Q: Where do most MTS 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. At least two students each year come from countries in Africa. In recent years we have had students from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela, Australia, Canada, and Great Britain. We draw students from both private and public universities as well as liberal arts colleges. In recent years students from Boston College, Chicago, Christendom College, the College of the Holy Cross, Creighton, Columbia, Cornell, Emory, Hillsdale, Hope, Notre Dame, Princeton, Rice, Thomas Aquinas College, Wake Forest, Washington, Wheaton, Valdosta State, Villanova, and Yale have become part of the MTS program. Several students also enter the program after having done graduate work elsewhere, such as the Franciscan School of Theology, Gordon-Conwell, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Yale Divinity School.
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 requirement or expectation that they will have an undergraduate degree in theology or religious studies. Instead, we would like to see a clear illustration of their interests for future theological study.
Q: Who makes the admissions decisions for the MTS program?
A: There is no general MTS admissions committee. The faculty in each area reviews applications and makes decisions on admissions. In general, students are notified regarding the status of their applications by no later than mid-March.
Q: How many students apply to the MTS program? What is the size of each MTS class?
A: The number of applications varies significantly year by year, with as many as 200 individuals applying one year and as few as 100 the following year. For the past seven years, we have received an average of slightly less than 150 applications per year. We aim to admit a class of 20 students each year. In general, an applicant’s chances of being offered admission are approximately 15%.
Q: How do members of the faculty 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. In general, for the purposes of admission, “the higher one’s GRE scores and GPA, the better.” We prefer GRE scores that are in the upper quintile for both verbal and quantitative reasoning (in general, a score of 160 or higher on each part of the exam). For the analytical writing part of the exam, we expect scores of at least 4.5 and strongly prefer scores of 5.0 or better. The cumulative GPA should be at least 3.5. However, these scores and grades are not strict requirements, and we appreciate the fact that excellent students in some cases 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 (Personal Statement)?
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., Systematic Theology), 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: How long should the writing sample be and is the subject matter important?
A: We recommend submitting a writing sample of some 10-15 pages in length. Quality is more important than quantity. A good writing sample demonstrates the applicant's ability to do serious research and to present the results of that research in a clear and persuasive manner. The subject matter of the writing sample should be some topic in the humanities (such as art history, history, literature, or philosophy), though papers dealing with issues involving theology or religious studies are preferred.
Q: Is it necessary to have an undergraduate major in theology or religion to be a serious applicant to the MTS program?
A: One of the advantages of the MTS program is that it allows us to admit students who have little prior experience in theology. Applicants must have a clear idea what the academic study of theology involves, but we have had very successful students who came to us with math or science backgrounds, as well as students who came 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: I would like to have the opportunity to take doctoral courses during my time in the MTS program. Is this allowed?
A: After their first semester in the program, MTS students have the opportunity to take doctoral classes both in the Theology Department and in other departments at the University. In fact, we recommend that every MTS student take at least one such seminar during their time in the program. To take doctoral seminars, MTS students need to obtain the permission of the instructor of the seminar, their area advisor, and the MTS director.
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 MTS. Should I still apply to the program?
A: We have found that approximately half of graduating MTS students do not go on for doctoral work right away. They decide to do additional graduate work, to serve the Church in various capacities, to teach theology at the high school level, or to pursue other career options. They sometimes do this for a few years, then pursue doctoral work, or they decide to use their theological training in different fields.
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, and Greek—are taught free of charge every summer for all degree-seeking MTS students. Once you let the Graduate School know of your decision to come to Notre Dame, you should contact Cheron Price to find out how to register for the course. You may take the course the summer before classes begin for your first full year in the program. 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 required?
A: The MTS 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 semester than 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.
Q: Do MTS students work as teaching assistants? Can they take a part-time job during the school year?
A: We do not require any MTS student to work as a teaching assistant (TA) since we would like their focus to be on coursework and preparation for their future. However, most MTS students will have the opportunity to take on a paid TA position at some point during their two years in the program. Otherwise, students may find a part-time job in a research capacity or in other capacities at the university or off-campus. We do not arrange employment for our students, but there are lots of opportunities for work on campus. Please note: The University of Notre Dame and the Graduate School limit the number of hours that full-time students may work.
Q: How long do I have to make a decision once I am admitted to the MTS program?
A: Students have until April 15 to make a decision. The University of Notre Dame is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and a signatory to its Resolution regarding offers of admission and financial support. According to this Resolution, “Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution. In those instances in which a student accepts an offer before April 15, and subsequently desires to withdraw that acceptance, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. However, an acceptance given or left in force after April 15 commits the student not to accept another offer without first obtaining a written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer. It is further agreed by the institutions and organizations subscribing to the above Resolution that a copy of this Resolution or a link to the URL should accompany every scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, and assistantship offer.”
Q: Do you encourage campus visits by prospective applicants and those who have been admitted to the MTS program?
A: We welcome campus visits from those who are considering applying to the MTS program and encourage prospective students to visit during the spring or the fall semester of the year before their application is due. Those who are interested in visiting campus should contact Ms. Cheron Price, Graduate Studies Coordinator for the program, to arrange a convenient time to visit classes and to meet with the MTS director, faculty in their area of interest, and current students in the program.
We also welcome campus visits by those who have been offered admission to the MTS program and are in the process of discerning whether to accept our offer. Such students should plan to come during March or early April, and they contact Ms. Cheron Price for assistance in arranging their visit.