After you have researched, prayed, received wise counsel for your decision to go to seminary, there are still several considerations to keep in mind before you start filling out the application form. As you plan to enter this new chapter of your life, please bear in mind the following questions:
If I am interrupting (or changing) a career, when is the best time to depart? What is the routine (annual) cycle of the industry and when would it be best for all involved to graciously step away to pursue my degree full-time?
This will help determine when it is best for you to apply to seminary with minimal impact on the coworkers who will need to adjust to your absence. Different businesses have different cycles; there is no single perfect time of year to resign. Fortunately, most seminaries have 2-3 annual terms and new students can start on their own schedule.
How long will it take to gather all the information I need to complete the application package?
While there is some variance to the contents of an application package, you can be certain that all seminaries will need prior school transcripts, letters of recommendation and/or sponsorship as well as an introductory letter to show the school who you are (and why both you and the school would benefit from your matriculation!). As willing as most people will appear to be to write a recommendation letter, the simple truth is that they will take longer to complete it than YOU want. Be sure to provide a deadline for these letters so that there is no delay in compiling your information.
Once these questions are answered, you can move to the next recommendations:
1. Be aware of the school’s deadlines and how their application process is handled (paper, online, etc).
While each school may have a slightly different submission deadline (and you MUST be aware of your choice’s deadline), they generally fall together. For example, 4 top seminaries have the following schedules:
Seminary #1: Fall semester = 8/1; Spring semester = 12/1; Summer semester = 5/1
Seminary #2: Fall semester = 7/1; Spring semester = 11/1
Seminary #3: Fall semester = 8/15; Spring semester = 1/15; Summer semester = 6/15
Seminary #4: Fall semester = 8/15; Spring semester = 1/15; Summer semester = 5/15
Knowing this and understanding how the school will receive your package (online or paper file) will help you plan for your application. Always leave at least 5 business days when mailing your application package (and get delivery confirmation!). You may want to spend the money to ship your paper file via expedited courier to ensure prompt delivery (if you are unable to deliver it in person).
2. Gather ALL required documentation ASAP to prevent unnecessary delays and “Deadline Anxiety”
Procrastination is a weakness common to man. Overcome it – period! Remember that this process is the start of your journey to obey the call that God has put on your life! Do not put off what you can complete now. There will be plenty of opportunities to worry in the future without adding unnecessary anxiety to your life. Do it now.
3. Review your package as a whole to ensure you are presenting a comprehensive application
Once you have all your information gathered and are ready to submit your package – STOP. Take a break and approach your application package with fresh eyes – as if the admissions officer just opened your envelope. Make no assumptions and do not neglect the smallest detail (read: spelling and cleanliness). Imagine yourself in the admissions director’s seat trying to decide which of 2 or 3 candidates should fill the last slot. What would your package say to the decision-maker? Ask (or have someone review your package and have them ask) any questions brought up by your letter of introduction. Did you address anything that may arise during a background check? Is your transcript complete (and concise) or do you need to explain some anomalies in your background (social, educational or legal). The completion of this exercise is to make updates and edits accordingly.
4. Pray over your Application package to seek/confirm God’s guidance in this area
This cannot be emphasized enough. You must seek and confirm God’s call on your life to go to seminary for your degree. Pray specifically for every aspect of your decision. Pray for confirmation that God wants you to earn you seminary degree. Pray that all aspects of your career change will work together for a smooth transition. Ask for clarity and wisdom (daily) as you assemble your information package. God is sovereign over all things (including your seminary application) and He wants to communicate to you. Quiet down and listen for His leading and direction.
After you have completed all these steps, determined when to submit your application and start your journey, relax. Take a break from your schedule and enjoy some intimate time with the Lord thanking Him for helping you through this part of the process. He has all things under control and on His schedule; He will continue to take care of you through all chapters of your life.