Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real professors, parents, or other people is entirely—um, predominantly—coincidental.


Dear Hopefully Good-Natured Professor From Three Years Ago,

Hello! I hope your semester is going well! Oh, your semester is almost done? Completely done? I suppose that means it’s December 5? 6? Wait, what? Let me, ah, get to the point then. 

I’m wondering if you’d be willing to write me a letter of recommendation to…well…I haven’t actually decided what schools yet. But I’ll get that to you soon. You’ll probably want to see my CV—I’m still making a few final changes, but I’ll get that to you soon.

Oh, a purpose statement? Yeah, I have a draft, but it’s pretty rough—I’ll get that to you soon.

I mean, I guess I could write it now…but my application will really be better after I’ve had the chance to digest the profound philosophical meaning of season 5 of The West Wing, don’t you think? 




Dear Professor With An Inexplicably Cool Name,

My name is Josh Parks, and I am currently a terrified MA student at this school you in your esteemed excellence have probably never heard of and I’m just wondering rather stupidly if you’re currently accepting graduate students. I recently read your groundbreaking essay “A Short Introduction to Fourteenth-Century Nosepicking” and it has really shaped my own thought on how people picked their noses in the fourteenth century. 

I hope to hear from you soon. Or if not I’ll melt into the ground and then grad school ceases to be an issue.


Josh Parks



Dear Friendly, Helpful, and Inexplicably Patient Advisor,

So, here’s a list of the writing sample length requirements. U of M wants 15 pages, Chicago wants between 18.5 and 22.3. Yale wants 17 pages, but only if the paper is made of 30% or less cedar pulp—otherwise it’s 16. Penn actually wants the last paragraph to be identical with the first paragraph so they can read it in an endless cycle recently discovered by their astrophysics department. And then Notre Dame’s only requirement is that I don’t mention their astrophysics department.

Any thoughts on what I should cut?




Dear Wise Older Woke Person (But Not Too Old Or Too Woke),

How’s this for a diversity statement? “I’m committed to the centering of underrepresented voices in medieval studies. I also think the president’s son should not own an assault rifle with a crusader cross on it.” Too on the nose? 

Constantly rewriting,




Dear Probably Busy (And Now Slightly Annoyed With Me) Recommender,

I haven’t seen your recommendation letter come through yet, so I just wanted to make sure you don’t need anything else from me.

(Subtext: All of the evidence points to your being extremely responsible and trustworthy, but it’s now 10 p.m. on the deadline and I’d really like to stop stressing about this.)

Refreshing my email,




Dear Unspecified Family Member,

Just submitted the last one! Now we wait.

No, haven’t heard yet—I just submitted them a week ago!

Nope, no such luck.

Nah, I’m sure they’re giving them a close read.

No, not sure what their funding options look like yet.

Definitely planning to leave you out of the loop when I do hear back, 




Dear Supportive Friends, Middle School English Teachers, and Madcap Coffee,

Thank you.



  1. Debra K Rienstra

    Love it. Send me that article on nose-picking. Sounds great.

  2. Kyric Koning

    Ah yes, the four cardinal virtues and the Big Three of Jesus. Such brilliant work.


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