Next steps for newly admitted PhD students

Congratulations on your admission into the Doctor of Philosophy program at Southern Seminary! 

This page is your resource for next steps as a newly admitted student. Make sure you complete your matriculation form located on your application portal before you complete the steps below.

If you have any further questions, you will find contact information at the bottom of the page for the Research Doctoral Office staff.

How do I get started?

All PhD students must complete 2 introductory courses before or during their first semester:

  • 81020 WW Graduate Research Seminar (Fall / Spring)
    • This totally online course is a self-paced, video-based introduction to the PhD program and research and writing at the doctoral level. Students should register for this course immediately after being accepted and begin working through the material as soon as possible. Students will receive a copy of the PhD program handbook as part of this course. The class will also include a Zoom meeting that provides additional orientation to the program and an opportunity to ask questions of RDS staff.
  • 81260 Foundations for Theological Studies (Winter / Summer)
    • This course meets in person for one day in August (the Friday before the Fall semester begins) or December (the Saturday in between the 2 weeks of modular seminars). The August offering is designed for on-campus students and the December offering is designed for modular students, but any student is welcome to take the course at either time. There is no online option for completing this

Note: after their first semester, students must complete 2 additional RDS General courses (81270 Course Development & Design and 81300 Higher Education), which are offered at the same time as FTS (in May and December each year). These may be completed at either time, and in either order.

What other classes should I take?

To stay on pace to complete the program in 4 years, students should register for the following classes in each of their first 4 semesters:

  • 2 PhD seminars
    • All students must complete a total of 8 seminars
      • For most programs, students complete 5 seminars in their major area and 3 “flex” seminars that can be completed in any area
      • Exception: students in Biblical Studies, Historical and Theological Studies, and Philosophy and Theological Studies take 4 seminars in each of the 2 areas that make up their program (one in each of the 2 weeks of modular seminars in May and December)
    • Residential seminars are listed under Fall/Spring semesters on MySBTS
      • Fall semester begins in August and ends in December
      • Spring semester begins in January and ends in May
    • Modular seminars are listed under Winter/Summer semesters on MySBTS and meet in May or December.
      • Winter semester begins in August and ends in January
      • Summer semester begins in January and ends in July
  • 1 colloquium
    • All students must complete a total of 4 colloquia within their area of study
      • Exception: students in Biblical Studies, Historical and Theological Studies, and Philosophy and Theological Studies take 2 colloquia in each of the 2 areas that make up their program, which are offered in alternating semesters
    • Residential colloquia take place on Wednesdays at 2:30 and are listed under the Fall/Spring semesters on MySBTS
    • Modular colloquia take place on Friday during the first week of modular seminars and are listed under the Winter/Summer semesters on MySBTS
  • 1 Prospectus Development course
    • All students must complete Prospectus Development 1, 2, 3, and 4
    • Prospectus Development courses are listed under the Fall/Spring semesters on MySBTS
    • These courses do not meet in person, but consist of guided reading with the student’s supervisor to facilitate progress toward a dissertation topic

How and when do I complete research languages?

All students must complete 2 research languages related to their dissertation research during the coursework stage of the PhD program. There are 3 options for completing these languages:

  1. Complete an online, video-based research language course offered by SBTS (currently, Theological French is offered in the Fall, Theological Latin is offered in the Summer, and both courses are offered in the Summer)
  2. Self-study and complete a proficiency exam administered by the RDS Office during the semester
  3. Complete a doctoral-level language course at another institution and have the transcript sent to SBTS after completion

How do I contact my supervisor?

Your decision letter should indicate your assigned PhD supervisor (unless it will be determined at a later date). We encourage students to be proactive and diligent in making contact and maintaining regular communications with their supervisors, since this relationship is key to making steady progress in the program. You can find your supervisor’s contact information on their faculty page on the SBTS website. It would be a good idea to reach out to your supervisor to schedule an initial meeting, Zoom call, or phone conversation to discuss the beginning of your studies, course selections, Prospectus Development reading, and possible dissertation topics. We also encourage modular students to be sure to schedule meetings with their supervisors in person when they come to campus in May and December.

Should I be aware of any upcoming events?

Now that you have been accepted, you have been added to the RDS email list, which will be the main source of communication about upcoming events, important dates, and announcements. Be sure to monitor your SBTS student email account for further details about the following:

  • 1892 Club–this weekly gathering for all PhD students to hear a guest lecture and build community (Wednesdays from 1:00 – 2:15). A Zoom link is provided for modular students who wish to participate.
  • PhD Induction Ceremony–this annual event commemorates the acceptance of the incoming PhD class and takes place in December during the first week of modular seminars. Families are welcome to attend.
  • Modular Chapel Service–this chapel service for all PhD students takes place during modular seminars and includes a time of worship, fellowship, and address from the Director of Research Doctoral Studies

Who do I contact with additional questions?

Please feel free to reach out to the Research Doctoral Studies Office by phone at (502) 897-4119 or by email ( with any additional questions. Our team includes Hannah Downing (Administrative Assistant), Tom Holsteen (Assistant Director), and Dr. Greg Wills (Director), who will all be happy to help.

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