Do You Have to Be Religious to Attend a Religiously Affiliated School?

Contrary to what the name implies, you don’t have to be religious to attend a religiously affiliated school. Religiously affiliated schools typically have diverse student cohorts just like any other secular school. These schools accept students who are non-religious as well as students from other religions. So, what exactly is a religiously affiliated school and should you attend one?

Here’s what you should know and expect about attending a religiously affiliated school.

Emmanuel College chapel - religious colleges

Emmanuel College chapel. Source: Flickr user stevecadman

What is a religiously affiliated college?

A religiously affiliated college is one that is closely associated with a religion. Many of these schools were established by individuals or organizations with religious roots. Over the years, the religious leanings have weakened. Very few schools that identify as religiously affiliated consider it to be a strong part of their identity. The majority don’t place any emphasis on faith in everyday campus life. It’s simply a traditional classification that has carried over through the years.

Some religious-affiliated colleges have amazing programs in assorted fields. It would be a shame not to apply to these institutions simply because of their religious affiliation. Understanding a few basic facts about religiously affiliated colleges is key to availing of the fantastic opportunities these schools offer.

Basic Facts About Religiously Affiliated Colleges

  1. All students are welcome at religiously affiliated colleges. This is regardless of their own religious affiliation. This dispels one of the most prevalent myths that attending a religious university is only for students who belong to that religion.
  2. Students are not forced to attend or participate in religious ceremonies. This is another common myth that dissuades students from applying to these institutions. In most schools, students who wish to attend or participate in religious services are welcome to do so. If you aren’t interested, you don’t have to attend. What is non-negotiable however is that all students are required to respect the beliefs of others.
  3. While attending a religious service is usually not compulsory, some religious colleges offer ‘chapel credits’. Students earn these credits by participating in a specified number of relevant extracurricular activities. This may include activities such as Bible study groups, attending church services, or religious-related volunteer work.
  4. Class sizes are usually smaller than that of large public universities. In general, religious schools have smaller campuses and more intimate class sizes. You’ll enjoy a higher level of interaction with your professors and more opportunities to build relationships with classmates.
  5. Attending exposes you to different perspectives that’ll broaden your worldview. For religious students, attending a religious university is a great way to have open discussions with other religious-minded students. For those who are not religious, it’s still a way to get a new perspective on religious beliefs and how they shape other students’ decisions. You’ll also contribute to broadening their perspective by sharing your views as a non-religious student.
  6. Religious colleges are just like secular colleges in terms of fun activities and exciting events. Religion and fun are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of fun activities you can participate in throughout the year. The only difference is heavy partying or drinking may not be allowed on most religious college campuses.
  7. It’s not all about religion in these colleges. These are academic institutions first and foremost and their academics and activities are not necessarily related to religion. The truth is religious schools offer a wide selection of non-religious competitive academic programs and amazing extracurricular activities. Check out the top Religiously Affiliated College Rankings.

Not Religious but Interested in Attending a Religiously Affiliated School?

As you begin your college search, you will come across religiously affiliated schools with outstanding reputations. If you’re still unsure about attending a religiously affiliated school, these tips may help.

Make a list of criteria you’re looking for in your new college. Create a shortlist of colleges that meet all the criteria on your list. Check every college on your shortlist for more details. Take a special look at whether or not the college is religiously affiliated. If they are, read through their rules, regulations, and guidelines. Do the rules and regulations seem too restrictive? Does religion play a major role in everyday campus life? Do you have to attend religious services? Are the guidelines acceptable to you?

If the school has strict religious codes and expectations, strike them off your list. Get to know more about the school before you do this though, especially if you’re excited about the academic programs that the school offers.

If you’re excited about the programs a religious school offers but are unsure about the campus culture, dig deeper. Call the college admin office and ask questions. Schedule a campus college to get a first-hand feel of the ambiance on campus. Reach out to current students as well alumni and ask them about their experiences. All of these will offer you valuable insight into what to expect as a student of the school.

Interested in attending a religious college? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to discover which schools are matches for you!