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Graduate Study in Classics FAQ & Program Lists - Classical Journal

7 posts in this topic

As of right now, the Classical Journal's Graduate Study FAQ and program lists/surveys can no longer be directly accessed. These resources helped me immensely throughout my application process, and I would like to ensure that future applicants have access to them.

I'm not sure whether the old website (classicaljournal.org/) will be reinstated or not, or whether the material will be available through another website (I've poked around on CAMWS and others to no avail), so - just in case - I'm copying the cached FAQ and program lists to this thread, both for convenience and for fear that they may one day be lost for good.

Note that some information may be outdated, and that I have filled in a little information explaining some outdated information/defunct links to the best of my ability - nevertheless, I hope you will find this information as useful as I have.


The following are some Frequently Asked Questions about the process of applying for graduate study in Classics. If you have specific questions about an individual program to which you are applying, you should address them to the Director of Graduate Studies there. This is one of the DGS’s basic duties, and he or she will generally be happy to hear from you and to respond to your queries.

When should I apply?

Application deadlines for graduate programs in Classics generally fall in late December or early January. Because deadlines vary by institution, it is extremely important that you check the individual websites of all the programs in which you are interested. Although you may sometimes still be considered for admission if you apply late, you are likely to then be a much lower priority for financial aid in particular.

How many programs should I apply to?

Because there are no sure things in the graduate application process, you would be wise to apply to more than one or two programs, even if these are the ones in which you are most interested. A reasonable number today might be five to seven; more than ten is almost certainly unnecessary. Of the programs you apply to, one or two should be “safety schools,” to which you feel reasonably confident you will admitted, based on your transcript, your GRE scores, and the like. You might also want to include on your list one or two “aspirational schools,” programs to which you would very much like to be admitted and which are arguably just beyond your “reach,” but where you might have a chance of admission in the right year, with the right admissions committee, and the right personal essay, etc.

How should I pick the programs I apply to?

You may have important personal criteria to take into account, such as whether you would like to be on the East or the West Coast, or in the snow-zone or the desert. After that, however, it is important that you seek advice about this question from at least one (and preferably several) professors in your field. Some programs are widely thought to be better than others; many have specific strengths or weaknesses you may need to be aware of; and some have distinct methodological slants that may or may not appeal to you. These are questions of reputation rather than fact, and you must rely on a combination of your own best instincts, the information you can gather from websites and the like, and guidance from people who have been in the field longer than you.

Do not be afraid to ask for advice, and do not be afraid to take it. National Research Council (NRC) rankings are currently being developed for all large American graduate programs in Classics. These rankings should be available by late 2008 or 2009, but are expected to omit a number of smaller programs (defined by the NRC as programs that have produced less than five PhDs in the last five years). The current NRC rankings are over a decade out of date and should not affect your choices. When you consider graduate programs, do not rely exclusively on the reputation of the institution as a whole: even excellent universities often have a few bad departments—and vice versa. What matters most is your particular department and the professors in it.

Do not assume that you already know exactly what you want to do in graduate school, and that having a good faculty in that area alone is sufficient. The nature of graduate school is that it enlarges and changes your way of thinking about the field. If all goes well, you will be intellectually a very different person when you complete your graduate degree, and you may well write your dissertation on a topic or an author you have never heard of at this point. Ideally, therefore, you want a department that is strong across the board, and that will be able to provide support in whatever direction you grow.

This also means that you should not pick your graduate program solely on the basis of the presence of one faculty member. It is the nature of modern academic life that faculty move from one institution to the next; and you may well love someone’s written work, but find them difficult in person. Finally, it is generally not considered a good idea to do your graduate work (especially your PhD) at the same institution where you did you BA, no matter how prestigious the program there. At most, you might want to consider doing an MA at your undergraduate institution, in the firm expectation of going elsewhere for your PhD, or doing an MA elsewhere before coming back for the PhD.

What does the application process require?

Most application forms for graduate programs in Classics today are available, and can even be submitted, online. Separate application forms may be required for the specific program to which you are applying and the graduate school generally; these applications may also need to be sent to separate addresses. The application forms themselves are generally straightforward. In addition to the standard biographical and mailing information, you should expect to be asked to summarize the reading you have done in Greek and Latin at the undergraduate level. Along with the application form, you will usually be asked to submit the following:

• an official transcript from all undergraduate institutions you have attended

• GRE scores

The GRE (Graduate Record Exam) is constantly evolving, and major changes have been announced for 2007. You should plan to register to take the exam during the fall of the academic year when you will be applying to graduate school. There is no subject exam in Classics. There is no specific minimum score required for admission to graduate programs in Classics (although some universities may refuse to allow programs to admit students with scores below a certain number). In general, however, for native speakers of English:

• a verbal score below 500 (153) will make it very difficult to be admitted

• a verbal score in the mid- to high-500s (155-9) may be sufficient for admission to some less prestigious MA programs

• a verbal score in the 600s (160-5) will most likely be sufficient for admission to many respectable mid-tier MA and PhD programs and for consideration for some fellowships.

• a verbal score of 700 or above (166+) will most likely be needed for admission to the most prestigious and competitive programs.

*Note that these converted scores are based only on the percentile, and may be slightly high, in my opinion. In general, the GRE will not make or break your application so long as your scores are not extremely low.

Quantitative scores are usually not regarded as having much significance for graduate work in Classics, although a high score in this area is better than a low one. Non-native speakers of English will be regarded as having been at an extreme disadvantage on the GRE, and admissions committees will look for other ways to assess their applications. For good or for bad, commercial GRE prep courses have been shown to raise test scores. You may be able to get a similar result at less expense by purchasing a test-guide book, studying it carefully, and taking several practice exams.

• an academic CV

Along with the usual contact information, this should give a history of your academic work, without duplicating the more detailed material on your transcript. Be sure to list any academic honors you have received, any academic service you have done (for example tutoring in your department, organizing a talk by an academic visitor or a conference, or running your local chapter of Eta Sigma Phi), and any unusual academic opportunities you have had (for example working with a professor on his or her research, or participating in an intensive language institute). You do not need to provide your employment history unless it is relevant to your academic or teaching goals; the same is true of volunteer work. Military service (with an honorable discharge), on the other hand, will generally be regarded as being to your credit and should be listed.

• three letters of recommendation from individuals acquainted with your academic work

Your letters of recommendation should come from faculty members who know you and your work well and can support you enthusiastically; this is more important than that your recommenders be full professors, or hold prestigious chairs, or the like. It is generally a bad idea to ask TAs to write for you. Not all of your recommenders need to be classicists, but if possible at least two out of three should be. Except in very unusual circumstances, letters from non-academics (for example your boss at your most recent job) are generally regarded as of little significance.

No one is required to write for you, even if you have taken several courses with them, and anyone who expresses any reluctance to do so is likely to produce a less supportive letter than you would like. It will be helpful for your recommenders if they can see at least a preliminary draft of your statement of purpose; this will allow them to write a more pointed and informed letter. Faculty members often lead harried lives during the course of the semester. You should therefore request letters at least a month in advance of when they are due, and “check in”—politely and discreetly—shortly before the deadline to be sure they have been produced. In addition, the programs to which you are applying will often inform you once your application is complete, or if one item is outstanding.

Federal law requires that you be given the option of reviewing all letters of recommendation written for you. Most recommenders, however, will expect you to waive this right, by checking the appropriate box on the application or recommendation form, and many will refuse to write for you unless you do. Waiving your right to review your letters is normal practice, and except in highly unusual circumstances you should do this.

• writing sample

Your writing sample does not need to consist of a single long paper, although it may. In some circumstances, in fact—for example, if you have several distinct areas of interest within the field—several short papers may be equally effective. Even if you are desperate for time, do not submit unrevised work done for one of your courses. Instead, take at least an hour or two to rework the paper(s), so that what you submit is as neat and clear as possible.

Application fees of $40–100 are common, but can often be waived if you can make a personal or socio-economic case for the university doing so.

Edited by moogle

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How much work in each language do I need?

There is no hard and fast rule, and the degree of language preparation expected of incoming students is in fact one basic difference between more selective and less selective programs. A good rule of thumb, however, is that you should have at least three years of preparation in one language, and at least two in the other. If you are less prepared than this, you might want to consider delaying graduation for a year, or enrolling in a post-bac program or a less selective MA program, in the expectation that you can move to a more prestigious program in a year or two.

When will I hear if I have been admitted?

Although there is no fixed schedule, programs generally begin notifying applicants about their decisions in late January and February. Some programs will make an offer of financial aid immediately (especially in the case of their top candidates); others may tell you only that you have been admitted, and ask you to wait for information about aid; a few (mostly very prestigious) programs tell you only that you are on a short-list, and ask you to visit campus sometime in March or early April, before a final decision and offer are made. If you do not hear from a program early on, especially after other people do, you may be on their informal wait-list—which is to say that you did not win immediate admission to the program, but were too good a candidate to be discarded. In any case, if you do not hear from a program by the beginning of March, it is perfectly appropriate to take the initiative to contact them, asking politely about the status of your application and when you might expect a decision.

What sort of financial aid can I expect to be offered?

Financial aid for graduate student in Classics generally consists of a combination of

• grants and fellowships

As the name suggests, grants are outright awards of funds to support your graduation education. Larger and more prestigious grants, especially those that continue over several years, are often referred to as fellowships and may be awarded by the graduate school rather than the individual program. Having a fellowship usually releases you from at least a portion of normal graduate student teaching duties; you may, for example, not have to serve as a TA/RA for a year or two, or you may teach only one undergraduate section of a course as opposed to two.

Fellowships generally bring a full remission of graduate tuition with them.

• TAships and RAships

Teaching Assistantships are the standard form of support for graduate students in Classics, and at large public institutions in particular are often the only reliable form of support. Research Assistantships are less common, and tend to be held in the second year or later, after you have developed a professional relationship with an individual instructor. Federal law specifies that full-time students may work no more than 20 hours a week (“half-time”), and TAships and RAships are therefore often referred to as either 50% (i.e. half-time, = 20 hours/week) or 25% (i.e. quarter-time, = 10 hours/week) appointments.

Typical 50% appointments might include: solo teaching a first-year language class that meets 4 times a week for 50 minutes; directing and grading two or three 50-minute sections attached to a large lecture course such as Classical Mythology, and attending the lectures; or helping administer and serving as grader for a large lecture course with no sections. The hours/week figures are nominal; the actual hours worked per week are generally less than specified, although there may be times when, for example, a large amount of grading must be done in a short period.

Typical RAships might include: assisting an individual professor with his or her research; administering a slide library; or computer support work. RAships tend to function more like regular jobs, in that you may have fixed hours during which you are required to be at your desk.

50% TAships and RAships generally bring full remission of graduate tuition with them, while 25% TAships and RAships generally bring remission of half your tuition.

• and tuition waivers

Most fellowships and 50% TAships and RAships bring an automatic remission of graduate tuition with them. If you do not receive aid of this sort, you may nonetheless be offered a tuition fellowship, which will allow you to enroll in classes, but will not provide any income. Tuition fellowships are sometimes used as a way to provide marginal candidates for admission an opportunity to prove themselves. In other words, if you receive only a tuition fellowship but do well in your first year, you may eventually be offered more substantial financial support.

If you are asked on the application form to rank the type of aid you would like to receive, you should normally rank grants and fellowships first, and TAships and RAships second.

The total value of a “full package” of aid at most institutions (excluding tuition) is generally about $12,000 over nine or ten months, although fellowships may run to $20,000 or in rare circumstances even more. Additional summer aid is sometimes available. All this money is generally taxable. Most programs also provide subsidized health insurance for graduate students and their dependants, although specific plans vary. Most programs today try to guarantee five years of funding for PhD students “subject to satisfactory progress.” This will generally not be enough to allow you to finish your degree, but if you are a good student there will almost certainly be further support available when you write your dissertation.

Because Classics—unlike law, for example, or medicine—is not a field in which you are more or less guaranteed a substantial income after graduation, you should be extremely wary of taking out loans to pay for your graduate school education.

Edited by moogle

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I was invited to a "prospective student weekend"- Should I attend? Who pays? How should I prepare?

Many programs today host “prospective student weekends,” generally in March or early April. A few top-tier programs do not make their final admissions decisions until after the weekend is over, and instead invite a short-list of candidates to visit campus, and make a final decision after that. These weekends represent an exceptional opportunity to see the campus, to meet and talk with faculty and other graduate students (and prospective graduate students), and to get a feel for what it would be like to be in school there. If you are seriously interested in a program, therefore, you should do your best to attend the prospective student weekend. It is normal (and expected) that you will attend several such weekends, and you should feel free to do so, if your schedule will allow it. If you are not genuinely interested in a program, on the other hand, you should decline the invitation to its new student weekend early enough to allow someone else to take your place.

Unless you are specifically told otherwise, the program—not you—will cover your airfare and housing (often with a current graduate student), and will feed you for the weekend. Do not attempt to pay for meals and the like when you are on campus; this is unnecessary and will only make your hosts uncomfortable. For your on-campus visit, dress well; this will be interpreted as a sign of respect for the program rather than as phoniness, regardless of what you normally wear.

Study the department’s website enough to know who the individual faculty members are and what they specialize in. You will often have a series of half-hour interviews scheduled for you with individual faculty members. Come prepared with questions. Faculty generally like to talk about their own research, including to people who know only a bit about it, but seem interested. They will find you far more engaging—and your time with them will be far more fun and revealing—if you interact on this level, rather than asking dull generic questions.

You should not attempt to discuss the level of support you have been offered with anyone except the Director of Graduate Studies. Other faculty do not control this, and complaining about it to them will do you more harm than good. Always address professors as “Professor X,” unless you are specifically asked not to do so. Have a good time, but be careful with alcohol in particular; no one will think there is anything wrong with you if you stop after a beer or two.

You will often go out to eat with the current graduate students. This is your chance to find out what things are like in the department from their perspective, and they will probably be anxious to talk to you. But even here you should be careful: some of them at least may be fiercely loyal to the department or individuals within it, and you should not seem overly critical of anything or anyone, no matter what you are thinking inside.

If you cannot attend the scheduled weekend, you can generally make special arrangements to visit the campus at some other point, although you should understand that you will be less catered-to in that case.

When do I have to decide which program to attend? What do I do about programs I decide not to attend?

You must make your decision about which program to attend by April 15. Before that date, any decision on your part to accept admission to a program is not binding, but any decision on your part to turn down an offer of admission is binding. This means that you may accept the first offer of admission you receive, but then decline it later, if you get one you prefer, and so on, until April 15. Once you tell a program you will not accept their offer, on the other hand, that opportunity is gone for good.

These rules are designed to allow you to choose between programs in a careful, considered way. Despite all that, it is extremely bad form to “sit on” offers you have no intention of accepting. Once you definitely decide that you will not be attending a particular program that has offered you admission, therefore, you should immediately let the Director of Graduate Studies know. This will allow that slot to be offered to another student—who may then release a slot at another program for a third student, and so on down the line.

Because of the elaborate house-of-cards nature of this process, if you are wait-listed for a program in which you are intensely interested, you may not hear until the last minute—at which point you may take the new offer and decline any offer you previously accepted. But the more you personally can do to make the system work efficiently and fairly, the better it will be for everyone.

What else can I do to make myself an attractive candidate for admission?

For the MA, most graduate programs in Classics require you to demonstrate proficiency in either French or Italian, on the one hand, or German, on the other. For the PhD, proficiency in one of the Romance languages and German is normally required. Even a single year of elementary work in one of these languages as a junior or senior can greatly strengthen your application.

Graduate students are chosen not just for their intellectual potential, but for their potential to serve as undergraduate TAs. If you have not already had an opportunity, therefore, to tutor beginning language students in your undergraduate department, you should take—or create—one now. If you cannot tutor Greek or Latin, consider another form of volunteer teaching, for example in a writing workshop or a local literacy center. None of these options will require more than a few hours of your time each week, and you will be surprised by how much you learn by teaching someone else—and by how good it makes you feel about yourself and the world.

What if I have taken a few years off?

Although it might at first glance seem otherwise, a few years out of school can be a strong positive for your application, if you can show that you have used your time away from academics well, to explore different possibilities and opportunities, or to gain relevant linguistic or work experience. Alternatively, you may want—or need—to argue that your time out of school has made you realize, as you did not before, that Classics is the thing to which you want to devote your life. These matters should be taken up in your personal statement, and ideally in one or more of your letters of recommendation as well. In any case, be sure to address the crucial question of how you have managed to maintain or improve your competence in Greek and Latin during your time out of school, and how you will address any lingering problems in this area.

How long will it take to complete my degree?

MA programs range from one to three years in length, with two years being the norm. For the PhD, you should expect to complete a minimum of three years of coursework (more often three-and-a-half to four), and to take a series of exams in your fourth year or so. After you pass your exams, you will be considered ABD (“All But Dissertation”). Completion of the dissertation generally takes at least two years. You should thus expect completion of the PhD to take a minimum of six to seven years.

Edited by moogle

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PhD Programs

• Boston University


• Brown University


• Bryn Mawr College


Catholic University of America


• City University of New York (CUNY)


• Columbia University


• Cornell University


• Dalhousie University


• Duke University


• Florida State University


• Fordham University


• Harvard University


• Indiana University


• Johns Hopkins University


• McMaster University


• New York University


• Ohio State University


Penn State University


• Princeton University


• Rutgers University


• Stanford University


• SUNY Buffalo


University of Alberta


• University of British Columbia


• University of California, Berkeley


• University of California, Irvine


• University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)


• University of California, Santa Barbara


• University of Chicago


• University of Cincinnati


• University of Colorado, Boulder


• University of Florida


• University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


• University of Iowa


• University of Michigan


• University of Minnesota


• University of Missouri-Columbia


• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


• University of Pennsylvania

http://www.classics.upenn.edu/programs/grad_classics.html (classical studies)

http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/anch/ (ancient history)

• University of Pittsburgh


• University of Southern California


• University of Texas at Austin


• University of Toronto


• University of Virginia


• University of Washington


• University of Wisconsin, Madison


• Vanderbilt University


• Washington University in St. Louis


• Yale University


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MA Programs

• Boston College (Latin, Greek, Classics; MAT in Latin and Classical Humanities)


• Hunter College (Latin Pedagogy)


Kent State University (Latin, Latin Paedagogy)


• Marshall University


• Memorial University of Newfoundland


• Queen’s University


• San Francisco State University (Classics)


• Texas Tech University (Classics)


• Tufts University (Classics & Classics Archaeology)


• Tulane University


• University of Arizona (Classical Philology, Ancient History, Latin Pedagogy, Classical Archaeology)


• University of Georgia (Classics, Greek, Latin)


University of Kansas (Classics)


• University of Kentucky (Classics)


University of Maryland, College Park (Latin, Latin and Greek)


• University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MAT in Latin and Classical Humanities)


• University of Nebraska (Classics)


• University of Oregon (Latin, Greek, Classics)


• University of Vermont (Greek and Latin, Teaching)


• Villanova University


• Wayne State University


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Looks like the personal statement section slipped through the cracks somehow, and it's too late to edit it into the original post. Sorry!


Along with the application form, you will usually be asked to submit:

a narrative statement of purpose

The personal statement is your opportunity to tell your story, by explaining who you are, what you hope to accomplish in graduate school and afterward, and why you think you belong in this particular program. The importance of the personal statement cannot be overstated: a good statement can win you admission to a program to which you might not otherwise seem to be qualified and vice versa. Your statement will be read very carefully by the admissions committee, and you should therefore go through several drafts, working closely, if possible, with your adviser. Spelling and grammar count—to say nothing of the clarity and coherence of the case you make for yourself. A page to a page-and-a-half is generally sufficient.

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