Our HDS Admissions Blog has served many a prospective student during the application and matriculation process. I’ve compiled an annotated list of the posts that were most helpful to me during the anxious period between submitting my application, hearing back about The Decision in mid-March, and making my decision to matriculate in April. I do hope that these posts will bring comfort and insight to those awaiting decisions, those only beginning to consider HDS, and even those of us already spending evenings in Andover Library, searching for a sense of renewal in a new semester. Continue reading
If I had to describe my journey to Harvard Divinity School, I would refer to the words of Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, in which he states: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Over time, I’ve adopted this understanding of my calling to the world and weaved Buechner’s words through my narrative.
As a high school student, while working at a local non-profit interfaith coffee shop, I remember thriving in an environment that encouraged musings, followed wanderings, and above all, valued global social justice. After graduation, I began to work my way through my undergraduate program, where I brought my musings to a campus that allowed me to grow in my passion for social justice. Eventually, I followed my wanderings to Limpopo, South Africa, where I was able to actively collaborate with local community members in working towards community social justice goals. Near the end of my undergraduate career, my musings and wanderings combined with my passion for social justice, led me to consider the intersection of my deep gladness and the world’s hunger. With these questions, I began to consider continuing my education through the means of Divinity School or seminary, but not without question… lots and lots of questions.
I struggled to decide if my desires were best fit for a traditional seminary or a Divinity School. My hyper-Type A personality had me buried in pro-con lists, researching schools around the country, while continuing to ask where I wanted my theological education to lead me. Last November, in the midst of these lists and research, I found myself as a participant in HDS’ Diversity and Explorations Program (DivEx). I approached DivEx with the same explorative attitude, passion, and flexibility that I carried from my previous experiences and here, I discovered the welcoming community, innovative thinking, and tremendous resources that HDS has to offer.
During DivEx, the time I spent in conversation with professors, administrators, current and prospective students, and various other leaders, guided my search for a theological education. It was here that I had the opportunity to sit with other DivEx participants to discern my direction in the world. DixEx has so much to offer: class visits, admissions and financial aid information sessions, and community events that provide an authentic sense of the atmosphere at HDS. In my DivEx experience, my most valuable conversations happened naturally, such as over a cup of coffee, or around the dinner table, where professors and students truly embodied the openness of the HDS community.
These colorful conversations are what I continued to think about months later; I still carry these conversations to my classes today. The direction of my education developed from these friendships. In this space of people devoted to social-justice, myself and my fellow DivEx participants come willing to cultivate conversation, explore musings, and embrace wanderings.
As you embark on the journey of considering theological education, I urge you to nurture your musings, follow your wanderings, and let your ‘deep gladness’ lead you. I invite you to listen as you share a meal with those around you, and use conversations as guideposts in your discernment as you continue to ask where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet. If you are participating in DivEx this year, or thinking about applying to DivEx next year, I hope that you find value beyond the surface, and your conversations lead you to clarity in your discernment.
All the best on your journey,
Samantha Melton, M.Div. ’19
I have had an existential crisis every semester since coming to Harvard Divinity School.
Though it may not seem like it, this is meant to be a celebration of HDS and an encouragement to come here, rather than a complaint and deterrent. And to be fair, I have yet (knock on wood) to have one of these existential crises this semester, though I think the one I had in the spring was big enough to count for both spring and fall semesters.
…you’re probably wondering why on earth I think all this upheaval is a good thing, and especially why I think this is a reason you should come to HDS.
In my first semester here, I realized that I no longer wanted to get a PhD, my academic goal for the previous 5 years, and that I wanted to pursue the Master of Divinity degree, not the Master of Theological Studies degree. In the spring, I discovered that I was a Unitarian Universalist, rather than spiritual-but-not-religious, the label I had happily claimed for several years. In the fall of my second year, after some hesitation and resistance, I accepted the fact that I was moving towards ordination and ministry, a path I had never even remotely considered even a year before. And, that spring, I cried from the pulpit in Memorial Church as I admitted to my preaching class that I had recently come to terms with the fact that I believe in God.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why on earth I think all this upheaval is a good thing, and especially why I think this is a reason you should come to HDS. To put it starkly, I believe that if you leave HDS as the exact same person you were when you arrived, HDS has failed you.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean major crises at every turn, and it doesn’t even mean you leave on a different career path or with a different worldview than when you started. Plenty of people come in with a plan and leave still following that plan; plenty of people come in affiliated with one religion (or none) and leave with the same affiliation. But I think very few people leave without questioning something about themselves or their plan, and I think this is a good thing!
Given the interesting, intelligent people who are here at HDS, and the diversity of experiences, worldviews, and thoughts that they all have, I can’t imagine being here, exposed to all these, and not changing in some way.
The world needs ministers and professors and non-profit managers who are doing what they’re doing because they’ve questioned it and decided it’s exactly what they want to do. Better to have that questioning happen in graduate school rather than the first time things get hard on the job. Crises on the job are easier to handle if you already feel solidly that you’re doing the right thing, even if it’s hard. And existential crises are best handled in a supportive environment, full of people who want to help, and even people whose jobs it is to help you figure it all out.
Given the interesting, intelligent people who are here at HDS, and the diversity of experiences, worldviews, and thoughts that they all have, I can’t imagine being here, exposed to all these, and not changing in some way. The big picture end-goal may be the same when you enter and when you leave, but I would hope that in between, you spend a lot of time thinking and wondering about who you are and what you want to do. I firmly believe this is what will help you become your best self.
I came to HDS happy with who I was and confident in my career path. I’ll be leaving feeling like I’m exactly who I’m meant to be, and not being able to imagine another career path that fits me so well. And that is thanks to HDS and the amazing people and experiences that exist here that I get to go into the world, ready to take it all on.
Harvard Divinity School students come from an array of different ages, ethnicities, and religious and secular backgrounds. When I first visited HDS on Admitted Students Day, I was delighted to find a diverse student body and especially excited to find a Muslim community here, to call my spiritual home.
Do you love window shopping and trying on clothes to see how they fit? Or do you get overwhelmed when there are too many choices? Well, at Harvard Divinity School, the first week of the semester is Shopping Period: where you get to go to all the classes that sound interesting and try them on to see which ones you like best—and, yeah, it can be overwhelming. Continue reading
So you’re considering Divinity School, hmm?
First, congratulations. In my experience, people don’t normally up and decide to pursue graduate work in religion on a whim, so you’ve probably been poking around the discernment process (I love that word, discernment) for a bit now, and have sussed out some direction from the ether. You’ve braved the quirked eyebrows (Divinity School? What’s that?), maybe even a few interesting queries/comments, depending on your interests and your background (for me, coming as a predominantly non-religious female from an extended-family of Catholics, this mostly coalesced around the assumption Oh, so you’re becoming a nun!).