Getting into Grad School to Study Ancient History

  • If you are interested in studying ancient history in graduate school, there are a few suggestions.

    1. Come see Professor R. Scott Moore as soon as you can. Email, call 724-357-2284, or drop by his office in 304P Humanities and Social Sciences Building during his office hours. It is never too soon—the earlier the better.

    2. Try to arrange your schedule to take as many ancient history classes as you can (201—Ancient Greece; 302—Ancient Rome; 303—Medieval History; 329—Byzantine Empire; and History 403—Special Topics in European History). They are offered on a rotating basis over two years, so it is important to plan ahead.

    3. You need languages, and this is a problem at IUP where the language selection is extremely limited. To be in good shape for admission to a graduate program in ancient history, you need to have Latin or Greek and one modern language. This means that you should take several semesters of German or French while at IUP. You will also need to find a way to take Latin or Greek someplace else. Many schools offer an intensive Greek or Latin program over the summer. These programs are very good and do a very good job of preparing you—as long as you work very hard. The drawbacks are the cost ($2,000–$5,000) and the amount of time that you will need to invest in this project over the summer to succeed. If you are interested in this, there is a list of the schools on the links page. If this is not going to be possible, another alternative is to postpone graduate school for a year and do a postbaccalaureate that will allow you to focus on the ancient languages.

    4. Try to take other classes at IUP that deal with ancient topics or where you can work ancient history into your research (see list on links page).

    5. Explore different graduate programs (see list on links page), and try to find a couple that meet your interests. As you look over these programs, pay attention to:

      • admission standards
      • faculty areas of concentration
      • financial aid/graduate assistantships
      • deadlines

      Once you narrow down your list of possible graduate schools, choose the faculty member at each school whose research seems to match best your area of interest and send them a letter or an email explaining a bit about yourself and inquiring about their program.

    6. Consider doing a History Honors Thesis. This will require working with a professor for two semesters doing research and writing an honors thesis—a piece of work 50 to 80 pages long—and taking History 487: Honors Colloquium. This is looked upon favorably by graduate programs since it shows that you are capable of doing sustained, detailed research, similar to what is expected of you in graduate school. It also will give you a body of work that can be used as a writing sample or a good start on a paper in graduate school.

    7. Consider extracurricular activities that will help make you a better applicant for graduate school. There are many possibilities, and you should be able to find some that you are interested in—archaeological projects, writing for the Penn, or student internships, just to name a few.

    8. Plan for the GRE. You need to allow yourself time to take it twice. You also need to plan for time to study for it. While you may be very good at taking standardized tests like the GRE, it never hurts to study for the GRE. Most people who study for the GRE see an improvement in their scores the second time they take it.

    9. Think about letters of recommendations. Decide who would be best to write them and give them plenty of time to be written. Most professors will need at least two to three weeks of lead time, and some will need or require a month. Make sure the professor writing letters for you knows what your interests are and what you are planning to study at graduate school.