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Being Catholic at Harvard Divinity School

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I was accepted to Harvard's MDiv this morning, and I'm strongly considering going. Out of the places I've been accepted, my top choice before my Harvard acceptance was Boston College, but now I think it's Harvard (same financial packages between the two). I do have some questions about my compatibility with Harvard, however.

Given that I'm Catholic (a recent convert who leans toward tradition theologically, though is not settled into my opinions given my religious infancy), would Harvard be a good place for me to study? I'm not so concerned whether most of Harvard's students agree with me, or whether most of Harvard's professors are sympathetic toward my ideas. What I want to know is whether someone who aligns himself closer toward the traditional side of Catholicism can find a home at Harvard. I'm certain I'll be challenged there, which I want, but I want to also have a home, if that makes sense. I feel confident I'd find both at Boston College, but I'm not so sure about HDS. So while I think HDS might be the better option, I'm not totally decided yet. 

Any advice would be welcomed. And if you have reasons for why one school would be better than the other outside of what I've discussed, I'd love to hear them.

 

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Posted (edited)

HDS is super leftist. Almost no viewpoint diversity is tolerated. 

So I think the answer is no. 

But we all still go anyways due to the name and doors the Big H opens up down the road. Study at Harvard so you can teach at BC.  

Edited by Averroes MD

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6 hours ago, Averroes MD said:

HDS is super leftist. Almost no viewpoint diversity is tolerated. 

So I think the answer is no. 

But we all still go anyways due to the name and doors the Big H opens up down the road. Study at Harvard so you can teach at BC.  

Ah, not what I hoped to hear, but confirms my suspicions. Though I feel like I could establish solid friendships outside of my religious background, so maybe it wouldn’t be too much of a social burden to go to HDS. 

Do you have personal experience with this?

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I'm not convinced that the 'big H' opens doors on principle of reputation. I mean, yes, it does open certain doors, but it's important to ask which 'doors' the OP wants to pass through. My personal opinion is that HDS has a far better reputation on this forum than it does among scholars in religion/religious studies. I'm not saying it doesn't have a good reputation among scholars; it does. But I'm not sold on its reputation being all that much better than, say, BC. Much of this depends on subfield, which again gets back to the question of what the OP wants to do with the degree. If it's work in academia in a Catholic environment, then BC is probably going to be a better professional (and probably personal) decision. Even if OP has no interest in studying Catholic theology, but has an interest in some, say, historical period, but BC has more faculty of interest, you may very well be better off going to BC. You can, of course, go to HDS and take courses at BC through the BTI, but, again, you may be better off going to BC and taking courses at HDS depending on your interests. 

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, sacklunch said:

I'm not convinced that the 'big H' opens doors on principle of reputation. I mean, yes, it does open certain doors, but it's important to ask which 'doors' the OP wants to pass through. My personal opinion is that HDS has a far better reputation on this forum than it does among scholars in religion/religious studies. I'm not saying it doesn't have a good reputation among scholars; it does. But I'm not sold on its reputation being all that much better than, say, BC. Much of this depends on subfield, which again gets back to the question of what the OP wants to do with the degree. If it's work in academia in a Catholic environment, then BC is probably going to be a better professional (and probably personal) decision. Even if OP has no interest in studying Catholic theology, but has an interest in some, say, historical period, but BC has more faculty of interest, you may very well be better off going to BC. You can, of course, go to HDS and take courses at BC through the BTI, but, again, you may be better off going to BC and taking courses at HDS depending on your interests. 

This is helpful; I had no idea that there is (might be?) a disconnect between how an HDS degree is perceived on this site vs. amongst religion scholars. 
 

Part of the problem for me is that I don’t have one door I’m necessarily most interested in getting through. I’d say I’m aiming for two doors at the moment, though: applying to a PhD in political theory following my MDiv, or teaching at a classical academy (or perhaps a Catholic school). Relatedly, I have something of a pipe dream of starting a classical academy someday, though I’m not sure if that bit of info is really relevant. Maybe all of these options can just be reduced to the ‘education’ door, I dunno. 
 

Those are the two options I’m aiming toward, but I’m not dead-set on either. I’m hoping to discern things a bit more at Div school. 
 

By the way, to clarify what I’d like to study: I’m broadly interested in the intersection between religion and politics, and I’m specifically interested in understanding how the two interact in the context of 21st century liberal capitalist societies. In what ways can Christian ethics inform the way we respond to the problems of climate change, wealth inequality, social atomization? How might Christian ethics help us formulate a healthy sense of national or international identity? These are a couple of the questions I’d want to work on answering/revising as a Div student. 
 

edit: If I ended up wanting to get a PhD, Harvard’s political theory program would be at the top of my list (thanks to Michael Sandel being there). But of course, it’s incredibly competitive, so I don’t want this to weigh too much into my decision. 

Edited by pax et caritas

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Current HDS M.Div student here. I'm not a traditional Catholic (at all) but I cannot imagine this being a place where you'll necessarily 'fit' with the program. If I were you, I'd give serious consideration to whether your primary motivation in even considering HDS is the name of the institution it's apart of, or what scholarship you'll be able to accomplish at HDS. Your student experience at HDS will be so different from Duke, which I see you listed, for instance. If I were in the shoes of a traditional or conservative Christian of nearly any denomination, I would expect to find much more community at Candler, Duke, or Notre Dame than HDS. Are there traditional Catholic students at HDS? Yes, but they could probably have a fuller spiritual and academic experience elsewhere.

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52 minutes ago, harvah said:

Current HDS M.Div student here. I'm not a traditional Catholic (at all) but I cannot imagine this being a place where you'll necessarily 'fit' with the program. If I were you, I'd give serious consideration to whether your primary motivation in even considering HDS is the name of the institution it's apart of, or what scholarship you'll be able to accomplish at HDS. Your student experience at HDS will be so different from Duke, which I see you listed, for instance. If I were in the shoes of a traditional or conservative Christian of nearly any denomination, I would expect to find much more community at Candler, Duke, or Notre Dame than HDS. Are there traditional Catholic students at HDS? Yes, but they could probably have a fuller spiritual and academic experience elsewhere.

That makes sense. I wouldn’t want to attend any institution simply because of the name, but Harvard’s name recognition does give me comfort with respect to job prospects and all. I’d be much more excited to attend for the scholarship I could accomplish there, though. 

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harvah raises a good point and one that was at the back of my mind when I wrote my earlier response. That is, how much of your interest is the school's reputation? Given your interests in Catholic education, honestly, I think BC will carry much more weight than HDS post graduation. Re the difference between scholars/this forum about HDS, I should add that I think that this is largely true of the top divinity schools in the US. Folks on this forum tend to conflate, e.g., US News World Report type of rankings for undergraduate schools, with the top divinity schools. There is some connection there, however vague, but anyone who has been in the field of academic religion/religious studies knows, these divinity schools have a far higher acceptance than the undergraduate population. And, really, even when considering other non-divinity M* programs at those top schools, the divinity programs have a hilariously high acceptance rate (what other graduate degree at, say, Harvard, comes close to 50% acceptance? Not many, I would guess). The consequence of this relatively high acceptance rate means that HDS, along with YDS, DDS, PTS, Chicago Div, et al., take students without the same standard of past, academic work (and, honestly, many without the prospect of high-quality future academic work). Note I am not attempting to criticize this standard, but it is important to note its difference from basically all other graduate programs (M* and PhD alike). Over the years as a doctoral student at one of these institutions, I have seen the false sense of security in divinity students at said school; understandably, they think they have passed through the same impossibly high admission standards as other graduate students at those same institutions. Again, I am not belittling their accomplishments; it's just important to realize that scholars in the field of religion/religious studies know everything I am here typing, they know that having an M* from a top divinity school in the US doesn't mean you are necessarily better prepared than, say, someone with only a BA, or someone with an MA from a large state school. And again I feel the need to state that much of what I'm saying depends on subfield and basically all of what I'm saying is restricted to academia. Take that for what it is.

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22 minutes ago, sacklunch said:

harvah raises a good point and one that was at the back of my mind when I wrote my earlier response. That is, how much of your interest is the school's reputation? Given your interests in Catholic education, honestly, I think BC will carry much more weight than HDS post graduation. Re the difference between scholars/this forum about HDS, I should add that I think that this is largely true of the top divinity schools in the US. Folks on this forum tend to conflate, e.g., US News World Report type of rankings for undergraduate schools, with the top divinity schools. There is some connection there, however vague, but anyone who has been in the field of academic religion/religious studies knows, these divinity schools have a far higher acceptance than the undergraduate population. And, really, even when considering other non-divinity M* programs at those top schools, the divinity programs have a hilariously high acceptance rate (what other graduate degree at, say, Harvard, comes close to 50% acceptance? Not many, I would guess). The consequence of this relatively high acceptance rate means that HDS, along with YDS, DDS, PTS, Chicago Div, et al., take students without the same standard of past, academic work (and, honestly, many without the prospect of high-quality future academic work). Note I am not attempting to criticize this standard, but it is important to note its difference from basically all other graduate programs (M* and PhD alike). Over the years as a doctoral student at one of these institutions, I have seen the false sense of security in divinity students at said school; understandably, they think they have passed through the same impossibly high admission standards as other graduate students at those same institutions. Again, I am not belittling their accomplishments; it's just important to realize that scholars in the field of religion/religious studies know everything I am here typing, they know that having an M* from a top divinity school in the US doesn't mean you are necessarily better prepared than, say, someone with only a BA, or someone with an MA from a large state school. And again I feel the need to state that much of what I'm saying depends on subfield and basically all of what I'm saying is restricted to academia. Take that for what it is.

This is super helpful; I’ve definitely been considering reputation in my decision, and perhaps too much. You’ve both given me lots to reflect on. 
 

Let’s set reputation in academia aside for a second. If I ended up going a non-academic route after div school, do you think the choice between the two universities regarding reputation matters? I wouldn’t make my decision based off this, but I want a clearer idea of what I’d be getting into wherever I go. 
 

Applying to div school has been a bit of an anxious process for me. I’ve been confronted about its practicality by family members who are upset I’m no longer applying to law schools. So I’ve been trying to think ... practically about where I attend with regards to job prospects outside academia (non-profit work, going back to the political world, etc.). I think this is a reason I’m drawn toward HDS, for better or worse. It feels relatively practical, not only because the name, but because of factors like the broader Harvard network I’d have better access to and the school’s faculty.  But the school’s name might have me bewitched. 

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Boston College's reputation and alumni network is nothing to shake a stick at. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Boston_College_people#Law,_politics,_and_public_service). 

Also, you would be much better connected to the network of Jesuit High Schools if you wanted to teach at that level. 

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1 hour ago, Deep Fried Angst said:

Boston College's reputation and alumni network is nothing to shake a stick at. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Boston_College_people#Law,_politics,_and_public_service). 

Also, you would be much better connected to the network of Jesuit High Schools if you wanted to teach at that level. 

That’s a really good point. If I went that route, BC would be about perfect. 

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If you go the non-academic route, then I have no doubt HDS would look better on a resume. Would it make a huge difference? I doubt it. If it didn't say "Divinity" it might, but, honestly, that label throws about every red flag possible to folks working in the professional world. Even others with grad degrees from the same top schools with divinity schools are sort of confused, if not at times alarmed/put at unease, when they meet people with a divinity degree. It feels antiquated to them, backward thinking, the odd duck in the larger, increasingly secular university culture in the US, which is especially acute at top schools. I'm not saying the divinity students/graduates are marginalized per se at these schools. They are better off than most folks, professionally speaking. But how much better off is say, person 1 with only a BA vs person 2 with a BA from the same school as person 1 + a M* from HDS? In the non-academic professional world, outside of 'theological'-jobs, I would argue not really better off at all. In fact, I am positive that certain employers would rather hire the first person, because they may think that person 2 will just not fit in with the other types of folks in a professional environment--e.g. person 2 may have inappropriate conversations at work (related to god/s, and so on). Now, I am not saying person 2 would do any of those things or even that the folks s/he works with wouldn't want to have those conversations, only that a hiring manager may assume any one of those things. This is mostly hypothetical. But I do know a few people with M* from top divinity schools, including HDS, who did not want to work in 'theological'-job-world upon graduation. They either didn't get into PhD programs or they didn't have an interest in them. So what do they do? Whatever they can. A few of them have jobs they love, a few don't. What they have in common, generally, is their M* didn't help them much professionally. And, I can recall a few of them relating experiences of unease during the hiring process because their divinity education.

You may rightly be wondering why you haven't read the exact kinds of things I am typing elsewhere on this forum (or perhaps you have?). I think the answer is that most of the people on here either a) don't bother to come back and ramble on after they have already 'made it' (this forum is about getting into graduate school, more or less) or b) they are firmly entrenched in 'theological'-job-land and thus these issues are largely irrelevant for them. Okay, enough rambling. Back to the dissertation.

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This thread is cracking me up because, if it were possible to post this same thread topic 60 years ago - “is Harvard safe for Catholics?” - I assume you would get the same answers but for completely different reasons. Some things never change?

My two cents: I agree with what everyone (especially @sacklunch) has said already. If you go academic - and want to do seriously catholic political thought, BC is better. And if you go non-academic and want to do something in the, let’s call it ‘religious’ as opposed to distinctly secular, political world then your team would probably prefer BC than Harvard. As previously mentioned, those who know religious higher education know HDS is not Harvard in the strictest sense. I encounter this going to PTS - which is even further removed from PU than HDS is from Harvard.

The one point I will slightly disagree with is how an HDS degree might be perceived outside of academia. In my experience, people who don’t know better would prefer to believe you went to Harvard full stop, rather than a less competitive subset of the university. It makes for a better story if the recruiter can say they hired a Harvard grad. 
 

Still, I haven’t even graduated yet so take this with a grain of salt. Im primarily relying on my years in the corporate world before going to seminary.

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13 hours ago, sacklunch said:

If you go the non-academic route, then I have no doubt HDS would look better on a resume. Would it make a huge difference? I doubt it. If it didn't say "Divinity" it might, but, honestly, that label throws about every red flag possible to folks working in the professional world. Even others with grad degrees from the same top schools with divinity schools are sort of confused, if not at times alarmed/put at unease, when they meet people with a divinity degree. It feels antiquated to them, backward thinking, the odd duck in the larger, increasingly secular university culture in the US, which is especially acute at top schools. I'm not saying the divinity students/graduates are marginalized per se at these schools. They are better off than most folks, professionally speaking. But how much better off is say, person 1 with only a BA vs person 2 with a BA from the same school as person 1 + a M* from HDS? In the non-academic professional world, outside of 'theological'-jobs, I would argue not really better off at all. In fact, I am positive that certain employers would rather hire the first person, because they may think that person 2 will just not fit in with the other types of folks in a professional environment--e.g. person 2 may have inappropriate conversations at work (related to god/s, and so on). Now, I am not saying person 2 would do any of those things or even that the folks s/he works with wouldn't want to have those conversations, only that a hiring manager may assume any one of those things. This is mostly hypothetical. But I do know a few people with M* from top divinity schools, including HDS, who did not want to work in 'theological'-job-world upon graduation. They either didn't get into PhD programs or they didn't have an interest in them. So what do they do? Whatever they can. A few of them have jobs they love, a few don't. What they have in common, generally, is their M* didn't help them much professionally. And, I can recall a few of them relating experiences of unease during the hiring process because their divinity education.

You may rightly be wondering why you haven't read the exact kinds of things I am typing elsewhere on this forum (or perhaps you have?). I think the answer is that most of the people on here either a) don't bother to come back and ramble on after they have already 'made it' (this forum is about getting into graduate school, more or less) or b) they are firmly entrenched in 'theological'-job-land and thus these issues are largely irrelevant for them. Okay, enough rambling. Back to the dissertation.

Thanks for the sobering analysis. I'm saddened to hear about how negatively a theological education might be perceived in the 'secular' world. But it's good for me to reflect on. I hope I haven't distracted you too much from your dissertation. Best of luck with it, and thank you again for your help.  

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13 hours ago, JDD said:

This thread is cracking me up because, if it were possible to post this same thread topic 60 years ago - “is Harvard safe for Catholics?” - I assume you would get the same answers but for completely different reasons. Some things never change?

My two cents: I agree with what everyone (especially @sacklunch) has said already. If you go academic - and want to do seriously catholic political thought, BC is better. And if you go non-academic and want to do something in the, let’s call it ‘religious’ as opposed to distinctly secular, political world then your team would probably prefer BC than Harvard. As previously mentioned, those who know religious higher education know HDS is not Harvard in the strictest sense. I encounter this going to PTS - which is even further removed from PU than HDS is from Harvard.

The one point I will slightly disagree with is how an HDS degree might be perceived outside of academia. In my experience, people who don’t know better would prefer to believe you went to Harvard full stop, rather than a less competitive subset of the university. It makes for a better story if the recruiter can say they hired a Harvard grad. 
 

Still, I haven’t even graduated yet so take this with a grain of salt. Im primarily relying on my years in the corporate world before going to seminary.

Ah, okay, thank you. I think I'm just going to try to minimize the reputation variable in my decision and focus on which scholars I want to work with. That seems most important anyhow, especially after reading this thread. Plus, it'll be a lot less mental gymnastics. Win-win. 

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17 hours ago, JDD said:

This thread is cracking me up because, if it were possible to post this same thread topic 60 years ago - “is Harvard safe for Catholics?” - I assume you would get the same answers but for completely different reasons. Some things never change?

My two cents: I agree with what everyone (especially @sacklunch) has said already. If you go academic - and want to do seriously catholic political thought, BC is better. And if you go non-academic and want to do something in the, let’s call it ‘religious’ as opposed to distinctly secular, political world then your team would probably prefer BC than Harvard. As previously mentioned, those who know religious higher education know HDS is not Harvard in the strictest sense. I encounter this going to PTS - which is even further removed from PU than HDS is from Harvard.

The one point I will slightly disagree with is how an HDS degree might be perceived outside of academia. In my experience, people who don’t know better would prefer to believe you went to Harvard full stop, rather than a less competitive subset of the university. It makes for a better story if the recruiter can say they hired a Harvard grad. 
 

Still, I haven’t even graduated yet so take this with a grain of salt. Im primarily relying on my years in the corporate world before going to seminary.

You make a good point about recruiting, but it's one that I can't fully agree with or deny, since such scenarios seem rare. How many people with an MDiv from HDS are talking to a recruiter for any kind of professional job (e.g. let's say you tried to move into some entry level accounting/finance role)? Not many is my guess. But how would I know? My best friend works in finance in San Fran, recently moved from NYC, has an MBA, that sort of thing; and having had these kinds of conversations with him and his friends in that world, I can say they are bewildered by people with M* from divinity schools. I think they would prefer to never hire someone with such a degree. But, to be fair, they are also bewildered/put at unease by people like me--secular dudes getting a PhD in religion. They mostly lump us together (can you tell I'm unhappy about that!?). But, you're right, generally speaking, that many people would simply see 'Harvard' or whatever school and regardless of the grad degree it would help you. I'm looping back again and pulling back a bit on what I said earlier. I guess, in the end, my feeling is you shouldn't waste any money on getting any M* unless you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do with it. If it's free, or very cheap (or you're rich), then yeah, go for it. Otherwise, I honestly think you will spend those 2 years in Cambridge more or less starry-eyed and full of high expectations. But, when you finish, if you don't stay in 'theological'-job-world or if you're not 'good enough' to progress in academia, I think you will be in for a reality check. These kinds of schools bank on the pipe-dream; and for some people, when they finish and they move back to Oklahoma (et sim.) because they couldn't get a good enough job to justify staying in Boston, or wherever else, it may be worth all that money to say, at some friend's BBQ, that you went to Harvard. You did it. You're that person. Or at least you get to be at the BBQ. But most days there is no BBQ. /rambling.

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Posted (edited)

Love the discussion here! I am currently an MTS student at Duke, so I'm not as far along as some of these other peeps. But I've been thinking about this issue in my own journey as I consider applying to PhD programs this year. 

I agree that anyone outside of academia does not care too much about what your degree is in. They hear "Harvard," and they immediately think of the competitive acceptance rate and that you must be well-educated, regardless of what your specialization might be in. The problem is that it is becoming increasingly common for people to have graduate degrees in the professional world. Like @sacklunch said, most recruiters are familiar with education fundamentals and will know the difference with a Div school degree. But even if you wanted to stay in academia, surely you've heard of the TERRIBLE job market out there for professors. For a full-time position, all that matters is your terminal degree (where you get your PhD at). Of course, you might have a greater chance of being accepted to the Harvard PhD if they're already familiar with your work, but it's never guaranteed!

At the risk of sounding overly-religious (this is a religion forum after all, right?), I think the broader issue is related to the value of going to a Div school in the first place. The logical thing to do is to pursue the education that will earn you the most amount of money in order to provide the most security for yourself in the future. Those of us studying in the humanities scoff at these feeble-minded individuals who refuse to pursue the finer things of life. It is better to be poor and love your job than to be rich and hate your job. Right? With a baby on the way, I'm not so sure, ha! I think it comes down to personal "vocation." Sometimes the decisions that make the least amount of sense in the eyes of others are actually the ones that are the best for us.

@pax et caritas I suspect that the reason you are drawn to studying Divinity is not because you think it is a lucrative or financially profitable business. It is about something so much more than that! Like Averroes said, Harvard is going to be extremely leftist, and that can train you to have a more critical and cynical view of religion. Personally, I am very suspicious of people like myself, who think they know about Christianity because they have a degree in it. Think about where you want to be and WHO you want to be 20 years from now. In the end, my advice is: If you think you need a PhD in order to accomplish what you feel called to do in the future, then REALLY research which school will better set you up for that goal based upon your current research interests. However, if you're unsure of what you will do in the future, then I would really question why you want a MDiv degree in the first place. Generally speaking, a MDiv degree sets someone up for a ministerial role in a particular denomination or religious tradition, while a MTS has a more academic-oriented focus. Don't just think name recognition, but think MTS versus MDiv. If your interest is in spiritual formation and growing in the Catholic faith, I think that would also completely change which school you choose.

Also, if your interest is in starting an academy one day, maybe you are more likely to get your EdD one day instead of a PhD. Maybe I'm completely off base there though. :) I think Harvard is always a good name to have on your resume. Personally, I didn't apply there because I wanted the more conservative (comparatively) atmosphere of Duke. But to each his own!

P.s. sorry this post is sooo long. I have too much time on my hands now that Duke is closed due to Covid-19. :)

Edited by PBenjy

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1 hour ago, PBenjy said:

Love the discussion here! I am currently an MTS student at Duke, so I'm not as far along as some of these other peeps. But I've been thinking about this issue in my own journey as I consider applying to PhD programs this year. 

I agree that anyone outside of academia does not care too much about what your degree is in. They hear "Harvard," and they immediately think of the competitive acceptance rate and that you must be well-educated, regardless of what your specialization might be in. The problem is that it is becoming increasingly common for people to have graduate degrees in the professional world. Like @sacklunch said, most recruiters are familiar with education fundamentals and will know the difference with a Div school degree. But even if you wanted to stay in academia, surely you've heard of the TERRIBLE job market out there for professors. For a full-time position, all that matters is your terminal degree (where you get your PhD at). Of course, you might have a greater chance of being accepted to the Harvard PhD if they're already familiar with your work, but it's never guaranteed!

At the risk of sounding overly-religious (this is a religion forum after all, right?), I think the broader issue is related to the value of going to a Div school in the first place. The logical thing to do is to pursue the education that will earn you the most amount of money in order to provide the most security for yourself in the future. Those of us studying in the humanities scoff at these feeble-minded individuals who refuse to pursue the finer things of life. It is better to be poor and love your job than to be rich and hate your job. Right? With a baby on the way, I'm not so sure, ha! I think it comes down to personal "vocation." Sometimes the decisions that make the least amount of sense in the eyes of others are actually the ones that are the best for us.

@pax et caritas I suspect that the reason you are drawn to studying Divinity is not because you think it is a lucrative or financially profitable business. It is about something so much more than that! Like Averroes said, Harvard is going to be extremely leftist, and that can train you to have a more critical and cynical view of religion. Personally, I am very suspicious of people like myself, who think they know about Christianity because they have a degree in it. Think about where you want to be and WHO you want to be 20 years from now. In the end, my advice is: If you think you need a PhD in order to accomplish what you feel called to do in the future, then REALLY research which school will better set you up for that goal based upon your current research interests. However, if you're unsure of what you will do in the future, then I would really question why you want a MDiv degree in the first place. Generally speaking, a MDiv degree sets someone up for a ministerial role in a particular denomination or religious tradition, while a MTS has a more academic-oriented focus. Don't just think name recognition, but think MTS versus MDiv. If your interest is in spiritual formation and growing in the Catholic faith, I think that would also completely change which school you choose.

Also, if your interest is in starting an academy one day, maybe you are more likely to get your EdD one day instead of a PhD. Maybe I'm completely off base there though. :) I think Harvard is always a good name to have on your resume. Personally, I didn't apply there because I wanted the more conservative (comparatively) atmosphere of Duke. But to each his own!

P.s. sorry this post is sooo long. I have too much time on my hands now that Duke is closed due to Covid-19. :)

This was such a helpful comment, thank you. And, congrats on the baby who is on the way! That's wonderful. I imagine you're thrilled. 

You've framed my question in a very helpful way, and one that gives me a sense of peace. As a philosophy undergrad, I tried to frame things in the way you've described (how will this degree help change -me-, and not simply my financial situation?), and it gave me peace in the face of financial uncertainty. No one in my family gave me a hard time over it because the plan for a while was law school, and while that seemed somewhat esoteric to many of them, they figured a philosophy degree seemed logical enough for that end. 

Now that I'm set on Div school, they've gotten a little more critical, and I think that's rubbed off on me too, and thus given me some anxiety. Keep in mind, I'm a first-gen student coming from rural America, so I can understand their concern over finances. 

I am very much interested in the personal growth the degree will offer, and how it'll put me closer toward working in education or a non-profit. Even if those careers don't pay super well. And truth be told, while the PhD --> university prof path is the way I've -thought- I want to go, I certainly -feel- I'd much rather get my MDiv and begin teaching at a classical academy, or Catholic school. I think getting the MDiv will help me wrestle with that conflict. I'm rambling a bit now. In more relevant news: I think I've decided on YDS! Part of the reason is because it isn't as... I guess you might say post-christian as HDS? So while it might not be as conservative as I am, I think it'll both challenge and nurture me in the ways I specifically need. Plus, I'm deeply interested in the post-liberal Christian theology that got started there (my undergrad education basically centered around post-liberal economics! Thrilled to work with Kathryn Tanner. Ah!). I've considered Duke for similar reasons, but they didn't offer as nice a financial aid package, though I was smitten with Duke's campus when I visited last October. Thankfully, Yale is gorgeous too.

Anyway, I'm rambling again. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion and give a stranger a good reminder and some peace about such a big decision.

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@pax et caritas That is so great to hear that you've decided on Yale! From what you said, that seems like the perfect fit. And from what I know, it seems to be somewhere in-between the conservative feel of Duke and the "post-Christian" feel of Harvard. Plus, everyone knows of Yale, so you're really not losing any reputability there. It will really set you up for whatever comes next. :)

And you're welcome! Best of luck to you!

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On 3/17/2020 at 2:17 PM, pax et caritas said:

This was such a helpful comment, thank you. And, congrats on the baby who is on the way! That's wonderful. I imagine you're thrilled. 

You've framed my question in a very helpful way, and one that gives me a sense of peace. As a philosophy undergrad, I tried to frame things in the way you've described (how will this degree help change -me-, and not simply my financial situation?), and it gave me peace in the face of financial uncertainty. No one in my family gave me a hard time over it because the plan for a while was law school, and while that seemed somewhat esoteric to many of them, they figured a philosophy degree seemed logical enough for that end. 

Now that I'm set on Div school, they've gotten a little more critical, and I think that's rubbed off on me too, and thus given me some anxiety. Keep in mind, I'm a first-gen student coming from rural America, so I can understand their concern over finances. 

I am very much interested in the personal growth the degree will offer, and how it'll put me closer toward working in education or a non-profit. Even if those careers don't pay super well. And truth be told, while the PhD --> university prof path is the way I've -thought- I want to go, I certainly -feel- I'd much rather get my MDiv and begin teaching at a classical academy, or Catholic school. I think getting the MDiv will help me wrestle with that conflict. I'm rambling a bit now. In more relevant news: I think I've decided on YDS! Part of the reason is because it isn't as... I guess you might say post-christian as HDS? So while it might not be as conservative as I am, I think it'll both challenge and nurture me in the ways I specifically need. Plus, I'm deeply interested in the post-liberal Christian theology that got started there (my undergrad education basically centered around post-liberal economics! Thrilled to work with Kathryn Tanner. Ah!). I've considered Duke for similar reasons, but they didn't offer as nice a financial aid package, though I was smitten with Duke's campus when I visited last October. Thankfully, Yale is gorgeous too.

Anyway, I'm rambling again. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion and give a stranger a good reminder and some peace about such a big decision.

@pax et caritas So happy to hear that you've settled on Yale Div! Their Episcopalian-roots will challenge you while avoiding what might be considered fairly dramatic departures that exist at UCDS and here at HDS, for example.

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On 3/12/2020 at 6:22 AM, Averroes MD said:

HDS is super leftist. Almost no viewpoint diversity is tolerated. 

So I think the answer is no. 

But we all still go anyways due to the name and doors the Big H opens up down the road. Study at Harvard so you can teach at BC.  

This was basically my experience and also my reasoning. I was moderate/traditional and felt rather out of place there among the student body. There will be Catholics there, but they will also likely be very far left. That said, my relationships with the faculty (some of whom are more traditional) were fine. I certainly have no regrets going there though and your viewpoints will contribute to the diversity of HDS.

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On 3/13/2020 at 4:00 PM, sacklunch said:

Re the difference between scholars/this forum about HDS, I should add that I think that this is largely true of the top divinity schools in the US. Folks on this forum tend to conflate, e.g., US News World Report type of rankings for undergraduate schools, with the top divinity schools. 

The QS world rankings for 2020 puts Harvard I think at #4 in Theology and Religion, no idea where BC is, but definitely not close.

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7 hours ago, 11Q13 said:

The QS world rankings for 2020 puts Harvard I think at #4 in Theology and Religion, no idea where BC is, but definitely not close.

I don't doubt that it is, though I question how much of that is the PhD/ThD. I was speaking strictly about masters degrees at HDS and the fact that HDS, like all top divinity schools in the US, have relatively high acceptance rates for M* degrees. The doctoral programs do not, of course, and they mirror the low acceptance rates of other disciplines. To put it in perspective, I can't imagine any faculty member working in ancient history being more impressed with an applicant who has an MTS from HDS verses the ECS masters from ND. The latter is highly selective, the former is not. But, yes, HDS is still Harvard, so it has a 'better' ranking than ND. 

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