The Top 10 Jesuit Colleges

April 18, 2023
College Admissions

There are 221 Catholic institutions of higher learning in the United States. According to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), 27 of these schools are Jesuit colleges and universities. Below is a list of every Jesuit college and university in the United States, in alphabetical order:

What exactly does Jesuit mean?

In 1534, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis of Xavier, and several of their peers founded a Catholic order called the Society of Jesus. The order’s purpose was missionary work, and its members were called Jesuits. Jesuit training sought to prepare the souls, bodies, and minds of men (women were not permitted) for the ministries they would eventually build.

Today, Jesuits are engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in approximately 112 nations. They work in education, research, and cultural pursuits, with an emphasis on community service in the form of retreats, ministry in hospitals and parishes, sponsorship of social ministries, and ecumenical dialogue.

What exactly is a Jesuit school?

The simple answer is that Jesuit schools are schools run by Jesuits. Jesuit schools promote liberal arts values via learning, critical thinking, and rigorous academic standards. While Jesuit schools are based on Catholic principles and are accountable to their local bishop, they are generally more liberal than other Catholic schools. One need not practice Catholicism to attend a Jesuit school, although there are added benefits for Catholics, such as retreats, mission trips, and community service projects.

Should I attend a Jesuit college?

As with any college search, the decision to attend a Jesuit school is contingent upon many factors. The religious affiliation of these schools comprises only a small part of what they offer. To help your decision-making process, ask yourself all of the questions you would consider with any school. What majors and academic programs does the college offer? What is the student-to-faculty ratio, and how accessible are professors and academic advisors? What is the campus culture and community like? Are there clubs, organizations, and activities that interest you? What is the housing situation like, and what are the options for on-campus and off-campus housing? What is the location of the college, and what is the surrounding community like? What is the college's support for career development, internships, and job placement? What is its support for mental health, wellness, and student services? What is the cost of tuition, fees, and other expenses? Are there financial aid or scholarship options available? Take time to think these factors through, and have a good idea of what you are seeking before you begin your search.

What are the best Jesuit colleges?

While most Jesuit schools are highly ranked enough to impress the majority of prospective college students, we have identified what we consider to be the top ten Jesuit colleges based on various standards, including academic rigor, acceptance rates, student-to-faculty ratio, and credibility among employers.

Georgetown University

Georgetown, one of the most recognizable universities in the country, is our pick for the number-one Jesuit school. Founded in 1789, it is the oldest Jesuit school in the nation. Of the approximately 20,000 applicants who apply to Georgetown’s freshman class annually, fewer than 20 percent are accepted. It has a reputation as being a highly competitive research university. Over 60 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students, and the freshman retention rate is a whopping 96 percent.

Location: Washington, D.C.

Popular Majors: social sciences, business, marketing

Boston College

Boston College is a familiar name to many prospective college students, particularly in the Northeast. With over 60 undergraduate majors, BC is a liberal arts college that appears on many ‘best colleges’ lists. The student organizations at BC are seemingly endless, with over 200 options to choose from, and its freshman retention rate, at 95 percent, is quite high.

Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Popular Majors: economics, biology, psychology

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University houses more than 6,500 undergraduates, making it the biggest Catholic university on the West Coast. It contains seven schools, with specializations such as education, law, and business administration. LMU has over 185 student organizations and 23 fraternities and sororities. Its student body comprises students from almost every U.S. state, as well as international students from many countries. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, and over 50 percent of its classes containing fewer than 20 students, it is easy to see why so many people from around the world choose this school, where the freshman retention rate is 90 percent.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Popular Majors: visual and performing arts, marketing, journalism

Fordham University

Located in New York, Fordham University comprises three campuses: Rose Hill (Bronx), Lincoln Center (Manhattan), and West Harrison (Westchester County). Fordham has a notable law school and over 70 undergraduate majors, and students have access to the Louis Calder Center for purposes of environmental and biological research, among other unique opportunities on their respective campuses. In addition, Fordham offers over 180 student clubs at its Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses. The freshman retention rate is on the higher side, at 91 percent.

Location: Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester; New York

Popular Majors: economics, business administration and management, finance

Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University is an hour outside of San Francisco, California, in Silicon Valley. The Society of Jesus founded the school in 1851, and SCU still closely follows Jesuit principles of ethics and social justice, even offering a Jesuit School of Theology. It was named a Top Green College in 2018 and 2019 by The Princeton Review due to its emphasis on sustainability. SCU offers over 50 undergraduate majors, and many of its professors are renowned Fulbright scholars, famous authors and poets, and successful scientists. Santa Clara University also has a great freshman retention rate of 94 percent.

Location: Santa Clara, California

Popular Majors: business, engineering, communication

College of the Holy Cross

The College of the Holy Cross is located about 45 minutes outside of Boston, in the town of Worcester. Although many of its students are Catholic, Holy Cross welcomes students of all faiths. The college offers more than 100 student organizations, and the Worcester area is brimming with college life, as there are over 12 schools nearby. There are no graduate programs at Holy Cross, so it is truly a school for the undergraduate experience. Its student-to-faculty ratio is 10:1, which is one of the best ratios among the Jesuit colleges. The freshman retention rate at Holy Cross stands at a strong 96 percent.

Location: Worcester, Massachusetts

Popular Majors: foreign languages, English, psychology

Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is the second-oldest Jesuit college in the United States. With approximately 90 majors and academic programs—more than most Jesuit colleges offer—as well as over 150 student organizations and 24 sororities and fraternities, there is something for every student at SLU. In true Jesuit form, SLU is committed to community service: The school’s student body contributes over one million hours of service annually. SLU also has an overseas campus in Madrid, Spain, where students can study for as long as four years or as briefly as one semester. Of all the Jesuit colleges, the student-to-faculty ratio at SLU is the lowest at 9:1. Accordingly, 47 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students. SLU has an admirable freshman retention rate of 90 percent.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Popular Majors: health; business; recreation, leisure, and fitness studies

Gonzaga University

Downtown Spokane, Washington, is less than half a mile from the esteemed Gonzaga University. For outdoor enthusiasts, Gonzaga offers a great location: Students can walk the 37-mile-long Spokane River Centennial Trail or spend time relaxing at the 100-acre Riverfront Park. For the sports aficionado, over 60 percent of Gonzaga’s students participate in intramural sports clubs, and the school has a very successful men’s basketball team. In addition, Gonzaga has over 60 undergraduate majors and its School of Law is one of three law schools in Washington State, from which many Supreme Court justices have hailed. At a solid 94 percent, its freshman retention rate is quite high.

Location: Spokane, Washington

Popular Majors: business, engineering, psychology

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago has a huge undergraduate population of almost 12,000, making it one of the largest Jesuit colleges in the United States. Within its 12 colleges, Loyola offers undergraduates over 80 majors, many of which are interdisciplinary concentrations. Loyola University Chicago is part of over 12 NCAA Division I sports and offers a selection of more than 250 student clubs and organizations. The convenient Chicago location provides the opportunity for students to explore internships, careers, entertainment and volunteerism. In fact, Loyola’s Jesuit basis encourages students to volunteer and allows them to earn academic credit for many volunteer endeavors. Loyola University Chicago’s freshman retention rate stands at 83 percent.

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Popular Majors: health, marketing, social sciences

Marquette University

Founded in 1881, Marquette has a total undergraduate enrollment of 7,528. With 83 majors, 81 minors, and an extensive study-abroad catalog, Marquette has a robust educational offering. The Marquette Golden Eagles are members of the NCAA Division I Big East Conference and compete at a high level in basketball. The student-faculty ratio at Marquette University is 14:1, and 47.8 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students. The average freshman retention rate is 89 percent.

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Popular Majors: business, management, marketing, biological and biomedical engineering, communication, journalism