The surprising benefits to spirituality in college

Religious organizations are prominent on campus, and studies show the students who participate may have stronger academic careers. Graphic by Maria Nevada

Ryan Jaeckel

College is known as a time where we as individuals find ourselves. It’s the time in our lives where we finally decide what path we want to go down. This includes what we will do as a career, maintaining relationships and pursuing success. Along the way we are introduced to many things, one of which can make some people feel very uncomfortable: religion.

We are eventually introduced to religion, and its many forms at some point in our lives but ultimately it is our decision to be a follower of it. On college campuses it seems that there are groups dedicated to religions’ many forms and are always looking for more followers. Instead of asking “which of these many groups should I join,” we should be asking “are there benefits to joining a religious group or just being religious in general?”

Social integration and its importance for growth on college students can lead to positive trends in emotional health, leadership and academic development and cultural awareness, according to Alyssa Rockenbach, a professor at North Carolina State University.

Rockenback points out how faith-based groups on campus do the exact same when it comes to social integration by focusing on the foundation of friendships and intimacy with other people while providing a support network. This support network provides psychological and spiritual benefits. She emphasizes this point by mentioning that religious well-being and existential well-being are linked positively to social adjustment in students.

Everyone knows that academic success is important to college students, as our entire life hangs in the balance of every assignment. Rockenbach writes that when you know yourself, have direction, enjoy life and are feeling good, it relates to positive trends in academic success.

According to an article by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, studies indicate that most religious communities focus their followers on two core values: conscientiousness and cooperation. These values are important for UNO students taking service learning classes, as these students need to be 100 percent committed to the project they are doing and cooperate well in the groups they are working with.

The article details a study completed by Ilana Horwtitz, a doctoral student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education that interviewed about 2,500 students ages 13-17 that attend public schools. Although they aren’t college age, or in college, study habits tend to stick and carry over from high school to college. Horwitz found that students who were “abiders” had an average GPA of 3.22, compared to “avoiders” who had a GPA of 2.93.

With the presented benefits, I’m not advocating for every UNO student to join a religious group over Greek life, Student Government, college specific clubs or even transfer to schools such as Brigham Young or Notre Dame. However, there is evidence of benefits to being spiritual in some manner. Next time you are approached by devout followers, consider how a spiritual change could impact your college career.