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Undergraduate vs. Seminary: What I Want To Do vs. Who I Want To Be

Like most people, I coasted through high school. Even during my senior year when my schedule was loaded with AP classes, I never spent more than an hour that night looking at anything related to schoolwork. I finished near the top of my class. Life was good.

Then college came. Freshman year was a bit of a shell shock. The professor would give us four pages of calculus homework or a book to read over the weekend, but then they wouldn’t check to see if we had done it. Since grading the assignments appeared to be optional some of my friends understood this to mean doing the assignments was optional as well. We learned quickly about the pain, anxiety and exhaustion of finals week.

College forced me to learn how to study and prepare for a test I might not have until the end of the month, instead of just reading over the notes on my way to class like I did in high school.

But like everything in life, college grew familiar. I learned to read the professors, listen for key words during their lectures to find out what would be on the test and zone out for the rest of class. By the time my senior year of college arrived I had fallen back into many of the same habits from high school. I skimmed, dedicated only the minimal amount of time to my work and still finished with a commendable GPA.

When I came to seminary I realized I couldn’t fall into these habits again. It was different. My goals were different. Here are two reasons why.

This is graduate level studies.

I heard many jokes about graduate school before I started my education. Jokes about sleepless nights, ramen noodle diets, absentminded mentors, and of course impossible workloads. People love to exaggerate their circumstances so they can garner a few extra drops of recognition. So my expectations were minimal in terms of how overwhelming I was expecting seminary to actually be.

Then I had my first semester.

Seminary is not like undergrad and definitely not like high school. You will work, a lot. There will be more reading than is humanly possible and it would be wise to invest in a comfortable keyboard and computer chair. By the end of some semesters it will feel like you typed the equivalent of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics.

Seminary is not an extended Bible study or pastors conference. Seminary is a grind. A wake up early, go to sleep late, carry notecards in your pocket so you can read them during lunch sort of lifestyle.

But it’s worth it, as the second point will show.

What we learn matters.

I can factor a polynomial like a champ. Want me to identify covalent bonds or give a common motif from Shakespearean literature, no problem.

However, I will be the first person to tell you I have not used that information outside of the classroom. I’ve never had a problem that any of those skills would solve.

But I have lived life. I’ve lost a best friend. Family members have lost jobs. Relationships deteriorated around me. I have felt and shared pain. This is where so many people are and this is where God’s truth can do great things.

What we learn matters because it helps us a grasp and know and share a God who wants desperately to be a part of our lives.

Seminary trains us to wrestle with difficult ideas and topics so we can shine light in dark circumstances.

Seminary will not give us all the right answers, not by a long shot. That’s not the point of seminary, character development is. God wants to form our character as much as our minds and hearts in seminary.

During my undergrad years I constantly thought about what I wanted to do. What career I wanted to have and so on. In seminary I find myself thinking much more about the person I want to be. Because as long as we are pursuing the people God wants us to be, what He wants us to do will take care of itself.

Written by David Ramos. David is a friend of God and a lover of the Old Testament. When he is not working on his M.Div at Ashland Seminary you can find him teaching Sunday-school or cooking pasta. You can read more from David at OffsetInnocence or connect with him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. 

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