Here’s how to get into a seminary PhD program without an accredited Bachelor’s degree. It took three years of applying and being rejected, but I’ve been accepted into two PhD programs in Systematic Theology: Westminster Theological Seminary Philadelphia (WTS) and Southern Baptist Theology Seminary (SBTS). I start the PhD program in Systematic Theology at SBTS in the Fall of 2013. (I chose SBTS over WTS because I love my church family, and would hate to leave them to pursue studies in Philadelphia. My mother is also sick, and I would hate to move 10 more hours away from her).
I have a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, IN. They’re unaccredited, but I learned much truth here. When I pursued this degree, I just wanted to get done with school so I could do ministry. (My mother hounded me to get an education. She would pay for it if I just finished. I was a spoiled punk and didn’t know it.) I graduated with a 3.5 GPA.
Then, I attended Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, VA. They recognized Trinity courses even though they were unaccredited. However, since my Bachelor’s was unaccredited, I had to keep a high GPA my first semester in order to continue at LBTS. I graduated with an M.A.R. in Biblical Studies with a 3.7 GPA.
Then, I transferred to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I graduated with an M.Div. in Christian Ministry with a 3.7 GPA.
Near graduation, I applied for the PhD program in Systematic Theology at SBTS. I took the GRE and made a 460 Verbal and a 4.5 on the writing. SBTS rejected my application, but admitted me into the Th.M. program. I started my Th.M. in Systematic Theology at SBTS immediately.
A year rolled by and I took the GRE again, receiving a 550 verbal and a 5.0 on the writing. My current GPA in my Th.M. was a 3.5. I applied to the PhD programs at Calvin Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Westminster Philadelphia. Calvin and Trinity rejected me. Westminster offered me admittance into their Th.M. program. SBTS rejected me.
Another year rolled by and I finished all the coursework in my Th.M. All that was left was to write my thesis. I did not take the GRE again. My current GPA in my Th.M. was a 3.75. I applied to Calvin Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Westminster Philadelphia, and SBTS. Calvin and Baylor rejected me. Westminster and SBTS accepted me into their PhD programs.
To summarize, here were my credentials when SBTS and WTS accepted me into their PhD programs:
B.A. in Biblical Studies from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary: 3.5 GPA
M.A.R. in Biblical Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary: 3.7 GPA
M.Div. in Christian Ministry From Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: 3.7 GPA
Th.M. (ABT) in Systematic Theology from SBTS (including 2 doctoral seminars. I received an “A” and a “B+” in these courses): 3.75 GPA
GRE: 550 Verbal, 5.0 writing
Academic References: Stephen Wellum (SBTS), Bruce Ware (SBTS), and Paul Helm (Regent)
Research Paper that Dr. Ware gave an A-
Finally, it is possible to get into a reputable seminary PhD program with an unaccredited Bachelor’s degree, but the road is longer and harder. I recommend you pursue an accredited Bachelor’s degree. If you already have an unaccredited Bachelor’s degree, pursue your masters degrees with confidence. Earn the best grades possible (without neglecting your family and other responsibilities). When you apply for PhD programs, you’ll need references from professors you’ve studied under. If you do well in their courses, they’ll give you a better reference. Also, you’ll need to submit your best research paper that shows you’re capable of doctoral level research and reasoning. If you are unable to get into a PhD program the first time, ask the schools you’ve applied to if they’ll admit you into their Th.M. program. In the Th.M. program, you can take a few doctoral seminars, which will prove if you are capable of PhD level work. Once professors know you and become familiar with your work, you’ll have a better chance getting into the PhD program (since professors heavily influence your admittance). The class I had right before I applied the final time to the PhD program at SBTS was a doctoral seminar in Theology Proper with Dr. Bruce Ware. I made an “A” in the class. Dr. Ware recommended me to the various PhD programs I applied to. In my interview at SBTS prior to admittance into the PhD program, Dr. Wellum, Dr. Ware, and Dr. Brand interviewed me. Two of these three men had taught me recently. They did not ask me many questions since they already knew me. I’m attending SBTS in the Fall of 2013 for a PhD in Systematic Theology. Dr. Ware is my adviser. Remember that I was rejected two years in a row. If you really want to pursue a PhD at a reputable seminary, don’t give up. If you get rejected the first few times, pursue what education you can, increase your GPA, your academic references, and hopefully your GRE score. Then, apply again.
What do you call a student who gets rejected two years in a row by SBTS, but accepted the third year? Answer: A PhD Student!
What are your thoughts?