Darryl A. Phillips

How to find the right Graduate Program

October 11, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

This is the third post in my series about graduate school in Classics.  Today’s topic is how to find programs that suit your needs and match your interests.

Finding a graduate school program that is a good match for you is a bit different than finding an undergraduate program.  In graduate school you will be highly specialized in your studies.   The quality and reputation of the Classics faculty, the curriculum and requirements, and the success of the program’s graduates are among the factors that matter most.  While some of the best programs are found at “big name” universities, there are some other strong programs in Classics at schools you may have never heard of before.  So how can you find out about these programs?  I suggest three different strategies. 

First (and perhaps easiest of all), The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, which publishes Classical Journal, has a useful web-page that includes links to graduate programs in Classics and some survey information.  This is a convenient starting point to learn about graduate programs.  The CJ survey includes basic information about the program, including information about admissions (requirements for applicants, percentage of applicants accepted), strengths of the program, financial packages for students, and size of the program.  Convenient links on the page connect you directly with graduate program websites.  Take a look at the different programs, paying particular attention to the faculty members, course and examination requirements, and funding opportunities.  You can access the CJ page at: http://classicaljournal.org/study_classics.php

Another tactic is to look at look at the phd dissertation topics of students at different programs.  The American Philological Association (the professional association for Classicists in North America) publishes annual lists of Classics dissertation topics in progress and dissertations recently completed.  This is a good way to get a sense of “hot” new topics in Classics, and it can give you an excellent idea of the areas of interest of the faculty at these schools.  When looking at the list, be sure to pay attention to the dissertation advisors of each of the students.  Lists of dissertation topics are included in the APA Newsletter.  You can find hard copies of recent editions of the newsletter in the Classics Seminar Room in Randolph Hall.  Copies are also available on-line at the APA website:  http://www.apaclassics.org/APA-MENU.html.  While you are exploring the APA website, you might also want to take a look at the listings of the Placement Service to get a sense of the jobs that are currently available.  You won’t be applying for jobs for quite sometime, but it is always a good idea to get a sense of what is currently out there. 
Finally, a third strategy for finding the right graduate program is to look at and talk with your undergraduate professors.  Graduate schools play an important role in shaping a professor’s approach to Classics.  Are there professors whose ways of approaching the ancient world particularly interest you?  Look at where they went to graduate school.  Meet with several of your professors to discuss different graduate programs.  Ask what programs they would recommend for someone with your interests.  These conversations will serve a couple of purposes — you’ll get some excellent advice from your professors, and just as importantly, you’ll be letting your professors know about your interest in graduate school.  As you will likely be asking these same professors for recommendation letters later in the process, the initial meeting for advice is an important first step.
That ought to get you started in the search for the right program.  Stay tuned for future posts where I’ll discuss funding, the life of a graduate student, and other issues.


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