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October 05, 2009
25 Things You Should Know Before Applying to a Ph.D. Program in Religion, Bible, or Theology
1. Not where but who! The prestige of the school is not nearly as important as the scholars with whom you'll work.
2. For the Ph.D. in humanities disciplines, the average time to degree completion rate is about 10 years.
3. In the U.S. one out of every two (50%) students who are admitted drop out of a Ph.D. program!
4. If you don't like to write, don't apply!
5. If you don't like to read, don't apply!
6. Find out how many students the program is admitting and what levels of funding are available for those students.
7. The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) is a good source of information about the department to which you're applying. An advance conversation with that person may yield some important tips for consideration.
8. Attend a professional meeting or two before you apply (in religion or bible for example, AAR or SBL). If you hate the experience, don't apply. If you love it...you know what to do!
9. It's important to ask yourself, "Am I called to teaching, writing, and research?" There will come a moment in the doctoral journey where you'll ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?!" At that point you'll need more than the desire to call yourself "Doctor." You'll need to a passion to teach and a clear answer to the above mentioned questions.
10. There are typically three ways people fund their doctoral education;
Institutional support- tuition awards, merit awards, grants, etc,
Third-party support- grants and fellowships from foundations, denominations, donors, etc.,
Loans (don't do it!).
11. Even with the best funding, things will probably be "tight" financially. Expect it. Plan for it.
12. One of the most important things you'll do is choose one or more mentors in your program.
13. Be sure to ask students in the program, or recent graduates about their experiences, as you are applying to programs.
14. Compensation for teaching in the academy is low compared to other professions.
15. Adequate preparation for applying to a program is the key! If you ducked the "hard" courses in seminary that focused on critical theory and methodologies, you can conclude one of two things:
The Ph.D. is not for me, or...
I need further academic preparation before I engage this process.
16. Graduate education is elitist. "Many may be called, but few are chosen"
17. It can be difficult to negotiate commitments to "the church" and "the academy" for some students who have gifts for both.
18. The Ph.D. journey can be lonely and isolating. You'll need a community of support just as much as you'll need financial support.
19. The Ph.D. is a full time job! You'll want to minimize extracurricular interests, especially in the first year of a program.
20. You enter a Ph.D. program for one reason...to get out! You're there to write a dissertation. Do it and get on with your career!
21. Expect to read between 1500 to 2000 pages a week. (Refer to #5)
22. Life doesn't stop because you're doing a Ph.D. Dropping out of a program is often due more to personal circumstances than to scholarly competence. You'll need a support system!
23. Build good relationships! No matter how smart you are, the quality of your relationships with colleagues and mentors will determine the quality of your experience. Say thank you! Return phone calls! Accept critique with grace! Request input and advice from people with more experience!
24. The academic statement of purpose (aka personal statement) is a critical aspect of the application packet. It should clearly state your educational and vocational goals, describe prior academic training and practical experience as the background for doctoral study, and articulate how you see your plans fitting with the specific degree program.
25. In addition to the personal statement, the other components of the application packet to a graduate program include:
Personal Data Form
GRE Score Report
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