How to Succeed at Seminary

Fr. Herman Fields

The Rev. Herman Fields graduated as the valedictorian of St. Vladimir’s Seminary’s Class of 2019. On his blog page, which he set up as a student to facilitate information sharing between other seminarians and community members, Fr. Herman recently imparted how he succeeded during his studies at St. Vladimir’s.

Father Herman, his wife, Khouria Anna, and their two children are moving to Canada following graduation to serve a parish in Saskatchewan.

As my time at St. Vlad’s is coming to a close, I was asked by a student who is arriving next year how you become valedictorian at St. Vlad’s.  I replied, “Tip #1 is that you should have a BA in Theology and do the St. Stephen’s course before you get here!”

I said that because, while I did work very hard, I don’t really feel that the playing field was level. Some students come here never having studied theology, and they manage to graduate with distinction. I had a bit advantage having already studied so much. So while I was honored to be valedictorian, there might be plenty of people who worked harder than I did. But here are Fr. Herman Fields’ tips for doing well in seminary:

When I was an undergrad, my grades improved immensely when I got married. I was doing my school work on a 9-5 schedule and didn’t fool myself into thinking that I could do quality work starting at 10 p.m.

If you take advantage of every minute of non-class time during the day, avoiding as much as possible the time-wasting but oh-so-fun opportunities to just sit and talk to people about nothing in particular, you will get more done than if you’re up ‘till 3 a.m. Even if you only have an hour (say your class gets out early and you have extra time before your next activity) take an hour and read one article, or write that one little tiny assignment you’ve been putting off. The best work I ever did was when I knew that I only had 45 minutes or an hour to work. There’s a saying in Swedish, “many small streams become a river.” It applies here! No matter what your family situation is, if you use your time consistently with discipline you will get more done in less time.

I used Google Calendar and had all my classes and chapel times blocked out. Sometimes I even put deadlines in the calendar. I don’t think I ever missed a deadline, or at least not by mistake.

And get some sleep! Get a minimum of 7 hours per night. If you’re sleep deprived your work will be much less efficient and you won’t remember what you’re reading.

Read the rest of Fr. Herman’s advice on his blog page, here.