Religion in college: students find balancing religion and school work is difficult

Sarah Beth Costello
May 9, 2009

The jump from home to college is a difficult transition for most students. Balancing class work with social life, and adjusting to new schedules often force students to reevaluate their priorities.

Many students arrive on campus eager to practice their faith as they did at home and discover the difficulties involved with the new surroundings and responsibilities. Other students are happy to leave home for something new and different.

According to the Registrar’s Report for the 2009 spring semester, the majority of Elon students have religious backgrounds.

A graph depicting the distribution of religious affiliations at Elon University according to the Registrar's 2009 Spring Report. Graphic by Sarah B. Costello

A graph depicting the distribution of religious affiliations at Elon University according to the Registrar's 2009 Spring Report. Graphic by Sarah B. Costello

The largest church denomination on campus is Catholicism with 21 percent of students professing to be affiliated with the Catholic Church.

“Christians” make up 9.5 percent of the population, followed by Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Jews, etc. Only 4.1 percent of Elon students claimed to have no religious preference.

Despite the broad range of church denominations and Christians on campus, many students find it difficult to continue practicing their faith as they did at home.

Robert Wohner is a rising junior at Elon from New York. Wohner was raised in a Baptist home, but has found it difficult to be as active in church due to the busyness of college life.

“My [involvement in church] is definitely less because I’ve got a lot of things on my mind and other priorities,” said Wohner. “You go to college to experience new things. I expect that when I’m older I’m still going to be a Christian.”

Wohner says Christianity is his foundation, but not necessarily his priority right now. Some students have completely opposing opinions. Sarah Bean, a rising sophomore, was raised in a Catholic home. “It was like [Catholicism] was chosen for me, but I don’t mind it,” said Bean who has been a devout Catholic for most of her life.

Religion is a priority for Bean who has experienced some difficulty finding Catholic friends on campus.

“It’s hard to find other people that have the same beliefs as you,” said Bean. “I haven’t gone to a Catholic church all semester, but now I have a friend who’s Catholic.”

While some students back off from religion and some struggle to keep religion a priority, others change or ado¬pt new practices altogether.

Chad Zimmermann is a Christian, but became interested in Zen meditation after taking a religion class on eastern religions with Barbara Gordon. Zimmermann is the former president of Iron Tree Blooming, a meditation society that meets on campus. “It’s not something that I would classify as religious,” said Zimmermann. “It’s a group of people that meet for a specific purpose.

Students meet together to relax and meditate, which Zimmermann says attracts a lot of Christians. Though Zen is derived from Buddhism, “When I was going there, there was no one who was Buddhist. Meditation is used for me as relaxation to regenerate the body.”

For many, college is the first experience living outside of home. And while finding the balance and reassessing priorities is difficult, things won’t be any different after college. Life will always be busy, there will always be responsibilities.

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