A Student’s Perspective: Recommended Catholic Campuses
By Kathryn Zagrobelny
During my junior year of high school there was one word sure to strike fear in my heart: college. Even the mention of that word caused my body to contract, my face to pale, and my heart to freeze as an onslaught of sheer terror and panic overcame me. My brain shut down with every thought of packing my life into a few boxes and moving into the unknown future.
While I sincerely hope your college search remains less dramatic than my own, you are probably well aware of one critical detail: going to college is a big deal. But making sure you pick one that suits you and enables you to grow in your faith is more important still.
This can be hard if you have no idea of where to start looking. As a junior in high school, I was clueless as to which college I wanted to attend or what I wanted to study. I leaned towards small to mid-sized universities and contemplated pursuing psychology, sociology, French, graphic design, and multi-media (really anything besides science and math—but hey, that was just me!). Beyond that, the possibilities were endless.
Family gatherings turned into large discussions of which colleges to visit and when. My guidance counselor recommended giant reference books for me to explore. Letters and e-mails from what seemed like every college in the country piled up on the kitchen table and flooded my email inbox. I didn’t have time to research hundreds of universities and compare and contrast the merits of each one. And I wanted to make sure I found a college where I could practice my faith and where I could make friends who shared my values. But where to begin?
It turns out that there’s a perfect starting line: The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. Published annually by The Cardinal Newman Society, the Guide recommends faithful Catholic colleges that are committed to providing an excellent education in an environment that upholds Catholic teaching and fosters spiritual growth. Glancing through the Guide, you will learn about strong Catholic colleges and universities from all over the country. It comes in both book and web-form (check it out for free at TheNewmanGuide.com) and covers just about everything you could want to learn more about—academic programs, spiritual life, activities and extracurricular programs, even residence life.
My mother was well aware of The Newman Guide. When I came to her with the name of a Catholic university that interested me, she immediately consulted the pages of the college profiles in the book to ensure that that specific institution valued and fostered its Catholic identity. “Of course I looked it up,” she told me. “I had to be sure it was true to the faith if I was going to send you there.” Thanks to the Guide, I found myself interested in several Catholic universities dedicated to their Catholic identity. Who knew there were so many faithful institutions waiting to be discovered!
Although I visited and applied to some public universities, ultimately I felt drawn to attend a Catholic university. Deep down, I knew that attending a faithful Catholic institution would not only prepare me for a future career, but also help me become the person God wants me to be.
The colleges featured in the Guide foster spiritual life both inside and outside of the classroom and contain a vibrant culture that respects Catholic teaching. Faith can and often is brought into class discussions. On Sundays, the question isn’t “where can I go to Mass,” but “which Mass do I want to attend?” Daily Mass, Confession, Adoration, and other opportunities for prayer are easy to find. And you learn that having fun on the weekends does not have to mean the typical party and hook-up scene that exists on so many college campuses. These institutions are committed to their Catholic identity and successfully merge both spiritual and academic development.
Even among faithful Catholic institutions, it is important to recognize that not every college or university is a good match for everyone. Each campus described in The Newman Guide has a unique culture that caters to a different set of needs. Some follow a solid core curriculum while others offer more course flexibility. Some have 100 percent Catholic students, and others have a more mixed student body. What you’ll want to discover is which college best suits you. Like I said, The Newman Guide serves as a starting line—it cannot dictate what college you should choose. At the same time, the Guide offers some great faithful Catholic options as you consider your future and your faith.
Learn more about the recommended Catholic colleges or order a hard copy of the Guide at TheNewmanGuide.com.
Never once did I regret my decision to attend a faithful Catholic university. When I stepped on campus on move-in day, my fears dissolved as I was swept away by a whirlwind of happiness and excitement. As cliché as it sounds (I chose French by the way), I can honestly say that it immediately felt like home and I knew I was where I was meant to be. As I worked my way through classes, activities, and different spiritual opportunities, I felt myself transform and grow.
That is the experience of a faithful Catholic university. The integration of academics with an authentic Catholic culture allows students to develop spiritually and grow as mature human beings as they learn and prepare for the future. The mission of the universities recommended in The Newman Guide is not solely to train you for a career, but to prepare you for the rest of this life and eternal life.
May God bless you as you embark on your college search!