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Hi! Recently I've decided to face a rather significant fear and simultaneously pursue a passion; I want to apply to graduate school to study Religion, particularly ethics, with the eventual goal of obtaining a Ph.D. Academically, I'm interested chiefly in Ethics. I feel I need more understanding of Christian history and world religious thought. I am mostly interested in inter-faith dialogue and ethics on issues of sexuality and gender, with a sub-focus on humane education/peace studies. I am personally interested in religious literacy, inter-faith dialogue, and inter-disciplinary connections (particularly in art and literature in practice, with a contemporary focus. I am less interested in historical artwork -- I am interested in art as part of the religious experience, art as part of theological dialogue, and creativity as part of religious community, etc.) My educational background is interesting, non-traditional in some ways, and I am concerned it will handicap me in this process. First, I did not attend high school (excepting one semester) and graduated with a HSED (GED+civics+financial literacy). Despite this, I ended up testing average on my ACTs and attending college. While at school I studied art, had no initial study skills, but managed to earn a cumulative 3.5 before having a small crisis which resulted in dropping/failing/incompletes in a few classes (final grades unknown). I transferred schools and started the very next semester (spring) at a new school, and therefore never had a look at my GPA after that fact. After transferring, I changed majors to Religious Studies and did very well. However, the school I graduated from had a very small (and relatively unknown) religious studies department. Potentially more to my detriment, however, is the fact that this school (Alverno College) does not use grades, and therefore I have no GPA. Only a glowing narrative transcript of all the work I've done over the two years I was there. They do offer a service to translate my narrative record into a cumulative GPA for schools that require this, but I haven't the slightest idea of what it would be. The feedback I got for all my classes was good, if not great, and in many cases (as with my major courses) excellent. If I had to guess, I'd say 3.5+ given my scores at the previous college. GRE to be taken in one week. Stats: -B.A. Alverno College, Religious Studies -- Unknown GPA (estimated conservatively at 3.2) -Attended North Park University, Art (studio, for 3 years) 3.0-3.5 GPA -Excellent employment record (Run three community programs, lots of autonomy and achievement in a professional setting, massive teaching experience -- but with children and teens, not adults) -Excellent recommendations, but only one recommendation from a Religious Studies faculty (took courses mainly from one prof, many adjuncts and transfer credits) -President of the College Art Association at NPU -Student Speaker at Graduation (auditioned and was chosen to be commencement speaker) -Peer Academic Advised (similar to TA) at NPU, two semesters -GRE: unknown -No stats or research classes taken, no work published or presented. -No language skills - passed French 1 & 2 but currently have only a basic understanding. Could change this with hard self directed study -Religious affiliation (currnet): Society of Friends/Quaker (unofficial, attend but am not a member yet) -Religious Background: Lutheran and non-denom evangelical Questions - please feel free to address one or all or make comments, all feedback is appreciated! Are my interests too broad for graduate school applications, or do you feel these topics are inter-connected enough? Do I lack focus? For M.A. in Religion or Theology, how important is it to find a faculty member that has similar research interests? Given my interests (above), is there a particular school I should be looking at? Currently on my list are: Notre Dame, Duke, Harvard Divinity, Marquette, and possibly University of Chicago. (Possibility for funding is a requirement) Any thoughts/experience with narrative transcripts, how big of a setback will this be for me? The school itself is well recognized, but in fields other than religion. Given my background and qualifications as they are, is it possible that I am a qualified enough for some of the programs I'm looking at, or does my candidacy sound sort of like a long-shot at best? How many, if any, masters candidates start out with zero language competency? What is the best way to learn reading-level proficiency in a language, and which languages are best? It seems French & German for my purposes, but what about biblical languages? Do all schools require an interview, do schools interview at all? How does this work? I've read about it some places, but it doesn't seem to be listed among formal admissions processes. Keeping my personal and academic interests in mind, do you have any reading suggestions? My library is full of books and journals that I feel are meaningful and important, but I feel like I could be missing some very big things. My background in history is shoddy at best. (I've always been sort of wrapped up in my own little world of self-discovery and contemplation that sometimes I lose what's important in the big picture, hence my potentially impaired qualifications.) --- I realize this is long, so thank you in advance for taking the time. I have little to no frame of reference, I did not have a professor pushing me to pursue grad school (at the time I had a great job with lots of potential for a secure career, she felt that despite the fact I'd do well, the job outlook is very grim -- also, at the time, I was still very torn between creative writing, art making, and religious studies. I also was worried about being a woman - my faith growing up considered women to be ineligible for theological training and religious teaching/leadership outside Sunday school). Anyway! At the end of the day, the study of religion, writing about religion and spirituality, exploring the religious experience and cultural expression -- this line of thought is where I feel most at home, most compelled to move forward, and it's what I keep coming back to (albeit with many confusing inter-disciplinary interests attached). Thank you thank you!