Topic ID #34516 - posted 1/19/2015 9:59 PM

advice on graduate schools please!


Hi everyone! i am a undergraduate senior on the verge of graduating and just needed some advice about graduate schools. there are several schools i've been looking at with programs in egyptology or near eastern studies but i just don't know what my odds are getting into any of them. I'll have a degree in classical archaeology by the time i graduate. the thing i worry about is that i won't have the strongest gpa. im estimating it to be around a 3.4-3.5. i finished all the necessary language requirements- french, and ancient greek and I even picked up 4 years of Arabic. i know that i'll have killer recommendation letters as well but i dont know how much that matters. I was just wondering if any of you guys knew how tough the application process is, and if you can point me in some direction of what schools to look at and what kind of standing i might have.
thank you so much, this is reallyyy appreciated.

Post ID#20604 - replied 1/26/2015 3:21 PM


I'm coming from an anthropological-archaeology (rather than a classics-archaeology) background but I wouldn't particularly consider your stated GPA a problem, as long as the rest of your application looks strong and you have good GRE scores. Your odds of getting into any particular school have a lot to do with which particular professors are taking on students that particular year, so it's worth contacting people who you are interested in working with directly.

Post ID#20608 - replied 2/5/2015 10:54 AM


I have both a BA and MA in Archaeology (not anthropology or Egyptology, although my undergraduate work was focused on both Classical and Near Eastern [Egyptology] archaeology), and I have worked on a long-standing, well-known project in Egypt for the past 15 years.  I considered going the Egyptological route but didn't, and can offer some advice, and the pros and cons if you'd like, as I'm fairly entrenched in that world.

You do generally need a very strong GPA for Egyptology (3.5 or above),  from a well-respected undergraduate school, as the field is very small, very competitive (individually), and only a few very competitive universities in the USA offer Near Eastern Languages and Culture/Egyptology. What is critical is having solid grades, and even more solid references to attest to your potential for scholarly research and everything that goes along with it. You will need to take the GRE as well and have a decent score for any US schools, but that is being relied upon less and less in admissions - especially if you are good in all other areas.

French and German are necessary to have, as a great deal of the scholarly literature is written in those two languages. Arabic is a good thing to have for future fieldwork in Egypt, however it is not as necessary (you can pick it up easily later on), and if you studied Classical Arabic, you will find that Egyptian Arabic is very different - especially the colloquial Arabic you will hear outside of Cairo. (I recently had to translate for an Egyptian man here in the USA trying to purchase falafel in a Jordanian owned Middle Eastern Market, if that's any indication - the Jordanian shop clerk understood most of what the Egyptian was asking for, but not all of it). You can pick up the German once you are in grad school. Usually you will need to have one language for the MA, and two for the PhD (not including the Ancient Egyptian/Demotic/Hieratic/Coptic you will also need). You have to take and pass reading exams in French and German usually in the first year or two of your program.

What specifically did you want to study in Egyptology? Since you have a Classics background (I studied Ancient Greek as well) did you want to focus on the Greco-Roman/Ptolemaic periods? Or was there something else? Do you want to pursue a more philological line of study, or an art history/museum professionals one, or an archaeological one [including bioarchaeology], or even object conservation? This is an important question to ask yourself, as certain schools focus on one thing more than another, and if you wanted to be an expert in Egyptian art and eventually end up working for a museum, you wouldn't necessarily go to the school that has a strong field archaeology program - you'd want the university that has the staff that also focuses in what you want to do.

Along those lines, it is never to early to identify potential advisors/mentors. You have to know (at least generally) what you want to study - as I discussed in the proceeding paragraph - then look at Universities with a strong focus in that, then look at the individual professors to find someone whose research aligns well with what you want to do. Contact them (usually email and ask if there is a good time to call first) and talk with them. You may find, like I did, that the one person I really wanted to study Egyptology with was going to retire the following year.... You want to know all of that so you can look for other options right away. Making contacts so that people know who you are is critical. Are you a member of ARCE (The American Research Center in Egypt)? You can get a discounted student rate! The annual conference is in Houston, TX this year (April), and it might be great for you to attend - you can see all of the current research going on, and begin to meet people in the field. I won't be there this year, as I usually stagger my conference attendance between ARCE and SAAs, and this year I'm presenting at the latter. 

There are pros and cons in getting an advanced degree in Egyptology - like I said, the field is very small and very competitive - Several friends of mine that have gotten PhDs in Egyptology (from Ivy League schools, no less) never got a job teaching in Egyptology at one of those big universities  - some actually began teaching in  History or Art History departments at smaller schools. The big name schools with Egyptology  usually only have an opening for a professor every year or less, and EVERY Egyptologist that doesn't already have tenure at their school is applying for that one position - so the competition in the field of Egyptology does not end with your scholastic studies). Several of those same friends have now left academia altogether - and they were brilliant minds, but just couldn't get the job they wanted. It's good to know this in advance as well; I've found that being a generalist (i.e.getting my MA in Archaeology, has definitely made me more employable throughout the years [and after discussing it with a friend that teaches Egyptology at a well-known university, we found that I actually make a higher salary than him - and in archaeology that is saying a lot]). 

I don't mean to dissuade you, but you really need to know all of this early-on so that you can prepare and make the best decision for YOU! I'm not sure if this site allows you to send me a private message, but you are certainly welcome to do so if you have further questions. I know I didn't cover everything you probably wanted answered here - I didn't even touch on specific schools yet because I want to know more about what you want to study!


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