Jump to content
kaaat

Harvard Divinity, Yale Divinity, Union, Vanderbilt Divinity Application Question

Recommended Posts

Hi, I have a question about the Admissions Process for Divinity Schools. My situation is a unique one (yeah, I'm sure this is the first time you've all heard that on here) anyway, I'm applying for the MTS/MaR at HDS, YDS, VDS, Union and Wake Forest Div. 

My undergrad GPA is 3.89/4.0 - INR

My grad GPA is 3.96/4.0 - Religious Studies 

I battled Depression and sought treatment when I was 18 years old and right out of high school (I also had other personal and family problems going on during that time including a family member who was dying of cancer, etc.) and that coupled with immaturity was a disaster. I did not focus on school nor did I ever imagine myself continuing on to graduate school. It just wasn't on my radar. I finished my AA degree with a 3.4 and I never gave it much thought. Things began to turn around in my life, and I transferred to a state school and eventually graduated with my BA and a 3.89 UG GPA with a degree in International Relations and a concentration on Middle East and Central Asian Studies. 

I'm graduating with an MA in Religious Studies this May with a 3.96/4.0 from the same state university. I pursued an Abrahamic Religions Track, but the degree itself although an MA with graduate coursework was still very generalized and I did not feel specialized (enough) or prepared for the PhD application cycle which has already passed for this year. It's partly my own fault because the program was not specialized in my area of interest nor did it have any notable faculty that was (my major professor specializes in South Asian religions and my thesis was on Iraq).

I did not have the opportunity to take languages in the department like Syriac, Coptic, Classical Arabic, etc. because they were simply not offered. I'm pursuing a second Masters degree with the intent that I will be more competitive for PhD Programs, to be around more faculty and other students in my area of interest(s), and improve my language skills in Arabic. 

I'm a female, I'm a dual national of the U.S. and Iran. I have a background in Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish and French (and 1 year of Greek of the New Testament) which I hope to further build upon. Most of my language skills come from my background and personal pursuits (not academic transcripts) although I have taken up to intermediate Arabic in my Undergrad and 1 semester of Greek in my Grad transcript.

I began my SoPs with my fieldwork experience in Iraq working with various minority communities (IDPs and refugees) which became the absolute highlight of my graduate career. My MA thesis explored the transformative role of ritual for the Yezidi Community in the aftermath of the Sinjar Massacre by the Islamic State. But I realized while I was in Iraq that whether I want to pursue doctoral studies or NGO work in the future that I absolutely need to improve my language skills which will be my #1 priority in future years to come.  

I decided to apply to an array of various programs (some of which are "better" fits than others) just to keep my options open. 

My real question is that I mentioned my Depression in my SoP. I wrestled with it for months and I rewrote the Sop several times. I framed it in a sort-of-way like "I've struggled with depression, but I maintained a 3.96 Grad GPA." I was hoping that it would be viewed as a positive, that I've made significant progress in my academic pursuit and personal life and I overcame my difficulties (and grew up in a sense) which I felt at the time was honest. Then after I submitted all of my applications, I started googling it and I realized that I might have made an awful mistake even mentioning it in the first place. Many forums and threads even labeled it as a "Kiss of Death" which I'm sure goes along with the fact that most people view mental illness as an excuse and it is still highly stigmatized. I've been worrying about it ever since. I only wrote a few sentences about it and I figured that divinity schools might be more forgiving and compassionate (perhaps I thought wrong and honesty is not what they want). 

At the same time I feel that it's human to go through these kinds of struggles, life's a journey and I have to forgive myself for what I was going through when I was 18. That's the way I see it. But then again, I'm a person with too much compassion if that's even possible? 

 .....and, if AdCom is going to throw out my application solely because I brought up that I struggled with mental illness at one point, well that's not a place I would want to be anyway. For a job application or interview, I would see it as pointless and detrimental to bring it up because the bottom line is about being able to get the job done. But because I'm applying to Div Schools and because the academic journey should be one where you are constantly learning, re-making yourself (especially when you're so young), and progressing I feel that it's a bit different. For me, I find inspiration and courage in stories of hardships where people turn it around. After all, should higher education only cater to those who hail from highly privileged backgrounds or those who never had to overcome significant challenges in life? I'm also not framing my struggles with mental illness as an "excuse" (as if it were an excuse anyway) for a poor transcript, but I framed it more like I have good GPAs but I have improved and I hope to continue to do so.

Ive already submitted all my apps. But any thoughts and (constructive) advice/comments for future reference or to simply ease my mind? 

 

 

 

 

Edited by kaaat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's complicated. The general advice of Adcoms is to avoid talking about mental health issues unless it's directly pertaining to a period of low grades or has direct impact on your research area. Even then though, it's couched within the context of how I've overcome it and the steps I've put in place to make sure it won't happen again. Divinity Schools are a different beast, you're right. They are more interested in you as a person, your story, and the uniqueness that you have to offer to everyone else.

No one is going to throw out your app for bringing it up! So rest easy there. The question your reader(s) will be asking is "Why?" Why did you bring this up, what purpose does it serve, and what are you wanting me to know about you that everything else cannot tell me? Going to a community college doesn't warrant you using mental health as a justification, nor does a 3.4 GPA in your first two years of college.

You're going to be fine! Most readers will simply write you off as being overly critical of yourself.

Edited by xypathos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, you're fine. 

If you're academically qualified, there is no reason for this to hurt you. The SoP is a tool to help you communicate why you want to go to div school (including life and academic experiences), and why that div school is a particularly good fit. 

If you've tied that narrative together well, even if you touched upon depression, I see no reason why it will harm you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.