Top 10 Colleges for French

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Young male student working on the library.

Top 10 Colleges for French

French studies as a program or degree encompasses a rich and multifaceted exploration of the French language, literature, and culture. Through the study of French from the top colleges for french major, students explore significant literary works, philosophical ideas, historical events, and cultural practices that have shaped French-speaking societies across the globe.

This interdisciplinary field provides students with not only linguistic proficiency but also a deep understanding of the complexities of French and Francophone cultures. From analyzing classic French literature to exploring contemporary social issues in Francophone countries, the French program offers a dynamic and intellectually stimulating academic experience.

Choosing the best schools for a French program is paramount for students seeking an optimal college experience. A top-notch institution provides access to expert faculty, extensive resources, and diverse opportunities for cultural immersion and academic growth.

Furthermore, attending a reputable school enhances one’s credentials and opens doors to various career paths, from international business and diplomacy to education and cultural exchange. By selecting a prestigious institution with a strong French program, students can maximize their learning experience and position themselves for success in an increasingly globalized world.

Top 10 Colleges for French

1. University of Notre Dame – Department of Romance Language and Literature

  • Location: Decio Faculty Hall, Notre Dame, IN
  • Estimated Tuition: $45,000 – $55,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • BA in French and Francophone Studies
    • MA in French and Francophone Studies
  • Acceptance Rate: 47%

Whether the interest lies in global or local spheres, the program of French and Francophone Studies at Notre Dame offers an entry into research and scholarship on language, culture, politics, economics, migration, gender, public health, and faith, among other areas of concentration. Studying French at Notre Dame opens opportunities across various domains. The program provides options for a major, supplementary major, or minor in French.

Notre Dame

Even without planning to specialize in French and Francophone Studies, individuals can benefit from courses cross-listed in Medieval Studies, Gender Studies, European Studies, Peace Studies, and Film, Television, and Theatre. Additionally, there are courses available to fulfill University and College requirements, as well as those that meet Core requirements such as Advanced Language and Culture, Catholicism and the Disciplines, History, Art, and Literature.

2. Stanford University – School of Humanities and Sciences

  • Location: Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: $60,000 – $70,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Bachelor of Arts in French and Francophone Studies
    • Ph.D. in French
    • Ph.D. in French and Italian
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%

The Department of French and Italian provides students with the opportunity to engage in coursework across all proficiency levels in the languages, cultures, literatures, and intellectual histories of the French and Italian traditions. Whether one’s interest lies in French and Francophone studies, Italian studies, or both, a wide array of courses is available, encompassing language acquisition and refinement, literary history and criticism, cultural history and theory, continental philosophy, and romance linguistics.

The department’s course offerings are carefully designed to cater to the needs of both undergraduate and graduate students, including majors and non-majors alike. Undergraduate majors in French or Italian receive a comprehensive exploration of their respective literatures and cultures, laying a robust foundation for potential further studies in literature or history. At the graduate level, options include a terminal M.A. and a Ph.D., with various possible minors and combined degrees.

3. Yale University – Department of French

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Estimated Tuition: $65,000 – $70,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in French
    • Ph.D. in French
  • Acceptance Rate: 6%

The Department of French maintains two distinct yet complementary objectives: offering instruction in the French language across all proficiency levels and guiding students towards a comprehensive appreciation and profound comprehension of the literatures and cultures of France and other French-speaking regions.

Students enrolled in the French Major are guided through a comprehensive curriculum designed to achieve several key objectives.

Aerial of Yale University

Firstly, they work towards attaining advanced proficiency in both written and oral French, reaching multiple levels of proficiency (L5). Additionally, students explore the literatures and cultures of francophone nations, cultivating a profound understanding of their richness and diversity.

Alongside this exploration, emphasis is placed on enhancing analytical and critical reading skills, allowing students to engage with texts in a nuanced manner. Furthermore, the program aims to develop students’ rhetorical and argumentative capabilities, empowering them to communicate effectively and persuasively in French.

Through various assignments and projects, students are encouraged to engage in independent research, utilizing French-language sources to explore topics of interest.

Ultimately, students are tasked with producing a piece of original research and interpretation, showcasing their mastery of the language and their ability to critically engage with French culture and literature.

4. Columbia University – Department of French

  • Location: Philosophy Hall, 1150 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: $70,000 – $75,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in French and Francophone Studies
    • MA in French
    • PhD in French
    • PhD in French and Comparative Literature
  • Acceptance Rate: 6%

The undergraduate major and concentration in French and Francophone Studies offer students a comprehensive exploration of the literature and history spanning from the Middle Ages to the present within the French and francophone world.

Throughout the program, students get into the historical roots and contemporary significance of concepts such as citizenship, national unity, secularism, and human rights, as well as pivotal issues like universalism versus relativism, tradition versus modernity, and the relationship between religion and state as they have evolved in both France and its colonies/former colonies.

Required courses include Advanced Grammar and Composition, Introduction to French and Francophone History, and Introduction to French and Francophone Literature, providing foundational knowledge from various angles. Additionally, the Senior Seminar offers an in-depth exploration of a specific theme annually, integrating literary and historical perspectives. Advanced electives allow students to further explore aspects of French or francophone literature, culture, or history.

The optional senior essay, conducted under the guidance of a faculty member at Columbia or during a semester abroad, serves as an introduction to scholarly research and is a prerequisite for departmental honors.

Given the importance of firsthand experience in contemporary French society, students are strongly encouraged to spend either a semester or a year at Reid Hall-Columbia University in Paris. Here, they can take courses credited toward the French major and other majors such as Political Sciences, History, or Art History. Qualified students may also enroll directly in courses within the French university system.

5. Duke University – Department of Romance Studies

  • Location: 205 Language Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
  • Estimated Tuition: $70,000 – $75,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in French and Francophone Studies
    • Major in Romance Studies
    • Ph.D. in Romance Studies
  • Acceptance Rate: 9%

Students pursuing a major in French will develop a substantial level of proficiency in both written and spoken language, along with a comprehensive understanding of the literature and culture of France and the wider French-speaking world.

The Department provides a diverse range of courses covering language, literature, and culture, while also promoting interdisciplinary approaches that explore the connections between literature, the arts, history, and society.

school banner of Duke University

A French major offers valuable preparation for various career paths in the humanities, business, government, and science, fostering a lifelong appreciation for global awareness and cultural introspection. Additionally, students have the option to pursue an honors thesis, which can incorporate interdisciplinary elements, particularly for those undertaking double majors or second majors.

6. Brown University – Department of French Studies

  • Location: Providence, RI
  • Estimated Tuition: $65,000 – $75,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Undergraduate Program in French and Francophone Studies
    • Ph.D. in French and Francophone Studies
  • Acceptance Rate: 8%

The undergraduate program in French and Francophone Studies provides a comprehensive array of rigorous and innovative language classes, along with a broad selection of advanced courses in literature and culture.

The primary objective of the program is to equip students with proficiency in using the French language and to impart knowledge about the contributions of French and Francophone literatures and civilizations to human culture throughout history.

Above all, the program aims to foster awareness of the richness and diversity of human experience in language, the arts, and intellectual pursuits. The concentration in French and Francophone Studies is designed to prepare students for various career paths such as college and secondary teaching, translation, international relations, and diplomacy, while also offering a well-rounded education for careers outside the direct scope of France.

The program features a variety of courses covering language, periods, genres, themes, major writers, film, and civilization, allowing every Brown student to explore linguistic, literary, and cultural topics related to the French-speaking world. This diversity enables students to attain linguistic proficiency and to tailor a program that aligns with their individual abilities, interests, and objectives.

7. University of Pennsylvania – Penn Arts and Sciences

  • Location:  Williams Hall, 255 S 36th St, Philadelphia, PA
  • Estimated Tuition: $65,000 – $75,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in French and Francophone Studies
    • MA in French
    • Ph.D. in French
  • Acceptance Rate: 9%

Students at Penn interested in French have the opportunity to commence their French language journey at the beginner level or progress to more advanced courses after determining their proficiency level through prior study or examination. Those aiming to fulfill the language requirement in French must complete the intermediate level course, French 0400. Alternatively, students who have already satisfied the language requirement in another language can opt for an accelerated track, which includes French 0120 and French 0340.

View of UPenn sign

At the advanced level, the department offers a diverse range of courses encompassing language, literature, linguistics, culture, business, film, and more. Students can choose to pursue a certificate, major, or minor in French studies.

Encouraging immersion in the language and culture, the department strongly advocates for study-abroad opportunities. It sponsors a summer program in France (Penn Summer in Tours) and offers several semester/year programs in the country.

8. Northwestern University – Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

  • Location: Crowe Hall 2-107, 1860 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL
  • Estimated Tuition: $70,000 – $75,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in French
    • PhD in French/Francophone Studies
  • Acceptance Rate: 9%

The undergraduate program offered by Northwestern’s French department embraces diversity through a multidisciplinary approach. It provides courses in literature, cinema, theater, philosophy, literary theory, cultural history, and political thought, spanning from the Medieval period to contemporary French and Francophone cultures.

Whether at a beginner or advanced level, students have a broad selection of language courses available, including career-specific options such as business French. In a world characterized by frequent and intense cultural interactions, learning French—a language spoken by millions across the Americas, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East—is invaluable for those pursuing careers in fields as diverse as business, global health, media, and tourism.

Northwestern offers both a major and a minor in French, alongside opportunities for studying in France, Francophone Europe, and various countries in Francophone Africa. These programs, ranging from summer sessions to full academic years, complement Northwestern’s courses, enabling students to develop advanced language skills as well as critical thinking and cultural fluency.

9. Vanderbilt University – College of Arts and Sciences

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Estimated Tuition: $65,000 – $70,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in French
  • Acceptance Rate: 10%

Vanderbilt University stands out as an exceptional choice for those seeking a bachelor’s degree in French language & literature. Situated in the vibrant city of Nashville, Vanderbilt is a prominent private not-for-profit university boasting a sizable student community.

The French major comprises a diverse range of courses spanning language and culture, totaling 30 credit hours. Vanderbilt provides additional opportunities for students to deepen their engagement with the French language and culture through extracurricular activities such as the French Round Table Conversation and the French Club.

Vanderbilt University building

A distinguishing feature of Vanderbilt’s French program is its emphasis on community involvement. Students have the chance to participate in service-learning initiatives, leveraging their language proficiency to contribute meaningfully to the local community. This involvement includes activities like teaching French to elementary students in local schools and providing translation services to immigrant communities.

10. Washington University in St Louis – Department of Romance Languages and Literatures

  • Location: Brookings Dr, St. Louis, MO
  • Estimated Tuition: $70,000 – $75,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in French
    • Ph.D. in French and Francophone Studies
  • Acceptance Rate: 15%

As a French major, studying significant texts will provide insights into gender roles, traditions, communities, individual freedom, social obligations, and other critical topics of today. Additionally, you will engage in a comprehensive study of the French language. This major is offered within the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

French ranks among the top five languages spoken worldwide, spanning Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, as well as the Mediterranean and Caribbean regions. Courses introduce students to various facets of French cultural production and analysis, preparing them for study abroad opportunities. These experiences equip students for careers in international business, medicine, law, diplomacy, and the arts.

What should you consider in choosing a college for French?

Choosing the right college for pursuing French studies is a crucial decision that can greatly impact your academic and professional journey. Several factors should be considered to ensure that you find the best fit for your educational goals and interests. Here are six key aspects to take into account when selecting a college for French:

1. Academic Reputation

One of the primary considerations when choosing a college for French studies is its academic reputation. Look for institutions known for their strong language programs, experienced faculty, and rigorous curriculum in French language, literature, and culture. A college with a solid reputation in French studies is more likely to provide high-quality education and valuable opportunities for academic growth.

2. Language Program Resources

Evaluate the language program resources available at each college. Consider factors such as the size and diversity of the French department, availability of advanced language courses, access to language labs and multimedia resources, and opportunities for cultural immersion through study abroad programs or language exchange initiatives. A college with robust language program resources can offer a more comprehensive and enriching learning experience.

3. Faculty Expertise

Pay attention to the expertise and qualifications of the faculty members in the French department. Research their academic backgrounds, areas of specialization, and teaching experience. Professors who are knowledgeable and passionate about their field can inspire and guide students to achieve academic excellence in French studies. Additionally, seek out colleges where faculty members actively engage in research and scholarship in French language, literature, and culture.

4. Study Abroad Opportunities

Explore the study abroad opportunities available for French students at each college. Immersing yourself in a French-speaking environment can significantly enhance your language proficiency and cultural understanding. Look for colleges that offer semester or year-long study abroad programs in France or other Francophone countries, as well as shorter-term cultural immersion experiences. Consider the support and resources available to students participating in study abroad programs, such as language immersion courses, homestay options, and cultural activities.

Two students talking to a professor.

5. Career and Networking Resources

Consider the career and networking resources provided by each college to support students pursuing French studies. Look for career development services, internship opportunities, and alumni networks specifically tailored to language majors. Colleges with strong connections to employers, international organizations, and cultural institutions can offer valuable resources for launching a career in fields such as translation, education, international business, diplomacy, and cultural exchange.

6. Campus Culture and Community

Assess the campus culture and community at each college to ensure a supportive and inclusive environment for French students. Consider factors such as the presence of French clubs or language conversation groups, cultural events and activities related to French language and culture, and opportunities to engage with native French speakers or Francophone communities on campus. A vibrant campus culture that celebrates linguistic and cultural diversity can enrich your college experience and foster a sense of belonging within the French community.

What can you do with a degree in French?

A degree in French opens doors to a wide range of exciting career opportunities in today’s globalized world. Proficiency in the French language, coupled with a deep understanding of French and Francophone cultures, equips graduates with valuable skills and perspectives sought after in various fields. Here are ten career paths you can pursue with a degree in French:

  1. Translation and Interpretation: With a strong command of both French and English, graduates can work as translators or interpreters, facilitating communication between French-speaking and English-speaking individuals or organizations. They may translate written documents, such as legal contracts, literature, or technical manuals, or provide interpretation services in settings such as conferences, meetings, or courtrooms.
  2. Education: Graduates with a degree in French can pursue careers in education as French language teachers at the elementary, secondary, or post-secondary levels. They may teach French as a foreign language to non-native speakers or French literature and culture to students interested in pursuing advanced studies in French.
  3. International Business: French proficiency is highly valued in the business world, particularly in industries with international operations or dealings with French-speaking countries. Graduates can work in various roles within multinational corporations, such as international sales, marketing, human resources, or customer relations, leveraging their language skills to facilitate business transactions and collaborations.
  4. Diplomacy and International Relations: A degree in French can lead to opportunities in diplomacy and international relations, particularly in organizations such as embassies, consulates, international organizations, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Graduates may work as diplomats, cultural attaches, or international development specialists, fostering diplomatic relations and promoting cross-cultural understanding between nations.
  5. Tourism and Hospitality: French-speaking countries attract millions of tourists each year, creating demand for professionals with language skills and cultural knowledge. Graduates can pursue careers in tourism and hospitality, working as tour guides, travel agents, hotel managers, or cultural liaisons, providing personalized experiences for French-speaking visitors.
  6. Journalism and Media: French proficiency opens doors to careers in journalism and media, both domestically and internationally. Graduates may work as journalists, reporters, or editors for French-language newspapers, magazines, radio stations, or television networks, covering news and events in French-speaking regions or providing analysis and commentary on global affairs.
  7. Cultural Preservation and Promotion: Graduates with a passion for French culture and heritage can find rewarding careers in cultural preservation and promotion. They may work in museums, cultural institutions, or government agencies, organizing exhibitions, cultural events, or educational programs that showcase French and Francophone arts, history, and traditions.
  8. Public Relations and Communications: French-speaking companies and organizations require professionals who can effectively communicate with French-speaking stakeholders. Graduates can work in public relations, corporate communications, or marketing roles, developing bilingual communications strategies, writing press releases, or managing social media channels targeting French-speaking audiences.
  9. International Development: A degree in French can lead to opportunities in international development, particularly in regions where French is widely spoken. Graduates may work for international development agencies, NGOs, or humanitarian organizations, implementing projects related to education, healthcare, sustainable development, or human rights in French-speaking communities around the world.
  10. Research and Academia: Graduates interested in pursuing advanced studies in French language, literature, or culture can pursue careers in research and academia. They may work as researchers, professors, or academic administrators at universities, research institutions, or cultural organizations, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in the field of French studies through teaching, writing, and scholarly research.

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