Early in the semester, you will probably see campus bulletin boards fill with fliers advertising religious organizations on campus. Most campuses have groups supporting most religions – Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Sikh, Judaism, LDS, and Baha’i to name a few. Some campuses even have groups for agnostics and atheists. These organizations support spiritual growth while providing opportunities for fellowship. Students who are having a rough time making friends and fitting in often find like-minded people in religious fellowship. Some religious organizations on campus are small while others are larger and better known. Some larger religious organizations on campus include, The Newman Center (Catholicism), Hillel (Judaism), and Campus Crusade for Christ (Christian).
College students take different approaches when it comes to religion. Some students will continue practicing the religion they were raised in, while others will explore and choose beliefs that are altogether different. College is often the first time students are making their own decisions and many college students are deciding where faith fits into their lives. A recent UCLA study of college freshmen showed 80% are interested in spirituality and talk to their friends about it, 79% believe in God, and 76% are searching for meaning and purpose in life. 81% say they attend religious services.
Religious services are changing to attract college-age worshippers. Churches have attracted thousands of students by playing contemporary music and featuring age-appropriate sermons. Services are scheduled at various times – you don’t have to get up early on Sunday mornings anymore.
Research indicates that church attendance is lowest when men and women are in their early 20s. A recent nationwide study by the Higher Education Research Institute shows that even though traditional religious practice has taken a back seat for many college students, spirituality has not. Students are practicing spirituality by acknowledging other people and their differences and by practicing secular ethics. The general chaos in the world right now is leading some people on a path toward peace and harmony.
69% of students agree that spiritual and/or religious beliefs provide strength, support, and guidance, but only 42% said they were secure in their beliefs. 23% reported that they were still seeking answers. College students have many opportunities to explore different religions and find the answers to their questions. Seek out someone from a different culture and ask them about their religion. Attend services for a religion you are not familiar with. You may never have the opportunity to explore so many religions at one time again.
Some students are secure in the religion they want to practice, but are curious about other religions. Taking a class in religious studies may be the answer. You can fulfill general education requirements and learn about religious cultures that are different from your own. Most religious studies classes will describe, compare, interpret, and explain religion. Some are an overview of world religions while others concentrate on a specific religion. Some colleges offer classes in religion from a sociological, psychological, anthropological, or literary viewpoint. Exposing yourself to other religions is one way to learn tolerance. This is a trait that will take you far in life.