Frequently Asked Questions

Were you wondering?

Divine Word College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The next Accreditation visit is scheduled for the 2025-2026 Academic Year. The College is affiliated with the following organizations:
  • American Association for Higher Education (AAHE)
  • American Council on Education (ACE)
  • Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU)
  • Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU)
  • Council of Independent Colleges (CIC)
  • National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)
  • National Catholic Education Association (NCEA)
  • Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB)
  • American Association of University Administrators (AAUA)
  • American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)
  • National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)
  • National Association of College Seminaries
Divine Word College is:
  • Incorporated by the State of Iowa as an institution of higher education empowered to grant degrees and academic honors.
  • Approved under the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service as a school for attendance by non-immigrant students.
Divine Word College usually accepts credit for courses completed with a grade of "C-" or above at other accredited colleges and universities. However, like other colleges, Divine Word College reserves the right to judge both the quality of those courses and their equivalence to specific courses in its own program. We will need your transcript, the course description and occasionally a syllabus.
Many of our students are first or second generation immigrants to the USA. Some of our English as a Second Language (ESL) students are religious Sisters, religious Brothers, or priests from other countries who are here to learn English on their way to a mission setting in an English speaking location.
Some of our students come to us as 18 year-old freshmen who have known for years that they have a calling to become missionary priests or Brothers. Some heard the call some years later. In Fall, 2019, the average age of our students was 32. Fifty-eight percent of the students were male and 42 percent female. In terms of race/ethnicity, 17 percent are Asian, 3 percent Caucasian, 1 percent Black/African-American, and 1 percent Hispanic. Seventy-nine percent are categorized as Non-Resident Alien.
After graduation from DWC, those students planning on continuing with the Society of the Divine Word go to a year of novitiate at the Techny, Ill., SVD house and take first vows at the end of that year. After novitiate, seminarians pursuing the priesthood continue their studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and earn their Master of Divinity degree. Brothers pursue further studies at an appropriate educational institute. Both seminarians and Brothers complete a one-to-three year program of cross-cultural training prior to professing perpetual vows as a Divine Word Missionary. Divine Word graduates who decide not to continue their studies with the Divine Word Missionaries typically enter the graduate school or enter the workforce.
Divine Word College offers Bachelor Degrees and Associate of Arts Degrees. Students may earn a BA Degree in Philosophy, Intercultural Studies and Theology and Religious Studies. AA Degrees are offered in Intercultural Studies, Theology and Religious Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies. Each student is also required to minor in an area other than their major, unless the student opts for a double major.
Very few of our students are part-time. The Spiritual Formation aspect necessitates living and working on campus. Our part-time students are non-traditional students who are not pursuing degrees.
Eighty percent of the faculty are full-time and forty-five percent have been at DWC for ten years or more. The average length of faculty service is 10.8 years. Forty-eight percent have earned doctorates in their teaching area.
All Divine Word College seminary students receive a scholarship! Qualified students sincerely interested in studying for a religious life as a Divine Word Missionary will never be turned away because of inability to pay. Some college students, if they qualify, pay part of their tuition through student loans and state and federal aid. Various other DWC scholarships are available as well. Transportation costs are included in your financial aid package.
Student Expenses
Room and Board
            Academic Year 2019-2020                                         $3,800
            Academic Year 2020-2021                                         $3,900

Tuition – Full-Time Attendance
            Academic Year 2019-2020                                         $13,260
            Academic Year 2020-2021                                         $13,600
Tuition – Part-Time Attendance and Audited Courses
            Academic Year 2019-2020                                         $300 per credit hour
            Academic Year 2020-2021                                         $320 per credit hour

Miscellaneous Expenses
Transportation  $500 to $1,000
Personal items  $750 - $1000
Medical expenses  $1,650
(Medical insurance is mandatory for students not otherwise covered by medical insurance.)
Total average additional expenses
$2,700 to $3,400
 Application Fee (non-refundable)    $25
Book Rental
 Student Activity Fee (per year)  $ 50
 Late Registration Charge   $  10
 Change of Registration Charge  $  10
 Late Examination and Test Charge  $  10
 Transcript Fee (first copy free)   $  10
 Graduation Fee
Cap and Gown rental $75
Computer Lab Use   $80
Lunch Fee   $ 7
Any duly qualified applicant, sincerely interested in studying for the priesthood or brotherhood as a Divine Word Missionary, will never be turned away for lack of money. While expecting students and their parents to pay what they can reasonably afford, Divine Word Missionaries will assist them in obtaining the necessary financial aid.
The Admissions Committee ordinarily processes applications within two weeks of receipt of all the required documentation. Applicants are encouraged to complete the application process as early as possible. Applications will be processed until July 15 for the fall semester and until December 1 for the spring semester.
Besides taking classes, our seminary students take part in a spiritual and personal formation program. As a part of the personal formation program, the students live and work in multicultural Formation Groups. To accomplish this, students live on campus so that they can fully participate in the formation program.
Guided by the Constitution of the Society of the Divine Word, when Vocation Directors and the Admissions Committee make decisions about candidates, they look for positive evidence of:
  • Sound faith and spiritual life and active participation in the life of the Church, including involvement in local parish activities or with other service projects.
  • A religious spirit appropriate to the applicant’s age, with a sincere interest in responding to a religious missionary calling.
  • Concern and openness for the missionary vocation, concern for others and generosity of spirit.
  • The necessary talent for the education required.
  • Sound physical and mental health/emotional stability.
  • Social skills appropriate to the applicant’s age.
  • Ability to accept responsibility.
  • Sense of purpose in life.
  • The capacity for and a pattern of lived celibacy for an appropriate period of time.
  • Willingness to live in a cross-cultural environment.
Formation is a journey of discovery and development, helping you to grow both spiritually and personally. Formation helps prepare you for the commitment to serve God’s people and enables you to be certain that God is calling you to be a Divine Word Missionary. A seminary student’s formation program at Divine Word College includes five main areas: Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, Cross-Cultural and Missionary Ministry Formation. At Divine Word College, formation includes an academic program. Most students are working toward earning a BA Degree. Along with educational classes, students will participate in retreats, apostolic activities, various liturgies, spiritual direction and peer formation groups. In addition to formation at Divine Word College, Divine Word Missionaries offer four other formation programs: Associate, Brother, Novitiate, and Theologate Formation Programs.
The main buildings at Divine Word College contain classrooms, dormitories, a gym and weight room, indoor swimming pool, state of the art library and computer labs, dining areas, and offices and living quarters for the SVD members. Our beautiful chapel with its unique stained glass windows is the center of spiritual life within the College, and our 30-acre campus provides opportunities for outdoor recreation, including soccer, baseball and tennis. The Heritage Trail is nearby and offers hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. On campus, you can relax with friends in the College “Pour House” – which features a snack bar, game room and recreation area. You might join our photography club or choose to be matched with an area family as part of our FAN (Friends Across Nations) club. Whatever your interests may be, there’s something for everyone at Divine Word College.
Yes. As a seminary student or brother candidate, you will have breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas and during the spring and summer break periods. You may leave the campus during these times and also on weekends for special events and occasions. Students who have professed their temporary vows will perform summer ministries in various SVD mission locations. On a daily basis, the campus is open and you are free to leave campus for leisure activities.
Yes. Divine Word Missionaries are the largest international missionary congregation in the Roman Catholic Church. Located in Epworth, Iowa, Divine Word College is the only Roman Catholic college seminary in the United States with the primary mission of educating Catholic missionaries.
Most members of a religious community use initials after their name to identify the religious congregation they belong to. For example, SJ stands for the Society of Jesus and OSF reflects the Order of St. Francis. SVD is Latin for Societas Verbi Divini. Translated into English, it means Society of the Divine Word. However, in the USA, we are more commonly called the Divine Word Missionaries or the SVDs.
“Charism” comes from the Greek word charis, meaning grace. Since grace is a gift that we receive from God without any merit on our part, as Catholics and Divine Word Missionaries we share this grace by using our own particular gifts for the good of others and to spread the Word of God. This grace, or charism, has continued to grow in the spirit of our founder, St. Arnold Janssen, and is reflected in our international community life and ministry. Divine Word Missionaries profess vows of consecrated chastity, evangelical poverty and apostolic obedience. We learn the language and cultures of those we serve and are open to leaving our home countries to minister in any one of our Society’s global missions.
Today, Divine Word Missionaries serve in over 80 countries worldwide and number more than 6,000. We preach the Gospel and share the Word of God by living, working, teaching, and sharing with others in many areas of global ministry. The society has grown to encompass four main SVD mission zones: AFRAM (Africa), ASPAC (Asia/Pacific), PANAM (the Americas), and EUROPE.
The Society of the Divine Word has a wide range of ministries that include, but are not limited to: Parish pastoral and sacramental ministries Educational and religious training and teaching Evangelization Youth, adult and family programs and services Lay leadership programs Healthcare ministries Seminary formation programs Counseling and chaplaincy services Economic, peace and justice ministries
Traditionally, the prayer life of the Society of the Divine Word has been guided by one or a combination of three devotions especially important to St. Arnold Janssen, our founder: Devotion to Mary, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and devotion to the Holy Spirit. After Vatican II, our imitation of Christ reflects the coming forth of the Divine Word from the bosom of the Father and the embodiment of the Holy Trinity. This is our ideal in going forth into the world as missionaries. As a Divine Word College student, your schedule will include both communal and personal prayer times. After private morning prayer, you will join the community in daily Mass. Special Masses celebrated in different languages are also offered on a weekly basis. Communal evening prayer includes weekly Vespers and evening Holy Hour. You will also pray with others in small formation groups.
There is no easy answer to this question, but here are five things to do to help you decide—pray, talk with others, assess your talents and skills, start spiritual direction, and enter formation. Prayer helps you to listen for God’s call. God often communicates to us through other people. Do you have talents and skills consistent with the needs of the Universal Church and that of a missionary congregation? A qualified spiritual director can help you explore God’s presence in your life. If you have a general feeling that God is calling you to religious life, formation helps you to grow and understand your vocation more clearly.
In discerning your own unique response to God’s call of service, you may seek out the religious order or diocese that is the best fit for you, matching your own special gifts and talents with a congregation’s mission. Wherever there is a need in the missionary endeavors of the Church, there is a need for a Divine Word Missionary.
As explained above, a religious priest belongs to a particular religious order. Each religious order is founded to fulfill a particular need in the Catholic Church through various ministries. “Order priests” can be assigned to any location and any ministry where their religious congregation is present. A diocesan priest is one who is responsible primarily to the bishop of his particular diocese, a specific geographical region of the Church governed by the bishop. Within this region, the priest usually serves in a parish, though he may also be involved in other ministries like administration, communications, teaching and hospital or prison chaplaincy. Diocesan priests do not take any vows, but promise chastity and obedience to their bishops. Both religious and diocesan priests perform sacramental ministry.
A religious priest or brother belongs to a particular religious order, such as the Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictines, or Divine Word Missionaries. Each religious order is founded to fulfill a particular need in the Church through various ministries like teaching, monastic prayer and missionary service. Priests perform sacramental ministry such as celebrating Mass and administering the sacraments. Brothers belong to these religious orders as “lay religious” (not ordained) and take the same vows of chastity, poverty and obedience as religious priests. They witness to God’s Kingdom on earth and serve the Church in many ways but do not perform sacramental ministry.
Yes. Many of our students in formation are from different countries and return to visit their families, at their own expense, during scheduled vacation times. Students must be mindful of immigration laws and requirements. Once you become a professed Divine Word Missionary, travel to your home country is determined and paid for by Province policy.
The Department of Education announces a school's three-year cohort default rate in the Fall of each year for Direct (Stafford) Loans. For DWC, they are: 2014 - 0%, 2013 - 4.1%, 2012 - 8.6%.The 2016 three-year official rate is 5.4 -- published in September 2019.
  First-Year Retention Rate Cohort Graduation Rate*
2001 78% 48%
2002 79% 58%
2003 69% 31%
2004 77% 50%
2005 61% 31%
2006 75% 20%
2007 60% 36%
2008 78% 67%
2009 100% 79%
2010 89% 30%
2011 74% 69%
2012 84% 71%*
2013 77% 33%*
2014 92% 10%*
2015 67%
2016 56%
*Several students are still pursuing degrees.
In the Fall of 2019 there are 71 men and 50 women enrolled at Divine Word College.

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