A Theology Student’s Guide to Financial Aid
When attaining a degree in theology, it’s important to remember that many theology students don’t just earn a bachelor’s degree – they go on to get a master’s degree or even a doctorate. This is important to remember because of how much schooling is actually required to make use of the degree. There are just not many opportunities available to those with merely an undergraduate degree in theology.
Going on to a master’s degree and/or a PhD is the only way to get a serious job in this field, in most cases. As a result, when you’re in school for that long, your tuition bills add up in a hurry and this is nothing to take lightly! Financial aid is helpful to allow you to attend school with as few student loans as possible and allow you to chase dreams that might have not been available otherwise. What kind of financial aid is available for theology students?
Here are just a few of the options that are definitely worth exploring:
One of the most common types of financial aid for any kind of student is the scholarship. Scholarships are given to students who show merit, and each has its own requirements. Some of the things that could be considered if you apply for a scholarship include your academic achievements, volunteer work, church activities, musical or artistic talents, and minority status. In this case, it’s strongly recommended to explore your own program’s offerings in terms of scholarships, many times they’re program or college specific within a university.
In order to earn a scholarship, you could also be required to write an essay about your future goals, the role of religion in your life, or another topic related to your education. This not only helps you better establish yourself within the program you’re in, but it also many times allows for important self-reflection on important questions such as, “Why am I majoring in Theology?” and many others. An ample amount of local churches and other houses of worship also offer scholarships for students, so even though national scholarships get more press, don’t forget to also check with local sources. They’re often much less picked over compared to those you will be competing with intensely when the scope is larger.
Grants are similar to scholarships in many ways, but rather than being available to students who show merit, it is available to students who show financial need. Increasingly, with the cost of higher education skyrocketing at an unparalleled rate, students will need to expend all their resources to locate ways to fund an education. As an undergraduate student, you may be eligible for the Pell Grant if you can show that your family meets financial need requirements. You can also find grants from other organizations, many times independent from the rigorous scholarship application requirements.
As you move into graduate degree programs, you can also apply for grants to complete specific research projects. This is a great way to move towards a graduate degree, but still ensure financial stability during the process. Some organizations also offer grants that are available for renewal every year until you graduate, as long as you continue to meet financial requirements and keep your grades high while in school. These renewable grants prove to be an incredibly lucrative route to pursue if possible, largely due to reducing the burden and time spent locating financial resources.
Fellowships are like scholarships, but available only for graduate degree students. Most fellowships also require you to work while in college as a research or teaching assistant or to complete specific research projects while in school. It’s still an incredible opportunity for those able to attain one and should not be overlooked. Fellowships are most commonly available directly from your college, but in some cases, outside organizations offer them as well, so make sure to explore all the available options when considering this route.
You can also find fellowships for theological study abroad in some cases and it’s an awesome way to get around the globe and have your school or another organization foot the bill. Additionally, even though you might not qualify for scholarships anymore as a doctorate student, fellowships are readily available and she be pursued.
If all else fails and you’re still trying to bridge the gap in finances, it’s important to remember the wide availability of loans for students of all levels in school. The further you progress in school, the more accessible loans become. Additionally, it’s important to try to work while in school in a relevant field, when applicable. It looks good on a resume and provides a wealth of good experience.
Just remember that in almost every imaginable situation you will be taking on debt in the end. As a result, it’s incredibly important to make sure that a degree in Theology is something you express an ardent passion for. The best case scenario is one in which minimal financial debt is occurred, but you will ultimately be spending a large amount of your life discussing different theological issues. If this is what you really want to do, it’s a fascinating study to get involved in.
In the end, if you feel like this career path may end up changing your life, it doesn’t really matter what the financial commitment may be because you’ll be working in a field you care about tremendously. You can’t put a price on happiness, so even if no scholarships, grants, or fellowships are available, you can still make great contributions to the field over the course of your life.