Forget the Footnotes

Talking to prospective students

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The convenor of my department told me to show up at an “Open Day” for prospective students and their parents. Obliging as always, I agreed. Only today, thinking about what to say, did it strike me how perfectly unsuitable I am for this task. The parents clearly want someone English who with knowledge and authority can talk about exactly how a university education will help their brood get ahead in the English class system. I know nothing about the undergrad programme, and as Swede from Norflondon with a ponytail, I’m not likely to inspire confidence. Last time I talked to prospective students I lost the School thousands of pounds. The only reason they asked me is that everyone reasonable already has buggered off on their respective Easter vacations.

They’ve sent out a pre-prepared Powerpoint presentation with the official sales-pitch which I am expected to talk over. A pre-prepared Powerpoint presentation!!! Who are they kidding??? I have two PhDs and a conscience; I don’t go into a classroom with someone else’s Powerpoints. Surely it is is far better for both the School and for prospective students if I try to tell them as truthfully as I can, in my own words, warts and all, what it’s like to study at an elite university.

What I’ll do is to reuse the traditional speech I always give to incoming MSc students, with some amendments for the fact that these are prospective undergrads. It’s worked in the past, it’ll surely work again.

My Open Day speech is here.

What’s in the speech?

  • don’t come to the LSE if you expect close interaction with faculty. The LSE is a research university where staff spend most of their time on their own research.
  • come to the LSE for the students — we attract the smartest, most ambitious, and all-round attractive people on the planet. Future leaders, just like yourself.
  • what we teach you doesn’t matter for your job prospects, but it will make all the difference to your life.

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