As a junior in college, one thing you have to consider is a grad school. Do you plan to go on and fulfill your education or not? Which grad schools are the best? Which ones should be considered? Which ones should I pass on? Yes, there are a lot of schools out there that are really good that you have to pass on. One important thing to consider is what area of focus you want to take. For instance, if you are interested in theology or religion or history like I am, you need to consider what focus you want to take.
In religion, you have to consider whether you like an historical angle, a philosophical angle, a modern angle, etc. This means that you might consider a graduate degree in history of religion. Or maybe philosophy of religion. Or religion in the modern world. Etc. There is more than one way and you need to consider that. I am a double major in history and religious studies so I might consider something dealing with religious or theological history. Maybe history of theology, history of religion, or Church history.
Another thing to consider is what you want your education experience to be like. There are private and public schools. There are really good schools as well. You should explore the various different school websites and look at the faculty there and maybe do some research on them. Are they from good schools? Where do their students end up? Are they liberal, conservative, or moderate? Remember, you don’t have to be a conservative to admire conservative schools and a conservative can still be a serious conservative at a liberal school. From Cambridge, there are conservatives such as Eamon Duffy and Rowan Williams. From Oxford comes Alister McGrath, Kallistos Ware, N.T. Wright, and Richard Dawkins. Yale has given us Jaroslav Pelikan.
Another thing to consider is Churches, Mosques, Temples, or Synagogues nearby the school. If you have a religious tradition that you want to maintain or are considering exploring another religious tradition, you might want to consider the locations of the religious buildings used for gathering. As an unofficial convert to the Greek Catholic faith, I may want to find a Byzantine Rite Catholic Church in the area of the school I want. Although as an unofficial convert to Catholicism in general, I may want to consider exploring a Roman Rite, Maronite Rite, Chaldean Rite, etc. Church in the school’s area as well. There are actually many Roman Catholics who attend the Greek Catholic Church I go to right now. And they attend it regularly. The most important thing for a mystic is his or her gymnasium.
Another important thing to consider is whether the school is known for that field you are studying. Having said that, the following are some of the schools that I have decided to consider and my overall negatives and positives with all of them.
Princeton University – Princeton, New Jersey
It certainly looks strong. They practically invented the field of modern religious studies as we know it. They are quite liberal. Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels both went there (Pagels teaches there). But they also have a theological seminary. It’s run by Presbyterians though which means you’ll have Calvinist heresies such as penal substitution theory spouted at you left and right. So you can get a pretty good study of the history of religion from there and despite Calvinism, it still offers a good theological seminary nevertheless. That is a consideration. However, neither their religion or history program look any good. This is, of course, speaking of their main campus and not their theological seminary. They offer history on a geographical basis and not a religious focus and their religion programs seem to look at more of a modern angle with less of a focus on the history of said religions. So I think I will pass on Princeton.
Yale University – New Haven, Connecticut
While it definitely a better school than the dirt bucket of Arizona State University I go to right now, unfortunately, it’s focus is more general and less specific. They offer both history and religious studies but they never focus on which religious studies you are doing. Definitely will be a lot more than what I’m getting in these two subjects right now with plenty of breadth and depth, but not the concentration I’m focusing on.
Harvard University – Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvard has a divinity school that would probably have a lot more to offer than something like Fuller Theological Seminary or Grand Canyon University which my parents have recommended me (I really don’t consider Evangelical Protestant seminaries though since I think they’re not objective). That would be interesting to consider. However, I prefer the historical approach to theology and religion.
Notre Dame – St. Joseph County, Indiana
Notre Dame has lots of areas for theology and early Christian studies programs. However, I would feel bereft only looking into Christianity and how it developed without looking at other religions around it first. Although I might change my mind.
Franciscan University of Steubenville – Steubenville, Ohio
This university would offer me a focus in Catholic theology or philosophy. I might consider philosophy or at least an area near it. It could be argued that theology is philosophy. Although some might dispute. If I do go for a degree in philosophy though, it would probably be a Ph.D.
Ave Maria – Ave Maria, Florida
The only problem with Ave Maria that I have is that its focus and scope are limited to Thomism. While I don’t mind Thomism, I am more of a Molinistic Arminian and so I would feel kind of odd studying there. Although at least I wouldn’t be treated as heretical like I would if I were to study at Princeton Theological Seminary, I think that Ave Maria University has much too narrow a focus for my taste.
Florida State University – Tallahassee, Florida
This university is pretty big and well-known for having students with scholarships. They also provide a wide variety of courses and concentrations to study in including history and ethnography of religion. If I recall reading somewhere, they’ve sent people off to places like Oxford and have had people from Harvard as well. Of course, what Church would I attend? There’s no Greek Catholic Church in the area. However, there is a Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps I could gain some experience in the Roman Rite by attending Florida State University.
Catholic University of America – Washington, D.C.
The Catholic University of America is a private school that is highly accredited and often times underrated. It’s also eco-friendly! It has fields of study on Church history and historical theology. There is a Ukrainian Catholic Church 0.3 miles away from it! Which means there is an easy and accessible Greek Catholic Church nearby to it that I can attend.
That said, I think my current plans right now are to attend Florida State University and pick up a Master’s there and then head over to the Catholic University of America to pick up a Ph.D. in Church History, an S.T.D. (no, not that kind) in historical theology and perhaps even a Ph.D. in philosophy as well. These are things I’m considering right now and I have a long life ahead of me so I better start with some sort of plan!
I think that languages I would study would include Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, German, and Arabic. I may also want to go for an Master’s in philosophy as well as the Ph.D. in philosophy.