Today's college students report high levels of religious and spiritual interest and involvement. That's why it is essential to seek opportunities to help them grow spiritually. They have high ambitions for religious or spiritual expression, and college is the means by which they can realize their goals.
Pew Research Center presents a religious picture of college graduates: Christians represent 66%, Non-Christian – 9%, and unaffiliated graduates – 25%. Also, today's students exhibit more diverse religious affiliations. For this reason, students learn to demonstrate religious tolerance and acceptance.
TOP 10 College Life Challenges Religious Students Encounter
Still, college life holds abundant challenges that religious and spiritual students face daily. Campus facilities, student fellows, faith distinctions, or rooted stereotypes – anything can become a motive for worries.
Let’s consider the 10 most common challenges for religious and spiritual students:
1. Remaining Faithful
Facing difficulties or prejudices, some students may disprove or tear down from religion. The point here is to keep adhering to your faith, finding support in it, and overlooking others’ opinions.
2. Social Integration
Being part of a minority group may lead to feeling loneliness and isolation. Certain activities and memberships in groups may provide a sense of belonging and link students to the larger whole of campus life.
3. Confronting Students’ Assumptions
Students face daily many unpleasant assumptions based on cultural background and educational history. In this case, we have to tear away from wrongful assumptions rooted in the mind and view other faiths from a different angle.
4. Resisting Intolerance
Personal negative relationships to religion such as the belief in only one true religion can also be difficult to eradicate. The solution is a conversation as an effective way for students to cultivate empathy needed to take seriously the views of others.
5. Spiritual Struggles
College is a stage of transition in life when students go through various changes in their lifestyle and thinking. They may question their beliefs, wonder about the meaning of life, which leads to increased depression and anxiety.
6. Finding Middle Ground
Freshmen don’t leave personal values and faith but some may succumb to new tempting ideas that go against their beliefs. Thus, it is crucial to find the balance between existing values and newly-accepted ones.
7. Attending Events
At social events, interaction with the other sex and consuming alcohol can become a troublesome issue. These students have to turn to other options for socializing, for instance, sports and student organizations.
8. Romantic Relationships
Besides looking for new friends, students may encounter difficulties when dating an individual with some other faith. Partners should pay particular attention to building healthy relationships based on tolerance, mutual understanding, and respect.
9. Physical Differences
Particular religions require wearing specific looks or clothing such as a hijab or turban. This calls for greater tolerance and learning about the religious practices of others.
10. Observing Religious Practices
Entering a college, students have to adjust to a new schedule and, notably, combine it with practicing their religion. For this reason, college students have to learn how to manage their time efficiently.
Where Can I Get Support?
Many colleges offer particular resources to foster the religious development of their students and a pluralistic climate on their campuses. We will mention several resources below:
Many campuses have Christian organizations for students. Groups like InterVarsity, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Reformed University Fellowship are just a few popular examples that have branches at many public universities. Getting involved with such groups puts students in a community with people who also share a similar interest in religious faith.
Many colleges have a Muslim Students Association chapter. It encourages the administration to achieve Islamic holidays on campus, provide halal food, establish a prayer room on campus, run religious events, etc.
Students passionate about Jewish culture, history, and spiritual events can join Chabad (such as the one at ASU), or Hillel center. They organize events to fight indifference and help gain confidence, knowledge, and skills.
Hindu college students can find support at Hindu Students Council, present on college campuses across the US. The council allows members to learn about the spiritual and cultural elements of Hinduism. Also, it runs educational and service events to cultivate the Hindu traditions in a welcoming environment.
The Buddhist Society provides a range of classes in the Buddha’s teachings, meditation meetings, and a full program of events for enrolled members. At the Columbia University Buddhist Association, everyone can join weekly 30-minute meditation sessions followed by the presentation of a guest speaker.
Greek Orthodox followers can explore the benefits of joining Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Its programs and partnerships provide leadership training and religious events (Real Break, College Conference). They offer support in high school to college transition and college to parish transition. Most importantly, OCF continues to provide a home for students on college campuses across the country.
Those who identify as atheists or agnostics may join Secular Student Alliance. The Alliance educates its members about the value of scientific reason, atheistic and humanistic manifestations. The SSA also offers leadership training, online articles, discounts on books and conferences.
What Financial Aid Can I Get?
Many religious organizations offer awards to give back to their community. College scholarships may also help those in need to avoid student loans and achieve their higher education goals.
There are numerous awards for students of all religions and faiths including the scholarships mentioned below:
- Colorado Christian University Honors Scholarship ($7,000) requires its applicants to maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA at CCU and meet all student aid eligibility requirements.
- Colorado Christian University Dean's Scholarship ($10,000) requires its applicants to maintain a cumulative 3.2 GPA at CCU and meet all student aid eligibility requirements.
- DeSales University Catholic Schools Grants ($3,000) are offered to graduates of Catholic high schools who are entering DeSales.
- American Baptist Financial Aid Program ($3,000) supports college students, graduate students, and seminarians. It offers a scholarship for active members of an American Baptist church with a minimum GPA of 2.75.
- Ann Crawford Alexander Memorial Scholarship ($1,000) is divided into two payments at the end of the first and second semesters. Applicants must be Lexington high school graduates or graduating seniors. They must also write a 250-word testimony of how Jesus Christ has impacted their lives.
- Baptist Theological Heritage Scholarship ($9,900) accepts applicants taking a first associate's or bachelor's degree program. The student must be intending to earn their bachelor's degree at a minimum and must commit to attending the Houston, TX campus.
- Carl F.H. Henry Scholarship ($7,500) is available to master’s-level students who have an incoming GPA of 3.75 or higher. Applicants must display the potential to make a significant contribution to the evangelical community.
- Earlham College Quaker Fellows Scholarship ($2,000) and an enhanced financial aid package are offered for those students who strive to live a life grounded in the Spirit, and be leaders at Earlham College, and beyond.
- Presbyterian Student Opportunity Scholarship ($2,000) is available to members of the Presbyterian Church. Preference is extended to racial-ethnic students to promote diversity.
- United Methodist Gbhem General Scholarships ($2,000) are available to members of the United Methodist Central Conferences with a minimum of one year of active membership in the UMC.
- Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Studies Scholarships ($3,000) – one-time grants to support individuals who wish to study Dharma.
- Khyentse Foundation Individual Practice Grants ($3,000) – one-time grants that support individuals who wish to practice Dharma on retreat, public teachings, or other practice environments.
- Khyentse Foundation Ashoka Grants ($5,000) support individuals working to increase Dharma activity around the world. Applicants have to be actively engaged in projects related to Buddhism.
- Aziz Jamaluddin Scholarship ($4,000) is available to Muslim students who major in Journalism or Political Science with GPA of 3.5 or higher.
- Amana Mutual Funds Scholarship ($2,500) is available to undergraduate students who major in Finance, Economics, or Mathematics with GPA of 3.5 or higher.
- SVS (Balaji) Temple of Greater Chicago ($10,000) provides a scholarship to first-year undergraduates. The scholarship is awarded 50% based on merit and 50% based on financial need.
- The Hindu Temple Educational Scholarship Program ($1,000) awards one-time scholarships to three graduating seniors who are members of The Hindu Temple, Canton, Michigan.
- Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts Tuition Support Fund ($40,800) offers full-time students a course in Jewish cultural arts, and museum education. It prepares students for careers in Jewish museums, arts institutions, and other educational and cultural settings. Scholarships are merit-based.
- Jewish Community Foundation Scholarships ($3,000) is need-based financial assistance including tuition, fees, room, and board. Criteria may include academic interest or community service experience.
Atheist and Agnostic Scholarships
- Freedom from Religion Foundation Catherine Fahringer Memorial Award ($2,500) is available to high school youth who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist, or secular and are accepted into two- or four-year colleges.
Additional Resources for Religious Students
- Christian Cafe Blog provides opinions, advice, and Biblical resources for people who are seeking companionship. Readers also can find friends, entertainment, news, and a supportive community.
- Changing the Face of Christianity seeks to change the negative Christian stereotypes in the world by applying positive resources.
- Orthodox Christian Education provides free online educational resources to stimulate religious growth and to do Christ's work in the world.
- MEOR promotes Jewish identity, leadership, and values. It continues to support graduates as they grow into young professionals.
- Latter-Day Saint Student Association helps students in their educational pursuits, assists them in staying close to the Church, and helps create a friendship with like-minded people.
- Baptist College Ministry equips students to serve in missions, promotes voluntary work, leadership qualities, and social integration.
- Hindu Students' Organization welcomes everyone to daily prayers, and social events spreading awareness of the Hindu religion and culture.
- The Dharma Ambassadors Program teaches mutual respect, tolerance to ensure the well-being of Hindus and all people through proper interfaith communication.
- Islamic Relief USA: Working Together for a Better World offers education initiatives, links to information on the group’s history, mission, grants, how to volunteer, and the like.
- Islamic Networks Group offers a variety of programs, seminars, and educational panels to promote understanding among Americans of diverse religions.
- The Financial Wilderness provides tips and tricks on effective money management.
In a country of numerous faith communities, colleges should be an inclusive community that welcomes students from all backgrounds, religions, and faiths. It is crucial to support religious students and encourage interfaith communication. Only by associating ourselves with others of different backgrounds and experiences, we may achieve mutual understanding and a pluralistic supportive community on campus.