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Admissions Changes at Catholic Universities in the United States

A female student preparing to enter a large stone-fronted university building.

In recent years, Jesuit and Catholic universities in the United States have become increasingly popular among college applicants, including those who are not religious or follow faiths other than Catholicism. The reasons are myriad, and understandable: Catholic schools offer rigorous academics, a commitment to holistic education, intimate campus communities, extensive opportunities for service and career advancement, and a strong school spirit—which often includes competitive and nationally-recognized athletic teams.

With their rising popularity, Catholic and Jesuit colleges have become increasingly selective. So if you’re thinking that a Catholic university might be right for you, read on to learn more about the most popular options and what they’re looking for in their students.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University has long been the most selective and well-known Catholic university in the country. With its central location in suburban (but still lively) Washington D.C., its passionate school spirit, and its exceptional programs in foreign relations and political science, Georgetown is not only one of the most competitive Catholic universities in the U.S., but also ranks among the most selective universities overall. Their admission rate has hovered around 12% for the past few years, down from nearly 20% ten years ago.

Boston College

We’ve written elsewhere about the growing popularity of Boston-area schools, and Boston College is no exception. In recent years BC has expanded its academic offerings with a new engineering program and additional certificate programs and reaped the rewards in ever-increasing applications. During the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, BC received more than 31,000 first-year applicants, the most ever in school history, and accepted about a quarter of those students—a record-low admission rate for the university.

Villanova University

Villanova’s rise has been one of the major stories in the college admissions world over the last decade. As recently as 2015, Villanova was only regionally ranked by U.S. News & World Report, not making the national rankings until 2016. At that time, though, it premiered at #50 and has since become one of the most selective universities in the country. Thanks to its growing name recognition from its consistently top-ranked basketball team, and its strong Finance and Nursing programs, Villanova has attracted increasing interest. In 2015, Villanova’s admission rate was nearly 50%; this year, for the Class of 2026, it fell below 30%.

Santa Clara University

Like its East Coast cousins, Santa Clara’s national reputation has grown exponentially in recent years. In particular, its location in the heart of Silicon Valley has made it increasingly appealing to students interested in technology and all is applications, particularly in business. SCU has worked to capitalize on this advantage through distinctive programs that introduce students to the intersections of technology, investment, and social change. As the tech industry continues to grow, Santa Clara’s popularity will likely continue to expand alongside it.

Providence College

Once a primarily commuter university for Providence’s large Italian-Catholic population, Providence College has gained a much wider regional and even national reputation in recent years. Thanks to the strong reputation of its business program, its convenience to New York and Boston, and its nationally-ranked basketball team, PC has attracted a growing number of first-year applicants. Although it may not yet be as popular as some of its peers, as selectivity rises at universities across the country, we expect that Providence College will follow a similar trajectory.

Final Thoughts

While Catholic schools are not the right fit for everyone, their academic and social advantages are attracting an increasing number of students, increasing their selectivity across the board. If you’re wondering if a Catholic college or university would be the right fit for you, or how you might stack up against other applicants to these schools, give us a call!



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