So I currently attend a small LAC that does quite well in placing students in graduate school, including in French Lit/Studies, but obviously I am aware of the competition and the need to be very good and have matching research interests with potential schools regardless of my school. I speak two non-European languages in addition to English and French, and want to get a PhD in the theme of French studies. NYU in particular is very appealing to me. I really like the period of modernity generally but am also broadly interested in 19th/20th century literature, particularly in travel literature (like Loti) and French colonization of the south of India (here's where my linguistic training will be useful). I will spell out more specific research interests and research programs more deeply once I start applying (probably for the Fall of 2019/2020, depending on my master's program).
But I have two issues: I dillydallied around choosing my major for a while and did poorly in one particular course in mathematics during junior year. However, I have good grades in French language and literature courses, and in the social sciences and the humanities, and will hopefully continue that trend next year. I was wondering what advice you all would have for me. My professor recommended that I go to a general literature program at a school like Northwestern or Chicago, and get my masters and further literary training there before applying to PhD programs. This is, however, out of financial reach for me. Even then, I'd rather go to Université de Strasbourg or Université de Montpellier and get a masters in letters (comparative lit) or a social science discipline like sociology (if I decide to go a more interdisciplinary route) because there is little to no tuition, and it would give me the opportunity to perfect my French in ways that Chicago couldn't.
I'm also not sure about what kind of people I will be competing with; I have 0 research experience, and probably won't until I finish writing a thesis next year, which is somewhat in the lines of research experience. So I also don't have any conference presentations and things like that, but maybe I can manage something in the next few years. The only thing I know is that I love French, and have developed a strong desire to continue studying literature. I also like the idea of doing comparative literature, but it seems like a long degree that isn't quite favored by hiring committees in 'national language' departments. I'd like to set myself up, from the beginning, to get jobs outside academia if that doesn't pan out (which it doesn't for a lot of people I suppose). In any case, I don't want to go to a school if it's not a top school with good placements (like Columbia), so I was wondering what y'all think about me even trying this path. I'll have excellent LoRs but my academic background isn't spotless, but maybe a master's degree in France and my coursework in literature could help.
The alternative would be to get a data science masters from a business school in France or even a general university and put my literary ambitions aside, and do that instead. Probably more practical, and somewhat appealing and a worthwhile investment, but not nearly interesting as going to graduate school and teaching. I'm also thinking of public policy work instead, and working in the domain of public policy looking at immigration in France and Europe generally. Again, more "practical", but hey I couldn't care less about haha.