Classical Studies Program

Graduate School Advice and Checklist

Graduate Programs for Classics Students

Most Fresno State undergraduates who are majoring or minoring in Classical Studies plan to attend graduate studies either here in History or elsewhere in various related fields. Our Classics program—usually in conjunction with the History Department’s M.A. program—has had real success placing its students in prestigious Ph.D. programs in various fields at Brown (Comparative Literature), Yale (Classics and ancient history, Comparative Literature), Ohio State (History), Princeton (History, Classics), Bryn Mawr (Classics), UCLA (History, Classics, and Comparative Literature), Stanford (History—1), and University of Bristol (ancient history). Two received Mellon fellowships.

A major or minor in Classics can open horizons to studies outside the field. A 2008 Classics special major will be attending Yale’s doctoral program in Comparative Literature and Renaissance Studies; another will be going to St. John’s in Annapolis for a M.A. A Latin minor (with a major in History) will be attending Boston University in History. Two Greek minors (with majors in Agriculture Economics and English/Spanish) have attended M.A. programs in International Relations at Johns Hopkins and Cal State LA; the former now works at the U.S. Department of State, and the latter is now in the doctoral program at George Washington. A 2006 Philosophy and History major/Classics minor (emphasis Greek) is attending the Princeton Theological Seminary, and another Greek minor with a Philosophy major is attending Wheaton to earn a M.A. in Biblical Exegesis. A 2007 Classics special major graduate will be studying at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. One History/Classics student returned to Fresno State to pursue a M.A. in History while taking Greek and Latin, decided to switch his field from ancient to Latin America (with a thesis bridging the two fields), and because of his well-rounded education is now pursuing a Ph.D. in History at Stanford. Students attending private universities for their doctorates have received generous, multi-year fellowships; the public universities provide teaching opportunities as a form of graduate support.

Students often ask, “What do I need to do to get into grad school?” The answer to this is complex, given that there are various levels and fields of graduate study open to Classical Studies students: M.A. and Ph.D. (in numerous fields), M. Div., D. Div., J.D., M.D., M.B.A., etc., but there are four essential steps that one must follow in general:

  1. Take courses that pertain to possible future fields of interest (do not forget Statistics, for instance!);
  2. Achieve the highest grades possible in all coursework (not just major and minor);
  3. Figure out which field to pursue, after considering what you love to do most and consulting with professors, family, and friends; and
  4. Take (and retake) the graduate entrance exams (GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc.) until you have an adequate score for a given institution (consult the college guides for these figures).
  5. Also, for additional kudos, consider doing an Arts and Humanities Honors and/or McNair Program thesis. Extracurricular activities, including student government and volunteer work, can also add luster to applications for graduate study and help our greater community.

Graduate study in the field of Classical Studies occurs normally in two departments at major research institutions: Classics and History (Philosophy, Religious Studies, Political Science, Comparative Literature, and Art History are also possibilities); it all depends upon the institution’s own history, faculty, and organization. The study of ancient Greek and Latin is done in Classics departments, whereas the study of ancient Greek and Roman history, for instance, is conducted in both Classics and History departments, depending on the institution. Some universities have ancient historians appointed fully in both departments, some have them in one with a courtesy appointment in the other, and some keep them strictly apart administratively in either Classics or History; these personnel arrangements are not always reflected in the design of graduate programs of study, and students may find themselves in a Classics Ph.D. program but with an adviser whose appointment is in Classics and/or History, or Religious Studies with courtesy in Classics, etc. It truly depends on the place.

Consequently, prospective students should examine a graduate program’s full list of faculty (check their course offerings and publications to see if they are interesting teachers and productive scholars), entrance requirements, course requirements for particular fields, reading lists, examinations, and time-to-degree. With this information, you can make a more informed decision about whether and where to consider applying. Applications are normally due by December or January, and it is advisable to ask three or four faculty members at least two months before needing letters from them. Also, write your personal statement at least six weeks before the application is due so that two faculty members can review it.

The majority of our Ph.D.-bound Classical Studies students have been students of History. The undergraduate major in History does not have a specific foreign language requirement, but the M.A. program in History requires that all students writing a thesis in ancient history pass a Greek or Latin reading exam (which is administered by the History Dept.). M.A. students in ancient history technically do not have to take either Greek or Latin courses here at Fresno State, but it is strongly advised, especially if one wishes to have a thesis reader and letter of recommendation from a faculty member in Classics. In order to attend doctoral studies in ancient history (whether in a History or a Classics department), one must study Greek and Latin: 3 years of one and 2 years of the other on the transcript is the minimum for a Fresno State student. Some schools will not accept anyone from Fresno State with less than 4 years of one and 3 of the other. Also, for a Classics doctorate, one must be able to pass French and German reading exams; Italian is an option at many schools, but Spanish is not.

See Also

Checklist for M.A. Students of Ancient History Planning to Pursue a Ph.D.