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Language Requirement Crisis


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Hi all, 

I'm currently a junior at a relatively small university with a major in History hoping to enter graduate school in Classical Studies after graduation. The problem that I am having is that I came to this descision late... with only three semesters left... and no language experiance. At the moment I am talking to my department head to see what I can do about this and get some experience under my belt with both Greek and Latin. That being said, I am definitely going to need advice on what I can do to strengthen my language skills since most require at least 3 years of experiance in one and two in the other. I've been thinking about maybe applying for a post-Bacc program or attending an intensive summer learning program. If anyone has been in a sitaution similar to mine, any advice would be greatly appreciated! 

P.S. I have been studying in my own time with some textbooks that I have ordered online.

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I'm sure others can provide good advice, but basic recommendations would be summer intensive (some other than CUNY are cheaper, and some are online these days), and funded MA. It's not worthwhile to take out loans to pursue a post-bacc or unfunded MA unless you're independently wealthy. My impression is that funded MA is better than post-bacc in both support and placement too. There are more funded MAs than there used to be. If you're able to do 2 terms' worth for one language over the summer via an intensive and then take it next year, and take the other language your remaining 3 terms (which'd get you to 4 of one and 3 of the other), you should hopefully be competitive for MAs with a good writing sample. Focus on building some solid relationships with professors who can write good letters, and ask their advice about how to proceed.

(PhD programs in Classics tend to really require 3 years/6 terms of each language, I think, or at least it might be tough to be competitive with less.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is a list of funded MA/Post-Bac/Pre-Doc Classics programs maintained by Liv Yarrow of Brooklyn College, updated for fall 2021.  Check them out, especially those bridge programs such as those at Cornell and Princeton.  They are specifically designed to prepare students for PhD programs.  Everything else being equal, consider those programs offering funding packages that do not require TA/RA duties, which would allow you to focus on your study and getting ready to apply to doctoral programs..

As for summer intensive courses, if you can do one this summer, that should make your application this fall much more competitive.  The CUNY Latin/Greek Institute is pretty good.  It's not cheap, but they do offer scholarships that cover the entire tuition, and depending on your situation, the Society for Classical Studies might also have scholarships you can apply to and, if received, use to cover any summer income you might lose because of the full-time commitment required by the Institute.  They are also offering basic programs in both Latin and Greek this summer, the timing of which works out great for you.  Do note, however, that you cannot join a basic program if you have taken any course in that language, even if just one introductory course.  So one possibility is as follows:

Spring 2022: an intensive course in of the two languages (say, Latin) at your current school, i.e. one that covers the first two courses in a four-course sequence (in this case Latin 1 and 2).

Summer 2022: a basic program in the language you didn't do in the Spring (say, Greek), either at CUNY or elsewhere.

Fall 2022: the third Latin course in the four-course sequence; and apply to funded MA programs

Spring 2023: the fourth Latin Course in the four-course sequence

That should give you about two years of experience in Latin and about 1.5-2 years in Greek by the time you enter the MA program.


Spring 2022: intensive course in one of the two languages (say, Latin) at your current school

Summer 2022: an advanced intensive program in the same language (in this case Latin) at somewhere other than CUNY since they only offer basic programs this summer.

Fall 2022: Greek 1 at your current school; and also an advanced Latin reading course

Spring 2023: Greek 2 at your current school; and another advanced Latin reading course

This would give you about 3.5-4 years of experience in one of the two languages (here Latin) and one year in the other (here Greek).  This has the advantage of letting you focus on one language first and transition to the other language after you have had significant experience in the first.

Of course, the more experience in both languages the better, but it's not uncommon for an applicants to be much stronger in one language and weaker in the other (that's true to some degree even with PhD applicants), and the admissions committees understand that.  It's especially true for bridge programs since they are designed to help you improve on whatever weaknesses you have in your qualifications.  

These are just some suggestions.  Feel free to adjust to your own needs or discard entirely!  But do talk to your advisor, and if your school has a Classics department/program, talk to them as well.  You do need to plan your course load now though.  Three semesters can go by pretty fast.  

However you do it, it will be a lot of work, and many of those funded programs mentioned at the beginning are very competitive (don't quote me on this, but I think Notre Dame takes only two and Cornell takes only one each year?)  But it is definitely doable, and if you are really passionate about doing Classics in grad school, go for it!  Best of luck!

Edited by JMAurelius
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