Does My Faith Matter When Applying to a Religiously-Affiliated School?

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Whether you are religious or not, it would be difficult to deny the impressive academics that certain religiously-affiliated universities and colleges have to offer their students. For those whose beliefs align with a school’s founding religion, applying will be a no-brainer. But for those who are not quite sure if their beliefs completely align, the student should ask themselves two questions: will this be the right fit for me? And, how do I prove it in my college essays?

Schools like University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, and Boston College are some of the best-ranked schools in the country and also have a religious affiliation.  Does that mean these schools only accept students who share their faith? No, their student bodies can be quite diverse. For example, Notre Dame reports that it admits 80% of its students that self-identify as Catholic. Boston College reports that 70% of its student body identifies as Catholic. As we have shown through our data analysis, religious affiliation is a very important factor in admission to Pepperdine University, affiliated with the Church of Christ, and a considered factor in applying to University of Notre Dame, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

If an applicant decides that a religiously-affiliated school would be a good fit for their academic and personal interests, the next question becomes how to demonstrate that in the college essays. Most universities are on the Common Application, but that still means that you should consider making sure that the content of your main Common Application essay does not conflict with the values of the school. For example, it would probably not help your chances of admission to discuss your thoughts on the value of your compelling volunteer work distributing free birth control (unless of course you realized that this conflicted heavily with your religious convictions.)

In addition to the Common Application, most universities also require a supplemental essay. For example, Notre Dame’s mandatory supplemental essay references its religious founding, but is open-ended such that you could write on any number of widely ranging topics about your personal interests in the university:

“Notre Dame is an adventure that will develop more than just your intellect. Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, believed that to provide a true education “the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.” What excites you about attending Notre Dame?”

It might also help to go through the school’s website to learn more about how faith plays a role on campus. If you need some inspiration in writing about why you would like to attend the school, consider looking for keywords on their website’s section on faith at their school and then thinking about how these might apply to your personal life. Notre Dame’s website talks about reflection and empathy. What do these words mean to you? How can you incorporate these notions into what necessitated you apply to this school?

Questions? Let us know!