As the semester begins to progress, I have started making summer plans, largely settling on taking additional classes back home in Arkansas.
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
I just completed the seventh week of my second semester at Yale. I am now starting to firm up my summer plans, as I continue to strive to prepare for Ph.D. applications. There is still some uncertainty, but I think I may finally have my summer plans in place.
First, however, I’ll first discuss the events of the week, particularly my progress in completing my writing assignments for the semester, as the earliest projects are starting to come due.
This week, I was slammed, trying to get everything that I need to get done by the end of next week. I had two six-page papers due: one for Theologies of Religious Pluralism and one for Systematic Theology.
Earliest Two Papers
For my Theologies of Religious Pluralism paper, I compared the works of a pluralist theologian with an inclusive theologian and argued that the inclusivist got the better end of the argument.
The more exciting paper, however, was the one I wrote for Systematic Theology. The assignment was to write about the purpose of theology based on one of the theologians we’ve studied so far. We then had to use another theologian to whom to compare him. I decided to focus on the writings of Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), and I then compared his work to James Cone’s.
Since it’s only a six-page paper, it didn’t take that long to write, but doing the research and putting it all together took a lot of time. But, that’s one paper down. Systematic Theology requires three papers during the semester, so I still have two more to go.
Moving Through Theologians
Thus far, we’ve moved through Roman Catholic and black liberation theology. Now we have moved onto Eastern Orthodoxy. I’m not really sure what comes after that. I think there is a feminist theologian and a Reformed or Lutheran theologian in there somewhere. I’m not really sure.
Volf doesn’t usually teach this class, and the syllabus seems to change regularly (I think the usual instructor is on sabbatical for the year.) So, I’m not really sure how it’s going to go.
Awaiting Spring Break
I am only one week separated from spring break, which is two weeks at Yale, and I look forward to it with great excitement. I plan to dedicate at least six hours every day to working on papers, particularly my Roman Law and Hellenistic Philosophy papers.
Those are my big research papers for the semester, and I need to get them knocked out as soon as I can so that they do not hang over me for the rest of the semester. Besides, the earlier I get drafts finished, the more time I have to polish them up.
I feel like I am starting to hit my stride with paper writing, though, so I hope that I will be able to glide through them, particularly since I have two books that I need to read in their entirety for each paper before starting to write. From there, I think I’ll be able to find the research material I need. So, if I can read these four books over spring break, I should be in good shape.
I want to produce good work, not only to get good grades but also to build up a good reputation with professors that would allow me to obtain strong letters of recommendation for Ph.D. work. Those applications I know are going to be difficult, and they’ll be upon me before I know it.
The Writing Center
Concerning papers, I’d encourage anyone who comes here to take advantage of the Writing Center at Yale. It helps me sharpen my writing and get a better gauge as to how I’m doing and what I should expect in terms of feedback from the professor.
Some advice must be taken with a grain of salt, as very rarely do I get anyone from the Divinity School or who possesses any kind of background in religious studies. Consequently, the advice is generally geared toward writing a high-quality paper and putting together coherent arguments.
That is always very helpful, but it would be better if someone from the field was reading over it. I believe that Duke Divinity School has a program like that, and it would be nice if Yale had a similar thing. I get the impression that Yale Divinity School leans a lot harder on the broader university and its resources than Duke Divinity does. Duke Divinity seems to keep more things in house. Having not attended Duke, however, I can’t say for sure that this is true.
Resources at Yale
As I spend more time with this Roman Law course, I am growing more comfortable with exploring Yale beyond the confines of the Divinity School. Admittedly, something is comforting about staying up on the hill in the isolated little plot of land that Yale has carved out for us there.
It is also a bit intimidating, I must admit, to venture down the hill and seek to pursue academic pursuits among some of the best and brightest—both among the professors and the students—that this country has to offer, particularly given my lack of pedigree to date.
There is a real sense of imposter syndrome that comes over me every time I speak in my Roman Law Seminar among the Ph.D. candidates that make up the rest of the class. I remember feeling something similar when I first started at the Divinity School. Perhaps now it is finally beginning to fade.
Yale is such a wonderful place. I love it here, and I am already starting to look toward graduation with sadness. I would love to be able to stay here through my Ph.D., but I doubt my prospects. Not only is it extremely competitive, but it is my understanding that my age will be a severe disability to me on my applications. The rumor is that the Ph.D. programs here want students that are as young as possible.
I am, however, already trying to plan my next steps. This year is almost over, and I believe the next two years will fly by. At this point, I plan to submit Ph.D. applications only to the very top-tier programs, while simultaneously submitting applications to one-year master’s programs.
Right now, my top choices for Ph.D. work are Yale, Harvard, Duke, Notre Dame, Emory, and the University of Chicago. Princeton Theological Seminary may be on that list as well.
If I don’t get into those programs on the first go-round, I will try to get into a one-year advanced master’s program and retry the next year, potentially expanding the application pool. So, I also plan to submit applications to the STM program at Yale, the M.Phil. program at Cambridge, the M.St. program at Oxford, and the Th.M. program at Harvard.
This is all very preliminary, though, as I still need more time to learn about what Ph.D. programs are out there, and how well an additional one-year master’s will increase the competitiveness of my Ph.D. applications. I guess we’ll see. It’s all very exciting.
My summer plans to date have been to take Latin at Yale. Unfortunately, however, I’ve been running into issues in bringing that plan to fruition.
Financial Aid and Summer Classes
First, my GI Bill tuition benefit for the academic year is exhausted. I can still access the Yellow Ribbon matching program through the GI Bill, but the registrar doesn’t know if that program is available, as there usually is no financial aid available for summer terms. I’m waiting to hear back from her.
The other complication is that taking such classes will give me elective credit. While that may sound like a good thing, I understand that the GI Bill wants the registrar to verify that all courses are taken toward graduation. If I eat up my elective credits during the summer, I may be limited to the number of classes I can take later on.
I only have eighteen elective credit hours with which to work. Six hours of which must go toward an internship, and, if I do a thesis, three to six hours will go toward that. So, that could leave me with as few as six hours—two classes—to take for elective credits.
I’m not sure how that works, but, if the result is that I am limited by this rule to taking less New Testament credits than I would like to take—at this point, every future New Testament or language class that I take will be an elective—then I really don’t want to do that.
One option would be to take the classes without their counting toward my degree and paying for them out of pocket, just to have them on my transcript. Taking these classes at Yale, however, would yield a tuition bill of between $3,180 and $10,000, depending on the course. So, that’s really not feasible.
Summer Plans at U of A
In light of this, I applied to my old alma mater, the University of Arkansas, as a non-degree seeking summer student. U of A grants in-state tuition to any veteran honorably discharged within the past three years, so it would be quite affordable. My parents also live in the area—my father works at the University of Arkansas—so I’ll also have a free place to stay.
Fortunately, I was quickly accepted, and I decided to take German I and II over the summer. Unfortunately, however, I have last priority for registration for summer classes, so, if the classes fill up, I’ll be in a bit of a bind, and have to reformulate my summer plans.
Since classes don’t open for me to register until late May, that really puts me in a bad situation, as I won’t have time to make any other summer plans. So, we’ll see what happens. My current summer plans are, therefore, to take German I and II this summer at U of A. Then, I hope to take Intermediate German at Yale in the fall with the hope that I can get it to count as an Area V—Comparative and Culture Studies—course. We’ll see.
For now, however, these German classes will allow me to get some additional language courses for my transcript. This is one of the languages I need to know to earn a Ph.D., and having some demonstrated knowledge of it before I begin applying to Ph.D. programs will be helpful.
In the fall, I think I’m going to try to take French for Reading. It doesn’t count for anything toward my degree—not even elective credit. I would, however, like to have it on my transcript before submitting Ph.D. applications. So, if I’m able to show advanced Greek, Hebrew, and German classes, along with a semester studying abroad in German, a French for reading course, and at least one or two Latin courses before I submit my Ph.D. application, I think I should be right where I need to be, assuming I still have good grades.
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