The Admissions Process
The process of selection is complex, and no single factor outweighs any other. Letters, writing sample, personal statement, transcripts, and GRE scores are all considered, and one sour letter or one poor GRE component need not be fatal. All applications are read carefully by a departmental committee, and other faculty members are asked to read those relevant to their own interests. There is no particular profile for which we are looking, nor do some areas of Classics dominate: we simply want students who promise to be disciplined and original scholars and lively, effective, and sympathetic teachers.
- Good language preparation is essential. Everyone admitted must show proficiency in Greek and Latin on arrival. Evidence of ability in German, French, or Italian is very helpful since every student must show a reading knowledge of one of these languages by the end of the first year here and of a second by the end of the second year. Previous knowledge is a great advantage, since graduate life is busy enough without having to master a new language from scratch.
- Letters of recommendation are essential: three at a minimum, but there is no maximum, as long as they are good. To be good, they should be full, frank, and above all specific as to your scholarly ability and promise; where possible they should compare you with others who have applied or are applying to Princeton; and they should be written by your teachers or by others qualified to judge your academic work.
- Transcripts and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are essential. Be sure to take the GRE in time for scores to reach the department in January.
- A sample of scholarly writing is required and may be the deciding factor. Choose something you think best represents your talent and will bear up under scrutiny by experts. We are especially interested in knowledge, judgment, originality, and style. If you indicate an area of specialization on your application, such as history or philosophy, try to submit a relevant sample. Try to choose one or two brief pieces of work, or to extract a significant portion from something longer, such as a senior thesis. Papers should be no more than 20 pages, please.
- In your personal statement avoid both exaggeration and false modesty. Simply tell us who you are, what you are interested in, and what you hope to achieve. It is particularly helpful to indicate why you are interested in Princeton and not just, "I look forward to working with Professors X, Y, and Z," but "I want to work with Professor X and Y because...." If you perceive any weaknesses in your application, mention and if possible explain them. It is far better that you point them out than that we discover them for ourselves.