Ivy League or Catholic School?


I am not sure which forum to post this in, but I suppose this will do.

I am 22 and just about to graduate from college. I applied to two graduate programs in my field. I have been accepted to both. The first is Yale University, and the other is Duquesne University. I am also about to get married in June of this year to a wonderful woman who would like to further her education. She has been admitted to programs located very close to both of the schools. I have been awarded a full-scholarship and graduate assistantship at both schools, however Duquesne is willing to pay me a substantially larger stipend.

In my field, Yale is much more highly regarded than Duquesne (as I’m sure it is in many fields). And, I think I will meet with much more worldly success, prestige, money, influence, etc if I go to graduate school there. I also think my peers and colleagues will be of a higher standard (from a worldly perspective). In the long term, this may set me up for a career where I could provide (materially) for a large family but I could also see how this same career could become an idol for me and destroy my soul and harm my family.

At Duquesne I will have significantly more opportunities to start my professional career while still attending school. Together we will have much more money in the short term, and the cost of living seems to be less in Pittsburgh than in New Haven. In the long run, I think that this career path will never yield as much (or even enough) money, but I will not have to travel as much and I think the temptation to put my career above my relationship to God and my family will be much less. My question is this: will my colleagues and mentors be of a higher standard spiritually? I know they can’t compete in the world, but is there a chance my future wife and I will meet people who honestly love God and want to serve him? Is Catholic education worth it? (I have never attended a Catholic school).

Also, for the past four years I have been living in an area of the country where the Church is spiritually (and also literally sometimes) in ruins. However, when I went to Pittsburgh it seemed like the Church there is healthy and living. Can anyone confirm this? In New Haven it seemed to be very similar to where I am now. Does anyone who lives near there know if this is in fact the situation?

I have been trying to discern this situation for months and it is quickly approaching the time to make a final decision. Fundamentally, we each want to do God’s will, but it does seem like different goods come from each of these opportunities. Do any of you have advice for us?

Thank you!


That is a very difficult question! I feel that an education is extremely important and anyone should get the best education they can. But that does not mean it has to be the top of the line school.

One question would be about the field you are choosing, your questions are a bit too vague as far as how your future colleagues or peers would be spiritually, or how this career could cause you to lose your soul. Also the traveling part. Are you saying you would choose 2 different careers dependent upon which school you choose?

Also, are you saying you want to stay and live in the town you choose to go to school in? Raise a family there, or just go to graduate school and move on?

One thing I’m missing is that why do you think that overall “in the long run” it will matter? I hope you aren’t selling yourself short that without that Yale degree you cannot go as high as you would like? In the same field? Maybe initially your job search would be much better with that degree, but after many years what really matters is what you have accomplished and how well you have performed.

Now with that all said, if you are worried about spirituality, isn’t it what you make of it? If you are doing okay where you are now, which by your post it seems that your faith is rock solid, then again, don’t sell yourself short by assuming life will be bad for you if you pick the wrong “spiritual” town.

Do you have kids? If not, then having the money in the short term might not be a huge issue. If you are both students, then we all went through it where we scraped through college until we could get out in the real world, and you can do it too (as I assume you have been doing) so what is a little bit longer? If your fiance will be in school as well, then I assume you won’t be actively pursuing a family and having less money during school shouldn’t be a huge issue. Before you know it you will be done and in your real life and will look back thinking “that wasn’t so hard”!!

For school, just off the top of my head, I obviously think higher of Yale and assume your career will start out much higher and quicker from there. But if you are worried about your ability to maintain your faith, then maybe you are going into the wrong profession?

Next, here is my advice, the only advice I really stand by (teehee) is that you need to pray to God to help you to open your heart and your mind to hear him when he guides you to the best option. I truly, wholeheartedly mean what I am saying. Ask him to help you hear his guidance and KEEP your mind open for his guidance at all times.Put the entire issue in his hands and tell him he has to decide and he has to tell you what to do.

When little ideas start creeping into your head that seem to persuade your decision, LISTEN to them!! I abide by this as much as I possibly can in my life and I am amazed at how well it helps me to make my decisions. Trust me, I have to ask him on a daily basis to help me keep my heart open to hear him as I frequently forget and I start thinking that I am the only person in charge of my life. But then I get back on track, pay attention, and I will be going along and realize that the thoughts in my head are probably not my own thoughts but I just never paid attention before! When I have big decisions, I rely solely on God to guide me through the process, I just have to truly listen for his guidance and not blow it off as my own confusing thought process!

Good luck, but either way it sounds like you are incredibly lucky and will have a bright and very good future because no matter which school you choose, you will have a promising career!


I can understand how you are torn.

My son-in-law is a wonderful young Catholic man, who also happens to be blessed with a powerful intellect; his career choice is one that attracts relatively few practicing Christians/Catholics. He is finishing his post-doc at the best university in the world for his field (he turned down Harvard, among other Ivy League schools.)

Though he is currently in a decidedly secular academic atmosphere, rather than losing his faith or falling prey to materialism, his (and my daughter’s) strong faith has been a light shining in the darkness. He is a living testament to the fact that being a practicing Catholic and pursuing scientific - or other - knowledge at the highest academic levels is in no way incompatible.

You sound as if your head is on straight and you are strong in your faith. If you feel that Yale would be the best academic choice to give you a solid footing for your career, and thus your family’s future security, don’t hesitate for a moment. Just continue to keep the mindset you now have and you will be fine.


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