Is it unreasonable to rule out schools with active religious affiliation?

My current high school is Christian, and the religious ties (and required chapel services) bother me in more ways than one – but it seems like some religiously-affiliated colleges are pretty much religious on paper only? Is it unreasonable to rule out schools with active religious affiliation? If so, what’s a better way to look at it?

Better would be to check what each college’s actual environment and requirements are regarding religious observance. Also, the denomination and theology of the associated religion can matter to you.


Is it reasonable - yes - because as you said, it bothers you. Nothing else matters.

But there are schools - the SMUs of the world, that are likely religious in name only. There’s also Jesuit schools - which many on here say are more about service.

Easy way to go - public schools - there are excellent large, medium, and small and you avoid the issue.

Or a non-religiously affiliated private school - i.e. your Rochester, Elon, BU etc. Interestingly, many private schools initially had religious ties but for example, schools like Duke and Syracuse roots were methodist…but those type ties are long past.

You will find many times in life you will question whether something is appropriate.

For example, as a Jewish person, I struggle with buying German - or at least from a company like Volkswagen which had Nazi ties (and full disclosure, my employer is German - something I struggle with as well).

An African American might struggle with eating at Dennys which less than 30 years ago settled a racial bias suit.

Not trying to start a new thread - I’m simply saying we are consumers and we have right to consider/not consider what would give us comfort - just as you do as a future consumer of collegiate education.

Why not set up a chance me and ask for schools without religious affiliation. You’ll be happier - and there’s an absolute ton of them.

But I’d avoid anything with a hint of religion as you set up your list of potential schools. After all, it is YOUR list.

Good luck.


It kind of depends on what you mean by “active religious affiliation.”

For example, there are some colleges which require weekly attendance at chapel services on campus. You’d probably want to avoid those. Those tend to be the same schools that also have a dress code, and where you’d also get expelled for having a person of the opposite gender in your dorm room.

However, there are far more ‘religious’ schools which are, like the other poster mentioned, religious in name only. It’s more in the background and not in your face all the time. There are far more in this category than in the former one.


Totally reasonable. Both my Catholic school educated kids would not even consider a visit to a college with a religious affiliation. They mostly focused on large public universities.

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I think it’s reasonable too. My D visited Notre Dame and was totally turned off by the theology and philosophy requirements. She struck all the other catholic schools that she was considering off her list.

There are so many schools in the US that I think it’s fine narrowing the field in anyway that makes sense to you.



We are atheists. My D actively disliked what even I felt was a mild religious backdrop at a very popular Jesuit school. It was absolutely not for her. OTOH, my son considered applying to another Jesuit school and wasn’t bothered that he’d have to take a few regions classes, which were mostly philosophical anyway.

If you’re not interested in being in that atmosphere, don’t put any of those colleges on your preliminary list. Problem solved.


This is a good question because reading about some schools on paper, like Macalester, a person may get the mistaken impression that it has a meaningful religious affiliation, when I believe it does not. Or if a school has “saint” in the name like St. Olafs…also misleading in some cases. So feel free to ask on CC about specific schools since there will be parents and alums who can steer you correctly. Don’t rule anything out based on perceived or historic religious affiliation (that might incorrectly eliminate certain ivies, for example). And for some schools, the religiosity isn’t in the name but is definitely real…Liberty, Hillsdale, Pepperdine, Andrews, etc…and some of the Catholic/Jesuit places too. Not to mention BYU etc. I will say I have a non-Jewish friend who had a fabulous time at Brandeis as a practicing Catholic…but you’re right to investigate ahead of time so you know what’s current.


I think this is where it’s worth visiting, and seeing what you are comfortable with. We are Jewish. We had no problem with two Jesuit universities we visited (Fordham and Georgetown) because it didn’t feel like religion was forced on you, there were college pastors/rabbis/imams etc of other faiths, there was clear tolerance on campus, and they really seemed more about the principles of living a good life than religious observance as such. If there were things like required church or chapel services, that likely would have been a dealbreaker.


Brandeis isn’t a Jewish school. It’s named after Jewish Supreme Court Justice.

And yes it’s got a heavy Jewish population relative to most. And initially sponsored by the Jewish community - like I listed above for Syracuse/Duke with the methodists.

That’s why a Catholic student did fine…because it’s no different than Harvard , Yale, WUSTL, and yes - Duke and Syracuse :slight_smile: First time I ever listed my alma mater with those schools!!!


I would consider each school’s unique requirements and social environment, rather than placing them into binary religious / non-religious buckets. Some religiously affiliated colleges have course and service requirements; others are so religious that their values permeate the fabric of the institution in a way that is unavoidable. That unavoidable might be good or bad, depending on how it aligns with your own values.

It also depends on how you frame the classes and/or service activities. I am agnostic, yet the best course I took at Harvard (definitely not a religious school) examined the historical currents that led to the ascendancy of early Christianity. My second favorite was probably a moral reasoning core that traced the transferral of values from ancient world religions to modern ethical systems. Had I been “forced” at age 19 to take two identical classes at Notre Dame just to meet their religion and philosophy requirements, I probably would have bristled. Why is that?

In my old age, I recognize that our mindset can taint our reception to what is otherwise useful and interesting information. I would approach each college with an open mind and let them say or do something to convince you they aren’t a fit, but I recognize that each person is different.

P.S. As a 12-year Catholic education survivor, I can certainly empathize with you on required chapel services.


Some schools (even public) may have a religious overtone even if it doesn’t have specific religious requirements.

I think it is perfectly reasonable to rule out schools for lots of reasons - size, location, finances and of course religion. Just make sure you actually know what the situation is because not every school with a religious foundation or name is still actively affiliated.

As a funny side note, D loved visiting Brandeis because our tour guide said she was “not Jewish but more Jew-ish”. D looked at me and said “Me too, but I didn’t know it was a thing!”


Both my kids did this. Most private schools are affiliated with a church in the US. Some are in name only but some have very active boards and class requirements. For both my kids, a religious class required for graduation was the red line.

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If a school looks good otherwise, I wouldn’t rule it out TBH. Many schools that were founded by a religion certainly don’t show it now IRL. If you like a school, visit and see how you feel.

On paper you’ll rule out all those with religious requirements (classes, chapel, etc).

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College costs a lot of money and if you’d never consider donating or supporting the particular affiliation otherwise, why would you give them thousands of dollars? I don’t shop at one particular store because I disagree with the actions of the owners. They are very public with their actions and I feel I don’t owe anyone my business. There’s thousands of colleges in the US and if you fundamentally disagree with their actions then that sounds like a great way to cut down the list


If it’s important to you then that’s up to you. As
other posters said, there are varying degrees to which the religion impacts classes, requirements, even dorm rules or even who is eligible
for various merit scholarships. It also might impact the makeup of the student body.

I do the same sometimes with shopping. I try to avoid shopping at one particular business that is very public about bringing their conservative Christan beliefs into the business, and won a controversial case to do that. For me it wasn’t so much about being closed on Sundays or not recognizing Halloween, but I drew the line at how they negatively impacted their
largely female (and low wage) employee population by suing to not have to cover contraception for religious reasons when it is supposed to be a required benefit. I found that offensive so I don’t shop there. My choice.


Not unreasonable, but not all are the same just as your Christian school offers its own experience. I also suggest visiting the schools and asking questions. Try to do more than a tour. Take in an event and talk to students.

Is it unreasonable to rule out schools with active religious affiliation?

No lol. Just as how it is not unreasonable to rule out schools that one finds too progressive or politically involved.

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It is reasonable to rule out any college that does not meet criteria that you deem to be meaningful.