Admissions & Candidacy


Regarding academic readiness, the student body represents a wide variety of academic concentrations in undergraduate work. The Seminary recommends a broad background in the liberal arts, including English, history, modern languages, philosophy, communications and the social sciences. Applicants should possess intellectual ability for critical and reflective thinking.

It is the policy of United Lutheran Seminary not to discriminate against any student applicant for academic acceptance on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, veteran status, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, parental status, family medical history or genetic information or any other non-merit based factor in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs and other school-administered programs. Background checks are required of all applicants prior to admission. Prospective students may find the most up-to-date information regarding admissions procedures on the Seminary’s web site.

Application Overview

This process is for the following first professional degrees:

  • Master of Divinity (MDiv)
  • Master of Divinity/Distributed Learning (MDiv/DL)
  • Master of Divinity/Co-operative Model (MDiv/Co-op)
  • Master of Arts in Ministerial Leadership (MAML)
  • Master of Arts in Public Leadership (MAPL)
  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Certificate of Theological Studies
  • Certificate in Anglican Studies
  • ELCA Affiliation

Please read this carefully before completing your application online at

General Information

Previous Names

Please provide any previous name(s) if you have changed your name since completing your undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Primary Phone

The number at which you would like us to contact you during the application process.

Email Address

The e-mail address at which you can be contacted during the application process.


If you do not currently reside at your home address (e.g. you are away at school), please provide both your home/permanent and current addresses.



We require an official transcript from all institutions at which you have studied regardless of whether a degree was granted. Transfer students must also have a letter of good standing sent from the Dean of your current seminary. Mailing address for the Office of Admissions is 7301 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19119.

Undergraduate Degree

Applicants are expected to have an earned Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent, from an accredited undergraduate institution. Occasional exceptions may be made for applicants who have completed at least 78 credit hours of undergraduate course work and have demonstrated academic readiness for graduate-level course work.

Grade Point Average

The minimum GPA expected of applicants, from previous undergraduate and graduate course work, is 2.8.


You are asked to provide us with three references. Forms will be emailed from ULS, please have the email addresses of your references ready when completing the online application.


The pastoral reference must be from a pastor at your home church.


This is to be written by a professor who has taught you. If you have been out of school for some time you can use a work supervisor (or work peer).


The final reference is to be from someone that knows you well that is not a relative.

Autobiographical Essay

In 5-7 pages double spaced, write an autobiographical essay that addresses the following points:

  • What role has the church, the scriptures, and historical or contemporary authors played in your life and your sense of call?
  • What key moments and events in your life have contributed to your sense of call?
  • Where and how do you think God is calling you to serve?
  • What personal gifts do you hope to offer the church and the world?
  • How would an education at ULS aid you in living out your unique calling?

Your essay must be submitted in PDF (preferred) or MS Word format. Applicants who are involved in the ELCA Candidacy process may submit their Candidacy essay as part of their application.

If you use your Candidacy Entrance Essay, please add as a supplement for your response to the following two questions, if you have not already addressed these questions in the Entrance Essay itself:

  1. What role have the scriptures and historical or contemporary authors played in your life and your sense of call?
  2. How would an education at United Lutheran Seminary aid you in living out your unique calling?

Other Information

Application Fee

There is a non-refundable $50.00 application fee.

Application Deadlines

Although it is wise to apply at least six months prior to your intended starting date, ULS has a rolling admissions process. In order to be admitted for the fall semester applications must be completed by the end of July. For spring, applications must be completed by the first week of December. If you have begun the application process you will be notified of your application status by email as materials arrive.

Once all of your application materials are received, you will be notified by the Admissions Office that your file is complete. Then your file will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee, you will be informed of the committee’s decision by an email and a mailed letter.


Candidacy in the ELCA is the churchwide process of discernment, preparation, and formation leading to rostered ministry. The ELCA has two distinct rostered ministries: Word and Sacrament, and Word and Service. Candidacy involves the partnership of candidate, ELCA synod candidacy committee, ELCA seminary, and the ELCA Domestic Mission unit. The candidacy committee, composed of clergy, laity, and seminary faculty, holds the responsibility for the process. Establishing and maintaining an ongoing relationship with a candidacy committee is the responsibility of the applicant. The steps for entering and successfully completing Candidacy are described on the ELCA website. Prospective students are advised to begin the candidacy process well before application to the Seminary.

ELCA candidates for ordination who attend non-ELCA seminaries are typically required to “affiliate” with an ELCA seminary, at the beginning of their seminary career. Affiliated students are typically required to complete some coursework at an ELCA seminary. Whether it is a full year of residency or selected courses, this aspect of candidacy is determined by the synodical Candidacy committee.

Lutheran Learning and Formation at ELCA Seminaries: Expectations for Affiliated Students

Approved August 2017

The ELCA Candidacy Manual describes the purpose of Lutheran Learning and Formation:

The expectations and outcomes established for Lutheran Learning and Formation occur not only in the classroom but also through the total teaching/learning experience at an ELCA seminary (or at another seminary program approved by an ELCA seminary). The outcomes are: 1) a solid grounding in Lutheran systematic theology and the Lutheran Confessions, 2) the articulation of a Lutheran theological perspective through the study of theology, church history, Bible, worship, preaching, Christian education, pastoral care and ethics, 3) a holistic understanding of ministry in a Lutheran context, including the integrity and varieties of Lutheran worship, and familiarity with policies and practices associated with ELCA polity, assignment, call and mobility, and 4) participation in current theological conversations within the ELCA, including establishing relationships with future colleagues characterized by mutual support and consolation, accountability and a clear sense of shared mission (page 48).

ELCA seminary faculties are required to produce a “Form D” statement for candidates pursuing rostered ministry in the ELCA. Of the three areas of readiness on which faculty are required to comment, two are strongly related to personal development and formational issues, (Call to Ministry and Ministry Gifts, Practical Readiness and Leadership Gifts), and only one (Academic and Theological Competence) specifically involves cognitive development and even then “theological competence” has much to do with personal formation. Appropriate discernment on the part of seminary faculties regarding a candidate’s readiness for rostered ministry, therefore, is heavily dependent upon personal contact (perhaps enhanced by electronically mediated contact in some cases). In our attempt to establish minimum standards for affiliated students so that seminary faculties can write “Form D” statements with integrity, sufficient personal contact that allows faculties to assess the personal formational readiness of candidates is crucial.

Therefore the ELCA seminary deans agree that Lutheran Learning and Formation students need to complete a minimum of six courses (18 semester hours) through the affiliated seminary. Candidates who attend non-ELCA seminaries normally are expected to affiliate with an ELCA seminary during their first full term, semester, or equivalent. This affiliation status is to be reported to the candidacy committee. An endorsement will not be scheduled until the affiliation has been established. The educational backgrounds of students who seek Lutheran Learning and Formation at an ELCA seminary are varied. Some come from a school that has a concentration in Lutheran studies. Others come from a school where that was not possible. The program for each particular candidate needs to be tailored carefully to honor the educational background of each individual student. Normally internship follows the completion of the academic courses for Lutheran Learning and Formation.

The ELCA seminary deans have identified the following competencies to guide the design of the Lutheran Learning and Formation requirement, in order to ensure the best possible preparation for those candidates preparing to serve on the ELCA roster: Lutheran hermeneutics, senior level exegesis—Old Testament, senior level exegesis—Gospels and/or Paul, Reformation history, theology of Luther, Lutheran Confessions, Lutheranism in North America, global Lutheranism, systematic theology (particularly Christology/salvation), Lutheran ethics (including ELCA social statements), Lutheran ecclesiology and polity, Lutheran worship, Lutheran preaching, Lutheran education/formation/confirmation practices, evangelism, stewardship, congregational mission, and theology of ministry. Individual seminaries will address these competencies in the fullest possible way, employing this list as criteria for the selection of courses for a given student.

The dean of the respective seminary has oversight for the shaping of the course work, assigning an advisor, and setting other expectations for a particular student. In some seminaries, a staff person designated by the dean will administer this task. Where a student has already taken courses that address some of the indicated competencies, other courses will be proposed that further enhance the competencies and accomplish the purposes of Lutheran Learning and Formation. Candidacy committees may offer suggestions to the dean at the affiliated seminary. The seminary deans furthermore expect that Lutheran Learning and Formation will be more than a set of required courses. Students also participate in the community life of the seminary in significant ways. Lutheran Learning and Formation provides an opportunity intentionally to become a member of a collegium and network of peers, pastors, deacons, bishops, faculty, staff, and other church leaders.