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2020 Religion Application Thread

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Thanks @exegete! I wanted to apply to Baylor but couldn't because I didn't realize that their deadline was Dec 1 until it was too late :(

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On 1/10/2020 at 7:05 PM, Averroes MD said:

You should be just fine. Masters programs are not that competitive to get into and are more of a crapshoot than anything else. Your ministerial experience should put you over the top, as well as the strong LORs. I bet you'll get into at least two of those programs, as long as no other red flags. 

You might explain your engineering GPA in your essay. I also had a similar engineering GPA (around 3.0), which was in fact above average for my school which is known for grade deflation. I ended up being just fine. Like you I switched to humanities degree, although my in major gpa was something like 3.9. But whatever, you'll be fine. 

Lastly I would actually stick to the big name programs, since it will open more doors for you in the future. 

I hope your ad comm will realize how tough some engineering programs can be and how low the GPAs are in them.   

P.S. What you can do is destroy the GRE. That's what I did to offset my low engineering gpa.

Thanks for the feedback! I hope you're right.

Can anyone offer insights into how important diversity is to admissions boards? I know it can vary from university to university, but in general, are your odds of getting accepted marginally higher if you're a minority? Drastically higher? Not higher at all? I've heard conflicting reports on this from professors. What have others heard? 

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Admitted to the MTS program at Wycliffe College and Toronto school of Theology. I am not very familiar with Canadian school's theology and biblical studies academic reputation. After looking at their faculty list, I found there are some interesting professors in Wycliffe I want to study with. Does anyone know how good Wycliffe College is compared to top schools in America like Duke,Yale or Princeton?

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34 minutes ago, Mikas@ said:

Admitted to the MTS program at Wycliffe College and Toronto school of Theology. I am not very familiar with Canadian school's theology and biblical studies academic reputation. After looking at their faculty list, I found there are some interesting professors in Wycliffe I want to study with. Does anyone know how good Wycliffe College is compared to top schools in America like Duke,Yale or Princeton?

On its own, Wycliffe is considerably less regarded than DYP, especially if you’re looking to transition back to US PhD programs. That said, the strength of Wycliffe is taking courses at other TST schools and at UoT proper. If you do this, it’ll benefit you tremendously.

 

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3 hours ago, JF2F said:

Thanks for the feedback! I hope you're right.

Can anyone offer insights into how important diversity is to admissions boards? I know it can vary from university to university, but in general, are your odds of getting accepted marginally higher if you're a minority? Drastically higher? Not higher at all? I've heard conflicting reports on this from professors. What have others heard? 

It’s a factor. Now, how much of a factor it is depends on the department, school, and individual faculty.

As a whole, from my experience of working with Adcom panels, it’s of no direct benefit. Generally, hard identifiers (gender, race, etc) are scrubbed from the applications but given the expectation of prospects emailing faculty ahead of time and having a nominal relationship, it’s super easy to put apps to names.

It always gets discussed but some of that is identity politics. For example, we had an individual who applied last year that had a good application but it wasn’t great. What stood out was that they were interested in the role of music in shaping ‘black Christianity.’ The “problem” is that the professors who were name dropped by the applicant knew that this person was white and they didn’t feel comfortable supervising a white student doing black Christianity. Take of that what you will but they were rejected.

At a former school, I’m close with a professor that prefers working with evangelical Asian students (as in they’re moving to the US from Asia). They’re always given a boost by the prof. 

Edited by xypathos

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1 hour ago, xypathos said:

It’s a factor. Now, how much of a factor it is depends on the department, school, and individual faculty.

As a whole, from my experience of working with Adcom panels, it’s of no direct benefit. Generally, hard identifiers (gender, race, etc) are scrubbed from the applications but given the expectation of prospects emailing faculty ahead of time and having a nominal relationship, it’s super easy to put apps to names.

It always gets discussed but some of that is identity politics. For example, we had an individual who applied last year that had a good application but it wasn’t great. What stood out was that they were interested in the role of music in shaping ‘black Christianity.’ The “problem” is that the professors who were name dropped by the applicant knew that this person was white and they didn’t feel comfortable supervising a white student doing black Christianity. Take of that what you will but they were rejected.

At a former school, I’m close with a professor that prefers working with evangelical Asian students (as in they’re moving to the US from Asia). They’re always given a boost by the prof. 

I didn't know that names and hard identifiers are scrubbed from apps but I guess blind review makes sense. To me it does seem that advantages gained from meeting or corresponding with profs might be negated (e.g., if they don't know the name on the app they might not remember you) but I will trust xypathos when he says that it's easy for profs to put names and apps together.

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Blind reviews aren’t universal but some level of it is common.

As far as connecting apps, generally when a student reaches out it’s a mix of “I’m interested in X, Y, and Z and I did my undergrad and/or grad at Schools A and B, etc.” Profs then note the candidates that they’re the most interested in and willing to throw some elbows for during review.

It’s different with each school but at my current school and where I did my M*, field faculty could only vote on applicants to their field. They could read applicants from other fields and comment, but they couldn’t vote. So, while the department got ~150 applications, fields only got 10-20 making connecting names to applications very easy.

 

 

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Thanks @xypathos! do you have a sense of how many people apply for NT in the top tier programs? I've heard numbers of around 150 for total applicants in religion/theology (for an individual school)...

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5 hours ago, xypathos said:

On its own, Wycliffe is considerably less regarded than DYP, especially if you’re looking to transition back to US PhD programs. That said, the strength of Wycliffe is taking courses at other TST schools and at UoT proper. If you do this, it’ll benefit you tremendously.

 

Thanks for answering my question. I do plan to pursue a Phd in tope tier program. Is there other college at TST worth looking into with special attention? How about a second Mdiv degree in Yale Duke or Princeton after MTS at Wycliffe?

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9 hours ago, JF2F said:

Thanks for the feedback! I hope you're right.

Can anyone offer insights into how important diversity is to admissions boards? I know it can vary from university to university, but in general, are your odds of getting accepted marginally higher if you're a minority? Drastically higher? Not higher at all? I've heard conflicting reports on this from professors. What have others heard? 

The politically incorrect truth:  DRASTICALLY.  HIGHER.

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16 hours ago, Mikas@ said:

Thanks for answering my question. I do plan to pursue a Phd in tope tier program. Is there other college at TST worth looking into with special attention? How about a second Mdiv degree in Yale Duke or Princeton after MTS at Wycliffe?

Wycliffe can get you into a top program if you choose courses carefully, and communicate with your advisor what your intentions are ahead of time. Multiple M* degrees are becoming more common but plenty of people can get into a PhD program with one. If you do end up doing another degree at Yale, Princeton, etc - make sure it's at least two years. One year degrees, unless you already did a degree there, are worthless.

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17 hours ago, NTGal said:

Thanks @xypathos! do you have a sense of how many people apply for NT in the top tier programs? I've heard numbers of around 150 for total applicants in religion/theology (for an individual school)...

A lot. It depends on the program but a lot of people want to be NT scholars so I'd say that and ethics tends to always get the most applicants in any school. At my institution, of the ~150 I'd say close to a 1/4th are for NT but only half of those are taken seriously, so 20'ish.

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5 hours ago, xypathos said:

A lot. It depends on the program but a lot of people want to be NT scholars so I'd say that and ethics tends to always get the most applicants in any school. At my institution, of the ~150 I'd say close to a 1/4th are for NT but only half of those are taken seriously, so 20'ish.

XYPathos, why are only half taken seriously?  What is wrong with/dieficient about those who aren't?  Is it that they didn't fill out the app right (that level of bad) or they have mediocre grades/GRE scores?

 

Edited by rejectedndejected

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4 hours ago, rejectedndejected said:

XYPathos, why are only half taken seriously?  What is wrong with/dieficient about those who aren't?  Is it that they didn't fill out the app right (that level of bad) or they have mediocre grades/GRE scores?

 

It’s applicants with poor preparation (bad grades, no M*, inappropriate coursework) and things like disastrously bad GRE scores that don’t survive the institution’s minimum.

Regarding the M*, very few schools explicitly state that they won’t take students without a M* but a lot won’t take them.

With GREs, usually there’s an institution minimum that is low 150V but then the department sets a screen (example) of 161 (really it’s whatever they think reflects their ideal student). 1-2 faculty are required to read all of the screen-out apps to see who should be moved back in. A number are always moved back in but you’re still fighting against a deficit.

My school gets a number of NT/HB apps that loved biblical studies but only took 1-3 seminars with minimal language preparation and/or they didn’t sit down with an advisor about how their application needs to shift when applying to a graduate program in Arts & Sciences and to avoid confessional statements.

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On 1/11/2020 at 8:05 AM, Averroes MD said:

Your ministerial experience should put you over the top

HI @Averroes MD, would you mind help me walk through this part of your sentence?

As far as I know, in the more liberal school - I don't whether this is an appropriate title for them - such as Harvard, Yale, Duke, and Emory the ministerial experience is not their primary indicator compare to GPA, LORs, writing samples, personal statements, etc. Especially for PhD application. Maybe it will tell a different story in divinity schools or seminaries. Please correct if I'm wrong.

And how about in the catholic school such as BC, Villanova, Fordham? Does ministerial experience from protestant church tradition will play an advantage?

 

Thank you. 

Edited by bonhoeffer80

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4 minutes ago, bonhoeffer80 said:

HI @Averroes MD, would you mind help me walk through this part of your sentence?

As far as I know, in the more liberal school - I don't whether this is an appropriate title for them - such as Harvard, Yale, Duke, and Emory the ministerial experience is not their primary indicator compare to GPA, LORs, writing samples, personal statements, etc. Especially for PhD application. Maybe it will tell a different story in divinity schools or seminaries. Please correct if I'm wrong.

And how about in the catholic school such as BC, Villanova, Fordham? Does ministerial experience from protestant church tradition will play an advantage?

 

Thank you. 

The comment was specifically addressing a person who applied to 5 M.Div programs and does not apply to other M* programs or Ph.D.

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2 hours ago, xypathos said:

It’s applicants with poor preparation (bad grades, no M*, inappropriate coursework) and things like disastrously bad GRE scores that don’t survive the institution’s minimum.

Regarding the M*, very few schools explicitly state that they won’t take students without a M* but a lot won’t take them.

With GREs, usually there’s an institution minimum that is low 150V but then the department sets a screen (example) of 161 (really it’s whatever they think reflects their ideal student). 1-2 faculty are required to read all of the screen-out apps to see who should be moved back in. A number are always moved back in but you’re still fighting against a deficit.

My school gets a number of NT/HB apps that loved biblical studies but only took 1-3 seminars with minimal language preparation and/or they didn’t sit down with an advisor about how their application needs to shift when applying to a graduate program in Arts & Sciences and to avoid confessional statements.

Awesome answer.  What's a "confessional statement"?  I'm Catholic--can I not even hint at this in my S.O.P. (even at Notre Dame/Marquette)?  How about writing sample?  Can writing sample show that I'm attacking a particular controversy from a Catholic point of view?

Is it really half of applicants that aren't serious contenders?  This actually makes me feel much better about my own app...

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2 hours ago, kenshiro said:

The comment was specifically addressing a person who applied to 5 M.Div programs and does not apply to other M* programs or Ph.D.

Actually, I try to expand the conversation into a broader sense, in this case Ph.D application and in various type of schools (liberals, Catholic, seminaries). So sorry if it doesn't come out correctly.

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9 hours ago, rejectedndejected said:

Awesome answer.  What's a "confessional statement"?  I'm Catholic--can I not even hint at this in my S.O.P. (even at Notre Dame/Marquette)?  How about writing sample?  Can writing sample show that I'm attacking a particular controversy from a Catholic point of view?

Is it really half of applicants that aren't serious contenders?  This actually makes me feel much better about my own app...

Re 'confessional statement', many academics in religious studies departments are worried that certain incoming students may have active interests in 'theology'. Their worry doesn't really stem from any personal distaste for theology, though it may, but it's more to do with the kinds of scholarship they do and the kind of training they are able to offer. To recall one anecdote, I remember in my phone interview with UVA's religious studies department (PhD), I was straight up asked by one scholar if I had confessional interests (I do not); the scholar then proceeded to say that such interests are not suitable to their program. This struck me, at the time, as somewhat odd, given that I was then an MA student in a religious studies department! But, in hindsight, I can certainly understand why I was asked that question.

Re half applicants not being serious contenders, I would say that varies greatly by subfield. In subfields like theology and biblical studies, this is probably true. But in something like Asian religions, Jewish studies, or even American religions, I doubt it's anywhere near that high. 

Edited by sacklunch

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18 hours ago, bonhoeffer80 said:

Actually, I try to expand the conversation into a broader sense, in this case Ph.D application and in various type of schools (liberals, Catholic, seminaries). So sorry if it doesn't come out correctly.

@bonhoeffer80 the original commenter's reply "The comment was specifically addressing a person who applied to 5 M.Div programs and does not apply to other M* programs or Ph.D" is essentially the answer. The MDiv is a ministerial degree, which is why ministry experience would look good on an application. Since the MA and PhD are academic degrees, ministry experience won't make a difference...for university programs you would obviously not want to include them at all, but for seminaries it wouldn't hurt. They won't help you get into academic degrees (i.e. it won't compensate for an academic lack), but for seminaries that care about ecclesial ministry it could help you stand out among academic equals (e.g., in a group whose GRE/GPA are similar, it MIGHT give you a slight edge). 

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2 hours ago, NTGal said:

@bonhoeffer80 the original commenter's reply "The comment was specifically addressing a person who applied to 5 M.Div programs and does not apply to other M* programs or Ph.D" is essentially the answer. The MDiv is a ministerial degree, which is why ministry experience would look good on an application. Since the MA and PhD are academic degrees, ministry experience won't make a difference...for university programs you would obviously not want to include them at all, but for seminaries it wouldn't hurt. They won't help you get into academic degrees (i.e. it won't compensate for an academic lack), but for seminaries that care about ecclesial ministry it could help you stand out among academic equals (e.g., in a group whose GRE/GPA are similar, it MIGHT give you a slight edge). 

@NTGal Thank you for the explanation. 

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Hey what do y'all think of reusing statements of purpose?  I was waitlisted to a program last year, and this year I basically just reused last year's SOP but with minor tweaks and adjustments.  It really was what I meant to say, and I think it was a pretty good SOP...so why change it?  Should I have?

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20 hours ago, rejectedndejected said:

Hey what do y'all think of reusing statements of purpose?  I was waitlisted to a program last year, and this year I basically just reused last year's SOP but with minor tweaks and adjustments.  It really was what I meant to say, and I think it was a pretty good SOP...so why change it?  Should I have?

That's fine. I doubt anyone will remember previous SOPs or care enough to look at a previous one. When I was applying to PhD programs I was pretty picky about the schools and faculty members that I wanted to work with, so that my SOPs were similar but catered to each school - so quite a bit of copy and pasting happened.

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Glad I found this website and this forum.  I am just sitting around freaking out, waiting to hear back from University of Virginia's PhD in Religion program and Boston University's PhD in Theology.  We can suffer together!

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@Eshearer i am also freaking out waiting to hear 😫 In theory the results page should be helpful (i.e., you can gauge your situation based on whether others have heard from programs you haven't heard from), but I have heard both from people in this forum as well as people in real life that sometimes people troll and post fake results, so take it with a grain of salt https://www.thegradcafe.com/survey/index.php?q=(relig*|theol*)&t=a&o=&pp=250

Yesterday someone posted that they got an interview invitation at a school I applied to, and I immediately freaked out because I didn't get one...I assumed I was out (and I probably am, I'm not expecting to get in there), but the reality is that often programs send these things in batches, even within the same field...it seems that there's a first round of their favorites....and then up to a week or two later they might send out another batch (others please correct me if I'm wrong)

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