(Article originally appeared in The Catholic Transcript, March 2013 issue)
When transitioning into college from a Catholic school background, there are many benefits of researching Catholic colleges in the process. Such colleges provide familiarity –the opportunity to continue learning in an environment where there is a ready understanding, from peers and professors, of one’s faith-filled experiences. Those students who have not previously attended a Catholic school may also consider the merits of attending a Catholic college. They may develop and grow in such a welcoming and supportive atmosphere with students of similar values and goals.
Attending a Catholic college provides an inherent “acceptance” of one’s spiritual and personal values, as well as the freedom to “be true to oneself” in a nurturing environment.
There needs to be, even in a Catholic college, the opportunity to assess and challenge one’s faith, take personal and intellectual risks, and make all the other decisions that come with maturing into one’s unique adulthood. In a Catholic college, this process can be fostered with the help of courses and classrooms where knowledge leads to greater meaning of how God pervades our world and individual lives. I have had discussions, through the years, with students who have left Catholic high schools to attend either a public or non-sectarian school. Such a transition may work for some, but others have told me they have felt alienated from, or disconnected to, the environment. Lifestyle choices, dorm activities, and student priorities are not always in line with their own, or with their faith.
Students may want to research and visit non-Catholic colleges, as well, in their search process. Many non-Catholic institutions are also faith-based. Those private colleges that are either not religiously affiliated, or else public, may also offer the strong community service programs, and student bodies conducive to one’s personal needs and goals.
Again, in discussions with former clients, years, many who chose not to continue their education at a Catholic college tell me they do feel the same “bond” of acceptance, and tolerance they had in their prior Catholic schooling. They also say they feel an “emptiness” there, or a lack of access to peers with the same religious predispositions
Students there do not always offer the same perspectives or necessarily the same daily life or learning priorities.
Since college is generally a time and place to solidify one’s life mission, prepare oneself for challenges ahead, and develop a plan for a future that reflects one’s “soul” and aspirations, the Catholic college route might very well be the best choice for getting there!