The Secrets of Applying to Seminars

Will we ever get into seminars?
Will we ever get into seminars? // Creative Commons

It doesn’t take Albert Einstein to see how competitive and stressful shopping period is at Yale. But it did take someone who aced “Albert Einstein in Film and Literature” (AMST 252) (me) to compile this compendium of advice on how to get into that coveted seminar. Follow my advice and you’ll have that cute professor who teaches “Global International Ethical Morals” (EP&E 445) begging you to enroll.

Before you even step foot in the classroom, shoot your professor an email to get ahead of those shopateurs (a portmanteau of shopping and amateurs that I made up) who are too focused on their “summers” to even think about the logistics of their fall term schedules. Be sure to address your prospective professors with the warranted degree of respect. Address your professor as “Doctor,” “Master” or “Published Author.” If you’re applying to a Spanish seminar, use the formal, “Usted” form in your salutation. Don’t worry, it’ll pay off later when that first “tú” comes your way in class. Sometimes it will help to change it up based on what you’re applying to. For example, if you’re applying for “Movie Biology” (MCDB 344), start your message, “Hey Osmosis Jones!” Mention your name as much as possible in the body of the message. Here’s a sample sentence from one of my own emails. “I, N. Ferguson, author of this email, N. Ferguson’s email, would be honored to have a place in your class, ideally, N. Ferguson’s place.” Finally, be sure to sign off with a memorable degree of confidence and verve. Finish your email “best,” “smartest” or “hardworkingly.”

When shopping period finally comes around, don’t lose the intensity you kept burning all summer. Remember, first impressions are everything, and you want to assert your intellectual dominance not only with your necessary and invaluable comments but also with your attitude of appearance. Dress for the seminar you want, not for the one you deserve. Stride into “Why is God So Mean?” (PHIL 375) with your hair treading the thin line between “homeless” and “genius.” Your beard should make your professor wonder, “Was he just released from prison?” If your professor makes a joke, be sure to have the loudest laugh in the room. It’s important that he knows YOU found it funny. Be sure to advertise your approval or rejection of each comment through simple voice cues, such as “Mhm,” “Yes!” or “I LOVE IT!” Volunteer for everything, from heading up the next week’s presentation to something your professor didn’t even ask you to do! Be creative! Professors love it when you go the extra mile to show your enthusiasm for the subject. If you’re applying for a theater studies class, interrupt class with an impromptu monologue from one of your favorite plays! Remember, during your monologue, don’t lose eye contact with your professor, and don’t let anyone leave the room. Make sure to cite at least one popular name in each of your comments and to refer to each one as “an influential thinker.” You’ll have everyone in the class wondering, “Who is this intellectual, and how can I be just like him?”

At last, for in-class applications, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Show how your set of interests intersects with the subject matter in unique and exciting ways. For “Intermediate Microeconomics,” write about how much money you have! If you’re applying to “The American Presidency,” talk about how your dad was President! Really think hard to find that little quirk that makes you special. Finally, don’t be afraid to be the last one in the room, even after the professor has left!

I have spent many nights alone in WLH.

–N. Ferguson

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