College Education Part II- Choosing A College When Discerning

by Therese Ivers, JCL

Dan would like to become a priest.  He is a high school senior and believes that he has a vocation to the diocesan priesthood.  Mary Ellen is also a senior in high school and is thinking about joining a cloistered order.  Should she go to college, and if so, where?  The decision of whether to go to college is one of the more important decisions that many discerners must make on their vocational journey.  For those of you agonizing over this decision, I would like to offer some tips which may help.

Tip #1 Know Your Ultimate Goal

What do you want to achieve with your education?  Do you know the difference between vocational training and education which enriches the whole person?  If you don’t, you may want to check out this document which I believe everyone who is thinking of investing tens of thousands of dollars and years of their life in college should sit down and read and understand.

Tip #2 Know Your Pocketbook

If you are considering joining religious life, you should be aware of the fact that religious orders cannot accept candidates who are burdened with debt.  Today people can graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.  This can delay entrance for 5, 10, 15, 20 years.  In today’s economy, when there is a high unemployment rate, paying off such loans in a timely manner is not always possible.

If the main goal is to get a college education in a particular field to fulfill entrance requirements for a religious order or the degree needed before entering major seminary, then consider finding the cheapest BA or BS degree program, which may include several semesters of junior or community college.  Obviously, you can hunt down grants, scholarships, etc.  Even if you don’t plan on majoring in math, do some figure crunching.

Know your numbers. Be creative.  For example, one private Catholic college has a policy whereby the most a student would ever need to borrow is the maximum allowed by the Stafford loans (about $3,500 – $5,500 each year) and has a generous financial aid package.  Even though the listed tuition is high, your debt would be very low upon graduation.  You might even decide to study in Europe.  Tuition for a Bachelor’s degree program student at the Angelicum, my own alma mater, is only €1320 for the whole year of 2009/2010.

Tip #3 Is A College’s Catholic Identity Important?

Know yourself.  Many students who go to state colleges end up being practicing Catholics.  Many students who go to expensive “Catholic” colleges end up losing their faith.  Who are you, what do you stand for, and are you able to live in a mature, adult fashion without needing peer pressure to practice your faith?  Maybe it’s important to you to find more potential Catholic dates at college.   Whatever your goals may be, these are merely a sample of the questions you should ask yourself.  And in case you’re wondering, unless you need the philosophical/theological pre-reqs for major seminary or specific degrees for particular apostolates, in most cases, your undergraduate degree is what’s important, not where you got it.

Those are the tips for today.  Enjoy!

(c) 2009 by Therese Ivers

All Rights Reserved

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