For most young people, college is their first extended experience of living away from home. Without mom and dad looking over your shoulder, you have the opportunity to make decisions entirely on your own. How will you study? What friends will you make? And most importantly, how will you practice your faith?
As a mom myself and director of admissions at Magdalen College, I have watched many young people navigate this challenge. Here are some things I’ve observed that can help you grow in your faith at college.
If your school is Catholic, the campus ministry department will be a great way for you to connect with Mass, sacraments, retreats, speakers, clubs, and other opportunities to learn more about your faith. Your shared passion for your Catholic faith makes a great starting point for friendship among the other students you will meet there. If your school is not Catholic, find out if there is a Newman Center on campus. Many of these centers are thriving Catholic communities that have been intentionally established on non-Catholic campuses.
Engage with your classes
You’re not just Catholic when you go to church – you’re Catholic all the time! When you approach your studies, do so with the lens of faith. What is the Catholic perspective on what you are learning in history or biology class? Bring an engaged, thoughtful, Catholic viewpoint to classroom readings and discussions. If you are not sure what the Church teaches about any particular topic in your classes, consider that an invitation to do some research and ask some questions. That’s what college life is all about! Real learning in real life.
As Catholics, we believe that we are meant to love and serve others in the world. Jesus himself teaches us this in the Gospel: “Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’” (Mark 9:35)
There are countless opportunities to volunteer on college campuses. Find out if there is a group that serves at a local homeless shelter or if the prolife group is collecting baby items for the crisis pregnancy center, and join them. If you don’t see the kinds of volunteer opportunities you want to join on campus, it might just be time for you head up a new initiative!
Become a leader
College is a great time to find out what kind of work you enjoy and what you might be especially good at. Look for ways to serve others on campus by taking on leadership roles in some of these areas. Are you an especially organized person? You might take charge of the plans for hosting a retreat on campus or inviting in a Catholic speaker. If you have good speaking skills, you might take on leadership in the debate club. If you are good at sports, you might organize an intramural basketball tournament. Becoming more fully the person God made you to be is an excellent way to grow in your faith life.
Expand your horizons
Many colleges have opportunities for spring break alternative trips or studying abroad. Visiting new places and learning more about the world and cultures beyond your hometown is a wonderful way to grow in appreciation of the universality of your Catholic faith. As you grow your worldview, you will meet others and have the chance to share your faith in new ways.
One of the most wonderful things about college life is that it’s an opportunity to step more fully into your faith and truly make it your own. Don’t miss out! Spend your college years leaning in and learning more about the priceless gift of the Catholic faith.
– Michele McKenna is Director of Admissions for Magdalen College, a liberal arts college nestled in the mountains of Warner, New Hampshire, that prepares students to “go out into the deep.”