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As a non-religious person, should I exclude religiously affiliated colleges and universities from my college search?

Just a quick disclaimer: I do not mean to offend anyone in this post!! I respect your freedom of religion!!
So, I do not follow any organized religion. I do not believe in a God or creationism, and I am not spiritual. I guess I can be categorized as a "nihilist." With that being said, I personally find myself uncomfortable when people talk about religion, or try to convince me to follow their religion. For religiously affiliated colleges, is this something that I should worry about. I know of some amazing colleges with amazing programs that I am interested in, but I am wary of the fact that the college is religiously affiliated. Any thoughts? #college #college-advice #college-bound #college-selection #religion

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Jennifer’s Answer

Hi, Mia!

As you begin your college search, I would encourage you to consider all colleges and universities that have most or some of your criteria. [If you don't have list of criteria and priorities for what you're looking for in a college or university, I'd start there first.]

Unless you're adamantly opposed, and it's a high priority on your criteria list, then I would suggest looking at all institutions. As you narrow down your college list, you can cull those institutions that don't meet your criteria and don't "feel right." Just as you would with new people, don't let generalizations and/or perceptions cloud your judgement. Get to know the institution before you write it off.

With that said, you'll know when the school is not a good fit. But some institutions have close affiliations that you don't feel on campus and others have little to no affiliations despite having a religion in their name!

Wishing you all the best in your college search!
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Michael’s Answer

I would not count out any college. I went to a Mennonite College (EMU) and I am not Mennonite. I felt that the college was a great fit for me and I loved the time that I had during my college career. Keep every opportunity open and just make sure that the college is a right fit for you!
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John’s Answer

No. Find the school that offers the academics and degrees that interest you and then visit, research, and get a feel for the overall culture. They may not be as diversified as a public school or non affiliated private school. The underlying religious affiliation can add opportunities but is not generally a requirement to participate. I visited schools from both sides as I lived the college search with all 3 of my children. The majority are academic institutions first.

My oldest daughter follows christian beliefs but attended a catholic college and enjoyed it tremendously. She liked the culture but never felt pressured to attend mass and developed multiple friends and felt it has given her a great foundation for her career (Teaching)
My youngest daughter is attending a large state university, she is non religious, but likes the academic program the school offers and is excelling. (And her room mate is very religious yet they are very close friends, even with the difference in beliefs)

So don't exclude them in your search. You will also find private schools to be more active with available scholarships and grants to offset costs.
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Gina’s Answer

I do not consider myself very religious, however I attended a D@ Catholic univerisity on a tennis scholarship. Part of the graduation requirements were 6h of religion classes. I would look into that before applying-- how much of your studies would be wrapped up in those types of classes. Also visit the universities and get a feel for the vibe/environment. If that's not your thing, there are plenty of other choices that may better suit you and you would be much happier.
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Dexter’s Answer

Hey Mia,

I personally would not attend a religiously affiliated college. I'm not religious either and I liked having a mix of religious and non-religious friends in college. I doubt that the balance of believers/non-believers would be the same at a religious school, and I personally would abhor the insistence in belief from emboldened followers.

For example, looking at Notre Dame (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Notre_Dame#Religious_life) I would imagine that you'd constantly find yourself uncomfortable with so much celebration of religion.

I would really love to see an answer from someone that has attended a religious college as a non-believer, though.

Best of luck!

--
Dexter
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Tomas’s Answer

As someone who also doesn't have faith, I understand your hesitance to consider such schools. That said, I wouldn't suggest you rule them out entirely unless you feel your tuition dollars would go towards something that did not align with your values. Consider trying to talk to a current student of the school, get a sense of the culture there. Talk to a member of their staff. I would also investigate if they would expect you to attend certain activities or religious services (especially as it pertains to holidays).
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Callie’s Answer

Hi Mia,

Great question, religious affiliation is is definitely something I also thought about when applying to colleges across the country. A school that is directly tied to a particular church or religion may present a problem for you if you are uncomfortable with conversations revolving around faith, religion, etc. Especially because you undoubtedly will be required to take at least one course on religion. Additionally, inherently the school will have a large draw of people who do have similar religious affiliations and backgrounds. Look towards a traditional liberal arts or state university if you want a more diverse setting.

That said, I would not close yourself off to people who think differently than you or who are religious. I would even encourage you to take a few religion courses wherever you decide to go to school because it will give you a different respective and provide insight. College is a time to learn and explore!

All the best!
Callie
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Albert’s Answer

I would be open minded about your choices. I understand the hesitancy of religious conformity but there are some really good schools out there that have some religion as a foundation. I'd encourage you to explore options based on what you want your degree path/career choice to be.

I attended Baylor University and others have mentioned there was absolutely no pressure to proselytize. You do have to attend chapel so if that's a turnoff, fair point. However, several of my friends who attended were not religious and as far as I can tell it did not distract from their overall experience while attending school there.

Short, but I hope this helps.
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Richard’s Answer

You should go to the college where you feel you would be the best fit overall. It is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of all potential schools. You should weigh these factors based on how important they are to you. Make sure to look into each college with an open mind and without any bias. For example, although many people at certain religious universities may not share your views, you will surely be able to find different groups of students who share the same values and passions as you do. This holds true even at religiously-affiliated colleges. Look into the course requirements because some of these colleges require religious courses though, which you may not be interested in taking.

Explore different websites, set up phone calls with current students, and try to visit the campus if you can. See if you feel you would be a good fit even without sharing the same faith as them.
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Jose’s Answer

I attended a non-religious affiliated junior college and finished up at a catholic university. The academic environments were the same to me. You went to class and did your work. The society has dictates which govern all schools. I would contend that you're not going to attend a religious affiliated college and find that the professors will be attempting to convert you or having conversations other than the subject matter unless the class agreed, including you, to address a topic that might come up that you may not believe in. The professors know the law and want to keep their positions plus you would expect that they the common sense to respect peoples' beliefs.
From my experience the only way you're generally going to be affected at a religious school is by what you see and hear on the campus because there are going to be things and people symbolic of religion. Unless I looked to go to the chapel or speak to a priest they basically would have been nonexistent other than I knew they were there because I saw them on the campus and may have heard about a religious function being observed. Lastly, the only other scenario I can think of and this can happen at any school, is that it's possible you may befriend somebody who is religious who may deal with things in a religious perspective. Mostly, I suspect you would be going to find people going about their business just as you'd be doing.
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Simeon’s Answer

The bigger the college, the less likely the religious part of the equation will be pushed on you. The most consistent thing I'm aware of that private universities do is sometimes have a required chapel time once per week, which tends to be wishy washy. Even for the places with a mandatory chapel time, there should be options to not attend if you request it. I attended some of the biggest Christian universities in Texas, Houston Baptist University and Baylor University, in the middle of the Bible belt. They were very respectful about the religious side of things. It never came up in the classes and we didn't even have a mandatory chapel time. These universities have excellent classes and faculty, so I'd recommend at least keeping them on your list. You will get some exposure to religion, maybe at the graduation ceremony, at the very least, but it's not really as intrusive as you might believe beyond that.
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Cynthia’s Answer

Great question. I think you need more than just a religious affiliation to decide one way or the other. Strict? Required participation? Underlying values? Tolerance for dissent? What is your own tolerance for religion -based decision making that might impact your experience?

Small or large?

Look at student clubs & organizations? If you are applying to a place where the student clubs represent all religious and cultural and political viewpoints, it's likely to be a more diverse and tolerant campus than one where there is only clubs with Church of X connections. Ask yourself if this religion has beliefs or practices that you support or would not support. For example if you are a liberal progressive type, you will find a Quaker affiliated school probably works for you, but a fundamentalist evangelical Bible Belt Christian college where no opposing views are found might be a poor match.

Don't exclude a college for a religious affiliation before you do the deeper dive to learn more.
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Syed’s Answer

Hi Mia,

Notre Dame, Georgetown, Duke and Emory are just a handful of top religious colleges in the US. Some are more intense about the mission than others but it won’t hugely impact your day-to-day student experience as much. You might have to attend some theological classes and follow certain rules in the dorms but you’ll still get a quality competitive education and be able to pursue your dreams.
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Joyce’s Answer

Hi Mia! While there are religious schools where you could get an amazing education, all of them will likely require some religion courses. It sounds like you wouldn't really like that. However, if you're willing to take the religion classes they'll likely require, go for it!
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Kimberly’s Answer

Hi Mia,

First of all, I hope your college search is going well! I remember those days and how exciting it is to research and visit various universities. I would definitely recommend exploring any colleges that you are interested in and can see yourself attending, despite if they are a religious school or not. I had many friends that attended religious school while they did not practice or follow that specific religion and they ended up loving their college experiences. If the religious aspect is they only thing you are hesitant about for choosing a specific school, then I would encourage you to apply because there might be many other factors that outweigh the religious experience for you. Once you find the right college, you will know!
Good luck!
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Jorge’s Answer

Mia,

First of all thank you for your question and transparency with regards to such a delicate topic. In my opinion you would be doing yourself a dis-service by excluding colleges that are affiliated to religious entities. The most important things to consider is does the college offer the degree associated with what you are considering for a career and is the city and campus life one that I see myself being happy and thriving in?

Recently we have been looking at colleges for one of our children and several have been affiliated to certain religions. In most cases they did not even require the student take courses on religion or attend mass or alike events though there were a couple that did. That may be something to consider in your decision making process.

Best of luck to you and hope this is helpful.

Regards
Jorge
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Sebastian’s Answer

I wouldn't just because a lot colleges that are religiously affiliated honestly don't care whether or not you affiliate by the same religion. Obviously there are exceptions to that statement so I would recommend researching the university because while most may not care there are definitely some that do. Also, even if you go to a non-religious college you may have to take a few religion classes to satisfy some pre-req credits, for me I go to a state university that is not religious affiliated and I still had to take some religion classes to take care of ethics credits I needed.