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My Advice to Students — Joel Willitts says "Success Isn't About the Accomplishment, But the Journey"

Categories My Advice to Students

Joel Willitts, assistant professor of biblical and theological studies at North Park University, has three things to say to students who are contemplating a career in the academy:

  • Persevere
  • Get a good dose of realism on the front end
  • Be open to God's surprises along the way

9780310330639In the video below, Willits (author of Introduction to Messianic Judaism) shares openly about his own personal journey through graduate school and into an academic teaching position. He says by far the biggest piece of advice he has is "If you are interested in the life in the academy, it takes tremendous perseverance and there are significant obstacles."

Willitts shares that he had applied to several PhD programs and as rejected to all of them. Eventually he was accepted to Cambridge after he had shored up his credentials, but only after a second round of applications. It was a long journey, which is why for him "success wasn't about the accomplishment but the journey," and how he was living out the moments in the now, whether or not he got to the destination.

Willitts also says that the academy "looks great on the outside, but it comes at a significant cost." It's a great life, but it costs money, time, attention, and more. You cannot go into the journey lightly.

Finally, "there are surprises along the way, things that you would have never have anticipated." These surprises relate to research, personal growth, and opportunities for speaking and teaching.

Perseverance, a good dose of realism on the front end, and being open to God's surprises along the way. I'd say that makes for a great list of advice!

-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)


"My Advice to Students" is a weekly video series designed to advise and guide students who are studying for a future of ministry in the Church, whether in the academy or in congregations. In these specially curated videos, leading scholars of biblical studies share their seasoned wisdom to help you navigate this important season of preparation.

(Can't see the video? Watch it here)

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