What should I bring with me to Seminary?

I remember when I was anxiously awaiting my first day of classes at Asbury. I had bought all of my books beforehand and had even started reading. I was really hoping that I would be able to find a Seminary 101 list of a few things that would come in handy but I never did. I am starting my third year this fall and I want to offer up a few suggestions to things that will help the new student (or the continuing).

System for Notes

Find a good way to take notes. Learning to use a certain piece of software or going ‘Vintage” notes are two options. Whatever you do, stick with it because it is a pain to switch mid-semester. I did that in one of the most intensive classes I have ever had and it was painful.

A Good Bag

Get a good bag. Unlike college, where just making it to class was an accomplishment, in seminary I find myself having to juggle three different roles every day. The student side of me has to have the course materials needed for the day. This could be as simple as a notebook/laptop or it could mean several books. For one of my jobs, I have to keep several up with paperwork and my “idea” notebook, so there is two more items. Lastly, I am always working on a few side-projects so I have a few extra books and materials with me. This means that I sometime carry a full load. Since I try to go into school in the morning and leave around 5 or 6, I have to have a step up from the Hannah Montana backpack I could have bought at Wal-mart for 10 dollars. You will be using this bag for several years, find a good one and invest the money.

Organization Method

If you are lucky enough to only have the responsibility of going to school you are a lucky person. Most students juggle at least one side job, if not multiple. At any given moment, I am working 4 jobs and maybe some freelance stuff. I would die if I didn’t have a good method of organization. Wess Daniels is a Phd student at Fuller and has a great post about his method here, it is pretty much the same thing that I use.


Get a good, simple Bible and stick with it. When I came to school I had a bible I had been using for several years and it was already marked up. I found it to be distracting when I was in class and my thoughts went to the notes I had made in previous study. Having a “class” bible allows me to keep things a little better organized. Find out what translation your school recommends the most and grab a simple one, with no study notes and wide margins if you can find one. In a future post I will show you how I made my “tricked out” class bible.

Navigating seminary is different from college, it is an immersive experience that should be taken full advantage of. I know others have some great tips and tricks out there, so please post them in the comments.

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Chad Brooks
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  • Good advice above. If I may, I’ll add a few addenda:

    ~On Bibles: the sem bookstore where I went had a great, very compact, paperback NASB that I used for the first couple of semesters. it was great because of the size and, as you say, simpleness. But after the first year I quit carrying any Bibles (even the Greek or Hebrew texts) because I had them on my laptop. Short version: if you have Bible software, you’ll save bag clutter and shoulder-weight by just using that. It’s the same text, y’all.

    ~Ditto (nearly) on the notes. Unless you are literally a pick-and-peck typist, taking your notes on your laptop (if you have one) is great. For that matter, spending a few hours becoming familiar enough with your Bible software to learn how to take notes IN it will mean that, 10 years from now when you’re studying for a sermon on a text you haven’t REALLY looked at since class, you’ll have notes ready-at-hand. For other classes, something that is robust for auto-indexing can be a huge note-taking help for the same reason– look at DevonThink for the Mac, MicroSoft OneNote for the PC.

    ~Scanner. If I were doing seminary over again– knowing what I know now– I would definitely spend the money on a scanner like the Fujitsu ScanSnap. I would scan every note, handout, course packet, and photocopied article into it, and index it in one of the systems mentioned above. This would make my seminary work so much better and more efficient. For example: I photocopied literally hundreds of journal articles for papers while in seminary, and they sat (unused) in a file cabinet after that for a long time. Now, they’re scanned and indexed, and when I search for help about a particular text or word, I frequently get a reference to an article I haven’t seen since Gospels class or OT History.

    Just my 2¢.

    Ed Eubankss last blog post..Two recommended blogs

  • My only follow up to all this is that I prefer to have a physical bible with me at all times. I prefer the ESV pew edition for several reasons. The print is adequate, it is a hard cover, no cross references or notes, and best of all it is under $15.

    As for notes, we all know I’m mostly a vintage notes guy. From time to time I try computer style, but I just don’t like it.

Written by Chad Brooks