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How to Effectively Communicate With Your Professors

Last updated October 20, 2020

There’s definitely a certain art to communicating with your professors via email. Honing that art and becoming a master of the professorial email is even more important now that the vast majority of college campuses in the US will be conducting classes online.

Don’t worry, though - it’s not rocket science, it’s an email! We’ll walk you through how to politely and effectively communicate your needs and build a working relationship with your professors.

  • Focus on formatting

Concise, legible email formatting is key to engendering a nice rapport between you and your profs.

Keep basic fundamentals in mind - start your email with a greeting

Hi Professor [name],

Then, keep the body of your email focused, respectful -

I was wondering if I would be able to receive an extension on our 10 page essay on Moby Dick.

If you have any additional context for an ask like the one exemplified above, provide it, but keep it short, drama-free, and focused on flexibility/compromise.

  • Take advantage of (digital) office hours

Classes will be conducted online, and so will the professor's office hours. If you have a question or need help with something, evaluate whether your question is better suited for an email, or if you could ask it during 1:1 time during their office hours. You’ll find generally that office hours (likely conducted over video) are a more effective, personal way to get to know your professor, get answers to questions, and ask them for anything you might need compared to an email. Be sure to have notes, or an agenda, for what you want to discuss with your professor during office hours prepared beforehand so you make good, focused use of both of your time.

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out!

Sometimes professors seem intimidating. The prospect of asking a question or for help might feel embarrassing - you might worry that your professor will think less of you for not being able to figure something out on your own. Don’t let that fear influence you, though! Your professor is there for you, to help you learn. So if you need help - pipe up! Or in this case, hit send on that email. If you’re still worried about asking for help, here’s a quick guide.

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