Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Where can M.T.S. applicants find answers to general questions about Graduate School Admissions?
Q. Where have graduating M.T.S. students been admitted to do doctoral work?
A. Over the past three years, M.T.S. students have been admitted to doctoral programs at Boston College, Catholic University of America, Duke University, Emory University, Fordham University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Loyola University in Chicago, Marquette University, Princeton University, the University of Chicago Divinity School, the University of Notre Dame, and Yale University. In many cases, students have received full tuition scholarships and generous stipends as well. See the Graduate School website for more specific data.
Q. Where do most M.T.S. students come from, both geographically and in terms of academic background?
A. We draw students from all parts of the United States and from all over the world. In recent years we have had students from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela, Australia, Canada, and Great Britain. We draw students from universities such Stanford, Duke, Univ. of Illinois, Georgetown, St. John's, Franciscan, and Columbia, and colleges such as William and Mary, Wheaton, St. Olaf, and Swarthmore.
Q. Do I have to be Roman Catholic, or come from a Roman Catholic school, to be admitted?
A. We welcome Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant students of all denominations and rites. We are committed to Notre Dame's Catholic mission, and that mission includes ecumenism. Thus we encourage all students interested in the study of Christian theology to apply.
Q: Do I need to have an undergraduate major in Theology to be accepted to the MTS program?
A: Our students come with a variety of undergraduate majors and there is absolutely no expectation that they will have a background in theology. Instead we would like to see a clear illustration of their interests for future theological study.
Q. Who makes the admissions decisions for the M.T.S. Program?
A. The faculty in each area reviews applications in early March. An official letter about the decision will be mailed to applicants shortly after, by mid-March.
Q. How many students apply to the M.T.S. Program? What is the size of each M.T.S. class?
A. Almost 200 students apply each year to the M.T.S. Program. We are able to offer admission to 25-30 students and place 5 students on a waitlist, in order to arrive at a class of approximately 20 students.
Q. How do the faculty and committee weigh the various aspects of my application, i.e., GRE scores, GPA and transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal statement?
A. We appreciate that not all students come from institutions with Theology programs and we welcome applications from students of any undergraduate discipline. GRE scores should be at least an aggregate of 1200 plus 4.5/6 (using the grading scale prior to Fall 2011) and your GPA should be at least 3.5. However, these are not strict requirements and we appreciate that in some cases excellent students will have lower scores or a lower GPA. In any case the GPA of courses most closely related to Theology (i.e., Philosophy, English, History, Languages, etc.) is particularly important. The core of the application, however, is the profile created by the statement of intent and the letters of recommendation.
Q. What are you looking for in the Statement of Intent?
A. Your statement of intent should be no more than two double-spaced, typewritten pages, in normal font (Times New Roman 12). In it, you should give us a clear and vivid understanding of how you came to be interested in the study of theology, why you want to pursue it at the graduate level, why you are interested in the area of study to which you are applying (e.g., Biblical Studies), and why you want to do the MTS at Notre Dame (in contrast to any other school). A successful statement of intent will make the case that you clearly fit in the MTS program at Notre Dame, and that you will both benefit from your two years here and will make a positive contribution to the program. We recommend that you work on your statement of intent with your advisor, or even all three of your recommenders, so that you might benefit from their advice, and so that their letters might match the interests you discuss in your statement.
Q. Is it necessary to have a major in theology or religion to be a serious applicant to the M.T.S. Program?
A. One of the advantages of the M.T.S. Program is that it allows us to admit students who have little prior experience in theology to prepare for doctoral studies in a two-year period. Applicants must have a clear idea what the academic study of theology involves, but we have had very successful students who come to us with math or science backgrounds, as well as students who come with backgrounds in theology and/or philosophy. We have found that the diversity of backgrounds in the student body leads to a greater amount of peer learning.
Q. Is this M.T.S. program appropriate for students with a M.Div. degree?
A. Yes. The M.T.S. program will allow students with M.Div. degrees to further their academic training and their preparation for Ph.D. programs. Students with M.Div. degrees are encouraged to apply.
Q. I am an international student, not a citizen of the United States. Is there anything I need to do if I am accepted to the M.T.S. Program?
A. Like all admitted students, international students will receive a full tuition scholarship for the M.T.S. program. However, the immigration service requires all foreign nationals who apply for student visas to demonstrate a certain level of assets or funding (in addition to any scholarship) to support them during their time in the US.
Q. Although my primary interest is in Theology, I am also interested in other disciplines. Is it possible to take courses in other departments for credit for my M.T.S. degree?
A. After consultation with one's MTS area advisor, it is possible, and at times advisable, for students to take courses outside the Theology Department, both for elective and distribution credits. M.T.S. students have taken graduate courses in Philosophy, English, Gender Studies, History, Classics, Government, Law, Music, the History and Philosophy of Science, the Medieval Institute, and Peace Studies. Although the bulk of your courses should be taken from Theology faculty, we encourage you to work with faculty from other departments and institutes in the university.
Q. I would like to have the opportunity to take doctoral courses during my time in the M.T.S. Program. Is this allowed?
A. After their first semester in the program, M.T.S. students have the opportunity to take doctoral classes both in the Theology Department and in other departments in the University. In fact, we recommend that every M.T.S. student take at least one such seminar during their time in the program. M.T.S. students need to obtain the permission of the instructor of the seminar, their area advisor and of the M.T.S. Director to take doctoral seminars.
Q. Although I am interested in the possibility of doctoral work in the future, I am not sure I want to go on for a Ph.D. right away after the M.T.S. Should I still apply to the program?
A. We have found that up to half of graduating M.T.S. students do not go on for doctoral work right away, but rather decide to teach theology at the high school level for a few years before going on. We have made both doctoral work and high school teaching the two objectives of the M.T.S. degree, and we are increasing the courses we offer to prepare students to be effective teachers, as well as effective researchers.
Q. I would like to study an intensive ancient or modern language this summer. What should I do?
A. Intensive languages—including German, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—are taught free of charge every summer for all degree-seeking master's students. Once you let the Graduate School know of your decision to come to Notre Dame, you may contact Cheron Price <firstname.lastname@example.org>, about how to register for the course and may take it the summer before classes begin, with an exam at the end of the course that counts as your Graduate Reading exam in that language. You may take another intensive language, again free of tuition costs, between your first and second year. The more languages you pick up in the next two years, the better your chances of being admitted into the Ph.D. program of your choice.
Q. Is there a master’s thesis or comprehensive examination required?
A. The M.T.S. does not have a thesis requirement, as that usually necessitates a reduction in course load, and we would rather our students take four courses in their final spring that write a thesis. However, in the fall semester of your second year, you may plan on taking a doctoral seminar in your area of concentration, so that you have that kind of experience before applying to doctoral programs. There is a comprehensive M.T.S. examination but it does not require any additional reading list. The M.T.S. exams are based entirely on course work and consist of an hour-long oral exam with three faculty members with whom you have studied, two in your area of concentration and one from the area most reflective of your interests outside your area of concentration. You are asked to submit a research paper from your area of concentration along with another paper from an area outside your concentration, and your statement of intent you have written or would write in application to a doctoral program or teaching position. These documents will not be the sole basis of the exam, but they will help the exam board get a clearer idea of your interests.
Q. I would like information regarding graduate student housing. Whom should I contact?
A. Notre Dame has a number of attractive on-campus housing options. Inquiries should be directed to the Housing Office, as our program does not handle housing. Please call the Office of Residence Life & Housing at 574- 631-5878 or see their website for more information.
Q. Do M.T.S. students work as teaching assistants? Can they take a part-time job during the school year?
A. We do not require any M.T.S. student to work as a teaching assistant since we would like their focus to be on course work and preparation for their future. However, most M.T.S. students will have the opportunity to take on a paid TA position the fall semester of their second year. Otherwise students may find a part-time job in a research capacity or in other capacities (although a student may not work more than twelve hours/week). We do not arrange employment for our students but there are lots of opportunities for work on campus.
Q. How long do I have to make a decision once I am admitted to the M.T.S. Program?
A. The University of Notre Dame, along with its peer schools, is a signatory to the Resolution of the Council of Graduate Schools. According to the Council, “The general spirit of the Resolution is that students should have an opportunity to consider more than one offer and should have until April 15 to do so, that institutions and students should be able to view acceptances in force after April 15 as binding, that everyone should know what the rules are, and that an offer by the institution and its acceptance by the student constitute an agreement which both expect to honor.
Q. When may I visit Notre Dame’s Theology Department to discern if I should apply to the program?
A. Prospective applicants are welcome to visit in the spring or the fall semester of the year before their application is due. We ask that applicants do not visit in the spring semester during which their applications are reviewed (admitted students discerning whether to accept our offer may come in March or April). During your visit you will have a chance to visit a class, meet students and faculty, and explore Notre Dame’s campus.
Q. I’ve been admitted to the MTS but am not able to make the trip to visit campus in March or early April. Would it be possible to visit campus sometime later to introduce myself to faculty and to observe a class?
A. Visits in March/early April are primarily designed for those who are still in the process of discerning whether they wish to attend Notre Dame or another school. Cheron Price (email@example.com) will help you make arrangements to meet students and professors and to learn more about life at Notre Dame in order to help your discernment. If you have already decided you want to come to Notre Dame, then the trip really is not necessary, and Cheron Price firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do all we can to introduce you to faculty and students when you arrive. When you make arrangements be sure to come on a day between Monday and Thursday (when we have a full range of classes), and not during Notre Dame’s spring break.
Q. Is it possible for me to change my mind after April 15 if I want to accept an offer from another institution?
A. According to the Council of Graduate Schools, “Another part of the Resolution concerns what happens after April 15. The intent seems clear: commitments in force after April 15 can be considered by the institution as binding. Students may still change their minds but this now requires obtaining a written release from the institution. Similarly, institutions that make offers to students after April 15 are to require the student to present a written release from any previous offer.
Q. What are the procedures that govern admission to the department's Ph.D. program for those in the M.T.S.?
A. The M.T.S. program prepares people to be admitted into the finest Ph.D. programs in the country, including our own. However, there is no formal linkage between the M.T.S. program and the Ph.D. program. Hence M.T.S. students will need to fill out the same application for our Ph.D. that students from other institutions do and will compete against a national pool of applicants. However, M.T.S. students will have the distinct advantage of being known by our faculty for over three semesters by the time they apply for the Ph.D. If they have done well here, that cannot but help their application. We make no promises to M.T.S. students regarding admission to the Ph.D., although we do believe our M.T.S. program is excellent preparation for doctoral work here or elsewhere.