College admissions expert and educational consultant Mark Montgomery explains the philosophy behind Jesuit schools such as Seattle University: while no religious affiliation whatsoever is required to attend, there is an emphasis on giving back to one’s community as an educated person and humanity’s purpose in the world, and a requirement that students take classes in philosophy or theology.
So today I’m on the campus of Seattle University in Seattle, Washington, of course, and it is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the United States. Now Jesuit refers to the Society of Jesus which was founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola way back in the olden days to, as part of the Catholic Church, to educate people. So our current Pope Francis is a Jesuit, and again the idea of these Catholic schools is to educate people. One of the hallmarks of their education is mind, body and spirit. So you are educating not only your mind, but they also are very big into athletics. Most of the Jesuits are very big into athletics. Seattle University just went back to Division One athletics. Almost all of them are big basketball schools, like Gonzaga and Georgetown University. And then spiritually they also are promoting the idea that part of being an educated person is to give back, to participate in community life. And community can mean a lot of different things. It can mean your local community. It can mean the world at large. So the Jesuits really do have this focus not only on really great academics, they almost always have business schools, they almost always have engineering schools, this one has a law school. So they are very academically focused. But at the same time again they have athletics, the body, and they are talking about the spirit.
Now, what is different about the Jesuit schools from say one of the other schools down the street here, Seattle Pacific, is that there is no requirement that the students and the faculty and the community have a particular kind of faith, or that they even be Christian, much less Catholic. So it is very possible for a student who is either a non-believer or has some other faith, to fit into a Jesuit community. What is required really from the student is to want to have the conversation about humanity’s role in the community, in the world at large. Why are we here? So students are required at the Jesuit schools to take a combination of philosophy and theology. You can see behind me here the chapel here this is an architectural gem. It’s a beautiful chapel on the inside, very modern, very interesting. Very stark in comparison to many Catholic churches, gorgeous. But students are required to take some sort of courses, a couple of courses—it depends on which school—but they are required to take some course in religion or philosophy. Now, they don’t have to take Catholicism. They don’t have to take anything about theology, Christian theology. They can take Buddhism. They can take a religious ethics. They can take philosophy. Again, it’s not so much about believing in a particular thing except believing that being educated also gives us a responsibility to our world. So the Jesuit schools like Seattle University, they are all over. Georgetown is perhaps the most famous. Marquette, Gonzaga, the Loyolas in Chicago and Baltimore. Great universities and interesting heritage with religion that you probably want to consider as you are deciding which college to attend.