There is an endless amount of advice that could be given to one entering college when it comes to maintaining their Catholic faith, but to me the most important piece of advice would be to stay true to yourself and, more importantly, to God.
College is a place where many search for their true identity, and because of this it can be easy to get caught up in the experience and lose sight of what is important. Unfortunately society only makes matters worse by proclaiming that there is a specific “college experience” out there to be had, one that rarely includes God.
Despite what others may say, you can have a good college experience while at the same time keeping God and your Catholic faith at the center of that experience.
I recommend getting involved with Christian groups on campus, which can be found at most colleges. If you cannot find one at your school, then I would try to get involved with a Catholic Church in the surrounding city.
Balancing time between school and church can be tricky, especially at college, but doing so will enrich your entire college experience. After all, college should not only be a time to find a direction in your career, but also to grow spiritually and strengthen your Catholic faith.
2009 graduate, St. Ambrose University, Davenport
Sarah Wurst, 20, chose to attend a Catholic college because she thought it would help her maintain her faith. She liked the idea that she wouldn’t have to search for a church; she could attend the one on campus.
“From there, I was so lucky. I made a good group of friends through the church, but more through activities campus ministry had. They have a really good peace and justice program. They do service projects.
“I’ve had the most fun with this group of friends than I’ve ever had. You can still have a lot of fun while being a churchgoer. You don’t have to be a stick in the mud.
“I appreciate campus ministry in general. I help out with Masses on Sunday and go to daily Mass when I can … Last year over spring break I went on a service project to David, Ky., where we helped out at an underprivileged school. That was probably one of the best experiences of my life.”
Junior, St. Ambrose University, Davenport
Sean Jankowski said his Catholic faith formation began at home. His parents placed an emphasis on Mass and got him involved in church activities early on. He attended Prince of Peace Academy and College Preparatory in Clinton, participated in the Christian Leadership Institute, National Catholic Youth Conference and diocesan youth rallies and was involved in his parish’s youth ministry program.
His advice: “Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to participate in Mass ministries in college. Get involved with different aspects. Get trained to be a eucharistic minister or a lector. I’m a lector and a eucharistic minister at St. Ambrose. I’ve been able to find my friends pretty much through church here at St. Ambrose.
“My dad told me the three things that you need to make you happy are to put God first in your life, then your family and then your friends. I’m practiced that my whole life, pretty much. I’m on the cross country and track team. Before every track meet I have certain verses in the Bible I read to relax me. I give all my glory and honor to God.”
Sophomore, St. Ambrose University, Davenport
My advice to incoming freshmen who want to keep the faith in college would be to get involved. Take on an active role in your parish so you feel like a member of a community, not just another face in the pews. This might mean training to be a eucharistic minister/lector, joining the Knights of Columbus, or even starting your own group.
This year, at the University of Iowa’s Newman Catholic Student Center, I am creating a Men’s Group that will meet once a week. Groups like these help new students adjust to the college lifestyle and incorporate their faith into their daily routine by holding each other accountable. By staying active, new students will find it much easier to manage and maintain their college careers.
University of Iowa College of Pharmacy
PharmD Candidate, Class of 2013
To help keep your faith strong during college, it is helpful to constantly study why we believe what we believe. There are times when we as Catholics are asked why we do what we do and it helps to be able to give a specific answer to the question. We can strengthen our own faith in the process by constantly learning more about it. I also found it helpful to get involved in the Catholic student center on campus because the other students there have similar beliefs, and that helps build strong friendships from the very beginning.
Junior, University of Iowa
My advice to freshmen would be to listen to other people express their faith. Figure out for yourself how you feel about your personal relationship with God and how the Almighty is in your everyday life. Never pass up an opportunity to learn more about your faith and yourself. Whether that opportunity is volunteering at a shelter, going to a retreat, or a Bible study, don’t pass on it. You can always make time in your life for the things that matter, especially when it comes to your faith.
Sophomore, Central College, Pella
To keep your faith a main part of your college life, I think it’s important to go to Mass. It helps me stay connected with God and feel more a part of the Pella community. Also, if there are church activities specifically for college students, it’s a great way to get involved and to meet new people who share your faith.
Sophomore, Central College, Pella