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The Best Catholic Colleges & Universities

The United States offers many options for students who are interested in attending a traditional college rooted in Catholicism. While Catholic colleges and universities may be more appealing to those who lead a faithful Catholic life, attending a Catholic college or university is not dependent on whether you have religious affiliation. Some benefits of attending a Catholic school are smaller class sizes, greater focus on individual student's needs, and measured academic success.

How Much Can You Make by Having a Degree?

Having a degree can instantly boost your earnings. In today's society, it is necessary to have a degree in order to make a comfortable living wage. Take a look at the chart below to see the comparison of yearly income for someone with a degree as opposed to someone with a high school diploma or no formal education.

$30,784* $38,792* $46,124* $64,896* $77,844* $96,772*

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Reasons to Get a Degree from a School That Recognizes Your Faith

Don't discount the education that you will receive from a religious college. Many Catholic colleges are highly rated for their programs. Receiving an education in a faith-based environment can help you grow and mature differently. Many Catholic colleges offer on-site campus ministry services, group Bible studies, interfaith prayer sessions, as well as other intertwined religious activities. Although the social environment isn't that much different at a Catholic college from a public college, the religious aspect adds a certain level of commitment to faith and fellowship. Many find it encouraging to go to school in a familiar atmosphere with like-minded individuals.

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Deciding on a Degree

Catholic universities offer a variety of degrees to choose from. You will find that with most Catholic colleges, degree options are just as plentiful as secular colleges. You will also find some degrees that are not available at other secular colleges.

When choosing a major, it is important to choose something that you want to do. Think of classes that you enjoyed in high school and what your passions are. Although some people know exactly what career path they want to follow, others aren't as certain. If you aren't sure what degree you want to follow, you can always start out as an undeclared major. Most majors require that you take general classes your freshman semester. These general classes will give you time to observe, talk to advisers and students, and research career options so that you can make a better decision as to what area you want to earn you degree in.

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With so many top-ranking college options out there, it can be overwhelming to choose just one. List out your priorities and find out which colleges meet your expectations. There are many other essential factors to consider when choosing the right Catholic college, from the cost of classes to career preparation.

Every Catholic higher-education institution has different degree options, so make sure that the schools you apply to have your degree of interest. If you are able to visit a few colleges beforehand, it will help you get a fuller view of the college as a whole, as well as help you see what the school has to offer academically. Doing your homework will help narrow down your college search.


There's plenty of information on the internet about attending college, but not a whole lot of information about attending a Catholic college. Here are some common questions about higher education in the Catholic sector.

  • How Many Catholic Colleges Are There? - According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are a total of 249 catholic colleges and universities in the United States.
  • How Many Students Who Attend Catholic Colleges are Catholic? - Data taken from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) indicates that roughly 50% of freshmen students are Catholic, which speaks to the inclusiveness of Catholic schools.
  • How Does Tuition at a Catholic College Compare to that of a Secular College? - Catholic colleges tend to be higher-ranked than public colleges, but top-rated Catholic colleges like Notre Dame are right up there in education with the ivy league schools.


One of the most important things to consider when choosing a college is accreditation. Accreditation is the process in which a college is validated by meeting certain high standards. The accrediting institution evaluates the college in a variety of different areas, including:

  • Overall Mission of the College
  • Objectives and Goals
  • Student Requirements for Admissions
  • Services Available to Students
  • Quality of Education
  • Reputation of Faculty

Meeting these standards is not just about accreditation but speaks volumes as to the quality of education that you are receiving. Accreditation is extremely important for a college to have. Without the proper accreditation, you may be earning a degree from a college that doesn't stand out to employers, which can in turn mean that your degree and education may not hold much value in your job search after graduation.

Types of Accreditation

  • Regional
    Regional accreditation is considered to be the highest and best accreditation a college or university can receive. This type of accreditation covers a broad spectrum of higher education, including public, private, non-profit, degree-granting, two-year institutions, and four-year institutions. There are eight regional accreditation agencies that focus on the six regions of the U.S. - the North, Northwest, South, West, Middle, and New England. These regional accreditation agencies oversee accreditation for just under 3,000 different colleges. To receive this accreditation, colleges and universities must meet extremely high expectations and follow strict rules and procedures.
  • National
    National accreditation is well regarded. This type of accreditation is popular among vocational, technical, religious, and online colleges. Unlike regional accreditation, national accreditation focuses on the entire nation rather than specific regions. Two branches of national accreditation are faith-focused and career-related
  • Programmatic
    Programmatic accreditation oversees individual programs, instead of the entire institution. It, however, can be just as important as regional or national accreditation.

Here are some examples of Programmatic accreditation agencies:

  • Accreditation agencies for business - Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, International Accreditation Council for Business Education
  • Accreditation agencies nursing - Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Accreditation for psychology - American Psychological Association, Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System
  • Accreditation for engineering - Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering

Typical College Entry Requirements

Catholic colleges and universities have entry requirements similar to secular colleges. When applying for Catholic colleges, there are a number of documents that you must submit, such as your high school transcripts and SAT/ACT scores. Requirements will vary, but many higher education schools are looking for students to meet certain standards so they can be reasonably sure they will succeed in a college environment.

Every Catholic college requires that each student submit an application. Some larger Catholic colleges accept the Common Application, which is one standard application used to apply to hundreds of participating institutions. The application includes the student's personal information, which the admissions board reviews to learn more about applicants.

College Essay
Most Catholic colleges require that you submit at least one essay, usually around 600 words or less on a topic that you find important. The narrative should be personal, detailed, descriptive, and demonstrate the values you plan to bring to the college campus. The college essay is an important part of the admissions process, so rest assured that your essay will be read. The essay shows off your writing skills, your critical thinking skills, maturity level, and most importantly, it helps determine whether you will be a good fit at the college or university.

Supplemental Essay
As if one essay was not enough, there are some colleges that require you to write more than one essay. An increasingly popular supplemental essay question is "Why do you want to go to school here?" In answering this question, the admissions board can help determine why you think the college you are applying for is a good fit for you.

Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are written to help the school evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Choose wisely who you ask to write your letter. The letter may be written by a former school teacher, counselor, employer, coach, or even a parish leader. These letters are meant to be confidential, so that means you will not be able to read the letter before it is submitted to the school.

School Transcripts
Transcripts are one of the single most important aspects of the college admissions process. A transcript summarizes your academic record throughout your high school career. In addition to giving colleges an insight as to what classes you took and whether you kept your grades up your senior year, the transcript also lists what your final grade point average (GPA) was upon the time of graduation. Most elite Catholic colleges require a minimum GPA of anywhere from 3.5-4.0. This just goes to show that how you do in high school matters in getting into the school of your choice.

Standardized Test Scores
In addition to transcripts, some schools require that you submit test scores from taking standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT. Standardized test scores are often a requirement in order for Catholic colleges to grant scholarships.

Statement of Finances
A statement of finances is only required of international students. This statement is used to certify that the individual has enough money in the bank to cover at least one year of school or at least to help the school assess how much they will receive in aid.

Language Test Scores
Language test scores is another requirement, usually for international students only. Common language tests that international students must take include the TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE. The purpose of these tests is to evaluate the student's proficiency in the English language.

Many Catholic colleges conduct interviews with prospective students. It is important to be very formal in these interviews, much as if it were a job interview. That means you want to dress appropriately and act appropriately. Even if you aren't Catholic, it is important to show that you value a Catholic education.

Academic Standards

Attending college is much different than attending high school. For one, you now have more independence. Living on campus, you have to take care of yourself, and you may even have to work to support yourself while studying. For some people, the new responsibility can be overwhelming especially while trying to balance an education. However, it is important to find that balance. There are usually academic standards that must be met in order to continue with the program. Every student should have an understanding of what the minimum GPA is to remain in school. Typically, the minimum GPA is a 2.0, which is equivalent to a C average. Of course, in order to excel in your field, you want to meet the level of excellence for the college.

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Moral Standards

Depending on the Catholic college you go to, it is important to understand that there may be moral standards that you have to abide by. For instance, many Catholic institutions require their students to take religious courses on Catholic Theology. Catholic colleges are based on religion, so Catholic traditions and philosophy are interwoven into classes and the environment. Rules for student conduct may also be taken into consideration. Here are some other standards that Catholic students may be held to:

  • Alcohol prohibition
  • Dress code policy
  • Ban on premarital sexual activity

Catholic College Degree Options & Requirements

Catholic schools are recognized for their academic excellence. Many Catholic colleges are touted as high-quality, affordable education, which would make sense why many non-Catholics seek to attend these excellent schools. Most Catholic colleges offer most of the same degree options found at other top colleges and universities.

Associate's Degree

An associate’s degree is a two-year, post-secondary degree that prepares students for entry-level positions. Many people turn to associate's programs as a faster, more affordable option to a career than any of the other degrees. The associate's degree is equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor's program. The average cost of an associate's degree at a private institution is $14,587.

There are three types of Associates Degrees:

  • Associate of Arts - Typical jobs include: Sales, Management, and Education positions
  • Associate of Science - Typical jobs include: Nursing, Business Administration, and Criminal Justice positions
  • Associate of Applied Science - Typical jobs include: Web Design, Entrepreneurship, and Paralegal positions

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor's degree is a four-year degree that requires the student to choose a major area of study. Those who graduate with a bachelor's degree are qualified to work in anything from entry-level to management positions. A bachelor's degree is also a requirement to get into most graduate level programs. The average cost for a bachelor's degree at a private institution is $46,950.

There are four types of Bachelor's Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts - Typical jobs include: Graphic design, Illustrator, Photographer
  • Bachelor of Science - Typical jobs include: Physician’s Assistant, Nurse, Veterinarian
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts - Typical jobs include: Artist, Museum Curator
  • Bachelor of Applied Science - Typical jobs include: Software Engineer, Systems Administrator, Product Engineer

Master’s Degree

Master's Degree programs are two-year programs that allow students to further specialize in an area of study. In order to get into a graduate program, the student must have a satisfactory entrance exam score and may need to write a thesis. Students who get their master's degree often qualify for advanced or executive level positions. The average cost of a master's degree at a private institution is $29,960.

There are four types of Master's Degrees:

  • Master of Arts - Typical jobs include: Psychologist, High School Teacher
  • Master of Science - Typical jobs include: Nurse, Engineer, Architect
  • Master of Business Administration - Typical jobs include: Financial Analyst, Financial Planner
  • Master of Fine Arts - Typical jobs include: Special Effects Animation, Professional Photography, Scenic Designer

Doctorate Degree

A doctorate degree, also known as PhD, is the most advanced form of a degree one can earn. While some programs accept bachelor degrees, others may require that you obtain a Master's degree first. PhD holders are considered to be experts in their field. The average cost of a Doctorate's Degree at a private institution is $42,920.

There are four types of Doctorate's Degrees:

  • Doctor of Philosophy - Typical jobs include: College Professor, Researcher
  • Juris Doctor - Typical jobs include: Lawyer, Judge, Prosecutor
  • Doctor of Medicine - Typical jobs include: Medical Doctor, Surgeon
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery - Typical jobs include: Dental Surgeon

Top Catholic Colleges

It is important that you get the best education possible, so let's take a look at those Catholic colleges that are top ranked in the US.

  • St. Louis University
    Location: St. Louis, Missouri

    Founded in 1818, St. Louis University (SLU) is one of the oldest universities in the United States. With a second campus in Madrid, Spain, it's a great way for students to study abroad. SLU offers just shy of 90 undergraduate degrees, including 9 online bachelor's degree programs. 99% of faculty at St. Louis holds a PhD, allowing students to learn under the best educators while challenging themselves to be the best they can be in their area of study.

    In addition to a stellar education, SLU has a great athletic department. St. Louis University holds the most national titles of any NCAA men’s soccer team.

    Most Popular Degrees: Biomedical and Biological Sciences (104 Awards), Health Professions and Related Programs (503 Awards), Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (383 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $43,884
    • Books and Supplies: $1,200
    • Average Grad Salary: $64K
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Physical Therapist $66,578
    Financial Analyst $57,246
    Software Engineer $70,912
    Project Manager $68,183
    Data Analyst $59,200
  • University of San Francisco
    Location: San Francisco, CA

    University of San Francisco (USF) is located in an urban setting of the San Francisco Bay area. Students are able to learn in a small class setting, which is becoming increasingly rare in this day and age. USF follows the Jesuit Mission in each program, through focus on service-based courses. For example, nursing students volunteer in less fortunate neighborhoods and architect students design and build homes in Nicaragua. Because of its location, the University of San Francisco opens up many opportunities for students, including research, internships, jobs, and careers.

    Most Popular Degrees: Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (123 Awards), Education (239 Awards), Social Sciences (182 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $48,066
    • Books and Supplies: $1,600
    • Average Grad Salary: $76,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Executive Assistant $62,759
    Human Resources (HR) Director $119,955
    Executive Director $106,000
    Data Scientist $106,479
    Vice President (VP) Human Resources $163,274
  • Loyola University
    Location: Chicago, Illinois

    Loyola University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the United States. There are two campuses in the city of Chicago that separate freshman and sophomores from all upperclassman. Loyola also has a campus in Rome for students who choose to study abroad. For those seeking out the best education, Loyola offers nationally-ranked degree programs, and 98% of students are employed or are in grad school within three months after graduation.

    Most Popular Degrees: Biological and Biomedical Sciences (401 Awards), Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (672 Awards), Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (223 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $44,048
    • Books and Supplies: $1,208
    • Average Grad Salary: $63,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Recreation Coordinator $45,220
    Lecturer Post-Secondary / Higher Education $53,768
    Research Study Coordinator $44,244
    Assistant Dean of Students $62,537
    Acute Care Nurse Practitioner $94,631
  • Marquette University
    Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Marquette University is Wisconsin's largest private learning institution, having over 11,000 students. Education is built on the Jesuit tradition, as well as success in the modern-day world. MU offers a nationally ranked law school, graduate school, and graduate school of management. Marquette is competitive in basketball in the men's NCAA, Division I, Big East Conference.

    Most Popular Degrees: Engineering (268 Awards), Health Professions and Related Programs (254 Awards), Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (483 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $41,870
    • Books and Supplies: $912
    • Average Grad Salary: $70,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Mechanical Engineer $64,420
    Physical Therapist (PT) $69,139
    Software Engineer $69,292
    Marketing Director $103,000
    Project Engineer $65,900
  • University of San Diego
    Location: San Diego, CA

    University of San Diego sits on a mesa overlooking the city of San Diego, Mission Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. Students have access to pristine beaches, downtown San Diego, and the border of Mexico - all within just a short drive. Academically, they offer 42 bachelor's degree programs with many concentrations. The University of San Diego has received Carnegie classification as a Doctoral/Research University. They focus on being environmentally friendly and are also recognized as one of the most sustainable campuses in the nation for conserving energy.

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    Most Popular Degrees: Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (599 Awards), Education (294 Awards), Legal Professions and Studies (264 Awards), Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services (100 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $49,358
    • Books and Supplies: $1,920
    • Average Grad Salary: $66,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Minister $49,664
    Financial Analyst $59,011
    Archivist $54,169
    Sr. Instructional Designer (Training & Development) $74,923
    Educational Program Coordinator $51,793
  • Villanova University
    Location: Villanova, Pennsylvania

    Located just outside of Philadelphia, Villanova is a premier institution of higher education. Villanova was founded in 1842 by Spanish priests from the Order of St. Augustine. The university offers a wide selection of studies through six colleges including: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, The Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, The College of Nursing, The College of Professional Studies, and The Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. With over 260 student-run organizations, the opportunity for students to be a part of something bigger is great.

    Most Popular Degrees: Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (456 Awards), Biological and Medical Sciences (98 Awards), Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs(143 Awards), Engineering (273 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $53,308
    • Books and Supplies: $1,100
    • Average Grad Salary: $79,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Human Resources (HR) Director $83,743
    Human Resources (HR) Manager $69,560
    Human Resources (HR) Generalist $54,349
    Civil Engineer $68,991
    Structural Engineer $77,795
  • Boston College
    Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

    Boston College has been around for more than a century and a quarter. Founded by the Society of Jesus, Boston College remains faithful to the Roman Catholic Jesuit traditions. Boston colleges has 9 schools, 3 of which are highly ranked graduate programs: Lynch School of Education, Boston College Law School, and Carroll School of Management.

    Most Popular Degrees: Psychology (230 Awards), Public Administration and Social Service Professions (265 Awards), Social Sciences (537 Awards), Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (558 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $55,464
    • Books and Supplies: $1,250
    • Average Grad Salary: $72,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Social Worker $46,969
    Marketing Manager $69,711
    Executive Director $111,770
    Marketing Director $93,301
    Associate Attorney $79,819
  • Georgetown University Washington D.C.
    Location: Washington, District of Columbia

    Founded in 1789, Georgetown University prides itself as the nation's oldest Jesuit university. Academically, Georgetown is a highly-rated university with extremely competitive admissions (The acceptance rate is only 16%). Students are exposed to a culturally-rich environment and are able to experience the rich history and opportunities that the DC area has to offer. Students are required to live on campus until their senior year.

    Most Popular Degrees: Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender and Group Studies (108 Awards), Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services (113 Awards), Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics (84 Awards), Legal Professions and Studies (594 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $54,104
    • Books and Supplies: $1,200
    • Average Grad Salary: $62,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Program Coordinator, Non-Profit Organization $51,327
  • University of Notre Dame Indiana
    Location: South Bend, Indiana

    Notre Dame offers an education experience that is second to none, while instituting Catholic tradition and faith into studies. Students are encouraged to participate in service to others. Notre Dame is also highly regarded as top 5 in the county for rate of graduation.

    Most Popular Degrees: Engineering (373 Awards), Social Sciences (221 Awards), Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (641 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $53,391
    • Books and Supplies: $1,050
    • Average Grad Salary: $55,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Research Scientist $52,291
    Project Manager $56,046
    Education Program Director $95,314
    Events Specialist $42,612
  • Fordham University New York
    Location: New York City, New York

    Ranked in the top 12% of universities by return on investment, Fordham University is a Roman Catholic university based in Bronx, N.Y., and it's home to around 10,000 undergraduates. It would be a misnomer to cast Fordham University as a die-hard sports school only.

    Most Popular Degrees: Public Administration and Social Service Professions (659 Awards), Social Sciences (419 Awards), Visual and Performing Arts (137 Awards)

    • Tuition and Fees: $52,687
    • Books and Supplies: $1,012
    • Average Grad Salary: $67,000
    Top Careers and Salaries:
    Careers Salaries
    Social Worker $52,047
    Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) $61,174
    Executive Assistant $56,625
    Financial Analyst $62,344
    Marketing Manager $74,100

Best Scholarships and Grants for Catholic Colleges

  • St. Martin De Porres Grant
    Amount: Full Tuition
    Deadline: January 15

    The Martin De Porres Grant covers full tuition for those who are disadvantaged. The prospective student must be from the Greater Philadelphia area (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania; Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Salem Counties in New Jersey; and New Castle County in Delaware) and have exemplary high school records, along with high scores on the SAT or ACT.

  • Presidential, Damen, Loyola, Trustee, and Dean's Scholarships
    Amount: $17,000-$22,000 per year
    Deadline: December 1

    This scholarship is awarded to academically qualified students based upon information entered on the application for admissions. The award is not based upon financial need.

  • Avvo Scholarship
    Amount: $5,000
    Deadline: Rolling

    For students interested in attending law school, Avvo offers a one-time $5,000 scholarship award. There is no minimum GPA required, but students must write an essay to be considered.

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