The Jesuits, or members of the Society of Jesus, are a Catholic order. Because of the group’s commitment to service and study, Jesuits have founded some of the most influential colleges in the world. Their mission to help humankind is a key part of every aspect of Jesuit schools.
Unsurprisingly, many of those great Jesuit colleges can be found right here in the United States. Each of these colleges puts a high priority on academic excellence, resulting in not only first-class students and faculty but also ambitious research projects.
But the real defining factor of a Jesuit school is its emphasis on service. Even as students, those attending a Jesuit college put their studies into practice, both at home and abroad. They interact with their communities in the form of service projects, and they increase the social welfare of people around the world.
Every one of the colleges on this list has been recognized by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU).
We’ve ranked them according to their scholarly reputation, the quality of their faculty and research, and their impact on the larger world.
With this list, you can find a school to help you reach your educational goals and to help you make the world a better place for all.
Here are the 10 best Jesuit Colleges in the US.
10. Saint Louis University (St. Louis, MO)
When Saint Louis University was founded in 1818, it was the first university to be found west of the Mississippi River. In the years since, SLU has only expanded its reach and influence, following its Jesuit mission to improve the quality of life for all people.
That devotion to quality of life begins with the school’s commitment to diversity. Thanks to programs intended to recruit and support students from underprivileged communities, SLU has received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, the first Jesuit university to be given the honor.
SLU was also recognized as a “character-building college,” included on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for nine years in a row.
That award speaks not only to the education students receive but also to the good works they do in the community, from raising money for certain causes to researching and addressing problems faced by their neighbors.
9. Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Located on the third coast, Loyola University Chicago was founded by the Society of Jesus in 1870.
In its over 150 years of existence, Loyola has educated everyone from comedian Bob Newhart and author Sandra Cisneros to businesswoman Mary A. Tolan and U.S. Representative Mike Quigley.
Alumni have gone on to win Pulitzer, Grammy, and Emmy Awards, Guggenheim fellowships, and MacArthur fellowships.
Loyola’s eleven colleges and schools, located on six campuses across Chicago, serve over 16000 students each year. Additionally, Loyola enjoys partnerships with schools in Rome, Beijing, and Ho Chi Minh City.
Students can study in the vicinity of some remarkable landmarks on campus. Constructed in 1939, the Madonna della Strada Chapel encompasses the school’s educational and religious aims.
Stained glass windows adorn every wall of the chapel, each devoted to a patron saint of the main subjects studied at the school or to the Jesuit’s principal ministries.
8. Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI)
To some, attendance at a religious school suggests a life of piety and scholarship.
One thinks of Jesuit professors striding across campus in their robes and serious students keeping their noses in books.
But with only a quick glance at the campus life offerings at Marquette University, one can see that there’s so much more than studying at the school. Students can unwind by going to hotspots in town, such as the music venue The Rave or the Olympic training ice rink.
Intermural clubs are in place for everything from board game enthusiasts and LARPers to club sports such as floor hockey and esports.
But don’t be fooled; Marquette students do take their studies very seriously. The university prides itself on its challenging science programs, particularly its physical therapy and physician’s assistant’s degrees, both of which have received praise from observers.
These studies help earn Marquette an A- grade from Niche.com.
Likewise, U.S. News & World Report includes Marquette at #54 on its list of Best Value Schools and #58 in Undergraduate Teaching.
7. Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA)
Although it officially came into existence when Loyola College and the Marymount School merged in 1933, Loyola Marymount University traces its roots all the way back to St. Vincent’s College, founded in 1865. Today, the school continues that school’s mission of service and education.
Evidence of that commitment can be seen in the school’s sustainability efforts. 6% of the campus’s electrical needs come from its solar electric rooftop array, with an additional 6% purchased through renewable energy credits.
New buildings constructed at the school are LEED-certified due to their desire to be good stewards of the earth.
In the academic field, LMU boasts an impressive MBA program. With a flexible approach that encourages professionals to build on their existing knowledge and interests, the MBA program encourages creative thinking.
Thanks to this approach, LMU’s program has earned a 6th place ranking from Bloomberg Businessweek.
6. Creighton University (Omaha, NE)
As part of its commitment to Catholic values and service to others, Omaha’s Creighton University strives to create a vibrant and diverse student body.
The fruit of that work can be seen in the profile of the school’s incoming freshman class. 60% of the new students are women, 26% identify as people of color, and 43% come from faith traditions other than Catholicism. 13% of this year’s freshmen are first-time college students in their families, proving that Creighton is bringing education to more and more people.
That commitment to service can also be seen in the work that Creighton does for its neighbors in Omaha.
The university sponsors several academic service-learning programs in the area, including working with French-speaking immigrants in the area and providing healthcare to underprivileged communities.
5. College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA)
Established in 1843, the College of the Holy Cross is one of the oldest Catholic colleges in the United States. From its earliest days as a school for boys to its current role as one of the best Catholic universities in the country, the College of the Holy Cross encourages academic excellence and volunteerism.
Thanks to $2 million in funding from the Lilly Endowment, Holy Cross provides internships and scholarships for students training for ministry, service, and government careers in the city of Worcester.
This funding advances the school’s goal of making theology not just a subject of study, but an inspiration for making real change in the world.
In addition to its work in the community, Holy Cross is renowned for the quality of its campus. The landscaping on Holy Cross’s main campus has won numerous awards from observers and has been registered as an arboretum.
The school is regularly ranked near the top on “most beautiful campus” lists produced by outlets such as The Princeton Review and Conde Nast Traveler.
4. Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA)
What do musical great Bing Crosby, NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton, and former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire have in common? They were all Gonzaga Bulldogs.
As declared in its mission statement, Gonzaga University has trained students to become “wholehearted leaders who serve the common good and give glory to God.”
Signs of that commitment can be found in the work done by the aforementioned outstanding alumni, but also in more recent news.
After earning an MBA from Gonzaga in 1999, Heather Dooley has gone on to join the advisory council of Infrastructure Masons. A nonprofit association of technology and business leaders who work on over $150 billion worth of infrastructure projects in over 130 countries, the council exists to bring together leaders of the digital age.
Dooley’s work will help the Infrastructure Masons implement their latest plans, assisting with long-term planning.
3. Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA)
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University is the oldest still-operating university in the state of California. But thanks to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís located on Santa Clara’s campus, the school can trace its history back even further, as the mission was established in 1776.
The placement of the mission in the center of the campus demonstrates the importance of history and service to the school.
One of the more practical examples of this commitment is a $5 million investment put toward a solar panel initiative. In addition to saving the university money in the long run, this solar power will help the school be more sustainable, thus better caring for the planet.
2. Boston College (Newton, MA)
In most cases, the term “college” denotes an emphasis on undergraduate education, while a “university” indicates a commitment to research and graduate studies. But Boston College is the exception to that rule.
Despite its first-class research and excellent graduate programs, BC refers to itself as a college because they believe the word better captures the small-town feel it tries to foster.
That community feel can be found in the various newspapers and media stations operated on campus. In addition to its progressive magazine The Gavel and its Catholic paper The Torch, Boston College features the student-run radio station WZBC and the cable television station BCTV.
Because it’s a religious community, several chapels are found on-campus and in the near vicinity, including the Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. St. Ignatius is the center of BC’s religious life, with many students serving as administrators and teachers in the church.
1. Georgetown University (Washington, DC)
Georgetown University tops the list thanks to its history and because of its current-day work. Founded in 1789 as Georgetown College, the school is the oldest Catholic institution of higher learning in the United States.
Overlooking the Potomac River, the school is closely aligned with the nation’s capital, providing both religious and academic support to the leaders of the country.
Nothing demonstrates that connection between Georgetown and American politics like the school’s most well-known alumni.
Past students include former presidents Bill Clinton and Lyndon Johnston (although the latter did not graduate from Georgetown). In addition to numerous representatives, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Edward Douglass graduated from Georgetown.
Less famous, but no less impressive, achievements at Georgetown include the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society, the oldest continuously-running collegiate theatre troupe in the U.S. Currently in its 170th season, the society allows students to perfect their artistic and technical skills.