The Best Jesuit Colleges

The Best Jesuit Colleges

There are 221 Catholic institutions of higher learning in the United States. Of these schools, 28 are Jesuit colleges and universities, according to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU).

     What exactly does Jesuit mean?

Back in 1534 (yes, you read that correctly), the Society of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis of Xavier and several of their peers, without the permission of Pope Paul III, which eventually was granted in 1540. 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, the order’s focus is teaching God’s message and importance of service to others with the love of Jesus Christ.


As a religious order of the Catholic Church, members of the Society of Jesus were adamantly against the Reformation. Today, however, Jesuits are considered slightly more flexible than Catholics, the latter of whom operate under the Catholic Church’s regulations. Still, Jesuits are engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Like Catholics, Jesuits work in education, research and cultural pursuits, but with emphasized community service in the form of retreats, ministry in hospitals and parishes, sponsorship of social ministries, and ecumenical dialogue.

     What exactly does Jesuit mean?

The answer is simply that Jesuit schools are run by Jesuits. The priests of the Society of Jesus are committed to spreading the gospel through ministry in education, social justice, and apolistic endeavors. Jesuit schools promote liberal arts values via learning, critical thinking and academic standards. These schools are based on Catholic principles and are accountable to their local bishop. Jesuit schools fall under Catholicism’s proverbial umbrella, but they exist as a more liberal subcategory.

     What if I don’t practice Catholicism?

One need not practice Catholicism to attend a Jesuit school, although there are added benefits for Catholics, such as retreats, mission trips, community service projects and additional resources.

     Should I attend a Jesuit college?

Like any college search, deciding for or against a Jesuit school is contingent on many factors. The religious beliefs tied to the school is only a small part of what the school offers overall. To help your decision-making process, really try to identify why you are drawn to a school. Ask yourself all of the questions you would consider with any school. Is it the location or the campus? Is it the body of professors with excellent backgrounds or perhaps a student body of your political or social persuasion? Ask yourself other questions like whether there are ample clubs to join. What is the female/male ratio? Is there a strong Greek life presence? Does the school provide access to useful internships? What are the financial aid offers for incoming freshmen? How are the job opportunities for recent graduates? Do you like the Jesuit emphasis on ethics, community service, the liberal arts and breadth of knowledge? Do the added benefits of attending a Jesuit school influence your decision? Most importantly, does the school have your prospective field of study? Take time to think these factors through, and know what you are seeking before you begin your search.

     What is it to be the best if there are only 27 schools?

We identified the best schools based on various standards including academic rigor, acceptance rates, student-to-faculty ratio and credibility amongst future employers. Most Jesuit schools are highly-ranked enough to impress the majority of prospective college students, but we stuck to the top ten for simplicity.

Below is the list of every Jesuit school in the U.S., in alphabetical order:


Boston College

Canisius College

College of the Holy Cross

Creighton University

Fairfield University

Fordham University

Georgetown University

Gonzaga University

John Carroll University

Le Moyne College

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Maryland

Loyola University New Orleans

Marquette University

Regis University

Rockhurst University

Saint Joseph’s University

Saint Louis University

Saint Peter’s University

Santa Clara University

Seattle University

Spring Hill College

University of Detroit Mercy

University of San Francisco

University of Scranton

Xavier University

Our list of the best Jesuit colleges is as follows:

  1. Georgetown University

Georgetown is our pick for the number Jesuit school. It is one of the most recognizable universities in the country. Over 20,000 applicants apply to Georgetown’s freshman class annually, and fewer than 20 percent of applicants are accepted. Georgetown was founded in 1789, making it the oldest Jesuit school in the country. It also 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

  1. Boston College

Boston College is a familiar name to most prospective students, particularly in the Northeast. With over 60 undergraduate majors, BC is a liberal arts college that appears on many ‘best colleges’ lists. Catholic Mass convenes daily at Boston College for those that choose to attend. There is also a healthy social life; the student organizations are seemingly endless with over 200 options to choose from. Boston College boasts connectivity to its Jesuit beginning, strives to share aspects of Catholicism with students of all religions and cultures and maintains the modernity of intellectual expansion. As a result, Boston College’s freshman retention rate is rather high: 95 percent.

Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Popular Majors: Economics, biology, psychology

3. Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University houses more than 6,500 undergraduates, making it the biggest Catholic university on the West Coast. It contains 7 schools with field specializations such as education, law and business administration. LMU has over 185 student organizations, 23 Greek fraternities and sororities and has ample opportunity outside of the school in the Los Angeles area. LMU’s 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 would choose this focally-located school. The freshman retention rate is 90 percent. Furthermore, 99 percent of graduates have employment or are volunteering or enrolled in graduate programs.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Popular Majors: Visual and performing arts, marketing, journalism

  1. Fordham University

Located in New York, Fordham University sits in the heart of opportunity. The school comprises three campuses: Rose Hill (Bronx), Lincoln Center (Manhattan), and the Westchester County campus in West Harrison. Fordham promotes values and ethics, academic excellence and student care. With a notable law school and over 70 undergraduate majors, Fordham is by no means an overlooked school. Students have access to the Louis Calder Center for purposes of environmental and biological research, among other unique opportunities on their respective campuses. Fordham offers over 180 student clubs at its Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses, but there is no Greek system. 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

  1. 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. SCU was named a Top Green College in 2018 and 2019 by The Princeton Review due to its emphasis on sustainability. With over 50 undergraduate majors and 500 professors, SCU students can enjoy a bountiful university experience. Many of SCU’s professors are renowned Fulbright scholars, famous authors and poets, and successful scientists.  This school’s graduates have the highest median salary of any Jesuit college at $65,200. Santa Clara University has a great freshman retention rate of 94 percent.

Location: Santa Clara, California

Popular Majors: Business, engineering, communication

  1. College of the Holy Cross

Roughly 45 minutes outside of Boston, in a town called Worcester, sits the College of the Holy Cross. Though an abundance of its students are Catholic, Holy Cross welcomes students of all faiths. Spiritual retreats and religious events are held annually. The college offers more than 100 student organizations, and the Worcester area is brimming with college life, as there are over 12 schools nearby. Holy Cross students have the option to experience a plethora of dining, nightlife and recreation. 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 seen among Jesuit colleges. The freshman retention rate at Holy Cross stands at a strong 96 percent.

Location: Worcester, Massachusetts

Popular Majors: Foreign languages, English, psychology

  1. Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is the second-oldest Jesuit college in the U.S. With approximately 90 majors and academic programs — which is a higher number than most Jesuit colleges offer —more than 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 partakes in over one million hours of service annually. Likewise, mission trips and retreats are common via SLU’s Campus Ministry. 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, parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies

  1. Gonzaga University

Downtown Spokane, Washington, is less than half a mile from the esteemed Gonzaga University. For outdoor explorers, Gonzaga is a huge catch: Students can walk the 37-mile-long Spokane River Centennial Trail or spend time relaxing at the 100-acre Riverfront Park. As 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. Gonzaga has over 60 undergraduate majors. Its School of Law is one of three law schools in Washington State, from which many Supreme Court justices have hailed. It hits its Jesuit marks in working with Bishop White Seminary to provide theology courses to prospective priests. The freshman retention rate is quite high, sitting at a solid 94 percent.

Location: Spokane, Washington

Popular Majors: Business, engineering, psychology

  1. 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 U.S. 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 provides 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 outside of the college spectrum. 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

10. Marquette University

Founded in 1881, Marquette has a total undergraduate enrollment of 8,515. 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