Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find information about the admissions process as well as the online application?
What is the admissions committee looking for?
What is the minimum score required for the GRE General Test?
Does Yale offer teaching fellowships or scholarship support?
How many languages should an applicant know?
Is it advisable to wait to learn a fourth language until entering graduate school?
Is it possible to transfer to a joint Comparative Literature program (CL/Classics; CL/Film; CL/Renaissance Studies) after some time of graduate studies, or should one apply for a joint program from the start?
I have been out of college for quite a few years. What should I do about letters of recommendation in order to compile a competitive application?
Do you admit new graduate students more than once a year?
What is the application/acceptance ratio in Comparative Literature at Yale?
What is the Department looking for?
Will I be able to receive credit for prior graduate courses taken?
How do graduate students choose a dissertation advisor?
Can English count as a foreign language?
How will language proficiency be tested/evaluated during graduate studies?
What counts as an ancient or medieval language?
Is there funding available for conference travel for graduate students?
Does Yale offer graduate students the chance to study abroad?
Should I contact faculty before applying?
Should I visit the campus before or after applying?
Whom do I contact if I have further questions about graduate studies in Comparative Literature at Yale?

Where can I find information about the admissions process as well as the online application?

http://gsas.yale.edu/admission-graduate-school

What is the admissions committee looking for?

The faculty admissions committee judges each application holistically, considering together each applicant’s grades, recommendations, essay, statement of purpose, language preparation, and scores. We look for the ability upon admission to handle at least two foreign languages, in addition to English, at a high level (enough to do graduate work with reading – and possibly also discussion – in each language). At the same time, students will find it difficult to do advanced work in some languages and literatures in areas where Yale has no faculty, courses, or program. We do not look for specific languages. However, they should be languages that are sufficiently covered at Yale on the graduate level. In the longer term we require three languages in addition to English, including one ancient or medieval language.

Other major considerations for admission selection are a strong background in literary history, genres, and theory, a strong academic record, scholarly promise and originality. We also carefully consider the writing sample (which should be submitted in English), the applicant’s statement of purpose, as well as transcripts and grades, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and results of the TOEFL exam for foreign students whose schooling has not been in English. Applicants should choose a writing sample that exemplifies their best literary critical work to date. The essay should be in English and should not exceed 25 pages.

What is the minimum score required for the GRE General Test?

There is no minimum GRE score required, although the scores of those admitted tend to be high to very high (we understand, at the same time, that the GREs offer particulate challenges for test-takers with a first language other than English).

Does Yale offer teaching fellowships or scholarship support?

The Graduate School offers the same basic funding package to every student admitted, with six years of guaranteed funding (twelve months) for all (regardless of whether students are just starting graduate school or have already done graduate work elsewhere). Incoming students will receive three years of stipend support (straight scholarship, no teaching), usually taken in the 1st, 2nd, and 5th years, and three years of teaching fellow support. Throughout their six years, students receive free medical insurance through the Yale Health Plan.

How many languages should an applicant know?

Accepted students usually have good command of at least two foreign languages besides their native language. Students are expected to be able to pursue graduate level coursework in two foreign literatures from the outset, and to demonstrate proficiency (ability to do graduate level coursework or to pass a reading exam) in a third language before taking their PhD exams. One of these languages must be an ancient or medieval language.

Is it advisable to wait to learn a fourth language until entering graduate school?

It would be best to begin learning an additional language sooner rather than later.
Often students who need a third foreign language have to use the summer months to acquire it or take language courses during regular semesters in addition to their full course load. The work load in graduate school is heavy, and while students may take language courses alongside their advanced coursework, they will not receive graduate credit for this work.

Is it possible to transfer to a joint Comparative Literature program (CL/Classics; CL/Film; CL/Renaissance Studies) after some time of graduate studies, or should one apply for a joint program from the start?

Usually one can be enrolled in a combined program only if one applies for it from the outset. The joint applications are read and vetted by both departments, and both combine their fellowship resources to admit such students. Only very occasionally have students already in one program received internal permission to design an ad hoc joint program, since the other department is less likely to approve the change at that point.

I have been out of college for quite a few years. What should I do about letters of recommendation in order to compile a competitive application?

Former literature professors are both the best and most obvious source of letters of recommendation. We sometimes receive recommendations from other sources (especially employers), but they tend to be much less helpful: we are trying to discern whether a particular applicant has unusual talent for literary study and future academic life, and what that talent consists of. However, if after college you have taken subsequent courses or have been involved with literary life subsequently in some way you might want to request an additional recommendation letter from professors or others who can describe you from that context.

Do you admit new graduate students more than once a year?

We only admit graduate students once a year. Generally the deadline for admission is in early January for the fall semester of that particular year (for exact deadlines see http://gsas.yale.edu/admissions/dates-deadlines ). The faculty’s decision-making process occurs during January and February, and generally applicants are notified of the decisions in late February.

What is the application/acceptance ratio in Comparative Literature at Yale?

Our program is competitive. The ratio of students applying to students admitted is considerably more than 10:1.

What is the Department looking for?

We have a great range of students, including many foreign students, and students working on a great variety of literatures and topics.

Will I be able to receive credit for prior graduate courses taken?

After a year of successful Yale graduate courses, students in our program may petition to have some of their previous graduate course work recognized, to a maximum of four course credits. Although these courses are not officially recognized by the Yale Graduate School, the department has the right to waive particular departmental requirements (such as number of courses taken overall and in particular fields). This usually does not reduce students’ course-taking time by more than one semester, but it can help them to streamline the program somewhat and move more quickly to independent research. Such graduate students receive the same amount of funding (a basic package of six years) at the same rate and for the same time period as students coming straight from the BA.

How do graduate students choose a dissertation advisor?

You do not commit yourself definitely to a dissertation topic or advisor until you have completed the preliminary part of the program: graduate seminars, language requirements and examinations. It is always prudent to ensure upon application that there are faculty members at Yale whose interests mesh with yours. Yet there is ample time after beginning the doctoral studies to make certain that you have found both the right topic and the right mentor. In their statement of purpose, applicants should indicate areas of current interest. It is fine if those change subsequently: graduate coursework requires students to explore a variety of topics and areas. It is not unusual for students to change their principal field of interest during graduate school.

Can English count as a foreign language?

Yes, for those who do not have it as a first language. Since English is the main language of discussion, reading and writing, all students need to have good command of English on entry.

How will language proficiency be tested/evaluated during graduate studies?

Usually students are “tested” implicitly on their language knowledge by their ability to use their foreign languages (usually by completing literature courses where foreign literature texts are read in the original). In addition, “reading knowledge” exams are regularly offered. Students are asked to translate particular passages (they may make use of dictionaries to do so).

What counts as an ancient or medieval language?

To date, students have done work (or been examined) in:
Latin, Classical/Ancient Greek, Hebrew (i.e. Biblical Hebrew), Classical Arabic, Old Russian (i.e. Old Church Slavonic), Old German (i.e. Old High German), Old English, Old Norse, Middle High German, Classical Chinese, Sanskrit, Provençal, and Ottoman Turkish. Other possibilities should be discussed with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Is there funding available for conference travel for graduate students?

The Comparative Literature Department will reimburse students up to $500 for travel over their time in the program to present a conference paper upon submission of receipts. Students may also apply to the Graduate School Assembly for additional conference travel funds.

Does Yale offer graduate students the chance to study abroad?

Yale students are encouraged to do all of their coursework while in residence here, although they are free to travel abroad during summers and during their fifth year. If there are compelling intellectual reasons, students may take one (or in unusual cases, two) semesters of coursework at another American university (usually one of the other major graduate schools with which Yale has a reciprocal exchange arrangement) or at a university abroad (usually through one of Yale’s official exchange programs). Students sometimes spend one of their later years studying as exchange students at other universities, whether on one of these exchange programs, on outside fellowships, or with their fifth year “dissertation year” fellowship support, which can be used anywhere in the world. The Graduate School website lists the foreign institutions with which Yale has reciprocal exchange relationships; for information please go to: http://gsas.yale.edu/academics/exchanges/international-exchanges (Within Europe, for example, there is an exchange program with the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, and with the various universities – including Tübingen, Heidelberg, Konstanz and Freiburg – in the German province of Baden-Württemberg). In addition, students can spend one or more of their summers abroad, simply taking their Yale stipend with them. In addition, the university also has some (competitive) scholarships to permit summer language study abroad.

Should I contact faculty before applying?

You do not need to do so, nor will it harm your application not to have made contact. It would make sense if you were unsure about whether your particular area or field of interest matches faculty interest or expertise. Even in that case a short email exchange with the relevant professor may suffice to give you the necessary information.

Should I visit the campus before or after applying?

The department has no budget to assist prospective students; however, they may find value in visiting before applying to get a better sense of the program and the campus. The Graduate Registrar can help students pre-arrange meetings with faculty during their visit. It will not prejudice your application if you have not yet visited in person.

Once applicants are admitted we encourage them to visit if it is logistically feasible. Our ability to support such visits is extremely limited but we can offer some funding for travel and accommodation. We do offer warm hospitality – i.e. overnight accommodation in the homes of older students and chances to talk at length with students and faculty.

Whom do I contact if I have further questions about graduate studies in Comparative Literature at Yale?

You may contact the Graduate Registrar in the Comparative Literature Department, Stacey Hampton (stacey.hampton@yale.edu), with any further questions or concerns.