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Patristics

Advice on Early Christian Studies Programs

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I have been accepted to MA in Religious Studies at Duke and MA/PhD in Early Christian Studies at Catholic University of America. I am still waiting to hear from Notre Dame MA in Early Christian Studies.

 

Any advice on deciding between these programs?  Studying at a Catholic institution is fairly important to me.

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What specific area of early Christianity do you want to study? This, IMO, is the biggest factor in determining where to study.

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Wait til you hear from ND. They would be the obvious choice due to funding and your desire to study in a Catholic setting (they are quite Catholic...). 

I would steer clear of CUA, unless they are giving you funding (I assume they are not).

At Duke you will be in the minority as a Catholic. Within the RS department you will find yourself amongst all sorts of backgrounds, many of them non-Christian.

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sacklunch, why would you steer clear of CUA? I was planning on rejecting Duke's offer and going to CUA if I don't hear anything from ND.  Funding is not an issue for me thanks to the foresight of my grandparents.

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Setting aside the fact that it sounds like sacklunch knows some things about CUA that maybe others do not and the fact that the job market is abysmal, I'd say this: I would think long and hard about turning down a PhD offer. Again, if you've already moved past or come to peace with the fact that the job market is really tough and you can see yourself doing nothing other than PhD work, I'd say you need a really really really good reason not to take a PhD offer when it comes your way.

 

PhD programs across the board are super competitive. Sure, T1 schools are more competitive, but I'd bet that most universities and seminaries do not admit more than 15-18% of applicants to PhD programs in our field, and you can bet that there are more than 18 qualified applicants in a pool of 100. These things are so subjective and require more luck and uncertainty than any of us really want to know. An applicant who gets rejected from a particular program maybe would have gotten in with the same application the year before or the year after. There are just so many factors outside of your control and so few applicants are THAT applicant that every program wants (even though all of us would like to imagine that we were/are!)

 

All that to say that even though an MTS from ND is going to give you even better prep than you already have for applying in a couple years, it is still no guarantee that you'll get in anywhere--even CUA again.

 

There may be other, more important factors to consider here that outweigh what I'm saying, but I do think the randomness of PhD apps is something to consider.

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I would love to see some stats on apps to CUA (ECS, Theology, Semitics, and so on). For what it's worth, I know 3 people that have applied to CUA's PhD (one in each of the three depts. I just mentioned) and all were accepted. They were actually competitive applicants, so their acceptances may simply attest to their greatness. On the other hand, I have heard acceptance to CUA (MA/PhD) is fairly common, as almost all of their offers come with zero funding. The word is that the top applicants get some sort of funding (50% for the duration of the PhD) and supposedly the ECS program fully funds a couple students here and there (I heard they were not funding anyone last year; no clue about this season). It's a shame really. I wanted to apply there when I did, but ultimately decided against it as all of their depts. told me they could not offer anyone a full package that season. If you have the funds it is a hard decision. Though I would say if you have the means to move several times, you could always reapply to CUA once you are finished with your M* alongside other 'r1' schools. 

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I would love to see some stats on apps to CUA (ECS, Theology, Semitics, and so on). For what it's worth, I know 3 people that have applied to CUA's PhD (one in each of the three depts. I just mentioned) and all were accepted. They were actually competitive applicants, so their acceptances may simply attest to their greatness. On the other hand, I have heard acceptance to CUA (MA/PhD) is fairly common, as almost all of their offers come with zero funding. The word is that the top applicants get some sort of funding (50% for the duration of the PhD) and supposedly the ECS program fully funds a couple students here and there (I heard they were not funding anyone last year; no clue about this season). It's a shame really. I wanted to apply there when I did, but ultimately decided against it as all of their depts. told me they could not offer anyone a full package that season. If you have the funds it is a hard decision. Though I would say if you have the means to move several times, you could always reapply to CUA once you are finished with your M* alongside other 'r1' schools. 

 

I'm certainly no Expert about CUA, but I was on the interview list for the PhD program this season.  They invited something like 20 people to interviews for every area (and they have a lot of subfields).  I also am not sure about the MA/PhD track.  However, their current (relatively new) policy for PhD students is to fund everybody at 18,000 a year.  They were doing some much lower levels of funding in the past, but they now admit fewer students and fund them all at the same level. 

 

Being there for two degrees, I'm not sure what your timeline would be or the funding as it's different than the program for which I interviewed.  But their normal PhD funding is now much better than it has been in the past, although to my knowledge they don't offer competitive funding such as fellowships, etc.  

 

Again, I can't speak as a real authority on CUA, but I learned a lot from the interview weekend and would be happy to discuss more.

 

Pax,

 

Luke

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*I should clarify: the Total number of invitees to interviews was around twenty, though they only planned on admitting about 15.  Those 15 were to cover every field.  My field (moral theology) admitted 2 people and I think there were 5 spots in systematics. 

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Just declined Duke Masters in Religious Studies. CUA just notified me I receive a 5 year tuition waiver and stipend of $18,000/year in the MA/PhD Early Christian Studies program. Still haven't heard from ND.

Edited by Patristics

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