Whom Do We Admit into our Graduate Program?

So, now finally to get to the question I was asked, which led me into a discussion of what our graduate program entails.    Here was the original question QUESTION: Can you write something about the background of your PhD students, how you selected them, what makes a prospective doctoral candidate stand out against the pack, whether there is a huge academic gulf between knowledge and argumentative skills of your undergraduates and research students. RESPONSE:   Like all good graduate programs, ours is very difficult to get into.   In a typical year, we will have maybe 30-35 students apply to study the New Testament/Early Christianity.   We can normally admit only one, or maybe two.  So competition is very stiff. All of the students who apply have undergraduate degrees, usually from good schools.  A lot of them already have masters degrees.   Most of them (the applicants) have lots of background in the field and one or more ancient languages. I tell prospective students that we look for a range of things in our applicants, all of them obvious [...]