We are pleased that you are considering applying to Union. Some frequently asked questions appear below.
Questions about the School
What is Union’s mission?
In short, to prepare individuals to compassionately change the world. We form leaders who are deeply called to the work of justice. We shape visionaries whose faith commitments fuel their work for human betterment. We teach students to make a difference wherever they serve. Read More>>
Is Union accredited?
Yes. Union is accredited both by The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Where is the Seminary located?
Union Theological Seminary is located in New York City in the borough of Manhattan, nestled in the vibrant and diverse Morningside Heights neighborhood. At a time when most seminaries were located in small towns, Union’s founders dared to locate the Seminary in New York City. The Seminary is surrounded by renowned academic institutions: Columbia University (an affiliate institution), Jewish Theological Seminary, the Manhattan School of Music, New York Theological Seminary, and Teacher’s College.
I don’t plan to go into ministry or work for a church. Does Union have anything to offer someone like me?
Absolutely! Whether you are primarily interested in exploring more deeply your own faith, or you have no particular faith claims at all, a Union education is for you. What is common among Union students and alumni/ae is an unflinching belief that faith, intellectual rigor, and a fearless commitment to social action make wise companions.
Is Union a Christian seminary?
Union is grounded in the Christian tradition and our ecumenical, interfaith commitment grows and strengthens through programs of exchange with churches and seminaries throughout the world. Informed by the insights of global theologies, Union embraces and addresses the richness and realities of religious pluralism to equip students to grapple with the grave issues of our age.
Questions about the Application Process
How do I apply?
Each degree program at Union has different requirements for application. For more information about the application process please see “How to Apply” section of the website.
What is Union’s Admission Criteria?
Union recruits and admits individuals on the basis of their qualifications and abilities. It’s selection criteria is aimed at admitting a student body that represents a diversity of gifts and talents, academic backgrounds, scholastic and personal experiences, and professional aspirations; as well as age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race and ethnicity. There is no requirement for applicants for First Degree programs to have majored in or to have done concentrated work in religion or religious studies, although broad training in the liberal arts is expected.
What are the application deadlines?
Each degree program at Union has different application deadlines. Please review “Dates & Deadlines” section of the website.
Who should write my recommendations?
Consider seeking recommendations from people that know you well: people who can speak to your discernment process and decision to attend seminary, as well as your achievements, and your ministerial, intellectual and academic vocational aspirations. If at all possible, please submit at least one (1) reference written by a former professor; however, your recommendations can also be written by your pastor, or employment supervisor.
Do the recommendations have to be written on the form that comes with the application?
No, we provide that form for your convenience and to guide the recommender as to pertinent areas we consider when reviewing the recommendation. The recommendation may certainly be written on the recommender’s letterhead. The most important thing is that your referee answers the questions thoroughly.
How long and in what format should the Candidate’s Admission Statement be?
Each program application contains specifics as to the requirements for the Candidate’s Admission Statement. So long as all applicable questions are fully addressed in the Admission Statement, there is no prescribed format for the Statement. You should keep in mind that the Statement is a critical element of the application.
Is the GRE required?
Only for applicants to the Ph.D. program, not for First Degree programs or the S.T.M. Please keep in mind that scores more than five years old are unacceptable, so applicants should plan to take the October GRE examinations when possible.
Can I apply for admission in the second semester?
Not for First Degree Programs. Union does not have rolling admissions. Students are admitted into a degree program only for the fall semester; however, you may apply for spring admission if you apply to the Non-Degree Program.
Does Union have any joint programs?
Yes. In partnership with other associated institutions, Union offers the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and the Master of Science in Social Work (M.Div./M.S.S.W) and the M.A. in Religion, a joint program with Columbia University. You must be sure to observe Union’s application deadlines as well as those of the educational institutions participating in these joint degree programs.
Even if not pursuing a formal joint degree program, Union students can take advantage of courses offered at our affiliate institutions, Columbia University and other institutions such as Teacher’s College, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York Theological Seminary, the Manhattan School of Music, and Fordham University.
I want to transfer master’s level credits from another institution into a degree program at Union. How can I do that?
Union will only consider the transfer of master’s level credits into its First Degree programs (M.A., M.Div., M.Div./M.S.S.W.) You may not transfer any credits to the S.T.M. or Ph.D. programs. If you are seeking to transfer credits, then you should state in your admission application that you are seeking Admission with Advanced Standing. Then, you should indicate what course credits (name of course(s) you are seeking to transfer. The decision regarding transfer credits is made by the Dean of Academic Affairs, and you may be asked to furnish copies of syllabi and exams or papers. The Advanced Standing decision is made at the time of application; we do not evaluate transcripts for transfer credit during the school year, or during a telephone call or a visit to the seminary. You will be notified of the decision on advanced standing at the time of admission.
I am an international student. What must I do to apply to Union?
International students are welcome to apply to any of Union’s programs. Your application must be accompanied by official transcripts furnished directly to the seminary from each of the institutions from which you matriculated with the equivalent of a B.A. (for First Degree programs)and the M.Div. (for Advanced Degree programs) or their equivalents, amounting to six or seven years of post-secondary academic study.
International applicants whose first language is not English, or who matriculated from an institution where the primary language of instruction was not English, must submit recent scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) as a part of their application to any of the degree programs at Union Seminary. Union requires a minimum score of 600 on the paper-based TOEFL test (250 on the computerized exam). For an applicant who scores below the minimum required level, we suggest additional study in English prior to making application.
Finally, since educational loan programs guaranteed by state or federal government agencies are legally restricted to U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens an International applicant must also be supplemented by written verification of your ability to meet fully the expenses of your stay in this country for the entire duration of the degree program.. International students must complete and submit to the Seminary the International Applicant’s Financial Statement. This document is required before the Seminary can assist an international student in obtaining a visa to study in the United States. Keep in mind, however, that the Seminary will not assist students in obtaining a visa if they are seeking admission to the Non-Degree program.
I’d like to attend Union as a Non-Degree (non-matriculating student). Can I do that?
Yes. However, non-degree students receive no financial aid or housing and international non-degree students must obtain their own visa by which they may travel to and study in the U.S. for the intended duration of their study. Non-degree students are also ineligible for admission to degree programs during the current academic year of their non-degree year. If it is your intent to matriculate at Union, non-degree students must also apply for admission to a degree program the following fall.
Can I audit courses at Union?
Yes, provided that you first obtain written permission from the instructor of the class(es) that you want to audit. After you have permission in writing, then you must complete an Auditor’s Application with the Registrar. There are two types of auditors: participating and non-participating. For more information please view “Auditor” section of the website.
When will I be notified of admission?
Standard notifications will be sent out 3 - 4 weeks after submission of a completed application. However, during peak application periods it may take longer for the Admissions Committee to reach a decision.
Can I defer admission?
If you have been admitted to Union, you may defer admission for one (1) year provided that you notify us in writing and pay a $250 non-refundable tuition deposit by the deadline.
Questions about Financial Aid
How much does it cost to attend Union?
To learn more please review “Tuition & Fees” section of the website.
What do I need to do to be considered for scholarships?
All applicants whose complete application for admission reaches the Admissions by the priority deadline for the First Degree program, and January 6th (deadline is December 15) for the doctoral program will be considered for a merit scholarship or fellowship. If you have been awarded a scholarship or fellowship, you will be notified via the letter of admission. If the admission letter does not indicate that you have been awarded a scholarship, then you did not receive one. However, you may still be eligible for need-based grants and other forms of Financial Aid.
If I did not receive a scholarship my first year, can I be considered for one in later years?
Applicants are considered for a scholarship upon initial application to the Seminary.
What types of financial aid does Union offer?
Union offers both merit- and need-based financial aid to all qualified applicants. Merit based aid in the form of scholarships and fellowships is offered solely on the strength of the application, without regard to financial need. Scholarships and fellowships are offered upon the applicant’s initial application to the Seminary. Among other things, criteria include the clarity and strength of the Admission Statement, the official transcripts, and the letters of recommendation. Students with financial need as determined annually by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may be awarded need-based aid in the form of grants, federal loans (Perkins and Unsubsidized Stafford loans), and federal work-study.
Other Admissions-related Questions
How can I visit Union?
We welcome your visit! Prospective students may visit most days of the academic year, except for school or other holidays or during exam periods. We also offer brief tours of campus on designated days during January intersession and the summer months. To schedule a visit or learn more about visiting Union, please review “Scheduling a Visit” section of the website. In addition, prospective students are invited to attend one of several Admission Information Sessions held throughout the year. To learn more, please review the Info Session schedule.