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5 Myths About Catholic Colleges: Busted!

You have to be religious to fit in at a Catholic college, right? Wrong! A student at Emmanuel College debunks this myth, plus other common misconceptions about Catholic universities

Found the perfect college for you but nervous because it is Catholic? Don’t sweat it—there’s a great misconception that in order to be part of a Catholic college, you must be Catholic as well. This is simply not true. In fact, the majority of Catholic colleges welcomes and appreciates students of various religious (and non-religious) backgrounds. While attending a Catholic college in the city of Boston, I have come across a few myths that students believe to be true but need to be debunked.

Myth #1: You have to attend church services if you attend a Catholic college

Although church services are talked about often in a Catholic environment, it is not part of any course description in which you must attend a Catholic church service. It is expected that the school’s Mission and Ministry Office will promote their services, but they do this because they are open and accepting of all students attending Catholic mass, regardless of faith. However, if you choose not to attend, you definitely won’t be left out. There will be other students who aren’t Catholic and won’t attend church on campus either, plus many other opportunities to get involved on campus.

Myth #2: The Bible and Catholicism are course requirements

As a Catholic college values religion, taking a couple religion courses may be a general education requirement for the school. However, by no means will you have to read the Bible within one semester—or at all. Typically courses about worldwide religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam are offered in addition to classes on Christianity and Catholicism. With many universities (especially liberal arts institutions), having a religion requirement opens up the fields of study and expands the minds and learning abilities of the students. That being said, you will not be forced by your school to focus solely on the study of Catholicism and the Bible.

Myth #3: If you’re not Catholic, you can’t join clubs or services that involve the religion

If there is one fact I have learned and experienced through my time at a Catholic college, it is that the school is extremely accepting and supportive of all their students, whether or not they are part of the Catholic religion. This means if there’s a club, service, or event on campus that is held by Mission and Ministry or is based on a Catholic teaching or belief and you’re interested in taking part, you 100% should. No, this is not trying to convert you; instead it’s expanding your college experience, where you are meant to be experimenting and learning something new. By joining a religious club or activity, you may not be as knowledgeable about the religion as some other students are, but you will be able to gain new information as well as offer insights from a new and different perspective.

Myth #4: Catholic colleges only have religious activities

Definitely not true! In fact, Catholic colleges promote and encourage students to join clubs and groups that are enjoyable and interest the student in all areas. There may be visual or performing arts–based clubs, academic groups such as science or psychology clubs, student groups focused on other religions, club sports like Ultimate Frisbee, and anything in between. If the school does not already have an extracurricular that peaks your interest, many universities allow students to create and start new clubs, especially if you know there are other students who are interested in the same activity. With the ability to have student-run organizations, college is truly a time to evolve and explore new opportunities. And in reality, Catholic institutions accept all interests and hobbies, which adds to the diversity of campus.

Myth #5: There are nuns who live on campus

The only people other than students who live on the college campus are the Resident Directors who reside in every dorm or hall. Yes, there are nuns (or sisters) at the school, but they by no means live on campus. Typically we do not refer to the founders or president as nuns but sisters, because that is their formal title. Many Catholic schools were founded and kept up by various Catholic affiliations such as the Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of Mercy, Congregation of the Holy Spirit, and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Although this is not uniform for all Catholic colleges, it is common that a sister is the college’s president or part of the board.

With many more myths surfacing on the Internet, remember that Catholic universities do have a Catholic mission but are accepting and celebrate all of their students’ religious statuses. The college will allow those of all different backgrounds to participate in campus-wide events, even if they have a central focus of Catholicism. Catholic universities are not here to convert you but instead promote the spread and gain of knowledge that others will not receive without attending a Catholic college.

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About Christiane Townsend

Through her experience of living internationally throughout her childhood, Christiane Townsend has firsthand knowledge of other countries, cultures, and religions. A student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she has been able to use her writing both in an academic and leisurely setting to spread cultural acceptance, awareness, and growth. Christi believes in educating others on topics such as feminism, travel, college life, and striving for excellence, which is depicted through her writing.


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