Life in seminary can be hard. Even if we’re single and have a sweet financial set-up that leaves us free to focus on our studies without having to work, its still hard. But let’s be honest, most of us, details aside, aren’t in a place in life where we’ve got lots of free time, mental energy, physical energy, money, etc. So here are some tips across all areas of life that may help…
- Pray. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of prayer. If I need to explain it to you, then you might want to re-think attending seminary. With that said, I have my own struggles with deep, meaningful prayer on a daily basis. But even if you’re like me, struggling in some form or fashion, then keep on struggling, keep on fighting yourself, keep on pushing for more time with our Lord in prayer. Can’t live without it.
- A saying in Dallas Theological Seminary’s Financial Aid Department is this, “live like a student now, so you don’t have to live like a student later.” Whether it is doing some Dave Ramsey type program or if you know some super smart financial people who can mentor you, get aggressive with stewarding your resources. It is easy to be sloppy with your finances when life gets tough. So get a system, get some help, and do the little things, like…
- Make your own food. It is healthier, and cheaper, and for you single fellas, an attractive skill to have the repertoire.
- Find small ways to make some extra cash. If you already have a job, but have the extra time to do a little something on the side then take the opportunity to do something a little different. While working at a church I reffed and coached basketball at the local YMCA. A great way to meet people and a nice break from high intensity church ministry! I’m also writing this blog post, which is me finally using my BA in English: Creative Writing…yay!
- Buy cheap food. Most of what we eat, especially if we’re making it with our whole kitchen, and not just the microwave, is pretty much the same, whether we buy it at ALDI (the cheap store), or at (insert expensive grocery store). Easy guess as to where my food comes from. Sure, we can get a few things brand name, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be expensive just to be good. It just isn’t true. A lot of money to be saved here, and without much sacrifice.
- Pick up or continue cheap hobbies. I happen to enjoy playing basketball and working out, but instead of paying for a membership at the YMCA, I’ve found a church with free open gyms, a super cheap weight room to use (student discount), and space for a DVD workout program that I’ve had for a long time.
- Thinking of student discounts, don’t be afraid to ask your seminary if there are any deals that they have with local businesses. You never know until you ask! Might even want to look up potential discounts online.
- Sometimes people donate things to seminaries. My wife and I have been incredibly blessed by the kindness of others during our stay here. Don’t be afraid to ask around at your seminary, if you have a need, and see if they have any donation programs that they can sign you up for!
- Allow yourself to be cheaply entertained. Maybe wait a month or two for a movie to come out in the cheap theater. Or rent a movie from Redbox, or skip buying cable and get netflix. And if you have a video game system, you might want to consider selling it. I was more of a gamer than I’d like to admit, and selling my Xbox 360 and the…um…”few” games that I owned was one of the better decisions I’ve made. I’ve got no problem with video games, but I’ve also got no time.
- Buy your books online and used! I saved a great deal of money by doing this. You have to be more aggressive with it and buy the books as soon as you know you need them due to shipping times, but it has been more than worth it. You might also want to look in local used book stores. Living in Dallas, there are some pretty intense stores, such as Half Price Books, that have actually had some of my textbooks on their shelves, and in great condition!
- Always check and see if your library has the books you need, or if they have them in pdf. format for you to read online.
- Buy books with a friend. Normally I would suggest against doing this, but if you and a group of people want to save some money you can always buy books together, paying, literally, a fraction of the price, even if sacrificing exclusive rights to the book. This option is a little iffy, but if it is the right group of people, it can be very, very helpful. See my junior year in college when I, the English major, took Survey of Organic Chem. Super expensive book. Should have seen that red flag for what it was.
- Speaking of books…DO AS MUCH OF YOUR CLASS READING AS POSSIBLE BEFORE THE SEMESTER STARTS. No, I’m not being overly dramatic. My first year of seminary would have been a completely different story if I’d gotten a head start over the summer and winter breaks. This is a time saver, a sleep saver, a friendship saver, a sanity saver, and for some us, a marriage saver.
- Does your professor lecture a lot, using slides and videos and graphs and maps and on and on and on? Ask your professor if they would be willing to make the material available online, or, if it only exists in hard copy (unlikely), if they wouldn’t mind you making copies of the material. I have never had a professor say no to this super helpful request.
- Find a church where you can connect with people outside of your seminary bubble. ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE MARRIED. Get find a local church and if it is legit then get involved! You don’t have to lead anything, it might be better just to be a part and get to know people. Make non-seminary friends and embrace the brothers and sisters in Christ around you.
- Whether you’re new to seminary, or even if you’ve been around for a while, it might be a good idea to get together with a fellow student one on one, if with a group of students and discuss how you’re “doing” seminary. I’m sure that more ideas will come up that I haven’t mentioned. Even better, invite a professor or two, or three to this gathering and see what happens! At worst you’ve got a bunch of good people together for some sweet, sharable moments.
I remember an exercise we did in college, when I was working as an RA for the student life department. They put up a bunch of string all around the room while blindfolding us in another room. Then they led us into the string-maze room, put our hands on the strings and told us to find the exit. Out of all of us, only one of us found the exit. Chet simply stopped moving around blindly and asked the facilitator for help. The guy said, “let go of the string.” Chet did. The rest of us were too busy with our own efforts to hear any of this and keep on going for a while before the facilitator stopped us.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own perception of the struggles we are going through, and assume that our perception of the the struggle is reality. For some of us asking for help is hard, but it is one of the most powerful skills that we can develop. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, for advice, for a new perspective. This journey is hard, but it is worth it. And you are not alone. Let’s lean on each other and make each other’s’ burdens lighter!
By Colby Anderson. Having just recently discovered the joys of coffee, pickles, sharp cheddar cheese, and fatherhood, you can find him attending Dallas Theological Seminary in pursuit of a Masters of Theology, which, of course, comes secondary to the continued pursuit of his Beautiful wife. And all of this under Christ, even the pickles. If you’re curious, he sometimes has time to think aloud at more-than-bread.blogspot.com.