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Philology PhD Chances


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I will be applying to Classical Philology PhD programs this fall with 3 years of upper-level Latin (I tested into the 300 level when I swapped from English to Classics as my major; 300 level here = undiluted Vergil, Caesar, Catullus, Cicero, selected medieval authors, and Lucretius), three years of Greek (keep in mind that the first year was all introductory stuff from Athenaze; by 201 and 202 we were reading the New Testament and then Plato's Apology; 301 and 302 will be Sophocles and Homer, and, if we finish those selections, possible some Hellenistic stuff too), 2 years of French, and 2 summer semesters of German. After this fall I will have added a semester of Modern Greek on the 200-level as well. My GPA is good overall and I've never made less than an A in any language class; however, my transcript contains the major blemish of a D in Roman Art. I scored one of the top slots in the National College Greek exam (for first year Greek). I hope this all doesn't sound terribly pompous and overblown-- I personally think that my achievements are only average given what I'll have for competition when applying to good graduate programs. My GRE verbal score is nearly perfect, but my quantitative score is only 138 (yikes!), and I fear that I'll be applying against people who have four rather than three years of Greek. Also, I'm applying from the deep south, which definitely isn't seen as being an epicenter of Classics on the national level. I'm still whittling away on my writing sample, and there is of course no way to know whether or not any particular admissions committee will or will not like what I have to say about a particularly obscure passage of Vergil.

So what are my chances? Please be as blunt and as realistic as possible.

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Your ancient languages are a little skimpy, but colleges will probably be impressed that you've had French and German. My advice is that you not worry about your chances. I know people want to hear "Wow, you're a shoe-in!" or, "Looks good, but you should work on X, X, and X," but none of us know what our chances are because too much depends on what schools you apply to, the relative competition there, and how good a fit, and how much potential, the admissions committee thinks you have. I've seen people with what I thought were very good credentials rejected and I've seen people with a year or two of Greek accepted. It's a crapshoot.

On a personal note, like you, I'm from the ass-end of the country (Oklahoma, to be specific). I was rejected for two years in a row but I kept plugging away and now I'm at a great school. Don't worry about how other people are doing; just keep working to make yourself the best that you can be.

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As an undergraduate, I was a history major, with only one year of Greek (and only three years of Latin), so I filled my writing sample (on Plautus) with as many reference to Polybius as possible, in an effort to demonstrate my ability to read Greek at the graduate level (lots of independent studying). I was given an offer of admission with full funding, so it can definitely help to supplement any potential transcript-related shortcomings with your writing sample.

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