Zotero - a free research management tool that has totally changed the way I write papers. Access Zotero with Mozilla Firefox and follow the instructions to download the add-in to Firefox as well as to your word processor. Enter the books you are using for your research into Zotero, add notes if you want, and it's all stored on Zotero's servers. When it's time to write your paper, simply click the appropriate button and the correct bibliographical information appears like magic in your footnote, formatted to the style you have chosen (SBL, Chicago, APA, etc.). The full bibliography appears at the end of your paper. No more long hours formatting your bibliography to get it just right! You can spend your time on the actual research that will strengthen your paper. I'm so glad I learned about Zotero when I did, because I already had a year's worth of dissertation-related research stored up before I was even a PhD student. Click here for a helpful blog entry on how to use Zotero for biblical studies papers.
ETS/IBR/SBL - The BEST thing you can do to get to know the field of biblical studies, meet scholars, network, and even narrow down your research interests is to attend the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research and/or the Society of Biblical Literature. I'm a member of all three organizations. It's not expensive to become a student member, and the cost of attending the conference will be less than the cost of one masters-level course. The payoff is incalculable. The meetings are usually held in the same location back-to-back so it's convenient to attend all three if you can afford the time away. After attending the conferences just a few times, I was able to picture the faces and even voice inflections of those I cited in my papers. I've had opportunities to ask burning questions to all sorts of prominent scholars. If you go, be bold but respectful. The most famous scholars are also the busiest, but most of them are delighted to meet students who have read their work and want to ask a quick question. If you have more complicated questions, it's polite to email professors in advance and ask to arrange a meeting during the conference. While my first year was almost all spontaneous encounters, I scheduled 10 meetings for the second year, allowing me to prioritize the most important meetings. If you're planning to apply to more than one school, this is a great way to meet potential supervisors from each of those schools instead of spending the time and money needed to visit every school. I was accepted at 4 of the 5 schools where I applied, and had only visited one campus. I have made many like-minded friends at ETS, IBR and SBL who I know will be friends for life. There is nothing quite like it! The latest research in biblical studies is often presented at these conferences before it comes out in print. Attending will give you the opportunity to find out what's happening at the cutting edge of scholarship.
Bible Software - It would be unthinkable to attempt a degree in biblical studies without having some sort of Bible software for your computer. While some schools provide access to programs on library computers, certain things are nice to have at home. The program I use is Bibleworks, and I've been very happy with it. Sadly, Bibleworks closed down operations in the summer of 2018, so if you don't already own it, you won't be able to buy it. Other popular programs are Logos (especially for pastors), and Accordance. A few free or partially-free options have hit the internet as well, such as Olive Tree. I have not touched a paper concordance since I entered seminary. Why look up a word by hand when you could have instant answers in one click? Bibleworks allows advanced searches, searches by word roots, searches in any number of languages. It offers grammatical diagrams of the entire New Testament, vocabulary flash cards for Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic (customized to test you on what you don't know), and a host of other helpful tools. Check to see if your institution offers a group discount. It's well worth the price!