Defining Goals and Limits - Part II

Monday, August 15, 2016

Designing a Plan for Selecting a Seminary

Deciding to go back to school is a big decision.  I needed to design a plan that enables me to efficiently and consistently evaluate different schools.

In formulating a plan upfront, I'll save a lot of time when I begin narrowing my school choices down.  In Part I of this post, I began discussing several questions.  So far I know; what my goals are, what kinds of programs I'm looking into, what kinds of schools I'm willing to consider, and that I'm looking for an online degree program.  Today, I'll pick up where I left off and finish discussing my seminary evaluation criteria.

Last Four Considerations

What tools or platforms am I going to use for online study?

I have more than a few concerns centered around the tools I’m going to be using to take my courses and interact with my instructors and peers. After all, I am living in Poland right now so I’m going to be pretty remote and time zones differences are going to make things difficult if I need help.  Some of my initial thoughts are:

  1. Can I access my materials on all of my mobile devices? 
  2. Do I have to attend a live stream or can I access my courses offline?
  3. Will connectivity be a problem from my location? 
  4. How am I going to interact and share information during my course?  
  5. What additional tools am I going to need to take classes online?
  6. Will I be able to access all the library and research information that I’ll need?
  7. Are there any demos that I can access to test my systems?
This topic is probably the most important practical consideration in choosing a school and degree program.  If I'm not able to easily consume the course material from my home, then I'll be dead in the water in terms of completing my course.

How much is the program going to cost and can I afford it?

It kind of goes without saying that school can be pretty expensive.  I wanted to know if I could meet the financial obligations that pursuing a degree would require.  Around this topic, I am thinking about things such as:
  1. Will I be eligible for any student aid? 
  2. Can I budget and meet the financial requirements while taking the minimum amount of credits required per year? 
  3. Do I know anyone who can help if I get in trouble? 
  4. Are there any opportunities for me to raise money to pursue this degree?

After going over the family finances I came up with a reasonable cost that I felt I could afford based on my current situation.  I am also thinking about ways I can budget and earn money specifically for school.

Currency exchange could be a significant risk to my plans and I am going to need to work out a backup plan if the exchange rates shift in an unfavorable direction.

How much time can I commit each semester to my studies?

Being a full-time husband, full-time dad, and full time professional, I don’t have an enormous amount of free time to being with.  I knew from the start, my pursuit of another degree is going to have to be done on a part-time basis.

I don’t see any way that I can commit to more than 6 credits per semester and I’m likely going to have to take 3 credits per semester most of the time.  I know that some schools do have minimum credit requirements in pursuit of a degree and a finite period of time to complete the degree.  So I need to make sure I can keep pace.

As a general rule of thumb from my engineering studies, each hour spent in class requires 4 hours of time spent working outside of class each week for an average student.  So 3 hours of class time in a week equates to 12 hours of coursework outside of class per week.

I apparently, wasn’t an average student and my personal experience was closer to 5 or 6 hours of coursework outside of class per credit hour.  Now, I don’t know how seminary is going to compare to my engineering programs, but let’s start with the assumption that I'm going to need 15 hours a week per 3 credit course.

We shall see how these assumptions actually work out, but at least it gives me a baseline for reference.  And I think I’m comfortable with 15 hours a week to start.

What are the doctrinal positions of the schools I'm considering?

This is without a doubt the most important question there is when choosing a seminary.  Doctrine matters.  While this can only be discovered when you consider a specific school, what a school affirms and commits to teaching is going to shape how I think and go about achieving my goals.

I can’t imagine a worse scenario than getting into an environment where what is being taught is in conflict with what I personally affirm about the Bible and about God.  Therefore, I am going to spend a lot of extra time looking at this when I start evaluating schools.

Ready to Start Researching Seminaries.

These are all items that I considered prayerfully and patiently to ensure I was moving in the right direction and for the right reasons.

Now I know what I need to evaluate in a seminary.  The only thing left to do is to actually begin looking at schools.  In retrospect, it is my firm belief, that the time I spent applying these considerations to my school research saved me countless hours of time.  It ensured that I maintained focus in my evaluation of schools and programs and gave me the framework I needed to finally make a decision.  I'll write more about this next time.

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