Nationally recognized for its excellence in teaching and research, the University of Virginia French Department offers a variety of courses and programs that enable its students to explore as well as develop in-depth knowledge and advanced competencies in the field of French. Graduates of our program go on to pursue exciting degrees in business, education, law, medicine, and the arts. For more information, see Career Information for French majors. To receive updates about alumni or to communicate your achievements to the community, visit us on facebook.

This handbook presents information needed by current or prospective French majors or minors, as well as those taking French electives on the 3000 level or above. Note: All second majors and minors must be declared by the ADD DEADLINE of the semester in which the student plans to graduate.

The Minor

Requirements: The French minor consists of 18 credit hours of courses with a minimum grade of “C” in the FREN sequence at and above the level of FREN 3020, with the further provisions 1) that FREN 3031 and 3032 are required, unless the student receives exemption from the Director of the Undergraduate Program; and 2) that at least 3 of those hours must be at the level of FREN 4000 or above.

In Brief: Eighteen hours = 3031 + 3032 + four additional FREN courses, including at least one 4000-level course.

Exemptions: Students presenting a 4 or a 5 on the AP Language test alone will receive exemption from and credit for FREN 3031. Students presenting scores of 4 or 5 on both the AP Language and Literature tests will receive exemption from and credit for FREN 3031 and FREN 3032.

With permission of the instructor or a faculty advisor, a minor may take a 4000-level course without a prior 3000-level offering.


  • Up to six hours toward the minor may be earned in approved foreign-study programs (see Study Abroad).
  • Undergraduates may take a 5000-level course with the instructor's permission.
  • A grade of C or better must be earned in each and every course counted toward the minor.

The Major

Requirements: The French major consists of 30 credit hours of courses with a minimum grade of “C” in the FREN sequence at and above the level of FREN 3020, with the further provisions 1) that FREN 3031 and 3032 are required, unless the student receives exemption from the Director of the Undergraduate Program; and 2) that at least 9 of those hours must be at the level of FREN 4000 or above.

Exemptions: Students presenting a 4 or a 5 on the AP Language test alone will receive exemption from, and credit for, French 3031. Students presenting scores of 4 or 5 on both the AP Language and Literature tests will receive exemption from, and credit for, both French 3031 and French 3032.

With permission of the instructor or a faculty advisor, a major may take a 4000-level literature course without a prior 3000-level offering.


  • Up to twelve hours toward the major may be earned in approved foreign-study programs (see Study Abroad).
  • Undergraduates may take 5000-level courses after having earned a "B" or better in two 4000-level courses and obtaining the instructors' permission.
  • Special rules govern the taking of independent study courses (FREN 4993 and 4994). See the "Policy on Undergraduate Tutorials" section below.

Independent Study Policy

Guidelines and Policies: Because the French Department provides a wide range of courses on French and Francophone literature, film, linguistics, history, and cultural studies, it rarely offers Independent Study courses. The French Department reserves this option for exceptionally qualified fourth-year students with clearly defined and justified project goals. Fourth year French majors or minors may enroll in Independent Study courses (FREN 4993 and 4994) after obtaining permission from the supervising faculty member, the Director of the Undergraduate Program (DUP), and the Department Chair. Only students with a GPA in French of 3.5 or higher and overall GPA of 3 may apply. Only 1 independent study course may be counted toward the major or minor.

  • Click here for application
  • A complete description of the project
  • Evidence of prior courses which have adequately prepared the student for the project
  • A bibliography of the works to be studied
  • A brief statement from a faculty member who accepts responsibility for directing the independent study

The Distinguished Majors Program

Appliation and Admission: In consultation with the Committee on Undergraduate Studies, the Director of the Undergraduate Program will admit applicants, normally in the spring of their third year, on the basis of the following factors:

  • An overall GPA of 3.4, evidenced by a current college transcript or a SIS form.
  • A departmental GPA of 3.5 in courses at the 3000 level or above.
  • To apply, please send the Statement of Purpose and your transcript or SIS form in one PDF if possible, or in separate Word or PDF documents attached to one email to Kathy Halvorsen,(kah6f@virginia.edu)
  • Recommendations from three members of the University of Virginia French faculty, one of whom may be the intended advisor.
  • A pledged 500-word statement of purpose composed in French.
  • A letter from a French Department faculty member agreeing to direct the applicant's thesis.

Please ask your recommenders to send their letter of support to the DUP, Cheryl Krueger

Prospective applicants planning to be abroad during the application period should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for further information, before departure if possible.

Required Course Work and Thesis: The DMP program consists of 36 semester hours. The core is the standard 30-hour major. In addition, the candidate will complete an approved project, normally a substantial paper. The candidate will also take French 4998 (Pre-thesis Tutorial), in which background reading, research, and a thorough working outline of the thesis will be completed under the director's supervision, and French 4999 (Thesis), in which the candidate will, under the director's supervision, draft and revise the work, defined as a 30-50 page study, in French. The thesis should demonstrate mastery of relevant theories, research techniques, appropriate methods of analysis and interpretation, as well as expository writing. Two readers will examine the document: the thesis director and either the Director of the Undergraduate Program, another member of the French faculty, or a qualified professor from another UVA department. The final version of the thesis will be prepared according to the MLA Handbook.

Continuance: The DUP will monitor each candidate's progress on a term-to-term basis. Failure to maintain the overall or departmental GPA required for admission, or failure to complete program requirements on time, will result in probation for one semester. If the candidate's record is then cleared, good standing will be restored; otherwise, the candidate will be dropped from the program.

Degrees of Distinction: The DUP, in consultation with the thesis director and, if required, the Committee on Undergraduate Studies, will recommend conferral of Distinction, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction. The bases for judgement will be the quality of the thesis and work in the Distinguished Majors Program, the major, and the College. All queries concerning the program should be addressed to the Director of the Undergraduate Program.


Third Year:
Application to DMP: April 4, 2018
Announcement of admissions: April 18, 2018

Fourth Year:
First draft of thesis: March 18, 2019
Revised draft and public presentation:  April 2019,  Time: TBA; Place: TBA
Submission of two hard copies of revised thesis in final form due April 2019 to New Cabell Hall 358 by 4:30 pm (Date TBA)

The B.A./M.A. in French

The BA/MA program is a five-year program that will interest students wishing to exercise their French skills at the near-native level while developing their cultural knowledge, keen analytical capacities. Students who are on track to complete at least one 4000-level French course during their 3rd Year, or students in their 4th Year about to complete the major, may apply. We offer a wide range of courses on the relationship between French culture, society and expression of the human condition (in literature, in language, in visual media). Intrinsic to these courses is the development of skills that will serve students in a variety of professional fields: analytical, creative and critical thinking; problem-solving (individually and collaboratively); the capacity to recognize and transcend one's own cultural perspective in order to better understand other points of view; the ability to make connections to other times and places. More information and how to apply...

The Combined B.A./M.A.T Degree

Anyone interested in teaching French on the secondary level may wish to look into the combined Bachelor's degree and Master of Arts in Teaching, offered jointly by the French Department and the Curry School of Education. This five-year degree involves both a complete major in French following a specified curriculum and a course of study leading to professional teaching licensure. It is a complex degree and requires careful planning. For details beyond those published in the Undergraduate Record, please consult the Director of the Undergraduate Program in French.

How to Declare a Major or Minor in French

Pick up a major or minor declaration form in the French Department office (358 New Cabell Hall); fill in the heading information and list all the courses you have taken or are currently taking in French, beginning with FREN 3031. Make a tentative list of the courses you would like to take that will satisfy the major or minor requirements. Take your form to a French Department faculty member to complete the process.

Awards and Honors

The Hugh M. Davidson Essay Prize

The Hugh M. Davidson Essay Prize commemorates a beloved teacher and colleague who was also internationally admired for his scholarly publications, particularly on Blaise Pascal. 

The $500.00- prize will be offered once a year to an undergraduate student who is judged to have written a worthy essay on a subject in the field of medieval and early modern French literature and thought.  For the purposes of this competition, subjects will be considered acceptable if they concern writings in French prior to 1800.

Selection criteria: The winning essay will possess the following characteristics:

  • Original and insightful thought about the texts discussed;
  • Excellent use of primary sources (i.e. texts in French written prior to 1800);
  • Judicious and thoughtful use of appropriate secondary sources;
  • Excellent writing: well-organized, clear, and in grammatically correct and idiomatic French.

The essays submitted to this competition will not have been previously submitted as graded work for a course, but instead may deepen and develop ideas from work in a course at the University.  Each essay will be between 2000 and 3000 words. The submission deadline for essays is March 1.  Essays should be double-spaced in Times New Roman font, with margins of 1 -1.25 inches.  Please submit essays in PDF to Kathy Halvorsen (kah6@virginia.edu) by 5:00 p.m. March 1.


The Department of French at the University of Virginia announces the 2016 annual essay competition for The Lieutenant Commander Charles Oscar Maas, USNRF, Assistant Naval Attaché to the  American Embassy, Paris, France, World War I, Prize

Awards of up to $5,000 for Continued Learning about France and French-­‐Speaking Cultures

Undergraduates in all schools of the University are invited to submit 2000-2500 word essays in French on a topic concerning Franco-American relations, broadly interpreted to be any topic of a comparative nature dealing with the language, culture, politics, society, business (or some similar or allied subject) of the United States and of France or any French-speaking nation or region.

Deadline for this year’s competition is March 1, 2018. Essays must be received by Ms. Kathleen Halvorsen (kah6f@virginia.edu) in the Department of French by e-mail no later than 5:00 p.m. on that day. For complete details, see the guidelines that follow.

The contest is open to all undergraduate students of French at the University who are not native speakers of French and who have not learned their French primarily in French-speaking schools. Questions concerning eligibility can be discussed with Professor Krueger (Director of the Undergraduate Program in French).

The length of the essay should be between 2000 and 2500 words, about six to eight pages double-spaced. Each essay  should have a title, and pages should be numbered. Essays are to be entirely the work of the participant; research materials must be referenced. (The committee takes a dim view of research conducted exclusively on the internet.) Essays are judged on choice of topic, clarity of argument, and quality of French. Students are permitted, indeed encouraged, to consult dictionaries and grammar books, but they may not seek anyone’s help with French while writing their essays. The essay must not have been previously submitted for another essay contest or to satisfy a University course requirement, although it may   be developed from a paper written for a course. Former winners of a Maas prize are excluded from the present competition. Each contestant may submit a single essay.

Essays should be submitted as e-mail attachments in Word or .pdf format. The name of the writer should not figure within the essay itself but should be given in the e-mail message itself. The e-mail message will contain a pledge that the work is that of the author alone. The judges will not know the identities of the writers.

Authors of essays will be encouraged to attend a special event hosted by the French Department in April  Prize winners will be announced at this event.

The Winner will be entitled to receive $5,000 in documented expenses of an educational or scholarly purpose related to enhancing knowledge of the French language or francophone culture (airfare to France or a French-speaking country or  region, per diem living expenses in such a country or region when such travel is related to specific educational endeavors,  such as consultation of archives, tuition in a degree program in a French-speaking country or region, graduate work in  French, etc.). The committee may select second  prize, third prize, and/or honorable mention recipients. These awardees will be entitled to prize money to be used for similar expenses. Recipients will have two years from receipt of reward to spend these funds. Before the end of two years, all receipients must submit a narrative explaining use of funds and reciepts. Unspent funds or failure to provide receipts and a narrative by the end of two years will lead to a requirement that the recipient refund the department the full amount of the award (or partial if a portion of the funds is left unspent).

The decision of the judges is final. The Maas Prize Committee reserves the right to withhold the announced prize if, in its opinion, essays submitted are not of sufficient merit. The Maas Prize Committee reserves the right to award up  four additional prizes (first-prize, second prize, and Honorable Mention prizes), in its opinion, additional essays are of the highest quality.

The prize was established in 1953 by the late Mrs. Kitty M. Maas as a memorial to her husband, Lieutenant Commander Charles Maas, USNFR, who presided at the ceremony in Paris on 13 April 1919 at which the University of Virginia presented the Republic of France with a plaque in memory of Thomas Jefferson.

The Woody Award

Endowed by Professor Emeritus T. Braxton Woody, this $350 award, administered by the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, honors a French major in their next to last year of study who, through academic achievement and other activities, has contributed to the advancement of French studies. Nominations from the French faculty are gathered in January by the chair of the Undergraduate Studies Committee, and the recipient is selected the following month by the department chair. The award is presented at a Rotunda dinner on or about Founder's Day.

Preparing for Post-Graduate Life

French majors and minors who do not plan on pursuing graduate or professional studies will significantly enhance their employment prospects in business, government, or non-profit organizations by complementing their arts and sciences program with the appropriate internships available through University Career Services, as well as advanced studies (a major or minor) in another discipline.

Que puis-je faire avec ma spécialité en français?

For more information contact the Director of Undergraduate Program

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at http://records.ureg.virginia.edu/index.php.