If you attended public school, religion and college may seem like a strange combination to you.
But as long as a college isn’t state-supported, like a public university, then the separation of church and state doesn’t apply.
Many private colleges are religiously-affiliated, but the level of religious presence varies. Here are some things to be aware of about religiously-affiliated colleges:
1. They don’t have ulterior motives.
If you’re skeptical of the religiously-affiliated schools that appear on your college search, be aware that these colleges are not out to convert or indoctrinate you, and they accept students from all walks of life. Most importantly, whether a college’s religious-affiliation is a tribute to their history or a fundamental part of their administration, they are just like all other colleges: open-minded and tolerant, with the goal of encouraging academic success and critical thinking among students.
2. Religion may permeate academics and student life.
Some religiously-affiliated colleges require a few religion courses, and there may be some restrictions you won’t find in secular colleges, like single-sex dorms or curfews. But every college is different – usually a campus tour will answer your questions, and if not, don’t be afraid to ask.
3. Not every student will practice the same religion as the college’s affiliation, if they practice at all.
The majority of the student body at these schools may be religious, but this is where religion in college gets interesting, especially when you look at recent trends. Case in point: Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. According to the Huffington Post, Muhlenberg has a Lutheran affiliation, but about 35 percent of the student body is Jewish, prompting the college to establish majors focusing on Jewish studies and even a kosher section of the dining hall. Similar trends are occurring at Roman Catholic colleges, as well. (Let’s hope this religious tolerance spreads!)
4. Religion in college is not limited to affiliated schools.
On the other side of the coin are secular colleges where most of the student body is religious, like Brandeis University in Massachusetts. JWeekly.com explains that the college was started by Jewish communities aiming to combat anti-Semitism in 1948, and even today, the majority of students at this non-affiliated university are still Jewish.
But religion in college isn’t even limited to schools like these. Other secular colleges often have a variety of programs for their religious and non-religious students to explore religion and faith, from offering majors in religion to holding worship services to celebrating religious holidays.
5. Religion and academia go hand-in-hand.
College is about learning. Remember that the emphasis on education, knowledge and truth is as fundamental to religiously-affiliated colleges as it is to secular ones. In fact, many students who attend these schools or study religion find that they develop a profound grasp of the human experience. Many also come to appreciate the emphasis on morality that other campuses can lack.
When you think of all the brilliant scholars throughout history who were inspired by their beliefs, it’s difficult to deny that academic success can stem from religious awareness. Religion in college might also provide that for you.