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- Choosing Colleges
Picking your perfect college can be a difficult and stressful decision involving self-reflection and lots of research. But you can simplify the process and make things easier and less nerve racking by using the resources on this website to find much of the information you will need: First, read different perspectives for how to make your decision. Then use our checklist to determine what you are looking for, and use the tools on this site to narrow down your choices by personal preferences. (Two highly recommended tools, are our free Jewish Resources Map and U.S. News’ paid College Compass.) Finally, be sure to talk to people familiar with the colleges you are considering including students, recent alumni, school faculty and administration and if applicable, the OU-JLIC Torah Educators. The checklist will help you know what questions to ask. Of course, if you have a college guidance counselor, be sure to consult with them, let them know what you are looking for in a college, and keep them in the loop throughout the process.
Jewish life and the Orthodox community on campus varies greatly between colleges. You can learn more about many of the most popular colleges for yeshiva high school graduates by looking at our Campus Profiles and speaking to Orthodox students and rabbis on campus. This checklist and the articles on kosher meal plans and student housing will help you get a sense of the questions you might want to ask. When looking at secular colleges check to see if they have an OU-JLIC on campus, as a benchmark for an active Orthodox community and available Jewish resources. If there is an OU-JLIC on campus, you can also contact the OU-JLIC Torah Educators today for more information about Jewish life and community on their campus.
The best way to know what your experience will be like is to see it for yourself. Once you have narrowed down your choices to a handful or so of schools, try to go visit as many as you can. It’s ideal if you can go for an extended weekend (Thursday-Shabbat) since it will let you see what a typical weekday is like and experience a Shabbat on campus, which is also a great opportunity to meet the Orthodox community you might be spending your next several years with and to ask them questions about their experiences. Many of the most popular colleges for Orthodox yeshiva high school graduates also have an OU-JLIC couple and if you are considering any of these campuses, OU-JLIC would be happy to help you arrange your visit.
The short answer is this varies a lot by campus. Some colleges are mostly or all commuters, in which case Shabbat and chagim don’t really happen on campus. Some colleges have a really robust religious community, and Shabbat is full of minyanim, meals, learning opportunities, tisches, and more. Other colleges have a small religious population and Shabbat celebrations are minimal or infrequent. The best way to know about specific schools is by speaking to the rabbis, Torah educators and/or students on campus, and by visiting for Shabbat to get a better picture. Holidays vary, even on colleges with large religious communities. Yom Kippur, Simchat Torah, and Purim are usually very popular for religious campus communities, with alumni even coming back to visit, and full schedules of programming. Other holidays – including Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, and Pesach are usually not as popular and programming and minyanim might not be happening on campus, or happening on a much smaller scale, as many religious students go home. Though staying on campus in such situations is often a great opportunity to stretch your leadership skills and reach out to a wider audience – that’s how Heart to Heart got started – watch the story here.
OU-JLIC provides a natural community to support Jewish life on campus. Like many student subgroups, it offers like-minded peers, and social, educational and leadership programs within a comfortable structure that validates and enriches students’ identities. OU-JLIC is the micro community uniquely designed to support the specific needs of Orthodox students, within the vast campus infrastructure.
The people involved with OU-JLIC are all passionate about Orthodox communities on college campuses. This includes the students, who want to have an awesome college experience and be part of a rocking Jewish community, and are often at the helm of many OU-JLIC programs and initiatives. It includes, the Torah educators on campus – both male and female. Many of the male educators have already received their rabbinic ordination and all of the educators are knowledgeable in Torah, want to share that Torah with you and want you to generally have a positive college experience. You can find out more about individual educators by selecting a campus in the Campus Profiles section. Lastly, OU-JLIC’s national staff, which includes former OU-JLIC educators and alumni, shares the commitment towards Orthodox life on campus and supporting their educators efforts to enhance student’s lives.
While there is no replacing the experiences and college community you could have with OU-JLIC, we understand sometimes a non-OU-JLIC campus can be the best fit or most practical choice. You should realize that not all the options are the same – some have kosher food and some don’t, some have Chabad and some don’t, some have other religious students and at others you’ll be on your own. Being connected to an Orthodox community is critical to leading a Jewish lifestyle on campus, so if you don’t have an OU-JLIC at your college of choice (or even if you do) be sure to check out Yavneh on Campus. Yavneh is a movement of religious college students changing the face of Jewish communal life: connecting Jews to meaningful Jewish life, vibrant communities, and to each other – all through peer-based relationships, intimate Jewish experiences and innovative community building and programming. Yavneh offers fellowships, Shabbatonim, grants, virtual Torah learning opportunities and a nationwide network of support. Additionally, always try and stay in touch with your rabbis or Judaics teachers from high school and Israel.
Sure, there are a number of things that tend to get overlooked, but are really important:
Many students have a rabbi or teacher from high school or Israel they are close with and can just talk to. If you want something similar in college, the rebbeim and Torah educators at Yeshivah College, Stern College for Women, Lander College for Men, and OU-JLIC Torah Educators, tend to be warm, personable people you can find a connection with.
Some colleges will afford you more opportunities to make a big difference – starting a religious community, growing the religious community, reaching out and impacting those around you, and becoming a Jewish leader. You also might want to consider the location and the proximity to Jewish infrastructure (shuls, restaurants) or to home (if you plan on going home for Shabbat/holidays).
Other elements that get overlooked include having someone to ask halachic and hashkafic questions to, having other religious friends (because sometimes you just want someone that gets you), and how easy it would be to avoid negative peer pressure (like the percentage of the Jewish community attending a party or football game on Shabbat).
Attending a Jewish school or being part of an OU-JLIC community will make it easier to find Jewish friends and there is significantly less negative peer pressure at YU and Touro than any secular campus. You can check here if the school(s) you are considering have an OU-JLIC.
The availability of kosher food on campus is very varied. Some campuses have a full kosher meal plan – 3 meals a day, 7 days a week – and/or are located near an Orthodox community with access to kosher restaurants and kosher groceries. Others may only have a partial meal plan or frozen meals available. And some campuses may have no kosher food, and you may need to bring kosher food to campus with you, or rely on cereal and milk and what you can find in the local supermarket. If you don’t want to be stuck shipping in food or eating inedible food, it’s important to know what the kosher options are (and how tasty they are) around campus before you choose your school. A great way to do this is to first read the article “The In’s and Out’s of Meal Plans,” which tells you everything you need to know about the different types of meal plans. Then check out our awesome Resources Map with searchable information about kosher options broken down for more than 285 schools! Many of the most popular colleges for Orthodox yeshiva high school graduates also have an OU-JLIC couple you can contact today for more information or help on this. Check here if the school(s) you are considering have an OU-JLIC.
It depends on the campus – some have 5 minyanim a day, and some (even ones with thousands of Jews) don’t even have a minyan on Shabbat. You can check on our resource map if the college you’re researching has daily or Shabbat Orthodox minyan by clicking on the college’s marker, or contact one of the Rabbis on the campus (also found in the infobox when clicking on the marker). You can also check if there’s an Orthodox shul nearby on the map or using this search tool.
There can be many difficulties associated with living in college housing as Jewish student, and you may be required to do so, at least for your freshman year. Difficulties can include walking up several flights of stairs or avoid using electric keys on Shabbat, sharing a kitchen with students that don’t observe kashrut, or sharing a communal bathroom with students of the opposite gender. The best way to avoid any potential issues is to know what issues there might be and to be in touch with colleges early and frequently. Read “All About Campus Housing” for more information on possible issues, what you should be asking colleges about student housing, and some guidelines for advocating for your needs as an observant Jewish student. While some colleges will accommodate your religious needs (such as Jewish roommates or specific floors), ask to make sure this is the case before picking the college. Additionally most accommodation requests need to be in early, so make sure once you choose a college you are familiar with the application process for student housing, submit everything ahead of the deadlines, and follow-up if you don’t receive any confirmation. Finally, many of the most popular colleges for Orthodox yeshiva high school graduates also have an OU-JLIC couple you can contact today for more information or help on this.
This is a common issue many Jewish students deal with. One option is to attend a school like YU, Touro, Brandeis, or IDC Herzliya, that operate around a Jewish calendar and do not have classes on Jewish holidays (Brandeis does have class on Chol Hamoed Sukkot and Simchat Torah). In addition, if there are OU-JLIC Torah Educators on campus, they can often help you work things out with the administration. Many of the most popular colleges for Orthodox yeshiva high school graduates have an OU-JLIC. And you can check here if the school(s) you are considering do. For any other colleges’ you are considering, ask the administration/recruiter how they handle this. If you choose another college and do have tests, assignments or class on chagim, first try to explain your situation and religious convictions to the professor, and if that doesn’t work, then approach the administration. Be sure to check your class schedules and syllabi as soon as you receive them and let your professors/administration know of conflicts as soon as possible. Even if your school does accommodate you, you will still miss class and need to make up the materials. Schools with more Orthodox students tend to be more familiar with the Jewish holidays, which can make getting accommodations easier. If you are penalized for missing a test, assignment or class due to the holidays, you might have legal recourse under the “Free Exercise Clause” of the First Amendment (only applies to public colleges) and/or state law, but it’s better to avoid these issues in the first place.
Knowing how many Orthodox students a college has is important because the more familiar the school is with Orthodox students the easier it is to get accommodations for things like student housing, meal plans, and schedule conflicts with holidays. Also, the number of Orthodox students and the size of the Orthodox student community are usually correlated (although some colleges have a lot of commuters not involved in the community on campus), and the bigger the Orthodox community the more Jewish friends you can make and the more dynamic the community can be. Our Jewish Resources Map has information about Jewish life and resources on over 285 colleges, including the number of Orthodox students – which we pulled from on-campus staff reports, student estimates, and demographic figures. One caveat is that these numbers are estimates – as it’s hard to even figure out what to count, e.g. the number who came from Orthodox homes? The number who show up Shabbat morning? The number who daven three times a day?
There are several different types of Torah learning models depending on what college you attend. At Stern College (YU) and Lander College for Women (Touro) you are required to take Torah classes as part of your coursework. At Yeshiva College (YU) and Lander College For Men (Touro) morning shiur is mandatory. Yeshiva College also has required Torah courses and both offer a night seder program (LCM’s is mandatory). If you go to a college with an OU-JLIC, the OU-JLIC Torah Educators are constantly giving optional shiurim, running chaburot, learning with students b’chavrutah, and bringing in guest speakers. Also, some OU-JLIC Torah Educators run beit midrash style learning programs (also optional) as do the orthodox communities at some schools. You can see which colleges have an OU-JLIC here. On several campuses students can earn stipends for participating in organized learning through the London Kollel and/or YU. Lastly, no matter where you go, you can participate in virtual learning through Torah websites, and through Yavneh on Campus‘ assorted Torah learning programs.
Why yes there is! Our Jewish Resources Map has information on over 285 colleges, including Hillel, Chabad, and OU-JLIC, the Orthodox community, Jewish population, kosher food options, prayer, and outreach. The map also includes a ranking geared towards Orthodox students, based on the religious resources available.
These tools are a quick way to find out practically everything you need to know to make your college choice, including national school rankings, a map of Jewish resources and kosher food on campus, a checklist of questions to ask yourself and people at the schools you are considering, information about anti-Jewish sentiment on campuses, and more.
We’re glad you asked. If you let us know a little about you, OU-JLIC will contact you occasionally to update you and find out what you’re up to – this way we can know if you have chosen an OU-JLIC campus and the OU-JLIC Torah Educators can greet you when you get to campus with open arms. Before you are on campus we will not contact you more than once or twice a year and promise not to spam you. And once you get to campus, how often you communicate with the OU-JLIC Torah Educators is up to you, but this way they know you’re around and can invite you to Shabbat meals and other events.
There’s a lot you can do as a college student to support both your Orthodox community on campus and the broader Jewish community. For starters, just going to community events on campus, whether its minyan, a shiur, a challah bake, or a paint night, these all help bring the community on campus together and strengthen it. If you want to do even more, there are plenty of leadership opportunities such as representing your community through Yavneh fellowships, hosting Shabbat meals with Heart to Heart, or joining the student community board if there is one.
You heard right; it’s called Heart to Heart and is part of Yavneh on Campus. Heart to Heart believes you have a unique opportunity to share the beauty of Jewish life with other Jewish students who may not be involved in the Jewish community. Heart to Heart can provide funding, training, and inspiration for you to run Shabbat and holiday meals with your peers on campus. In the past 7 years, students have run over 800 H2H meals on over 100 campuses around the world, together reaching over 10,000 students and connecting them to meaningful Jewish life and vibrant communities.
OU-JLIC sends staff to many Jewish high schools throughout North America and yeshivot and seminaries in Israel to educate students about the unique issues that present themselves to Jewish college students and the resources available to them through OU-JLIC’s affiliate programs. To schedule a visit from an OU-JLIC expert to your high school, send us an email.
You sure can. If you’ve looked around our website, scrolled through the FAQ’s, and still have unanswered questions or want to find out more about something you saw, feel free to contact us and we will try to help. If you have a question about OU-JLIC or a specific OU-JLIC campus, you can find the appropriate contact information here. If you want more help with choosing the right college, finding out more about a college or Jewish resources on campus, or are unsure where to direct your question, fill out this form, and we’ll connect you with someone that can help.