So your headed to seminary in the fall…

I recently received an e-mail from someone who has recently been accepted to Princeton Theological Seminary.  First and foremost, CONGRATS!  It is an exciting time for sure.  For those of you still waiting to hear about whether or not you have been accepted, remember…it’s a rolling admission so if you haven’t heard yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have been declined.  A small disclaimer before I continue, please make sure to check www.ptsem.edu to make sure this information is correct.  Things change and I cannot promise you I will update this information over time.  There is a ‘search’ button at the top right of the main PTS website.

1. Financial- I know PTSEM is generous but of course I still have a heavy financial obligation.  How have you been paying for school, what works, doesn’t re: working, scholarships, etc.

  • Great question.  The institution aid at PTS is generous.  The grants they offer are very helpful.  That said, there is still quite a bit that is left to each student to cover.  I was fortunate enough to receive some scholarship money from my home church and my presbytery and I also applied for the Presbyterian Study Grant which I received as well.  This was immensely helpful and for those who are PC(USA) folks I highly recommend applying.  I  also applied for the federal Work Study which is an option here at PTS.  I work 8-10 hours a week here on campus though there are some off campus jobs as well.  For this year, I had to take out loans to cover the rest.  There is a helpful document on the Financial Aid website that covers “outside sources” for money for theological education so I highly recommend checking that out.  The way they have it set up right now it’s a bit clunky but it is being updated.  The Fund for Theological Education has a great database of scholarships and grants as well as a few they offer themselves.  I am attempting to not take out any loans for the remaining two years of seminary so hopefully that will work out!

2. Residence- Are you living in the dorms or apartments? I wondering if the ‘older’ students are spending their first year on or ‘off’ campus.

  • I am living in the dorms.  A large percentage of the students here have come straight from undergraduate school but there are some 2nd and even 3rd year students who have chosen to live in the dorms.  I graduated with my BA in 2003 so I fall into this category.  That said, the percentage of ‘older’ students is probably higher in the seminary’s apartment style living.  Unfortunately this will not be a viable option for the 2010-2011 academic year due to construction/rebuilding.  More information about that can be found here.  There are some folks who have found accommodations out in town though that seems to be a bit hard to do.  I actually like living on campus.  It is very convenient and a lot of the things in life that can be ‘stressers’ are non-issues (i.e., utility bills!).  One of the biggest downfalls is the lack of kitchen space.  Two of the dorms have a kitchenette (Alexander Hall basement and Brown Hall 1st Floor) but they are very small and you have to lug all your stuff down to cook.  All students who live on campus are required to purchase a meal plan so there isn’t a ton of cooking you would have to do, but none the less the question of meals is sometimes a struggle.   For more info on the food service here at PTS, click here.  Cafeteria style food usually makes it difficult to please everyone but although I am not always thrilled with their menu choices, there is a pretty solid salad bar as well as a sandwich/wrap bar so when all else fails, these are wonderful options.

3. Prepping – I am curious to what things you would do now (in retrospect) to prepare for the PTSEM experience.  I may defer for a year and want to maximize my prep time.

  • This is another great question.  As I see it, there are two sides to this question: logistics/finances and discernment
    • Logistics/Finances: If you have a nice set up where you are now that would allow you to save a lot of money up, deferring might be a good option.  If you have rent, bills, responsibilities that will prevent you from saving a sizable amount of money, I personally don’t think this is a good option.  And some choose to defer because of family dynamics and/or all that would be involved to make the transition to NJ.
    • Discernment: Seminary, and possibly Princeton Theological Seminary in particular, is not easy.  Seminary is not just school for the mind, it’s school for the heart and soul.  It will demand not only mental energy.  It is emotionally challenging and can also cause crisis’ of faith.  This is not to scare people away but just to be honest about the reality that seminary is demanding in ways that other degrees may not be.  Studying law, for instance, will probably not require one to bear their soul and deal with questions of doubt.  In one sense I don’t think it is possible to be fully prepared for seminary.  That said, waiting a year could help one be more prepared.  There was a reading list sent out last year so I will post that separately.

4. Spiritual atmosphere-  I have visited PTSEM but want to know if people are growing, seeking God or is it mainly an academic environment.

  • For me personally the academics are a natural expression of growing and seeking God.  I don’t say that to dodge the question but rather because in one respect it is hard for me to divide the two.  On the other hand, I definitely understand what you are getting at.  With the handful of professors I have had thus far I think it is fair to say that the spiritual atmosphere of the classroom depends specifically on the professor.  That is not to say that some are spiritual and others are not (that is definitely not true) but rather the professors seem to integrate this aspect differently.  Some profs open each class with prayer.  Some do not.  Some find it easy to make integrate more ministry related content into their lectures while others do not.  Because the very nature of seminary is such that our faith will be challenged by at least some of what we learn, the frequency and intensity of wrestling matches with God increase.  This to me is most definitely seeking and growing in the Lord.  To move away from the academic side of the spectrum, the student life opportunities here are quite impressive and provide many different options for personal spiritual growth and formation.  There are numerous student groups that focus on putting faith into action and the chapel office is amazing in what they endeavor to offer students in the way of worship and retreat opportunities not to mention the counseling and spiritual direction opportunities that the Student Health Benefit Plan provides.
  • So that’s the long answer.  : )  The short answer is that yes, I do believe the people here are seeking God and growing in their faith.  : )

5. What other students or professors should I connect with to really maximize my prep time and integrate well before and during my time at PTSEM.

  • SUPER GREAT QUESTION!  : )  Connecting with students and profs is a great idea.  I will tailor the answer via e-mail to the specific person who is asking this, but in general here are my suggestions.
    • To connect with students the best resource is probably Facebook.  : )  I connected with a couple folks through Facebook as well as Twitter before I got here.  One of my friends that I met here decided to search Facebook for folks at PTS that lived in her state.  She sent them messages and connected with a few folks that way.  There are also a few Student Profiles on the website so if any of those folks stick out to you.  If you decide to come to Summer Language before starting in Fall this is also a great place to meet people.  I think info about Summer Language will be posted here soon.
    • As for profs, there is a Faculty Directory with bios of each professor you can look through to find people whose scholarship lines up with your interests.

While this person asked for “the good, bad and the ugly,” I must admit this post is overall pretty positive.  While there are pluses and minuses about every institution (whether higher ed or otherwise) I honestly don’t have much that is bad to say about PTS that is bad.  But I can tell you that I have not sugar coated this post.  So hopefully my experience and commentary is helpful.  Comments can lead to more specific posts so please comment if you’d like to know more about my take on any of this.

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2 Responses to “So your headed to seminary in the fall…”

  1. Prospective PTSEM Student Says:

    Sara,

    Thank you sooo much for your response. It was thorough, honest and resourceful. I will definitely be in touch and hope to ‘see’ you there in the future. Best on all you do.

  2. Sara J. Green Says:

    Great! Glad it was helpful! I look forward to meeting you and feel free to look for me on Facebook if you’d like.

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