and Geraldine F. Bertelsen Scholarship

Students must have at least a 3.0 GPA, be practicing Catholics, residents of Carlsbad, CA and be enrolled in a Catholic post-secondary institution.

Catholic Financial Life Scholarship Program

Offers college scholarships between $500 and $1,000 to individuals under 23 years of age who have had a life insurance policy with Catholic Financial Life for at least once year.

Catholic Order of Foresters Educational Award

Provides $600 scholarship awards to 50 named annuitants or insured individuals of a Catholic Order of Foresters financial instrument who plan on getting a postsecondary education.

Catholic United Financial Scholarships

Open to all members, these scholarships provide between $300 and $500 to those who seek certification, trade skills or a college degree at a Catholic or non-Catholic institution.

Knights of Columbus Pro Patria Scholarship

Members of the Knights of Columbus or Columbian Squires or the child of a member may receive a $1,500 renewable college scholarship to be used any Catholic college or university in the United States.

Italian Catholic Federation Scholarship Program

Provides about 200 scholarships to Roman Catholic students of Italian descent who live within the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada. Children of members of the Italian Catholic Federation are also eligible.

Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA) Student Scholarship Grant

This renewable scholarship is open to PRCUA members who have finished their first year of undergraduate studies.

Lilo Wendell Scholarship

For those who are Catholic daughters of single mothers and about to graduate from a Catholic high school, or those who are members of a Parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit and will attend a college or university as a full-time student.

Emmett J. Doerr Memorial Scout Scholarship

Established by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, six Catholic high school seniors of either sex who participate in a Boy Scouts of America program can receive this scholarship to help pay for the cost of college tuition, room or board.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.com

    Allows 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.


    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.