Each year the department admits a small number of highly motivated applicants who intend to obtain the Ph.D. degree. It does not offer a separate M.A. program, but an M.A. degree is awarded, upon request, after successful completion of the general examination. The only major formal requirements for the Ph.D. are the general examination, one year of teaching, and the dissertation. After they have fulfilled the University residency requirement of one year, students are qualified to take their general examination. For students entering with the A.B., the general examination is typically sat at the beginning of the third year of study, although students who arrive at Princeton with previous graduate training occasionally take it earlier. While students admitted to the Ph.D.program are guaranteed five years of financial support, the majority of our candidates compete successfully for prestigious external grants, effectively extending the period of institutional support to six years. In most cases, these grants are used for university study and dissertation research in a German-speaking country.
Course of Study
Each student’s course of study follows an individually designed plan that takes into account the candidate’s previous training, present interests, and future goals, as well as the department’s general idea of what constitutes a well-trained Germanist. This plan is developed on a term-by-term basis in close consultation between the student and the Director of Graduate Studies. Candidates with no previous graduate training are expected to take twelve one-term seminars of their own choosing over a period of four semesters. The department offers four to five graduate seminars per semester, and nearly all of our students supplement their departmental course work with courses taken in other departments, such as philosophy, art history, history, comparative literature, and the School of Architecture. The department endeavors to rotate most of its offerings in order to ensure that each comes up at least once in any two-year period. Titles and descriptions of most of these courses are purposely general in order to accommodate different special topics from year to year. A list of recent seminar offerings gives some indication of the range of possibilities.
All admitted students are offered a full five-year fellowship package that includes tuition, fees, and a competitive annual stipend. In addition to these University fellowships the department has at its disposal several teaching assistantships that it assigns to students in accordance with their need to gain teaching experience. Normally one of the five years of financial support is a teaching assistantship; during the remaining four years of support, our students are free to concentrate on their studies, unburdened by a heavy teaching load. No graduate student is expected to teach before completion of the general examination, allowing our students to concentrate intensively on their work in the seminars as well as on their preparation for the general examination. For details on awards and financial assistance, students should consult the Graduate School website.
The department regards teaching experience and training as an integral part of the graduate program. During the first semester of teaching, every student participates in a course taught by a specialist in second-language acquisition and is closely supervised by the faculty member coordinating the course. The course acquaints the student-teacher with the basic tools of language teaching, provides involvement in the work of a course taught by members of the faculty, and provides exposure to the latest developments in the theory and practice of language acquisition. While teaching, the University stipend is increased to reflect the additional work. Candidates who have had previous teaching experience may be considered for teaching duties before the general examination. Besides teaching in undergraduate language courses, graduate students may have an opportunity to teach discussion sections in literature courses.
Under the mentorship of one of the leading researchers in second language acquisition, students are required in their third year to teach two semesters of German language, an experience that establishes the foundation for their further pedagogical career. While our students are required to teach only one year out of five, they recognize that classroom teaching is a core aspect of our profession and often teach additional courses, both in the German Department and in other fields in which they are specialized.
How to Apply
Applications for admission to the graduate program in German at Princeton University can be procured via the web through the Princeton Graduate School’s on-line application site. Please note: Applicants are requested to include a writing sample (not to exceed 20pp.) with their application materials.
In our commitment to principles of fairness and respect for all, Princeton’s German Department seeks to create a climate that is favorable to the free and open exchange of ideas, and reaches out as widely as possible in order to attract the best qualified individuals. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, political views, gender identity or expression, religion, marital status, national or ethnic origin, disability, or veteran status. Admitted students from underrepresented groups are eligible for additional scholarships on top of the five years of tuition and stipend support that we offer to all of our graduate students.