10 Best Jesuit Colleges in the U.S

The Jesuits, also known as members of the Society of Jesus, are a religious order affiliated with the Catholic Church. Jesuits have established some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world because of their dedication to service and study. Every aspect of Jesuit colleges is based on their mission to serve humanity. This is especially true of their academic programs. 

Many of those great Jesuit colleges can be found right here in the United States, which is not surprising given the country’s geographic location. Each of these colleges places a high value on academic excellence, which results in not only top-tier students and faculty but also large-scale research initiatives. 

However, the emphasis placed on service at a Jesuit school truly distinguishes the institution. When students are still in school, those who attend a Jesuit college put their teachings into action, both at home and abroad.

As service projects, they interact with their communities and contribute to the social welfare of people all over the world. 

All of the colleges on this list have been accredited by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) (AJCU). 

What Is a Jesuit College and How Does It Operate?

Jesuit colleges and universities are private colleges and universities that are affiliated with the Jesuit order and have a long history of strong Jesuit influence. All Jesuit colleges and universities are members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, which is a professional organization. 

So, what exactly is a Jesuit? A Jesuit is a member of the Society of Jesus, a Roman
Catholic priestly order that was founded in Spain in the 16th century and has its headquarters in Rome. With another way of putting it, all Jesuit colleges are Catholic; however, not all Catholic colleges are Jesuit. 

Jesuit colleges are well-known for being welcoming to students of all religious backgrounds and for attempting to instil in them values of meaning and empathy.

These schools typically provide a broad range of resources and opportunities for students who identify as members of the Catholic faith. Activities such as religious retreats, mission trips, and community service projects are examples of what can be included. 

Jesuit colleges place a strong emphasis on fundamental Jesuit values such as ethics, leadership, and community service. Students are typically required to take core courses in a variety of disciplines in order to develop a well-rounded intellectual foundation for their studies. 

Many Jesuit colleges also encourage students to get involved in community service projects outside of the classroom setting. 

Top 10 Jesuit Colleges in the US

We’ve compiled a list of our top ten Jesuit colleges in the United States, which you can find below. There is information about each school suitable for your perusal.

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, it closely aligned the school with the nation’s capital, providing both religious and academic support to the leaders of the country.  

Nothing shows 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). Besides many representatives, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Edward Douglas 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.  

2. Boston College (Newton, MA)

In most cases, the term “college” denotes an emphasis on undergraduate education, while a “university” shows 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. Besides 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 centre of BC’s religious life, with many students serving as administrators and teachers in the church.  

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 on Santa Clara’s campus, the school can trace its history back as the mission was established in 1776.  

The placement of the mission in the centre 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.  

Furthermore, the school has trained some of the most influential people in the state and in the country. Alumni include the founder of Farmer’s Insurance and the creator of JavaScript software. Graduates become governors of California and winners of awards such as the Pulitzer Prize.  

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.”  

The aforementioned outstanding alumni, but also in more recent news can find signs of that commitment in the work.  

After earning an MBA from Gonzaga in 1999, Heather Dooley has joined the advisory council of Infrastructure Masons. 

A non-profit 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.  

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 or 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 changing the world.  

Besides 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 many 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.  

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 school’s profile’s incoming freshman class. 60% of the new students are women, 26% identify as people of colour, 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 neighbours 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.  

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 because of 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.  

8. Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI)

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 e-sports.  

But don’t be fooled; Marquette students take their studies seriously. The
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.  

9. Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, IL)

On the third coast, the Society of Jesus found Loyola University Chicago 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 won Pulitzer, Grammy, and Emmy Awards, Guggenheim fellowships, and MacArthur fellowships.  

Loyola’s eleven colleges and schools, 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 near 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 principal subjects studied at the school or to the Jesuit’s principal ministries.  

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 honour.  

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 neighbours.   

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to go to a Jesuit university?

A Jesuit education forms well-rounded students with a passion for knowledge and personal growth.

What is the difference between a Jesuit school and a Catholic school?

A Jesuit is a member of the Society of Jesus, an order of Roman Catholic priests founded in Spain in the 16th century.  

What are the benefits of a Jesuit education?

Through Jesuit education, you will develop the ability to learn across your lifetime — a critical component of success.

How many Jesuit colleges are in the US?

What is the oldest Jesuit college in the United States?


If you are unsure whether you should attend a Jesuit school, ask yourself the following three questions: 

  • Do you agree with the Jesuit principles of justice, mercy, and compassion? 
  • How do you feel about the school (including its location, atmosphere, and so on)? 
  • Do you agree with the Jesuit principles of ethics, knowledge, and service to others? 
  • Do the classes and majors offered by the school sound appealing to you? 

Make sure you understand the most common college application deadlines as well as what to expect during the college application process if you’ve applied to a Jesuit institution. 



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