Going to college vs. entering the seminary

Just a quick question. I’m a sophomore in high school, and am pretty sure i want to be a priest. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of entering the seminary immediately after high school?

I believe that you will need a college degree in order to get into seminary. Every priest I’ve talked to had gone to college before seminary. Oh, and many prayers for your decernment.

In most seminaries you take college level courses… You may have to find out with the order??

there is nothing wrong with going to Seminary right after High school. Most Seminarys have the Philosophy (College) program. If yours doesn’t You may need to go to an accredited University first. A vocation is not a baseball cap. A Vocation is not “One size fits all”. Some hear the call very young, and others don’t. Simple as that. Continue or at least start dialoguing with the Vocation Director of your Diocese. May the SACRED HEART Bless You and may HE make You a Priest and Saint for our Church!!

If you go straight out of high school you will be heading to a minor seminary where you will be studying to get your B.A. in philosophy. After four years there you will head off to major seminary where you will be studying theology. If you decide to go to college first, after you get your B.A. there, you will usually have 2 years of philosophy and 4 years of theology before you are ordained. Continue to pray and receive the sacraments. Begin to meet with the vocations director of your diocese. See where you are being called.

I am currently a seminarian at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, FL.

Personally, I went to the University of Florida and worked part time till I earned my bachelor’s degree. During this time, I got involved in campus ministry, and participated in many extra-curricular activities – both inside and outside the Church. In the end, I do not look at my university years as a waste of time, and in fact, I find that I am better-prepared for the seminary, and have a much broader/well-rounded perspective than many of the seminarians who enter the seminary right out of high school with little-to-no life experience. Also, since I already earned my four-year degree, I am a pre-theologian, which means I only have 2 years in minor seminary (instead of 4 like everyone else). So the seminaries start you off advanced and knock off some time if you have already been to college. Actually, even if you didn’t finish a 4-year degree, the credits that you have completed would probably transfer to the seminary, and would likely also reduce your time in the minor (making you advance to the major seminary much quicker).

With all of this in mind, though, I will say that each person’s vocation is different, and as such, so is each person’s vocational journey. The most important part here is discernment. If you feel the Lord calling you to enter the seminary directly out of high school, then follow his will, and be obedient to Him. If by the time you graduate high school, you find that you are not so sure that you are called to the seminary yet, then you may want to go to college first. Either way, have no fear or anxiety and just trust in the Lord, and know that He is in complete control, guiding you to be exactly where He wants you to be, when He wants you to be there.

Some advice:

Talk to your parish priest, and see if he can provide you with spiritual direction. If you feel called to the priesthood, and want to seriously begin discerning this calling, spiritual direction will be an invaluable and necessary tool. It will also help you to answer the universal vocation that we are all called to: “Holiness.”

Also, begin praying a holy hour in front of a tabernacle in church (before the Blessed Sacrament) ever day (or as often as possible). Ultimately, Jesus is most present in the Eucharist, so praying for an hour near the Eucharist every day will bring you to a closer union and relationship with Him. This closer union and relationship with Jesus will happen in this daily prayer time, because He will begin to talk to your heart and move your inner most being. Through this daily conversation, you will gain more clarity about what His actual will for your life truly is. In order to discern Christ’s will, you need to get to know Him first. Fostering a strong devotion to the Eucharist is the best way to accomplish this.

Finally, as regards the Eucharist, you should receive Communion (and go to Mass) daily or as often as possible. Ideally, more than once a week outside of Sundays.

Ultimately, there are other things you can do, such as a daily rosary and becoming more involved in your parish so that you can begin to see what ministerial life is like and therefore have a more informed discernment, but I urge you to begin slowly. If you get a good spiritual director, he/she will guide you based on the Lord’s inspirations, and as such, you will never go too slowly, or in a wrong direction.

I end by asking you to please pray for me in my vocational discernment, and promise that I will pray for you and yours.

Best regards, and many blessings…

Sincerely In Christ,

Yeah, I think this is a question for your diocesan vocations director, or at least your parish priest.

I don’t know how it’s normally done or who makes the decision, but I would advise going to college first. It gives you experience with many different people of all different backgrounds, it helps you write (and therefore think) in a more organized way, and it gives you a broader sense of what others believe. This will all be important should you become a priest. It also gives you much more time to discern whether the priesthood is for you. It’s not a small committment, so making a decision should be done only after lots of deliberation and prayer.

There’s no right or wrong way here, just my opinion.

I completely agree with the two posts that came after mine.

Also, I wanted to add that if you do have the opportunity to go to Mass daily (or more than just on Sundays), you will also need to regularly participate in the sacrament of penance/confession. This will be necessary, because in order to receive the Eucharist, you must always be in a state of grace (having no mortal sin on your conscience). Ultimately, being in a state of grace is necessary to grow in relationship with Jesus Christ, anyways, and is necessary to grow in holiness and become a saint. Becoming a holy saint should be your primary goal, and should come well before your desire to become a priest. This means that your desire for heaven should be stronger than your desire for priesthood.

Again, though, good luck, and God bless!!!

By the way, if you have any other questions, feel free to email me at tmyers@ufl.edu.


“Triumph lie in faith, hope, and love.”

The main advantage…you will enter and start your formation sooner…and you do not have to pay for getting your philosophy degree.

I entered seminary right after high school but I was not emotionally mature for what I was to see. The question is not if you should enter right after high school or after college, but whether or not your state of mind/spirituality is strong and mature. I suggest you pray over it with a spiritual director and perhaps to go a counselor (to know yourself more) to deeply and internally discern if the priesthood is your vocation. I do not mean any judgment since I do not know you, but I would like to offer an opportunity that I did not have when I entered the seminary, that is, who am I?

If you are discerning, I would check with a spiritual director (normally a priest: your pastor, the diocesan or religious community’s vocation director).

Generally, it is better to go into seminary from high school. Most dioceses and some religious communities will have you study a degree while living at a college seminary close to campus. If you do that, you have the degree whatever way you discern.

Some dioceses and many religious communities will have you do a spiritual year or two before getting a degree (technically called a novitiate for religious). You will get a degree after this and such a year or two rarely hurt anyone even if they discern it isn’t for them; you can do your degree one way or the other after this period.

p.s. every religious community has novitiate, some have it at the beginning and some before theology. Not every diocese has a discernment / spiritual year at any point.

I entered the seminary after completing a graduate degree and spending a number of years working (I’m now in my 30’s). One of my classmates worked for a number of years after finishing high school before entering the seminary in his early 20’s. There’s no single “best” time to enter a seminary, the right time is rather when it’s right for you - that is, when you feel ready (and of course when your vocations director agrees).

It’s easy to be enthusiastic about a vocation to the priesthood at a young age, without really understanding all that it involves and, as AnonymousCath says, without the strength of spirituality / character needed. That said, it’s also just as easy to put off (and keep putting off) God’s call in favour of more worldly pursuits.

So I guess the best advice I can give would be to pray, talk to others discerning a similar call (especially current seminarians) and seek the guidance of your vocations director and spiritual director.

In general I agree with Br. Matthew LC who suggested you enter right away, and disagree with many of the others who encouraged waiting. No, not just because I love being a priest or want there to be more priests. Here is a list of advantages and disadvantages to entering early…

Advantages of entering seminary right away:

*]Begin your formation sooner, which means getting ordained sooner, and also often being more open to receiving formation. Oftentimes older candidates struggle to make changes that younger candidates find relatively easy.
*]Have your bachelor’s paid for. No debt for you or your family. Debt can also block your entry to seminary.
*]Tend to build **stronger friendships with your fellow seminarians **because you have more years together
*]Can be easier to **develop a solid prayer routine **because it’s built into your day
*]Also easier to **have a spiritual director **because they are right there available to you
*]**Fewer temptations and distractions **than on a normal college campus
Disadvantages to entering right away:
*]May leave because not be ready either humanly or spiritually speaking
*]May miss out on some other fun/interesting opportunities to grow

I hope this helps.

God bless,

Fr. Scott Kallal, AVI
Apostles of the Interior Life

Agreed! And to for the record I did 2 years of college (Computer Engineering) before entering. I had considered the vocation only as a far-off possibility until my 2nd year, then I felt a call.

There are arguments to be made on both sides.

My own experience was to finish my undergraduate degree first (in environmental engineering). I first started discerning a call at the end of my second year (out of 5 total. It was a co-op program). I really started feeling called after 3, but waited until the beginning of my 5th year to apply. Frankly, I simply wasn’t spiritually ready yet in my own opinion.

There’s one thing that always gets mentioned to me whenever I speak to non-Seminarians about this this gets missed: life experience. People that start right after high school, if I may be frank, I find to be a little naïve and sheltered. I don’t know how well these seminarians are going to be able to relate to people who work full-time at a secular job and have mortgages and bills to pay every month.

It is actually such a problem that senior seminarians have cooking classes.

The advantage that I had as someone who completed a degree was the experience of living on my own. I had an apartment to pay rent for and utilities to pay for. If I was hungry, I had to make myself something, and I had to make sure I went for groceries every week. I had a few co-op jobs in different workplaces (government and corporate, union and non-union). Nobody was forced me to pray or go to Mass, instead it was something I pushed myself to do on my own.

All of these skills are especially paramount to secular priests. It’s not bad to get help to develop habits of prayer, but what happens when the nagging stops? I know guys here who will fall behind on the Office during Christmas break or on weekends because there was no foundation for prayer; it was all just artificial structures. The artificial prayer routine that the Seminary insists on will mean nothing if you don’t internalize it and work at it on your own.

I have to disagree on the debt issue too. If not having to pay for a degree feels like an incentive to enter Seminary, then that’s a red-flag to ask yourself if you are actually called. I’m 100% serious about that. Like, if this issue is going to tip the balance one way or the other of your decision, then you should check with your spiritual director if seminary is for you. Not to rain on people’s parade, but it’s not exactly carte blanche either, as many diocese will ask you to pay back (at least a portion of) the funds if you discern out of the Seminary.

Nor should getting ordained sooner ever be a factor. Seminary is a discernment of the candidate for whether they feel this is the life God is calling them to and for the diocese (via the Formation team) to evaluate (from their perspective) whether the candidate has a calling to Holy Orders. Trying to get ordained as quick as possible would possibly be considered a formation issue, because it shows that you aren’t actually doing any discerning and just want the end goal. There is always a possibility of your bishop asking you to take a year off or do an extra pastoral year or something, and if your immediate answer to that type of request is anything but “yes”, then it is another good time to reevaluate your discernment.

To answer one more question, yes you do get your bachelors degree while at Seminary if you don’t have that and you do get to keep that whatever happens. Most Seminaries accomplish this through a BA in Philosophy. To be perfectly frank, a BA in Philosophy is probably one of the most useless degrees to get (no offense to Aristotle, but it is) unless you are getting it as a means to pursue higher studies (ie. Doctorate in philosophy to teach at a university, or to study theology). You can’t exactly call it a consolation prize.

Going to college has it’s practical applications: you are able to have a few years to grow up and learn about the world. High school can be quite sheltering. In college, you can always get involved in a Catholic student group, volunteer in a hospital or something and see where God leads. Often God will put a calling into our hearts and it might take several years before we are ready to start concrete work on that calling. The priests I’ve met are better priests because they have some life experiences on their side. Most dated, saw the world and did their own thing before they entered seminary. If this is God’s will, it will remain God’s will regardless when you enter.

This! :thumbsup:

Remember: entering seminary isn’t like entering college – it isn’t a decision that you make purely on your own! It’s a decision that is made both by you and by your vocation director!

Generally, it is better to go into seminary from high school. Most dioceses and some religious communities will have you study a degree while living at a college seminary close to campus. If you do that, you have the degree whatever way you discern.

Just to be fair: Many dioceses pick up the cost of the bachelor’s degree only if the seminarian is ordained; if he drops out, on the other hand, he’s responsible for his undergraduate tuition.

Concerning your undergraduate degree in the seminary:

Agreed! If one goes straight to college outside the seminary, you pay for it anyways. Most would end up about the same if they took the same degree.

In most diocese I know you have to minor in philosophy (30 credit hours) but any degree that would be useful for a priest in ministry can be sought: teaching, psychology, ancient languages…
Both you and I took engineering which probably would not be an option. I felt a strong enough call in 2nd year to leave such a degree that would be little help as a priest but your call slowly grew. God calls each one differently.

In some sense I agree but such a position needs to be nuanced for clarity. We don’t want to rush ordination but once the candidate and the formation team have moral certainty of a vocation and the studies are done, ordination. This moral certainty could come relatively early in seminary life and then one should try and finish the studies to get ordained sooner rather than later. If one starts this process sooner (because they feel a possible call), they will be ordained sooner. If one senses a possible call, there is no reason to put off discernment. Each year one waits is 365 less masses celebrated.

A seminary is for discernment and that should neither be rushed nor prolonged unnecessarily. The Church asks between 4 and 8 years between beginning a novitiate and final vows for any religious congregation. I think this is a good time frame for discernment, not rushed but not prolonged.

If one feels a strong enough call to think that entering the seminary now is the best way to discern and the vocation director / your spiritual director agrees, one should probably enter to intensify discernment. Only things like not being done high school, waiting till the fall semester begins, debt, family issues should then hold you up.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.