Majoring in classics

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Discus: College Search and Selection: August 2004 Archive: Majoring in classics
By Gcl24 (Gcl24) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 06:45 pm: Edit

I'm thinking of majoring in classics and was wondering just how competitive/difficult it is. Also, do any of you know which schools are particularly strong in this area? Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

By Gcl24 (Gcl24) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 08:37 pm: Edit


By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 08:47 pm: Edit

I don't know how competitive classics is, and I guess how difficult it is depends on how well you adapt to thinking in the extremely logical way accurate translation demands.

As for good schools, I have heard Brown is good. Just about all LACs have a classics dept. Look at the number of faculty members and number of courses to determine strengths.

By Gcl24 (Gcl24) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 09:49 pm: Edit

Thanks Asianalto. Anyone else?

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 12:50 am: Edit

What are your stats? What kind of university setting do you want?

By Coureur (Coureur) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 01:35 am: Edit

HYP are strong in Classics as are Berkeley, Oxford, and Cambridge. I'm always impressed with classics grads that I've met. They seem very well educated and are always good writers.

There usually are only a handful of kids majoring in Classics, so in that sense there isn't so much competition. But the work can be demanding and requires a good aptitude for languages, both modern and ancient.

By August (August) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 04:41 am: Edit

I majored in classics at Smith and it was good. It does require that you put in work consistently as there are translation assignments for every class meeting. Since not a lot of people major in classics, you get small classes and are part of a nice little community.

By Gcl24 (Gcl24) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 06:10 pm: Edit

Thank you all for your comments. Would anyone happen to know how Wellesley, Amherst, Vassar, or any other top LACs would be?

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 06:45 pm: Edit

Ted Turner (founder of CNN) was a classics major...didn't stop him. LOL!

Amherst has an excellent classics department. Don't know specifics about Wellesley or Vassar but some other LAC's to look at that do have good classics departments:

Williams, Oberlin, Middlebury, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, Kenyon, Macalester, Holy Cross, Swarthmore.

For universities, look at Tufts, Brown, U of Chicago, Dartmouth, Duke, GEorgetown, Harvard, Yale, NYU, Northwestern, U of Penn, Johns Hopkins, UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, Princeton, and U of Virginia.

Slightly less competitive schools with good classics departments include: Beloit, Fordham, U of Illinois-Chicago/Urbana, U of Dallas, Drew, Gustavus Adolphus, Kalamazoo, Trinity U (Texas), U of Texas-Austin, Skidmore, Ohio State but many other schools have decent departments.

And, some people really are attracted to St. Johns
College in Maryland - four years of a classical education but not for everyone.

By Adjlad (Adjlad) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 08:22 pm: Edit

Dartmouth has a very strong classics department with many opportunities to study abroad.

By Par72 (Par72) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 10:09 pm: Edit

Holy Cross has a very strong classics program and offers merit scholarships to students.

By Encomium (Encomium) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 10:17 pm: Edit

i'm interested in majoring in classics as well.

classics is one of the most difficult majors there is, however.

By Jess13 (Jess13) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 10:57 pm: Edit

I want to major in classics, too!! I've met with a bunch of professors, and the Princeton guy swears that his department is the best in the country, but all the ones I looked at are outstanding (especially Brown -- but Yale is my favorite school overall).

My cousin and his wife went to St. Johns, and although they loved it, they said that it's not Classics in the sense that there's little to no Latin, but rather an immersion in the writings and philosophies, etc. of the Romans and Greeks. It's a very different type of education from other schools. As Carolyn said, it's not for everybody.

University of Chicago, where my cousin is currently completing a PhD in philosophy, is one of the top Classics schools in that the department is not only top-notch, but its mission as a university is closely tied to the study of the ancients and to the classical tradition.

Great thing about Classics is that classes tend to be pretty small, and have reallllly low student-faculty ratios. One of the things the Harvard professor highlighted was that they can promise each concentrator a faculty adviser for a thesis (something, he pointed out, most departments at Harvard cannot do).

As for the smaller LACs: a lot of professors mentioned that for a field like Classics, at the smaller schools, there are often fewer options because there isn't enough interest to warrant a lot of professors. While there are definitely upshots -- very close bonds with your professors -- the downsides would be that the majority of your classes would be taken with the same people, and you wouldn't get the "depth and breadth" (as the P-ton guy put it) that a bigger university could give you. It's all about who you are, and how you learn.

By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 12:21 am: Edit

Just wanted to add: I can't speak of its strength relative to other LACs, but I personally know the classics professors at Colgate, and these guys are extrodinary. (Not that they're all men, but the women professors were either on maternity leave or leading study groups last year.) There are also several study-abroad opportunities in Greece and Rome for classics people.

By Musicfan805 (Musicfan805) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 02:25 am: Edit

I was also thinking about majoring in Classics. It seems like an interesting major. But what can you do with a degree in Classics? I was thinking about being a high school English teacher, so I'm majoring in English. If I told my parents I was interested in Classics, they would probably be like, "What's that?"

P.S. As a side note, how many of you are scared or nervous about college? In high school I was a big fish in a small pond, but I feel like everyone is going to be smarter than me in college.

By Wisconsinguy (Wisconsinguy) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 02:48 am: Edit

Classics majors have among the highest acceptance rates to law school.

By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 11:03 am: Edit

Classics majors can do a wide range of things! Like wisconsinguy said, Law school is often an option. The CIA also reportedly recruits classics majors because of the way they think. If you're concerned, you could always try to double major, or minor in something a little more practical. I think a lot go on to editing and publishing type things. If you successfullly complete a translation-based classics major, your grammar will probably be impeccable, so you could still probably go into english teaching, if you took the steps to get certification. Teach latin or greek! Become a professor! Possibilities abound.

By Neobez (Neobez) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 04:16 pm: Edit

i'm thinking of minoring in Classics, my teacher went to Florida State and is currently getting her phD in University of Florida (extremely bright lady). I know there's probably not alot to do with it besides Law and Teaching, so that's why I'm leaning more towards a minor.

Is it difficult to minor/double major in something out of a certain school's focus, such as Classics, like I wanted to apply to Georgetown School of Foreign Service. . .Does anyone know if its possible to minor in something outside of Foreign Service?

By Musicfan805 (Musicfan805) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 07:48 pm: Edit

Thanks for the advice, Asianalto! I'll look into it.

By Barrett (Barrett) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 07:55 pm: Edit

Echoing Asianalto's comments: Apparently Porter Goss, whom President Bush named to succeed George Tenet as director of U.S. central intelligence this week, was a classics major at Yale when he was recruited by the CIA.

Goss is also listed along with some other famous former classics students in the following article which has an intriguing title:

'Can Classics Enrich Me Financially?'

By Ainsley727 (Ainsley727) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 11:57 am: Edit

I'm a HS senior most likely majoring in classics next year. The info in here really helped; I'm looking most into Kenyon, UChicago, and Bryn Mawr.
I know that with most classics majors, you can take diff routes: concentrate on languages (mostly for grad work in classics) or concentrate on civilization but still w/ language requirements. Plus the student-teacher ratio is fantastic for any school.
Does anyone know how strong Grinnell's classics program is?

By Par72 (Par72) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:25 pm: Edit

As mentioned above, Williams, Holy Cross, and Kenyon have very strong classics programs.

By Barrett (Barrett) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 07:13 pm: Edit


If you're interested in studying classical languages at Kenyon or Bryn Mawr (brilliant picks, by the way), don't forget also to take long, hard looks at Davidson, Carleton, Scripps and (I mean it) Reed College. Out there in Oregon, Reed is just as good as, and possibly even better than, any other school mentioned thus far on this thread.

As for Grinnell...well, you really can't go wrong with them, either.

For a token university, Chicago is a lovely pick...I'd still look into the aforementioned smaller schools first, however.

Best of luck!


P.S.: Conversely, among the schools mentioned earlier on this thread that I would steer clear of (for classics, anyway) would be Tufts, Dartmouth and Macalester. (No offense to Adjlad and others with whom I disagree!)

By Slipper2002 (Slipper2002) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 07:45 pm: Edit

Why would you steer clear of Dartmouth. Classics is one of Dartmouth's strong points and the overall academic experience is great. That plus a terrific social life.

By Barrett (Barrett) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 10:04 pm: Edit

Slipper2002, you are absolutely correct about Dartmouth. And to be sure, classics is a strong point within many eminent schools of liberal arts and sciences (or at least that has historically been the case). My comments, however, in no uncertain terms are meant to emphasise that, from the standpoint of a prospective undergraduate classics major (a relative rarity among prospective students, in any case), I feel that there are many departments out there -- in many instances at institutions that are smaller or not as well-known as the likes of Dartmouth or Tufts -- that deserve to be highlighted because they have the potential to compare rather more favourably, at least with respect to an opinion (my own, and I don't pretend otherwise) formed from personal experience. The final judgement is left up to the beholder, of course, and it won't do anyone any good for me to perform the added disservice of pointing further fingers in this instance. Instead, let me again point to the many wonderful institutions mentioned on this thread -- not to mention the far greater number that, it makes me cringe to say, have been left out of the discussion!



By Ainsley727 (Ainsley727) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 02:42 am: Edit

Thanks Barrett!!
I was iffy about Carleton but I'll have to look into that one more closely. Plus, it's only a 90-minute drive away. Thanks for the other suggestions.
Macalaster is still on my list; what did you find unsatisfactory with their classics department? (AIM- ambrosial eva)

By Enzom (Enzom) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 02:15 pm: Edit

I majored in poilitical science at Kenyon, but always admired the Classics department which is phenomenal. I have heard since that it is thought to be one of the top departments in the school along with English and poli sci. You cannot go wrong with Kenyon.

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