Applying To Religious and Theological Studies School
There are two main options for pursuing religious and theological studies: a specifically faith-based institution or the religious studies or theology departments at secular schools. Sometimes this difference can affect the admission and application requirements you need. Admission requirements will also differ depending on whether you are applying to a private or public institution, whether you are applying to a 4-year or 2-year college, and whether you are applying to a school using the Common Application.
In terms of admission requirements, students applying to universities and colleges in the United States apply to the institution in general rather than to specific departments or programs. Generally, when applying to the institution, you list your intended major as your first choice. This does not mean you will get your first choice, so make sure you indicate several other options that you actually would like to take. Institutions -- particularly private versus public -- differ in their competitiveness, but each university or college usually has a rough threshold below which admission is unlikely. Therefore, students often apply to a range of schools.
Depending on the size and values of the 4-year institution, admissions criteria can vary from the formulaic and objective to more subjective factors regarding the student's "fit" for the school. In general, students are assessed according to the following: overall academic grades and GPA, grades related to their intended major, core grade point average (English, academic math, laboratory science, foreign language, speech), class rank, SAT or ACT score, personal statement, personal background and experiences, and information provided by the high school counselor. Institutions give different weight to these criteria: for example, some universities and colleges do not require or even accept the SAT for admission. In some cases, preference may be given to students from the institution's state, and some states require proof of immunization against certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Some Christian universities and colleges may also require letters of recommendation from your church, and religious studies or theology programs with field work or ministry components may ask for a criminal record check.
Students with a record of scholastic excellence in their first 3 years of high school may qualify for early enrollment, which involves a recommendation from your principal, approval from your parents as well as scores on academic tests. Some students, rather than being rejected outright, are "wait-listed" for a particular school and may be admitted if another student who was admitted decides not to attend.
While students apply to the institution and not the College or School, each College or School still maintains requirements that applicants must meet. This includes specific numbers of semesters of each core academic course: for instance, a College of Religious Studies might require 6 semesters of math, 4 of laboratory science, 8 of English, 4 of foreign language and 6 of social studies.
University and college semesters generally start in August or September for fall term and January for the winter term, and the application process itself usually begins in your senior year of high school. Generally this process involves submitting an online or print application form directly to the university or college by a specific deadline. Universities and colleges in the US usually have their own application forms, with the exception of institutions that use the Common Application. The Common Application can only be used to apply to member institutions (about 345 in the United States) which have agreed to use it. In the Common Application process, copies of online or print Application for Undergraduate Admission can be sent to any number of participating colleges. The same is true of the other required forms, which allows you to spend less time on applying for admission. Each member institution has a specific deadline for when they will accept the Common Application, and once a deadline has passed, you will no longer be able to submit your forms.
In both types of application you need to have your official high school transcripts sent directly to the institution from your high school, and you should be prepared to pay a non-refundable application fee of about $25-$70. Some schools will waive this fee if you use the online Common Application. Application deadlines are generally between November and January, and there may be specific deadlines for submitting your SAT score for scholarship consideration.
In addition, many universities and colleges have implemented a system through which students can apply at a time other than the most common deadline. This is called the Early Decision program, and it permits you to apply a few months early if you agree to attend the school if offered admission in mid-December. Early Decision does mean less choice, but it also means you only have to submit one application--if you get into your top choice. You can only back out Early Decision's binding agreement if the financial aid offered is not enough. Similarly, the Early Action program means you apply early and find out the results early, but you are not bound to the school if accepted. Within Early Action there are the single- and multi-choice subprograms: single-choice early action schools only allow you to apply early to one school while multi-choice early action schools let you to apply to many schools. Further, rolling admission is used by some schools with a large number of applicants. It means you can apply any time between the fall and spring and get your result a few weeks later. You therefore don't have to apply to all of your schools at the same time, but be aware: it means earlier applicants get first acceptance. So apply as soon as possible to your rolling admissions schools.
At the community college level, there are not as many secular colleges offering general religious studies; however, you find many specialty Christian colleges emphasizing spiritual formation, professional ministry and religious and/or theological studies. Christian colleges, which tend to be somewhat smaller than the universities, often specify that applicants meet both academic and spiritual requirements. Academically, a grade 12 diploma or its recognized equivalent is generally required. However, some colleges strive to be as inclusive as possible with an open admissions policy in which students are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. This policy does not require a particular GPA. Spiritual requirements might state that applicants must be Christian men and women who agree to certain doctrine, values and beliefs, and many Christian colleges do require reference form(s) to be completed by the appropriate person(s), and mailed directly to the Admissions office. You may be asked to sign a college's statement of belief or community commitment form as part of the application process. In some cases, a health and lifestyle questionnaire may be part of the application, and programs comprising ministry may require a specific church or pastoral reference.
No matter which way you apply, two things that are not required but highly recommended are a campus visit and interview with admissions counselor. Knowledge is power, so be sure to seek out the people and resources that can help you get as much information as possible before you apply to your religious and theological studies schools.
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