Grad School Reflections

woman with graduation cap
Was it worth it? I'm still deciding.

On Saturday I will graduate with my master’s in Old Testament Biblical Studies from Denver Seminary. After three (plus) long years, I am finally done. I have moved for this degree, gotten poor for this degree, tried to learn the Greek verbal system for this degree, and cried for this degree. Was it worth it? I’m still deciding. There’s a lot to ponder as I wrap up my graduate career. If you’re thinking of going to grad school sometime in the future, here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Be Confident About Your Degree

When I graduated from college, my dad thought I should go on for my master’s right away. My undergraduate degree was in journalism, so I probably would have continued on to a master’s in journalism the very next fall. I thought about it, but decided against it — choosing to go to the Focus Leadership Institute instead. It was a wise choice. While I was there, I did a magazine internship and then ended up getting a job as an assistant editor for a new college webzine. I eventually became the editor of that webzine, and when that job ended, my experience made it easy for me to get another job writing curriculum. During my years as a working professional, I definitely learned more about my writing style, but I also became fascinated with the Old Testament and learning more about the culture of the Bible. That is what eventually led me to Denver Seminary and my Old Testament degree. If I had gone to grad school immediately after college, I would have pursued a master’s in something I wasn’t fully interested in. Grad school is a lot of work, so it’s worth it to feel passionate about what you’re studying and why you’re studying it.

Know Your School and Program

I chose to go to seminary, which is different from many master’s programs. My degree was more than 60 credits, and for my specific program, I had to take a six-hour comprehensive exam and write a thesis. Some programs require fewer credits, projects versus theses, oral exams versus written comps, etc. Know the amount of time you are willing to take to complete your program and the requirements you will have to fulfill along the way. Visit your school, and see what the campus and faculty are like. You’ll be spending a lot of time there, so you want to make sure it’s an environment you’re comfortable in. If you’re considering seminary, learn about the theological beliefs and practices. Some seminaries are super conservative, and others are quite liberal. Learn what you can about the beliefs promoted by the school and what the professors say about the Bible.

Prepare for Your Life to Change

I moved from Colorado Springs to Denver to go to grad school. I also quit my full-time job and became a freelance contractor. Not everyone’s life changes so drastically for a master’s program, but it’s possible. I have gone from a steady income to piecing together work so that I had time to sit in the school library for 12 hours each day, writing about the Exodus motif in Scripture. (Why did I choose to do this?!) I have accrued debt, which is something I never had before now. I have stumbled through three languages and multiple theology classes. I have cried a lot. My life is very different right now from what it was three years ago. My life is different, but not in a bad way. Yes, I have debt and painful memories of parsing Hebrew verbs. But I know so much more about the story God is telling in His Word. I have come to appreciate the complexity and continuity of the biblical text. I have made wonderful new friends, been blessed by a Gospel-driven church, taught Old Testament classes at the college level, and met an amazing man — all because of my decision to go to grad school and move to Denver.

There is still a lot for me to process as I graduate. I don’t know what is next for me career-wise. I often wonder if I will end up doing a job I could have done without this degree. But even if I do, I am grateful for what I have learned. Learning more about the Bible, being forced to grapple with the Scripture and singing the words of the Shema in the original language, are wonderful things. Overall, I have been blessed by the time I spent getting my master’s.

What has been your experience with grad school? Do you recommend it or not? Are you pondering grad school? What are your pros and cons?

Copyright 2013 Denise Morris Snyder. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Denise Morris Snyder

Denise Morris Snyder is a mom, wife and part-time discipleship pastor at CrossRoads Church in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. She previously worked as an editor for Focus on the Family and a writer for David C Cook. She has her Master’s in Old Testament Biblical Studies from Denver Seminary.

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