Effective and professional communication between students and professors is incredibly important.
Communicating with Professors
Chances are professors will explain their preferred method of communication in the syllabus. Adhering to communication policies is key to success in the course. You should pay particular attention to:
How to Communicate with Professors
Your professor will likely give you their email address, but occasionally may provide an office phone or cell phone number. In the college setting, email is generally the preferred method of communication, but sometimes phone calls are more efficient ways of asking or answering questions. Think about the best ways to use each contact. For example, if you have a question about the course material you are studying for a test the next day and you send an email at 1:00 AM to your professor, it is unlikely that they will answer this question until the next morning or may not be able to answer before the test. Let’s say you are a distance student and your professor provides you with their cell number. If you are working on a paper at 7:00 PM in California, remember it is 10:00 PM on the East Coast, so think before you pick up the phone.
When to Communicate with Professors
The professor will let you know when tests are taking place and when papers are due. It is then your responsibility to plan ahead. For example, if you have a paper due on Saturday at midnight, make sure you begin earlier in the week. The professor is more likely to respond to an email Friday morning rather than just a few hours before the essay is due. Think of this popular saying: “Poor planning on your part is not an emergency on my part.”
How to Write Effective Emails
When you are communicating with your professors via email or other online communication, it can sometimes be tricky because you cannot read a person’s facial expression or hear their tone of voice, but you should endeavor to make each communication professional and meaningful. This is especially important for students in distance classes as you may never “meet” the professor or your classmates face to face, but still want to interact with professionally and effectively with others. Here are some tips:
Review Emails Before Sending
If you are writing an email to a professor about something potentially uncomfortable such as a grade challenge or extension, read your email aloud to yourself or a friend before sending it. This way, you can pick up some of the nuances in your writing and ensure that the correct message and tone are getting across to the recipient.
Check Your Grammar and Spelling
When writing an email, start off with a greeting (Dear Professor Smith, Good afternoon, Hello Dr. Jones, etc.) and do a quick spell check before sending it off.
Do You Need to Ask this Question?
Professors encourage their students to ask questions, but when the answer is clearly written in the syllabus or on the course site, there is a chance your professor will become frustrated. Check the course site first before reaching out. Then, try to ask your questions clearly and concisely.
Email Templates You Can Use When Communicating with Professors
Below are a few examples students can use to email their professors when they are feeling overwhelmed and aren't sure how to communicate with their professors. Professors want to help you! It's okay to reach out and be transparent that you're struggling or don't understand something. (These are general templates, not related to accommodation needs.)