Religious Private Schools

Commonly Asked Questions

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As you browse private school profiles, you will usually see a school’s religious affiliation listed within the description. While not all private schools have religious affiliations, many do, and many families have questions about these private institutions.

What is a nonsectarian or non-denominational school?

In the private school world, you may see schools listed as nonsectarian or non-denominational, which essentially means that the institution does not adhere to a particular religious belief or tradition. Examples include schools like The Hotchkiss School and Annie Wright School.

The opposite of a nonsectarian school is a sectarian school. These schools will describe their religious affiliations as Roman Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, and so on. Examples of sectarian schools include Kent School and Georgetown Prep which respectively are Episcopal and Roman Catholic schools.

What is a religious private school?

A religious private school is simply a school that identifies with a specific religious group, such as Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or Episcopal. Often these schools have curricula that include teachings of that faith in addition to a traditional curriculum, something that is often referred to as a dual curriculum. These schools are usually independently funded, meaning they depend on tuition dollars and/or fundraising efforts to operate.

What is a parochial school?

Most people associate the term "parochial school" with Catholic school. In general, parochial schools are usually private schools that receive financial support from a particular church or parish, meaning the funding of a parochial school primarily comes from the church, not tuition dollars. These schools are sometimes referred to as "church schools" by the Catholic faith. They are closely connected to the church itself and do not stand alone.

Are all religious private schools considered parochial schools?

No, they are not. Parochial schools are usually funded by the religious organization with which they are associated. For many, "parochial" typically connotes Catholic schools, but there are many religious private schools of other faiths, such as Jewish, Lutheran, and others. There are many religious private schools that are independently funded and do not receive funding from a particular church or other religious site. These are tuition driven.

So, what is the difference between a parochial school and a private religious school?

The biggest difference between a parochial school and a private religious school is money. Since private religious schools do not receive funding from a religious institution, instead relying on tuition dollars and fundraising to operate, these schools often carry higher tuition rates than their parochial counterparts. While many parochial schools carry lower tuition rates, it is important to remember that many private schools, including both religious and nonsectarian schools, offer financial aid to qualified families who cannot afford tuition. 

Can you attend a school affiliated with a religion other than yours?

This answer will vary from school to school, but often the answer is an enthusiastic, yes! Many religious schools believe that educating others about their religion is important, regardless of the student’s own personal beliefs. As such, most institutions accept, and even welcome, applications from students of all faiths and beliefs. For some families, it is important for the student to attend a school that is affiliated with the same religion. Yet, there are many families who enjoy sending their children to religious schools regardless if the families have the same religious beliefs. An example of this is Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles, California. One of the largest Jewish schools in the country, Milken, which serves students in grades 7-12, is known for enrolling students of all faiths, but it has certain requirements for Jewish studies for all students.

Why should I consider sending my child to a religious school?

Religious schools are often known for the values they instill in children, and many families find this comforting. Religious schools are usually known for their ability to embrace differences and promote tolerance and acceptance, as well as teach the lessons of their faith. This can be an interesting learning experience for a student who is not familiar with a particular religion. Many schools require that the students participate in the religious customs of the school, including attending classes and/or religious services, activities and learning opportunities, which can help students become more comfortable in unfamiliar situations. 

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Your Citation
Kennedy, Robert. "Religious Private Schools." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Kennedy, Robert. (2021, February 16). Religious Private Schools. Retrieved from Kennedy, Robert. "Religious Private Schools." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).