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Should I apply at tier 1 schools? (Comeback Story)


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Hey everyone.

I'm happy that I found this forum a few weeks ago. I've learned a lot about the admission processes at various seminaries and divinity schools. 

My story is kind of unique. I'm going to finish my Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies this summer at a small baptist college. My cumulative GPA will be hovering around a 3.0. 

I began my college career at another small Christian college in 2013. I did okay for a semester or two and learned a lot about my fields of interest. However, I hit a brick wall of drowsiness, depression, and apathy. I was placed on academic suspension after fall 2015 and came back after a semester off to flunk out again in the fall of 2016. My cumulative GPA between these semesters alone was at an impressive 0.0. All F's. I had stopped attending my classes 1/2 way through both semesters (beyond foolish, I know). So, I moved far away and found out that I had been living with undiagnosed Narcolepsy throughout my college career. After receiving the appropriate meds and landing a job in the local church, I enrolled at a community college and finished my first semester with a 3.8. This gave me the confidence to enroll at a 4-year institution, where I have maintained a 4.0 ever since. For my last 96 credits, my cumulative GPA is at a 3.97. However, my cumulative GPA for my first 55 attempted credits is a 1.32. 

My question is, what are my chances for acceptance into the M.Div programs at Duke, Candler, Vandy, Princeton, and Union?  I know this is vague, but how harshly will they penalize me for my first 3 years? 

I almost forgot, my academic interests are mainly in the Patristics, Ethics, and ancient Semitic languages. My professional desire is to teach at an adjunct level while maintaining my vocational role in the church (I work with youth and outreach).

Thanks in Advance.

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Well, I can't answer your question about getting in to one of those programs, but I can give you some other information. My undergrad was even worse than yours, and I recovered from it. I got my M.A. from a Baptist Seminary and did very well, while also taking a TON of language courses. And now I just got a full tuition scholarship to a top tier PhD program for Semitic languages.

Even if you don't get accepted to one of those schools, it's not the end of the world. You could still go somewhere like Southeastern Seminary and study Semitic languages with Chip Hardy. 

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@betsymercury

I think you would have a decent chance of being accepted into the M.Div program at any of the schools you mentioned. If you're looking at MA programs, it will be more difficult - as these programs focus on creating scholars, not pastors. Moreover, your GPA could hurt your chances of getting large scholarships - which may or may not matter.

I can't speak to whether undergrad GPA plays a large role in PhD applications - especially in light of the fact that you will have a more recent (M*) academic transcript. That said, you might have multiple masters degrees before you are ready to apply for a PhD, putting your undergrad record even further into the past.

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Your interests are pretty broad, and if you really want to dig down deep in one of them, you may need to sacrifice one of the others, at least in terms of what courses you'll be able to fit into a degree. That being said, if you are interested in Semitic languages and Old Testament in general, Fuller Seminary is doing top-tier level work in that arena. Carly Crouch and Chris Hays are two faculty members at the top of their game, and the ancient Near Eastern Studies program at Fuller has sent students off to PhDs at top-tier institutions over the last few years. 

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You won't know if you don't try. 

You can compensate for the GPA in a couple obvious ways:

Do really well on the GRE

"For my last 96 credits, my cumulative GPA is at a 3.97." Put this very early on in your application essay, and point out that your abysmal GPA happened in a past life. Don't dwell on it, though, move on quickly.

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