Applications for graduate school are usually due in December/January for the September semester.

Preliminary advice on how to think about, and how to apply to, graduate school in classical studies, classical archaeology or ancient history.

Each one of these disciplinary tracks has different requirements; each person who applies will have individual strengths and weaknesses. As a result, there is no ‘cookie cutter’ model for this process. Students are strongly encouraged to talk to their concentration advisor or other mentors early and often about their graduate school ambitions. In addition, careful research (for example, using the web resources listed below) will help you make intelligent, and efficient, decisions.

What are your degree possibilities?

  • Ph.D. programs (average at least 5-6 years) – the full qualification, usually leading to positions at universities, elite secondary schools, or museum curatorial positions
  • MA programs (average 1-2 years) – both a way to begin to explore the field, or a terminal point for those unsure if they want to invest in a Ph.D. program. Secondary school and some museum jobs can follow from MA degrees.
  • Post-baccalaureate programs (average 1-2 years) – programs that normally target students wishing to improve specific skills (e.g. languages)
  • One option: think strategically about moving from one to another degree (e.g., doing a post-baccalaureate to improve language skills, before proceeding onwards)

Getting started

  • It is wise to begin to prepare yourself for graduate school as early as possible, ideally at least two years before you plan to enroll. Starting later (which in many cases is unavoidable) may mean you will have to do additional coursework (or degrees such as an MA or Post-baccalaureate degree) in order to be a competitive applicant for high-quality programs.
  • Gather information: talk to your undergraduate advisor, talk to other faculty, talk to graduate students, and check out Internet resources. Think about the program’s faculty, resources, financial aid structure, and geographical location.
  • Ensure you meet entrance requirements: do research on a variety of programs that interest you; gain a sense of what they require for admission and success
  • Choose a range of programs to apply to. Learn where the best schools are (this will vary from field to field), and decide on your top choices, your ‘back up’ schools.

The Application

  • The ‘time line’: applications are usually due in the December/January for the September semester.
  • The usual things needed to support your application are:
    • GREs (Graduate Record Examination): take the test in time for the scores to reach the schools; allow ample time for re-takes if it doesn’t go well on your first try
    • Official academic transcript: get requests in to the University in
      good time
    • Curriculum vitae or resume: this must be very tidy, as well as no longer than 2 pages, maximum. Be informative without being exhaustive; stress relevant experiences inside and outside the classroom
    • Letters of recommendation: usually three are requested. It is essential that you get to know faculty and to share your interests with them as soon as possible; for example, visit them in office hours, catch them after class. Don’t be shy: the better they know you, the better the letter they can write on your behalf. Be courteous and timely in requests for such letters; select a range of people (with a range of perceptions of you). Better to go with college professors than with GSIs or high school teachers, unless in unusual circumstances. A brief thank you note is always appreciated.
    • Personal statement: usually 2-3 pages on why you want to attend a specific program, and why you think you are ready for it. Advice: start working on these early; this is a difficult document to craft, for it is very easy to sound naïve or bland. Good advice: show the statement to your undergraduate advisor and others for comment.
    • Writing sample: should be no longer than 30 pages. These usually spring most appropriately from a course term paper, so be sure to take classes which require such papers, and which provide some critique of your writing style. Above all, make sure it is immaculate, spell checked, etc.
  • Get EVERYTHING in on time!
To investigate useful sources of information on graduate programs, continue to the next page
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