For many high school students, finding the right college isn’t just about academics; it’s also about finding the right community. Jewish students and their families may be particularly interested in finding a college where they’ll be able to live, eat, socialize, and practice with other students from Jewish backgrounds.
Of course, this community will look different to different Jewish students. Some will want a large Jewish population to maximize the number of Jewish student organizations, fraternities and sororities, and participation at Jewish events. Others will want schools with easy kosher dining options and a range of religious options for services. Still others will want to have easy access to a large Jewish community off campus.
Whatever you’re looking for as a Jewish college applicant, we can help! Below, you can find some tips for what to look for in a campus to see if it has a strong Jewish community, as well as Hillel International’s recent rankings of schools with the most Jewish students.
Researching and visiting colleges is an ideal way to decide where to apply. If having a Jewish community is important to you, here are some questions to find the answers to, whether on your tour, exploring the campus, or researching through the college website.
Hillel International is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, and hundreds of American colleges and universities have a chapter on campus. These centers provide physical space for Shabbat dinners, lecture series, community events, and services. On your tour, be sure to find out if there is a Hillel chapter, if they have a dedicated space on campus, and what kinds of events they offer. If you can, try to visit the space itself and talk to students!
Many college campuses also house Jewish Student Unions, who are also tied to a national JSU organization. These groups may exist in lieu of or in addition to Hillel. Many other universities house other kinds of organizations for Jewish students, from Jewish fraternities and sororities to Chabad houses. Depending on what kind of Jewish community you’re hoping to find, be sure to explore each college’s available student clubs and organizations online.
If you keep Kosher—whether year-round or just for major holidays—it’s important to know that your college’s dining halls will enable you to do so. Almost every campus tour will pass a dining hall and discuss meal options, so listen closely, and ask about Kosher dining if it doesn’t come up. Be aware, too, of the inclusivity of the dining options. Can you keep kosher while eating with friends who don’t, or will you have to eat in a different space on campus?
Whether you go to services once a week or once a year, it’s important to know if your college will support your spiritual life as well. Many colleges have some kind of center or chapel that offers multiple kinds of services. Take a look at the schedule and see if you will feel represented on this campus. Even if you’re not especially religious, it’s worth doing this. A truly inclusive campus community will make room for all aspects of Jewish life.
Logistics matter, too! Will you be traveling to see your family for the High Holidays and Passover? Will your college make accommodations for you? Some universities observe major Jewish holidays; others have a stated policy for students who miss class due to religious commitments. If you anticipate missing class for some of these holidays, be sure to look into how different colleges will handle your absence.
For some Jewish students, being able to participate in a cultural community beyond school is just as important as having that community on campus. Given the importance of community service with Judaism, for instance, access to Jewish charitable organizations might be important to you. During your college search, pay attention to the broader location of the school and take some time to learn about the city or town in which it’s located.
While these are all important questions to ask, sometimes just knowing that there will be people who share your background, values, and culture is enough! Below, you can find a list of schools with the most Jewish students (according to Hillel) as well as a list of schools that have the highest percentage of Jewish students.
Public Schools: University of Florida, Rutgers University, University of Central Florida, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brooklyn College, Queens College, Indiana University-Bloomington, Pennsylvania State University, SUNY-Binghamton, Michigan State University, Arizona State University, Florida State University, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
Private Schools: Boston University, New York University, George Washington University, Tulane University, Syracuse University, Yeshiva University, University of Miami, University of Southern California, Washington University in St. Louis, American University, University of Hartford, Brandeis University, Emory University, Northwestern University, Northeastern University
Ivy League Schools: Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Brown University, Yale University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Dartmouth College
Highest Percentages: Yeshiva University (100%); Brandeis University (34%); Barnard College (33%); Tulane University (32%); University of Hartford (30%); Brooklyn College (26%); SUNY-Binghamton (26%); Queens College (24%); George Washington University (23%); Columbia University (23%); Washington University in St. Louis (22%); Boston University (21%); Cornell University (19%); American University (19%); Tufts University (19%)
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