Expect to be humbled. Students are accepted into the PhD program not because of what we have done but because of our potential. We probably know less than we think we know. Your weak spots will be revealed, so admit up front.
So get ready to learn. You will be forced to read like you have never read before. Read How to Read a Book (Adler and VanDoren, 1972), The Craft of Research (Booth, Colomb, and Williams, 2008), and Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies (Evans, 2005). Go to a professional meeting in your first year (ETS/SBL). There you can get a perspective of the issues relevant to your interests. You cannot begin until you know where things stand.
Expect challenges in communication with supervisors and faculty. Though PhD students are important to the seminary, the faculty is busy and we must wait our turn. Expect the process to be as challenging as the academic work.
So work at communication. Every time you meet with faculty, follow-up with detailed e-mail and cc the doctoral studies secretary. Say what you have done, what you hope to do and the deadlines involved. Don’t let anything catch anyone by surprise.
Expect your faith to be challenged. You will be pressured, you may feel put-down. You may have personal challenges along the way ($, family, ministry). You may have to take time off. God may call you to step away from the PhD. There is a whole spectrum of challenge awaiting PhD students.
Rest in the faithfulness of God. Whatever point you find yourself on this spectrum know that God is faithful. Never lose sight of the fact that your Christianity is not based upon your papers, comps or dissertation, but Jesus’ death and resurrection. In some ways PhD studies are icing on the cake of Christianity. Enjoy Jesus and the fellowship of the Spirit.
Expect physical challenges. Lack of sleep, lots of sitting, too much caffeine can have long and short term affects on your body. Eye strain and neck pain will slip into your book bag and follow you home from the library.
So take care of your body. Read standing up. Get an exercise program. Be moderate with sweets and caffeine. Get an exercise program. Put ice on your neck at night. There is nothing godly about getting a PhD and 30 pounds in the process.
Expect tech challenges. In a day of instant back up and storage there is no excuse for losing research, but computers will crash and downloads will fail.
Today begin to equip yourself for tech success. Purchase a reliable laptop, word processor, and research software. I suggest a Mac, Word for Mac, and EndNote.