Admissions Policies and Procedures

trinity door brownADMISSION POLICY

Admission to the seminary is based on more than academic considerations. Acceptance to study for the ministries of the church involves qualities of the whole person and expectations of the church concerning the character of seminarians. An applicant to any degree program is required to provide:
  1. Evidence of respect for and willingness to engage the seminary’s teaching of the Christian Gospel in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is expected that a Lutheran M.Div. applicant will be a member in good standing of a Lutheran congregation for at least one year, in accordance with the ELCA candidacy policy.
  2. Evidence that an applicant possesses the degree of Bachelor of Arts*, or its equivalent, from a regionally accredited college or university. Ordinarily a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale is required, attested to by official transcripts.
  3. Evidence of personal maturity and ability to relate well to others. The applicant’s references will be the primary source for making this evaluation. A pre-admission interview may also be required.
  4. Evidence of responsible civic behavior. A background check is required for all degree students.


A domestic application for admission is completed online. Please click here to request a paper copy be sent to you. The application may also be downloaded from Trinity’s website. All international applicants must request an international application by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

It is recommended that applicants begin the application procedure early, i.e., nine to twelve months before the time of anticipated enrollment. Although late applicants will be considered, they will put themselves at a disadvantage in regard to requests for seminary housing, financial aid, registration, and campus employment.

A student should normally begin the program with the Fall Semester because of the sequencing of course work. Students choosing to enter at another time will encounter difficulties in course scheduling and their seminary career will not thereby be shortened. The intensive summer language program is designed for M.Div. students who previously have been unable to complete the Greek requirement, and participation in the summer Greek 1 course is highly recommended as a way of preparing for engaging in the first year of seminary study.


A student who wishes to transfer from another theological seminary must present from that school a letter of honorable dismissal and a transcript of credits, along with the usual admissions data. A member of the ELCA who has already completed the equivalent of one year or more of work at another seminary must obtain the approval of his or her synodical candidacy committee as part of the admission process.

Credit will be transferred from accredited graduate schools and seminaries if it can appropriately be applied to a Trinity degree program and has not been credited toward a degree at another school. No transfer credit will be given for work done with a grade under C. There is a time limit of 10 years on (1) transfer credit, (2) credit from Trinity for a degree that was not completed, and (3) credit from Trinity for a completed degree that is to be applied to a different degree program. At the discretion of the Academic Dean, advanced standing credit for some coursework taken for another degree may be granted.


Lutheran students seeking study in the United States apply on standard application forms that shall be obtained from the national church office in the applicant’s home country. The seminary works with the Global Mission Unit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the companion national churches to determine priorities of study. Application forms should be returned to the Director of International Scholarships of the ELCA. Candidates who are not Lutheran apply directly to the Trinity office of admissions.

Trinity Lutheran Seminary is authorized by Federal Law to admit F-1 nonimmigrant students. International students who are admitted to Trinity Lutheran Seminary must obtain a Form I-20 – Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status from Trinity’s International Student Advisor before applying for their student visa.

All seminaries, colleges and universities in the United States must electronically report the following information about F-1 students to the Immigration Customs Enforcement each term: enrollment status; current address; and start date of the next term.

This electronic notification system requires that international students take great care to maintain their F-1 status and follow all requirements. All international students are required to be registered full-time (12 credit hours), unless they receive authorization to drop to part-time.

All international students must complete a financial certification form as part of the application for admission with proper documentation attached that reflects an ability to support him/herself for the entire academic year. On-campus employment is very limited and cannot be used as the sole means of support. The only off-campus opportunities available to international students are Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training (after completion of studies), and Employment Due to Economic Hardship. For more information regarding off-campus employment, students should contact Trinity’s International Student Advisor.

The ability to write and speak English clearly and correctly is required. For applicants whose language is other than English, a TOEFL score of 500 or above, or 173 on the Computer Based Test, or successful completion of an intermediate level ESL program is required.


  • Detailed information for affiliated students -- for students who will complete their M.Div. degree at Trinity Lutheran Seminary OR students who graduate from a non-ELCA seminary and need to complete their "Lutheran Year."


Ordained Pastors

Students seeking rostered status as ordained ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America enter a process called candidacy from the very beginning of their preparation for ministry. The candidacy process includes both review and support carried out by the church through a candidacy committee in partnership with the seminary and the candidate’s congregation.

The student’s candidacy committee and the seminary will provide information to each candidate regarding the various steps of the process.

Applicants for the Master of Divinity degree program who are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America should first contact their synodical office to begin the entrance phase of the ELCA candidacy process. The candidacy process should be initiated at least six months before anticipated enrollment at the seminary. The seminary grants full admission to the M.Div. degree program to ELCA applicants only after they have received a positive entrance decision from their candidacy committee. Normally, the entrance process is completed and the entrance decision made prior to enrollment.

Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) provides an alternative route to ordination that may be useful to some candidates.

Additional Rostered Ministries

Three forms of officially rostered ministry are recognized in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in addition to ordained ministry: Associate in Ministry, Diaconal Ministry, and Deaconess Community. Trinity Lutheran Seminary works in partnership with synodical candidacy committees to guide candidates through the process leading to each roster, especially in the theological education and field experience components of their preparation.

Those interested in Associate in Ministry, Diaconal Ministry or the Deaconess Community are invited into further conversation with the Director of the M.T.S. and M.A. degree programs, who provides guidance for these three rosters.

Associate in Ministry

Associates in Ministry, (AIMs) serve on an officially recognized roster for lay ministry in the ELCA, providing leadership and support for the ministries of the whole people of God. A bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree in an appropriate field of specialization is required. Completion of the M.T.S., M.A.Y.F.M., M.A.C.E., or M.A.C.M. degrees will fulfill all educational requirements for rostering. Basic foundational coursework in theological education may also be completed through non-degree seminary coursework. Trinity will work with the candidate and candicacy committee to coordinate the required field work for degree candidates seeking the AIM roster.

Diaconal Ministry

Diaconal ministers are called by the ELCA to positions that “exemplify the servant life and seek to equip and motivate others to live it” (ELCA Vocation and Education Unit).

Diaconal Ministry candidates must complete a theological degree at the master’s level; the M.T.S., M.A.Y.F.M., M.A.C.E., and M.A.C.M. are appropriate degrees for fulfilling the theological education requirement. The choice of degree depends on the area of specialization and service.

Trinity will work with the candidate and the candidacy committee to coordinate field experience and provide a diaconal ministry project director for candidates both during their degree work and following their graduation.

Deaconess Community

The Deaconess Community of the ELCA exists to empower women for a life lived in service and supported in community, equipping them for ministry, usually on the frontiers of this church’s outreach and often among the poor and marginalized. Candidates participate in both the ELCA Candidacy Process and in the candidacy process of the Deaconess Community.

Trinity Lutheran Seminary welcomes deaconess candidates who are working to complete the theological study plan outlined in their candidacy process, either as degree candidates or as non-degree students.


Because of the wide range of undergraduate programs and majors offered by colleges and universities, Trinity does not demand any one type of undergraduate preparation as a prerequisite for theological study. However, it is recommended that, whenever possible, pre-seminary students include in their course of study a broad background in the liberal arts, including such subjects as English, history, modern languages, philosophy, Greek, and the social sciences.

In light of present-day racism, sexism, global poverty amid affluence, and situations of injustice with respect to American minorities, it is of utmost importance that sensitivity to these issues be nurtured prior to entering the seminary.

Although college work at the baccalaureate level cannot be counted for credit at the master’s level, students with courses in Bible and theology at the college level may benefit in their seminary program in one or more of the following ways:

  1. They may “test out” of a core requirement. If the student tests out, he/she will substitute an additional course from that area of study.
  2. They may have certain entry level core requirements waived, in which case the student will take another course in that area of study for each course waived.
  3. They may be admitted to certain courses for which they do not have the Trinity prerequisites.


Academically qualified persons may enroll in the seminary on a full-time or part-time basis without a specific degree objective. Courses may be taken for credit or audited, on a space-available basis. Normally, completion of a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent is required to take courses for credit.

Application is done online through the Admissions Office. Students who have enrolled in one term since July 2005 will be asked to provide additional materials before enrolling for further terms. No more than 16 semester hours of credit earned as a non-degree student may subsequently be applied toward a degree program.

The Certificate Program is designed for non-degree students. Students will receive a certificate in one of four selected areas upon successful completion of 27 semester credit hours of coursework. Application for this program is also made through the Admissions Office.

* "As many as 15 percent of the students in the M.Div. degree program may be admitted without posession of the baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent. An institution admitting persons without a baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent shall demonstrate that its process and criteria for evaluating academic ability are educationally appropriate and rigorous." (Assocation of Theological Schools 2012)