Email your professor, did you do it right?

The way you exchange information with your professor is very important, if you know how to take advantage of it, you can learn new things faster as well as be supported even when having graduated from university. In the contrary, if you do it the wrong way, you might leave a bad impression on your professors and your career is likely to be influenced.

Most lecturers are expected to receive emails from students so that they can evaluate their lectures as well as improve their teaching skills. Here are some notes that will help you to write a perfect email for your professor.

Professor here can be understood as a person who has a broad knowledge of one or more fields, commonly known as teachers, lecturers, tutors, etc. He usually does the work of an advisor, guiding people who are starting to study a particular area. Experts and instructors will expect their students to have a professional level of communication and a respectful attitude. In this article, I will help you understand their expectations as simple as possible.

  1. Read syllabus before emailing.

Normally, most emails sent to professors by students are seeking for information that has already been communicated by the professor or in the syllabus. Asking for such information only makes the professor think you did not concentrate during class or even wonder if you attended the class or not.  Therefore, those kind of questions only worsen you image.

  1. Make sure that email is the best way to solve your problem.

Email often takes longer to understand than direct discussion. In general, speaking is much quicker than writing.

  • Although email is a quick way to ask questions, using it to give a complete solution is really time-consuming. For example, you send an email to the instructor and ask, “Did I miss any chapters of this subject?” That’s a stupid question! Asking that means you want the instructor to write down the entire syllabus, which is impossible.
  • Don’t email to ask for your scores. Whether you have questions about the scores you receive after the test or are eager to know your scores soon, e-mailing your professor to ask for them is not a good idea. Scores are important, and all universities have their own grading and reporting systems.  Scoring is one way of evaluating student’s abilities, undertaken by one or more professors. Even if you know who your markers are, there should be no thought that the scores represent personal relationships. So if you have questions, you should go to the department of your faculty or a place designated by the university to ask for an appointment with the person in charge of marking your test. At that time, the professor will have time to prepare and tell you shortcomings in your test.
  • Each professor has a certain amount of time available for students besides class hours. If you unfortunately have a part-time job during that time, ask for another appointment. The professor will be happy to spend time on you, because of your professionalism. But do not abuse, taking other people’s time to satisfy yourself is not something you should do.
  1. Use an academic email account

Your professor usually receives a lot of emails every day and your email might be ignored because of a weird email address or thought of as promotional email. So if your university has its own email system for students, you should use it, your lecturer will immediately be aware of the importance of your email when seeing it.

If not, you can create yourself an email address appropriate for the academic environment. (Ex: name_university_faculty@gmail.com, use initials to make it easy to remember). Do not use personal email account with unprofessional or even weird username, as it unintentionally show your lack of professionalism or even worse – makes the professor feel offended.

 Few lecturers will remind you about your email address because it is personal choice, and you can continue to use it as normal, day in and day out, and ask yourself why no one answers your email!

  1. Set a clear and meaningful email subject

When sending emails, we all expect it to be read. However, this will be difficult when you send an email to a lecturer who is always busy with lesson plans, lecture halls, meetings, etc.

  • If your lecturer does not have a specific rule, I have a general suggestion for you to set the email subject in this order: [Class] _ [Classroom] _ [Time] _ [Subject of email] such as: Psychology1_H304_Tuesday_ List of members in group X]. With a professional email address and clear email header, the lecturer will know exactly who you are and what you want before opening the email. In addition, a busy professor often manages time well for specific tasks, so a clear email header helps them organize their work better and reply faster. Remember, you only study one subject but your professor teaches one subject for multiple courses.
  • Never add the word “urgent” into your email header and expect a faster response. The problem is yours, not the professor’s.
  • Never send email without subject.
  1. Salutation

Do not ever think of using “Hey”, “Hi” or something too informal even if your professor is a very sociable person. Generally, you should use “Dear Professor Last-Name”. In some cases, putting academic titles (professor, associate professor, etc.) as well as the lecturers’ majors into your salutation will be highly appreciated. So, if you know exactly that information, please add them in.

Note: In these cases, read your email carefully before sending! If not sure, use general case mentioned above.

  1. Briefly and politely give the reason for your email

Concisely state what you need from the professor. The simplest way is firstly reminding him/her of how him/her know you (as mentioned on the email subject), briefly stating your problem (details will be mentioned later). This “Opening” plays an important part in leading the lecturer’s thinking when they continue to read the main content of the email, because many email severs do not display the title again. (Google, for example)

Name exactly what your problem is. Do not use common words such as “project”, “plan”, “group exercise”. The instructor will not know exactly what your problem is.

  1. If you send email to find a solution to a problem, please mention your proposed solutions first

Proposing your list of solutions will help save time for your professor to choose which one is the best for your problem. It also shows that you are very interested in your problem and constantly trying your best. You are the main person responsible for solving the problem and the instructor will not feel like you are creating more work for them.

  1. Leave the signature in the email with a thank- you note

At the bottom of the email you should leave a brief thank-you to show how thankful you are to your lecturer for helping you as well as you look forward to their response. Normally, you can use “I look forward to your response!”; “Best Regards”; “Thank you”, etc. Do not use so much ceremonious words that will unintentionally put pressure on your professor like: “Please reply to me as soon as possible”.

The next part is your personal information (email signature). In this section you should leave your full name, current class – course, student ID, phone number. In other cases, signature is provided to answer these questions: Who are you? Where are you? What do you do? How to contact you? You should provide concise and exact information to answer those questions. Lecturers will probably need that information.

If your email needs some reference information like articles, pictures, essays, then you should attach them to the email before sending. The name of the attachment must also follow the same rules as the title of the email I have listed above. It helps your professor find them easily and accurately after having downloaded to their PC. Also, remember to mention the attachments in the email body, do not let the professor have to find whether there’s attachment file or not. You can usually mention it following this sample “[Information related to the attachment] Please see details in the attached file [filename]”.

  1. Read your email again

Once you have done, check all the items above to make sure you do not miss a section and there are no spelling mistakes. If the email is too long you can have someone check it again. When everything seems to be ok, hit send button.

  1. Be patience to wait for a reply.

If your email has successfully been sent, then all you have to do now is waiting for response from your professor. Besides, you should bear in mind that lecturers are not always working at the university, instead, they might work at home. Therefore, you should also consider if you email them on weekend or a holiday so that you can predict how long you have to wait for their response. Remember to check your email regularly.

  1. Send a Thank- you email after receiving the reply.

You simply announce that you have received their email and thank your professor once again. If you still need more information, you can repeat 11steps above to send another email, but they must be under the thank you.

Above are some things to keep in mind when working with a professor who communicates knowledge to you. Education is growing along with that is the relationship between students and lectures, and there are always certain standards to keep that relationship. I really hope that these things will help you in your study as well as in your life.

Responses

  • Erin Glass says:
    Greetings, Hung Dam Quoc! This is such a wonderfully useful piece; I’m curious to know what motivated you to write it. Also, would you mind if I shared it with some of my colleagues? They might like to send the link to their students. Thanks!

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