Decide what you want to do/be 20 years from now; then work backwards. What type of education would it take to get there?
At some point, a doctorate needs to be "the pearl of great price" for you. Begin with the end in mind.
II. Three Qualities of Successful Doctoral Students
Sufficient drive, focus, and stick-to-it-ive-ness
Someone of significance believed in them
III. Rewards of Earning a Doctorate
Enhanced income potential
Status via change-of-title
Broader vocational options (including college instruction)
Greater ministry opportunities
IV. Cost of a Doctorate
Money (temporary poverty)
Spending life stress units
Putting some dreams on temporary hold
V. Decisions You Need to Make
Begin the process early (sophomore year).
Decide what you want to do with a doctorate.
Decide whether you want an academic (research) or professional (practicioner's) doctorate.
Generate a (long) list of potential schools in which you have interest.
VI. Data You Need to Gather
Find application vs. acceptance rates at programs of interest.
Ascertain the likelihood and/or possibility of financial aide at the programs of interest.
Investigate the possibility/likelihood your institutions-of-interest may be predisposed against evangelical Christianity.
VII. Preparatory Steps to Take
Narrow your "target" schools to 12. Select three dream schools, three (reasonably) sure schools, and six schools in-between.
Give particular attention to institutions in the State where you have official residency (better acceptance potential).
Study these programs to discover what increases the likelihood of admission to them.
Visit as many targeted universities as you can.
Select faculty members from each program and read their research publications. Study these faculty members.
Contact the faculty members you studied and dialogue with them regarding their research interests and how yours matches theirs.
Conduct research, present papers, and publish as much as you can in the areas where the doctoral professors (you are targeting) are currently publishing.
In the application (and interview if you have one) indicate that a salient reason you are applying to that particular university is to study and publish under your targeted faculty member(s).
Begin building a resume of experiences which your targeted institutions value highly.
Enlist the assistance of a faculty mentor(s) who can guide you through the process.
VIII. Making Successful Application
Take all needed prep seminars for admissions exams (e.g. GRE, LSAT, GMAT, etc.). Study For Them!
Take all needed admissions tests early.
Apply to as many programs as you can possibly afford (play the percentages).
Personally discuss references with your professors (and others) before you ask them to provide one. Give faculty an impressive fact sheet about you which they can use to be lavish in their praise.
Give attention to details (e.g. apply early, dress and prepare for interviews adequately, have someone proof your applications, etc.).
Pray for wisdom, guidance, and the Lord's clear direction.
IX. Paying for Doctoral Studies
Many PhD acceptances come routinely with fellowships, and/or R.A., G.A., or T.A. positions
Apply for G.A. positions outside your department.
Some fields of study lend themselves to acquiring part-time jobs in the area (and/or full-time in the summers) which will substantially help to pay for grad school. Network with current doctoral students and faculty to discover where these are located.
Don't over-extend yourself with student loans, but recognize that in the long run, they are more than likely worth it (financially) when necessary. This assumes of course, that you complete the doctorate.
Prepare yourself mentally for temporary poverty. Delay gratification so that you can attend to your studies with as little distraction as possible.