National Essay Contest Winner Seeks College That Helps, Not Hinders, Life of Faith

Most college-bound students are focused on preparing for a career, but Landis Lehman, a homeschooled student from Lucas, Texas, decided that she wants that and more. She searched for a college that “will prepare me not only for a career, but also for a life as a faithful follower of Christ.”

And rejecting the moral laxity that is typical of campus life, Lehman looked for a college that “helps me, not hinders me, towards my ultimate goal of Heaven.”

Her passion for Catholic education is what helped Lehman become this year’s winner of The Cardinal Newman Society’s third annual Essay Scholarship Contest on faithful Catholic education. She will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her first year at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and is eligible for continuing aid from Benedictine in subsequent years.

“A college that boldly embraces its Catholic character stands out from the crowd,” Lehman opens her winning essay, titled “Prepared for Life.” Benedictine is one of several institutions that the Newman Society recommends for strong Catholic identity and fidelity in The Newman Guide, a free online publication including college profiles, in-depth questionnaires, statistics, photos and more. The scholarship must be used at a Newman Guide college.

The annual contest is open to high school seniors in the United States who participate in the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program and use The Newman Guide in their college search. The innovative Recruit Me program invites Newman Guide colleges to compete for students while providing information about faithful Catholic education. Rising high school seniors who wish to enter next year’s essay contest can sign up for Recruit Me online at

Lehman first learned about The Newman Guide while a high school sophomore in the Mother of Divine Grace program, because her older brother used the guide during his own college search. She says that she loves the way that The Newman Guide allowed her to “quickly and easily compare different aspects of authentically Catholic colleges.” After being accepted to a several of them, Lehman decided to join her brother at Benedictine College.

The topic for this year’s contest was to reflect, in 500-700 words, on the following question: “From academics to student activities to residence life, what makes a faithful Catholic college attractive to you?” Essays were judged by how well they demonstrate appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

“We were impressed with Landis’s well-written essay,” said Kelly Salomon, director of Newman Guide programs for the Newman Society. “She identifies many of the key elements of an authentic education. Her essay will be helpful to high school students across the country because it makes a convincing case for attending a faithful Catholic college.”

Lehman relates how a faithful Catholic education will form her in mind, body and soul.  She writes:

The education I will receive will cultivate in me a love of truth that will stay with me long after graduation. Likewise, the godly relationships that I will forge with the inspiring students around me will become an integral part of my adult life. Most importantly, at a college where every aspect of life is pervaded by a devoutly Catholic culture, I will be provided with a foundation that will inspire me to strive for holiness every day.

Ultimately, Lehman believes that “choosing to attend a faithful Catholic college is a decision that will affect more than my next four years—it will influence me for life.”

Lehman’s entire essay can be read here.

Her $5,000 scholarship is made possible thanks to the generosity of Joseph and Ann Guiffre, supporters of The Cardinal Newman Society and faithful Catholic education.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Guiffre for enabling this scholarship,” said Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “They understand the unique value of a truly Catholic education, and they are thrilled to help a student experience all that a Newman Guide-recommended college can provide.”

New this year is the opportunity for the winner to receive an additional $15,000 from participating colleges over the course of their college education. Seventeen of the Newman Guide colleges, including Benedictine College, have agreed to supplement the Newman Society’s scholarship with additional $5,000 grants over three additional years, under certain conditions including full-time enrollment and academic progress.

Essays were submitted from students in 44 states, who together have applied to every U.S. residential college that is recommended in The Newman Guide.

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