You may not know me, but I certainly know you. I know your research, your résumé, your hopes, your fears, your wildest dreams: Unbeknownst to you, I am one of them. I reference your scholarly publications in daily conversation. I know your subject like the back of my hand. I live it and breathe it; it courses through my veins. Every waking moment enlivens its intense practical and philosophic importance. You — and the dramatically interesting intricacies of this eminently fascinating and dynamically interdisciplinary subject — haunt my waking dreams. I am the student you have been waiting your whole life to teach. I’m kind of a big deal.
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But don’t take my word for it. Behold: extracurriculars and résumé lines galore! (Note how I ingeniously stretch and mold my internships and academic experience to the course topic, using tenuous and tangential synonyms and appositional associations.) Have I mentioned that I tried to get into your class last year? That I chose Yale (over several other Ivies, which all clamored for me) in order to study under your tutelage? How about my compelling life story, replete with travel, adversity and — most importantly — the topic of this seminar? Those awards that I won in high school? I am impressive, and so are you; I think we are very similar in this regard.
We must tackle the fascinating ambiguities of this topic — so important in our rapidly globalizing world — together. Some might suggest I take the intro lecture, like everyone else; I am not like everyone else! I thrive in the seminar setting; it is my lifeblood. Only immersed in the fertile soil of discussion can the seed of my genius most brilliantly flower.
Now, I am sure that I am the only student who has e-mailed you to indicate interest; of course, this successfully highlights my intense desire to study in the shadow of your intellectual magnitude and separates me from the rabble (all of whom I eyed, angrily, as they entered the classroom today). You may also remember my approaching you at the end of the first class session (OMG, it was, like, incredible) to introduce myself, as well as the obviously relevant (and dare I say insightful) Kierkegaard reference I unexpectedly proffered during your introduction. No need to wonder: I was, indeed, in Directed Studies last year.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: This seminar is critically oversubscribed, just like the five other (obviously inferior) ones that I shopped today. But what is academia, really, but a tooth and nail quest to staple big names and inflated grades to one’s cunningly streamlined transcript? Why prevaricate? You are spending most of your time and attention authoring your latest book, and the department conveniently caps the class at 15, so you don’t have to spend time with too many pesky undergraduates.
Professor, I know the drill: We can work something out here. I’ll spout your own opinions and academic convictions back at you (so brilliantly elucidated in your most recent journal article!), and you can give me the gold-star-for-effort A. Everybody wins!
You will like me so much that I will occasionally chat with you after class, nodding and smiling as you talk, before inviting you to dinner in my residential college. Although you will probably decline, I still think you would make a great advisor. Your recommendation letters must be excellent, just like everything else that bears your venerable signature-stamp.
I came to Yale excited to engage with and discuss my passions, while studying under great professors (or good professors … or, at least, a professor). A couple of semesters later, I am ready for that experience to finally begin! I may not be a senior, or a junior, or a major (I’m a prismatic generalist at heart); but, to be frank, I deserve a place in this class. This semester’s shopping period has the potential to prove academic orgasm or high tragedy: My future is in your erudite hands. Without a chance to engage with this critically important topic, I will end this semester as little more than an empty, uninspired shell. To miss out on this incredible seminar would truly break my heart.
Well, unless I get into that other one.
Alex Klein is a sophomore in Davenport College.