The Catholic University of America

Frequently-Asked Questions about the Graduate Programs

I did not major in classics as an undergraduate. Can I still apply for an MA in this department?

Yes, you can. The department will consider your entire academic background when evaluating your application, including your study of ancient and modern languages and of classics-related subjects, your writing sample, your application statement, and your GRE scores. If you are uncertain whether your prior record adequately demonstrates your current commitment to the study of the ancient world, you are welcome to explore your interests--and the department's work--further by enrolling in one or more courses in the department's Summer Program in the Ancient Languages. You can also contact the advisers for more information about the relationship between your background and the department's admissions standards.

McMahon Hall  
McMahon Hall, home of the Department of Greek and Latin (credit: CUA)

Does the department offer 'catch-up' or remedial coursework for students who want to pursue MAs but whose languages need additional study first?

Yes. Students who are in all other ways qualified to pursue MA degrees but whose language skills are not yet past the intermediate level will, if accepted to the MA program, be advised into earlier-level coursework at the beginning of their studies. Such courses do not count towards the pursuit of the MA degree, and so students who are remediating languages may expect their degree programs to take a little longer to complete.

Students whose languages are not yet past the beginning or early intermediate level are advised to consider study in the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages first, before inquiring about application for an MA.  Another appropriate option for those 'catching up' on languages may be applying to one of our Certificate programs first, with the plan to stay on, if accepted, to complete the MA.

I have intermediate-level skills in one of the ancient languages, but little to no work in the other language. Can I still apply for the MA program in Greek and Latin?

The department would recommend that you first start the other ancient language--and possibly work on both languages--by spending a summer in the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages.  Another appropriate option for you might also be applying to one of our Certificate programs first, with the plan to stay on, if accepted, to complete the MA.

I am interested in pursuing a second career as a Latin teacher. I had four years of high school Latin and a couple semesters of it in college, but have not done much Latin since then. Can the department help me reach my goals?

Yes, it can. The more time and energy you are able to commit to the study of Latin, the faster you can progress. For someone in your situation, the department would likely recommend the Certificate in Latin, ideally followed by the remainder of the formal MA program in Latin. You may, however, be able to consider starting directly in the MA program if your Latin skills are fresh enough and you already know you wish to earn a degree.

What qualifications are needed to apply for a PhD program?

Every PhD program in classics, Greek and Latin, or the like values depth of preparation in ancient and modern languages.  Whether you are an undergraduate or a master's candidate considering joining us or another department, you will always do well to take as many courses in Greek and in Latin as you can.  Try to add a modern language as early as possible, too: German, French, and Italian are all good choices.

In our discipline generally, it can be helpful to do an MA first before entering a PhD program.  Here in our department, we organize our program along these lines, and we often accept students for "MA-PhD" study, which means that (assuming they make satisfactory progress, of course) they will work to complete both of these degrees during their time with us.  An MA in classics with a heavy concentration in Greek and Latin from another institution can sometimes substitute for part or all of our own MA if a student hopes to pursue a PhD in our department, but this must be reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis by the department chair and the graduate adviser.  Applicants interested in this possibility are welcome to inquire about it during the application process.

What makes CUA's PhD in Greek and Latin distinctive?

The PhD in our department requires training in the languages, literatures, and cultures of both classical and postclassical antiquity.  The classical portion is accomplished through the training and the comprehensive exams of our MA program in Greek and Latin.  The postclassical portion is covered through doctoral coursework, including the seminars offered every semester by our own faculty on later Greek or Latin authors and topics, along with other approved classes of interest presented by related programs such as Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, History, Medieval and Byzantine StudiesSemitics, and Early Christian Studies; through individualized doctoral reading lists and comprehensive exams; and through a dissertation that is to be written on a postclassical or medieval topic.

My primary area of interest is classical antiquity. Is CUA a good place to pursue that?

Absolutely. Most of our faculty members possess either primary or secondary research interests in the classical world. The language training we provide emphasizes Greek and Latin as written by the classical authors, before moving forward in time to examine the inheritance of these languages by later writers. Our MA programs are centered upon classical antiquity, which both complements and provides necessary background for our doctoral program's emphasis on the late antique and medieval worlds.

If you already know that you want to write a PhD dissertation on a classical topic, you can still do an MA at CUA before moving on to a different institution's doctoral program, as some of our alumni have done.

Is it possible for me to pursue graduate study at CUA part-time?

It is possible, but it may or may not be advisable, depending upon your particular intellectual, financial, logistical, and personal circumstances, and upon your longer-term goals.

If it is at all possible for you to attend graduate school full-time, you should give this option serious consideration. Full-time students are generally in the best position to take advantage of what any university has to offer: they can register for classes that meet at almost any time of the day, they are able to devote additional hours to library research and on-campus work, they are available for teaching assignments, they enjoy more frequent contact with faculty members and with fellow students, and they pay a flat tuition rate that entitles them to make the most efficient use of their financial resources. They also de facto progress more rapidly through their degree programs.

The department is happy to assist you in weighing the options that would recommend part-time versus full-time enrollment.

I know that the language placement exams are required of all entering graduate students before they begin taking coursework. When can I take them, and how do I arrange to do that?

The language placement exams are administered by personal appointment with the department, and may be scheduled during weekday business hours by contacting the administrative assistant.

I am coming to CUA next year, but I am not from the Washington, DC area and do not know the city well yet. Where should I live?

CUA has a limited amount of on-campus housing available for graduate students, but most graduates live off-campus, either in DC or (equally often) in the surrounding suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. The graduate portion of the CUA Housing website includes information, links, and resources to assist you in finding a place to live.