How to Communicate with Professors

By Staff Writers

Published on September 21, 2021

How to Communicate with Professors

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Emailing a professor remains one of the most efficient ways students can establish an open channel of communication outside the classroom. An email allows enrollees to gather and communicate their thoughts with clarity and concision. In addition, an email provides a record of communication, and professors can reply at their convenience. Well-developed digital communication skills serve students in school and in their professional careers.

This guide focuses on the benefits of developing effective communication skills when contacting professors.

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How Connecting with Professors Will Benefit You


Professors keep consultation hours to help students with issues not addressed in the classroom. Outside of these hours, students can often contact their professors through email. Taking the time to connect with professors yields several benefits that can last beyond college, including the three advantages described below.

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For recent graduates applying for their first job and early career professionals, employers often accept recommendation letters from school personnel, including college professors. Graduate schools also typically require applicants to submit recommendation letters. Many graduate schools specifically ask for recommendations from college professors who can vouch for the applicant's academic abilities.

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Professors usually discover internship and professional opportunities in their field of practice. They typically share these opportunities with capable students and recent graduates they know of who express interest in pursuing such options.

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Even after graduation, early career practitioners benefit from professional advice from knowledgeable professors who hold experience in their field of study. Many professors appreciate graduates who remain in contact with them and continue to update them on their professional progress.

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Questions About Communicating with Professors

Q. Which email address should you use to contact professors?

Use the official email address the school assigned to the professor you wish to contact, especially when you email them about course-related concerns.

Q. Should you address problems with your professor in class or in an email?

Time permitting, many professors do not mind clarifying course-related problems in class. However, students should get in touch with a professor privately if they have a personal problem.

Q. Should you follow up if your professor doesn’t respond?

Yes, you may follow up on an earlier email. Include a gentle reminder that the current email is a follow-up to an earlier message and summarize the concern. Do not copy and paste the body of the initial email into the follow-up email.

Q. What style/format should you use in an email to a professor?

Keep email correspondence formal. This tone avoids ambiguity and keeps communication on topic.

Q. When explaining a problem to a professor, how much detail should you include?

Include only as much detail as necessary for the professor to understand your issue. You can discuss more specific details in person, if needed.

 
 

How to Email a Professor

Emailing a professor is a simple task, but it helps to put thought into your communication. Applying a few tips, such as the ones listed below, can help ensure clear communication and encourage a timely response. Students should note their professor's preferred communication tone and tailor their email accordingly.

Use the Right Terms
When emailing a professor, avoid addressing them by their first name, no matter how friendly or approachable they act in the classroom. Always use a professor's proper rank or title in an official email correspondence, such as doctor, if they hold a doctoral degree. A course syllabus usually includes a teacher's credentials.
Review the Subject Line
Use the subject line to catch your professor's attention by clearly indicating the topic the email addresses. The subject line allows the receiver to quickly assess the message's urgency and reply in a timely manner. A subject line should contain proper grammar and correct spelling. Doing so indicates that the sender put attention and care into the email and encourages the recipient to respond similarly.
Use the Correct Address
Some professors share their personal email address in addition to the one the school assigned them. Students should use the latter, especially when emailing a professor about a class matter. Similarly, enrollees should contact professors using the student email address their school assigned to them instead of their personal email address.
Check Your Salutation and Signature
Many professors teach several classes. When communicating with a professor, students should always identify the course they are enrolled in and clearly indicate the time and day(s) of their class. Students should also use their full name at the end of the email.
Review Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation
Remember to perform a quick grammar and spelling check before sending the email. Students can use several free online tools, such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid, to help them proofread. An email gives students the opportunity to show initiative and their seriousness about the course. Poor grammar and misspelled words do not further this goal.
Do One Last Proofread
After completing the steps above, read the email from beginning to end one last time to catch any ambiguity or unnecessary detail. A concise, clear, and grammatically correct email indicates the effort and thought that went into its composition. Recipients of such an email often respond similarly.

Sample Email to a College Professor


To: gsmith@abcuniversity.edu
From: shill@abcuniversity.edu
Subject: Psychology 101 Questions

Dear Professor Smith,

I’m in your Psychology 101 class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:00 pm. I have a few questions about classical conditioning as I’m struggling to understand how it works. Unfortunately, I have another class during your office hours. Can you please let me know if you’re available to meet with me sometime next week, and if so, what days and times might work for you?

Regards,

Samantha Hill

With an undergraduate degree in communications and a master's in education, Emma finds writing for the education vertical to be the perfect niche.

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