Many colleges and universities in the United States are associated with certain institutions. For instance, there are schools that are HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) as well as colleges associated with different religions, such as Catholic or Mormon colleges. These colleges can be found all over the U.S., but sometimes you have to look hard to find them. In fact, you may not even realize that a university to which you're considering applying may be affiliated with a specific institution until you learn more.

For instance, Jesuit colleges are one type of these religious colleges. Jesuit colleges are colleges that are affiliated with the Jesuit branch of Catholicism. While you don't need to be Jesuit to attend one of these schools, knowing more about them for those who do identify as Jesuit or those who are just curious about what these schools offer can be useful throughout the college application process.

What Is a Jesuit School?

A Jesuit college or university is a private institution of higher learning that is affiliated with the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, or AJCU. Jesuit colleges are Catholic colleges, but because Catholicism comes in many different forms, know that not all Catholic colleges identify as Jesuit. For instance, some people may be under the impression that well-known Catholic colleges like Villanova and Notre Dame are Jesuit colleges, but they are not.

Jesuit colleges put an emphasis on Jesuit principles, and as a student at a Jesuit college, you may notice that there are many options available for those who want to get involved in community service or opportunities where you can take on a leadership role. There are also many resources available for Catholic students who want to enroll in mission trips or retreats.

All that considered, while it may seem unusual to attend a Jesuit college if you are not Jesuit or Catholic, it's important to understand that these schools aren't necessarily religious in nature. For example, although Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. is a Jesuit college, the school is big on diversity, and more than 6 percent of students are Jewish.

About Jesuit Colleges

In the United States alone there are 28 Jesuit colleges, each affiliated with the Jesuit association. These 28 schools are part of a network of nearly 200 Jesuit institutions around the world.

There is also the AJCU Study Abroad Consortium. On their website, you can see a list of at least 20 universities around the world that offer study abroad programs to students at 25 of the 28 Jesuit schools in the U.S. As of 2018, Boston College, Georgetown and Xavier University have not signed the consortium agreement.

Despite the factors that make Jesuit colleges unique, not all Jesuit colleges are hugely religious. Instead, these schools tend to possess qualities that are attractive to students from all backgrounds, such as social responsibility, attentive professors and small class sizes, volunteering opportunities, many different clubs and activities available on campus (not just for Catholic students) and high rankings overall in education. If these things are important to you, then applying to a Jesuit college might be a good choice.

List of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

The AJCU website has a comprehensive list of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S., along with where they are located and a little about each school:

  • Boston College (Massachusetts)
  • Canisius College (New York)
  • College of the Holy Cross (Massachusetts)
  • Creighton University (Nebraska)
  • Fairfield University (Connecticut) 
  • Fordham University (New York)
  • Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
  • Gonzaga University (Washington)
  • John Carroll University (Ohio)
  • Le Moyne College (New York)
  • Loyola Marymount University (California)
  • Loyola University Chicago (Illinois)
  • Loyola University Maryland 
  • Loyola University New Orleans (Louisiana)
  • Marquette University (Wisconsin)
  • Regis University (Colorado)
  • Rockhurst University (Missouri)
  • Saint Joseph’s University (Pennsylvania)
  • Saint Louis University (Missouri)
  • Saint Peter’s University (New Jersey)
  • Santa Clara University (California)
  • Seattle University (Washington)
  • Spring Hill College (Alabama)
  • University of Detroit Mercy (Michigan)
  • University of San Francisco (California)
  • University of Scranton (Pennsylvania)
  • Wheeling Jesuit University (West Virginia)
  • Xavier University (Ohio)

It's clear that if you're interested in attending a Jesuit College, there truly are options all over the country. This is great for students who want to stay close to home or go far away from home for college. Best of all, with so many options, you can find a Jesuit college that has all the things you're looking for in a school.

Which Jesuit Schools Are the Best?

Out of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, there are some that rank higher than others. Jesuit schools can be ranked based on a number of different factors. When considering which Jesuit schools have the best reputation, you can look at the acceptance rate, the number of study programs available, freshman retention rate and graduation rate, clubs and student organizations and job placement after graduation to name a few. Based on these factors, there are five Jesuit schools that are considered the best.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University is the oldest Jesuit university in the U.S. Not only is it ranked as one of the best Jesuit schools out there, but it's also ranked as one of the best universities in the entire country. Located in Washington, D.C., the school is in an attractive location, especially for students who hope to work in politics in some manner after graduation.

At Georgetown University, there are small class sizes and a few hundred clubs on campus from which to choose. In order to be on this list, Georgetown University is also quite competitive, with only a 16 percent acceptance rate.

Boston College

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Boston College is a school that considers itself a "leader in liberal arts, scientific inquiry, and student formation." Unlike Georgetown, Boston College is much more open about their Jesuit roots, and they strive to keep up their international presence with exciting opportunities. Also located in the center of one of America's most well-known cities, there's plenty to offer students both on and off campus. There are at least 60 undergraduate majors available.

Fordham University

While Washington, D.C. and Boston are certainly great cities, nothing quite tops New York. Students who want to go to the Big Apple while attending one of the best Jesuit colleges in the country should consider applying to Fordham. The school puts an emphasis on "wisdom, experience, morality, critical thinking and creative problem-solving," which are true Jesuit values.

You do not need to identify as Jesuit to come to Fordham, a school which offers 80 undergraduate programs and is famous for their school of law. There are also nearly 200 student clubs despite the fact that there is no Greek life.

Loyola Marymount College

There are several Loyola universities in the Jesuit system, and nearly all of them have an excellent reputation. However, Loyola Marymount College in Los Angeles is one that is more widely known, especially by students who aren't necessarily Jesuit. However, if that's important to you when applying to colleges, then you'll be happy to know that Los Angeles is "home to the largest Catholic dioceses in the United States," according to the AJCU.

Loyola Marymount College is in the top rankings for Jesuit colleges for a number of reasons. There are over 60 programs of study for undergraduates and more than 40 graduate programs. At Loyola Marymount College, students are given many opportunities on and off campus, whether it's reaching your academic goals for the future or simply spending a day at the beach.

Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University is located in San Jose in the Bay Area of California. Although the weather there is enough to intrigue any young student to apply, the sunshine isn't the only thing that brings students to this top-ranking Jesuit college.

Santa Clara University has a 96 percent freshman retention rate, which means that students are extremely likely to stick around after their first year of school. Many of the school's professors were Fulbright scholars, and Santa Clara has the highest median salary for graduates of all the Jesuit schools.

Pros of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

There are several pros and cons to consider before applying to Jesuit universities and ultimately deciding to attend one of them. Jesuit colleges overall have a good reputation, as they consistently rank high in many college evaluation categories, including rankings conducted by U.S. News & World Report.

Jesuit colleges typically stand for good values and have a lot to offer students, whether it be in academia or extracurriculars. Students tend to find well-paying jobs easily after graduation, and the schools tend to be rather diverse despite the schools' Catholic affiliation. There are many opportunities for students to get involved in activities they enjoy on and off campus, and being part of the networks at one of these colleges can lead to more career options in the future.

Cons of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Despite all of these positive points, there may be some downsides to attending a Jesuit college that are worth considering. First and foremost, even though many Jesuit colleges are diverse with student bodies that represent all different communities, this may not be the case at every Jesuit college.

Even so, not all students may be as open to this diversity. Students on campus may share different political views from other students, as Jesuit colleges may take a more conservative stance on bigger social issues. Some students have reported feeling out of place or unwelcomed by other students. It might be difficult if you're coming from a lower socioeconomic background, as a majority of the students tend to come from more financially stable homes.

Speaking of finances, Jesuit colleges tend to be rather expensive to attend. In fact, both Georgetown and Boston College made the list for the most expensive colleges in the country. Additionally, even though Jesuit schools welcome students of all religions, it is still a Catholic college. Therefore, you may hear prayers at your commencement ceremony or at schoolwide events.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying to a Jesuit College

Now that you're aware of the pros and cons, there are some questions you should ask yourself before applying to a Jesuit college. These questions can be quite useful when it comes to applying to any college that may or may not already be on your list, but they are particularly important for Jesuit schools:

  • Is the school in a city in which you can see yourself living?
  • What are the demographics at the school?
  • Do you align well with Jesuit ideals, or can you tolerate them if you do not?
  • Does the school have the major and/or minor that you want to study?
  • Are there any programs on or off campus in which you'd like to get involved?
  • Are you able to afford the tuition, or can you seek out financial aid to help cover the costs?
  • Do you like the school overall?

Depending on your answers to these questions, you can have a better idea of whether or not a Jesuit college seems like the right fit for you.

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