Admissions FAQ

What are the deadlines for submitting applications?

Application deadlines for Fall and Spring matriculation can be found here:  http://www.bu.edu/sth/admissions/application-process/deadlines-for-applications/

If you have any questions about the deadlines, please be in touch with the Admissions Office (sthadmis@bu.edu), 617-353-3036, or username “sthadmis” on Skype for a live chat when we are online.

Do I have to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

Master’s applicants to the School of Theology DO NOT have to submit GRE scores.  This includes applicants to the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, and Master of Sacred Theology degree programs.

Doctoral applicants may not waive the GRE requirement for any reason, even with a previously earned doctoral degree.  There is no minimum required score, but applicants with a cumulative score of 1250 and higher tend to fare better in the admissions process than those with scores lower than 1250.

International applicants to master’s level programs need not submit GRE scores. International doctoral applicants must submit GRE scores taken within the previous five years in addition to their current TOEFL scores.

How long should my Personal Statement be?

The personal statement requirements are different for master’s-level and doctoral-level applicants.  Master’s-level applicants are asked to provide a 500-word personal statement describing and reflecting on their life journeys and vocational directions.  In addition, they are asked for a 500-word essay on a favorite book or movie and how it is meaningful to them.

Doctoral-level applicants are asked to provide a 2000-word personal statement describing their goals in undertaking doctoral study, proposal of their research interests, and description of how their life experiences have prepared them for doctoral research.

If I do not attend a place of worship regularly how can I submit a reference from a clergy member?

Applicants who are not currently involved in a faith tradition, or who have not had a recent church home, are welcome to replace their “clergy letter” with a letter of reference from someone other than a pastor who can speak to the applicant’s leadership ability and ethical character.  One’s faith tradition, or lack thereof, does not have a negative bearing on admission to the School.

Can I be of a different faith and still come to the Boston University School of Theology?  Is it a Christian seminary?

The School of Theology is supported by the United Methodist Church, and is also both ecumenical and inter-faith.  There is a wide variety of theological opinion and expression represented in the student body.  Though the vast majority of students are Trinitarian Christian (as would be the case at most seminaries), there are students who are of different faiths—particularly Unitarian Universalists who do not identify as Christian, but also Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish students.  Even within the Christian population at the School there is vast diversity of theological opinion from fairly conservative to quite liberal.

As much as the School celebrates its theological diversity, it also celebrates an authentic sense of community through that diversity.  Community life is a unique aspect of the School of Theology because, though holding very different theological opinions, students are open to one another as people.

All that being true, it is important that non-Christian prospective students realize that the introductory classes they will take at the School of Theology present the Christian church and its theologians throughout history.  Courses in biblical studies, church history, and philosophy/theology will focus on the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Students are often able to negotiate what course papers and personal project topics will cover; however, all students will have to dialogue meaningfully with the Christian tradition.

What is the minimum TOEFL score for each type of the test?  What happens if I do not have the minimum score?

All students, for whom English is not a first language, must submit a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score taken within the last five years. The minimum TOEFL score for master’s level degrees (MDiv, MTS, MSM) is 570 on the written test, 230 on the computer-based test, and 89 on the internet-based test. Applicants for advanced degrees (STM, DMin, and ThD) should have considerably higher scores than these.  When sending your scores to Boston University School of Theology, use Institution Code 3233 and Department Code 99.

Boston University is pleased to have a fine Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP:  www.bu.edu/celop), which provides several English language and culture classes throughout the year.  International students who do not reach the minimum TOEFL requirements often study at CELOP for a semester or more to increase their English language capabilities.  If an applicant’s score is very near the required minimum (within a couple of points) and the rest of their application is exceptional, they may be considered for the “Bridge Program,” where admission to the the School is granted with the stipulation of one course taken at CELOP.  A few international students each year participate in this arrangement, studying at CELOP during the summer and matriculating into the the School in the fall.  CELOP programs also are available throughout the academic year.

Please note that if you are admitted through the CELOP Bridge Program, you will incur tuition charges for your CELOP courses in addition to tuition costs at the School of Theology.  For this reason most international applicants prefer to improve their TOEFL to the required minimum score prior to making an application to the School of Theology.

Do I have to interview in person before being accepted to the School of Theology?

It is not necessary to interview in person before being accepted into a degree program.  However, many prospective students find that a trip to the School of Theology provides invaluable information while making the decision of whether or not to pursue graduate theological study here.  Sometimes it is helpful to familiarize oneself to the School, its community of scholars, and its surroundings in person.  For this reason, applicants to the School of Theology are always welcome to visit.  Please see the “Visiting the School of Theology” page under the “Admissions” section of this site for more details on scheduling a visit to campus.

Can I transfer credits?  How can I be assured that my previous classes will transfer into a School of Theology’s degree program?

Students may transfer credits from any graduate theological school accredited by the ATS or other comparable accrediting agency if transferring from outside of North America. In every instance, course equivalents are determined on an individual basis, by petition, and only when that coursework is demonstrated to be relevant to the course of study being pursued in the School of Theology, as determined by the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, operating on behalf of the faculty. Applicants for transfer must include in their personal statement the reasons they are seeking a transfer, and must provide a recently-issued letter of good standing from the Registrar of their previous institution. Please see the following website for the full information on credit transfer:  http://www.bu.edu/sth/admissions/application-process/transfer-credit-policy/

What are the codes for the School of Theology used by GRE, TOEFL and MAT testing services?

When taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), Miller’s Analogy Test (MAT) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), it is important that prospective students tell the testing service to forward a copy of their scores to the School of Theology.  Please use the following codes for the School of Theology: GRE – R3070; MAT – 4902; TOEFL – 3233, Department 99.

Have all my credentials arrived yet?

The School of Theology Admissions Office monitors its applications regularly.  A system tracks what items have and have not arrived in an applicant’s file.  Once all items have arrived, the Admissions Office considers the application for admission, and word of the decision is sent to the applicant.

It is unnecessary for prospective students to check daily on the status of their files.  The Admissions Office will not contact an applicant when individual credentials arrive.  However, if some time has passed and the applicant’s file is not complete, the Admissions Office will be in touch with the applicant to let her or him know what credentials are needed to complete the application.

May I send my credentials electronically?

Yes!  In fact, during the online application process you will have the chance to upload or submit electronically every piece of your application.

Standardized test scores (GRE or TOEFL) are submitted electronically through the online application.  All standardized testing scores need to be received directly from the testing organization (ex. Educational Testing Service).  Standardized tests submitted by applicants are not considered official until we receive the official scores from the testing organization.

Requests for references are sent via email to the professors, pastors and colleagues who will write on your behalf.  These references should complete your reference via the website, and are able to upload an additional letter of recommendation directly to the application, if they want to do so.  To speed up your process of application, please encourage your references to complete your recommendations via the website and not through paper copies sent to the School of Theology Admissions Office.

Your Personal Statement and Essay are both submitted electronically through the online application.

You will be asked to upload copies of your transcripts from all previous institutions where you have earned academic credit to your online application. Please make sure that the uploaded transcripts are oriented vertically wherever possible. The file size of any scanned transcripts must be shrunk to 500KB or less to be able to be uploaded to your application (instructions for shrinking file size are readily available online). Should you be provisionally-admitted to the School of Theology you will be asked to submit an official copy of your transcripts before matriculation.

If you are a United Methodist Candidate for Ordination, you should submit a letter of verification directly to the online application.

Do I need to complete a separate application form to be considered for scholarships?

Yes, all students who wish to receive financial aid must complete the STH Financial Aid Application.  Depending on the type of scholarship the student receives or if they wish to apply for federal loans, the FAFSA may also be required.  Please see here for full instructions and application links.

A note on Merit Scholarships:  If you complete your application by the Priority Admissions Deadline (February 1st) and are a domestic student with a 3.3 cumulative GPA or above from your most recent academic institution, you will be considered for merit-based scholarships.  These awards are made on the basis of a student’s credentials, original application to the School, and an online video interview.  Details about how to complete the video interview are sent directly to eligible prospective students during the third week of February, and they are given a week’s time to complete the assignment.  During the first week of March these credentials are considered together (original application materials and video interview), and faculty award the Scholarships for Merit at that time.

Who is considered for scholarships?  If I have below a 3.3 GPA will I receive any financial help?

The School of Theology’s tuition is significantly lower than the tuition of other schools and colleges within Boston University.  Every seminarian benefits appreciably from this reduced tuition cost.  Need-based Tuition Scholarships are provided to nearly all full-time School of Theology students once they are accepted into a degree program, in addition to the already-reduced School of Theology tuition costs.

Applicants whose applications are completed by the Priority Admission Deadline are eligible to receive the following tuition scholarships:

100% for master’s-level applicants who are UMC Candidates for Ordained Ministry.  (To receive this financial award students must provide a letter from a District Superintendent, Board of Ordained Ministry member, Candidacy Mentor, Bishop, or Annual-Conference-level Ecclesiastical Superior stating that the student has completed the “Candidacy Guidebook” and publicly declared Candidacy in the United Methodist Church.)

70% for admitted Master of Divinity students

55% for admitted Master of Theological Studies or Master of Sacred Music students

35% for admitted Master of Sacred Theology students

100% for all admitted doctoral students, with additional $5,000 – $10,000 living stipends offered based on admissions rank

Domestic applicants whose cumulative Grade Point Average from an undergraduate or graduate degree program is above a 3.3 will be considered for Scholarships for Merit, as well.  Scholarships for Merit range from full tuition to full tuition plus a stipend of up to $10,000 annually.  Scholarship for Merit decisions are made each March on the basis of the strength of the prospective student’s application materials and an online video interview.

I am an international student without financial resources.  Is there a scholarship available to cover the cost of my time in Boston?  Do I really have to have documentation of financial support, and how much?

It is necessary to stress the importance of the Letter of Financial Support for all international students who apply.  All international applicants must provide documentation of significant financial resources available to that student during their time of study at Boston University.  This documentation is necessary for the U.S. Government to grant a visa for study.  The letter of support may come in the form of a personal bank account statement showing the amount of funds available, or a letter from a family member, friend, or supporting agency (for example, a church).  The amount of support required for a student to show depends on the current cost of living and the amount of family members the student intends to bring to Boston (more financial support is required for a family to come to the states than an individual person, for example).

The School of Theology makes some tuition scholarships available to its international students; however, these scholarships do not reduce or replace the amount of financial sponsorship required to obtain a student visa.  Ultimately, each international student must have this significant amount of financial support at his or her disposal before being granted a student visa.  This is to ensure that a student does not run into financial difficulty once here in Boston.  This fact should encourage all international applicants, if necessary, to seek financial sponsorship as soon as possible during their application process.

Occasionally international students arrive in the Boston area and find that their sponsorship funds that were promised to them previously are no longer available to them.  When this happens the student is in a very difficult situation because the School is unable to provide additional financial help to them, and they often must return home to try to secure sponsorship once again.  Applicants should make sure that their sponsorship funds will be available to them before making an application to the School of Theology, or they may not be able to complete their programs.