A concentration in French & Francophone Studies can provide an excellent background for graduate work, not only in French, but also in many other fields. Whatever the field, the decision to go to graduate school requires forethought and careful preparation.
Graduate programs, even in the humanities, are much more specialized than undergraduate ones. You should only pursue a graduate degree if you have a clear idea of how that degree will help you fulfill your personal goals and earn your living.
Graduate programs in French & Francophone studies tend to have three tracks:
- French & Francophone literature
- French language
- French & Francophone culture
You will specialize in an aspect of one of these tracks. For example, if you pursue literary studies, you may specialize in a particular genre or period of literary history. Or, you may focus your study in a particular theoretical or critical approach to literature. Some departments may offer you the possibility of specializing in French cinema.
You can use some of your undergraduate courses to explore these specializations. If you intend to pursue literary studies, it's helpful to have some undergraduate training in literary theory. If you wish to study the French language, you should take some courses in linguistics. For graduate studies in French culture, cultural anthropology or cultural history courses would be useful.
You should also have significant experience abroad. Participation in a year-long study abroad program, or at least a semester abroad, is highly recommended.
It is possible to go to graduate school in a field other than French & Francophone Studies. If this is your plan, it is even more important that you take some introductory courses in that field.
Choose your graduate school based on your plans for specialization. Different programs have different strengths. Talk with your professors here at W&M - especially those whose field of specialization is closest to that which you would like to pursue.
The best time to undertake graduate studies depends very much on you. Some of you will want to go directly to graduate school. Others will prefer to take a break from study. Most programs look favorably on students who take a "gap" year to travel, get relevant work experience, or earn money for graduate school. However, too long a break from study might make it difficult to readjust to an academic lifestyle.
Some other things to consider:
- Financial aid - Graduate programs can be very costly, but most universities offer some combination of grants, loans, and work to help pay for it. Applications for scholarships or assistantships are usually made along with the application for admission. Many universities employ graduate students as Teaching Assistants. This will give you valuable teaching experience as well as a tuition waiver (or reduction) and stipend.
- Professional preparation - If you want to teach at the college level, you must get some teaching experience as part of your Ph.D.. Try to get some experience teaching first- or second-year French language courses. Make sure that the graduate schools you are considering will offer you several opportunities to teach. They should also provide teacher training (including peer and supervisory critiques). Ask about the percentage of graduates who have gotten jobs and how active the faculty are in helping their students prepare for the job market.
- School visits - We recommend visiting the graduate school and meeting some of the faculty and students before making a final decision. You will want to check out the geographic area and get a sense of the department's culture.