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How to Communicate with Professors

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.)

Dear Professor,

I am sorry that I have not been able to turn in the last two assignments. Recently, I have been struggling to focus on my work. I have been overwhelmed by my classes and other things that are going on. I am currently working with ______ in LSS to help me better manage my time and balance the work I have.

I would also greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with you to create a plan for how I can make up these assignments.

Thank you,


Dear Professor,

I am sorry that I have missed the last couple of classes. Recently, I have been struggling and overwhelmed and unable to get to class. I am currently working with ______ in LSS to get some support around these concerns and have also connected with the Counseling Center.

I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with you to create a plan for how I can make up the work I missed for theses classes.

Thank you,


Dear Professor,

I wanted to reach out about _____ assignment that we have coming up. I’ve been reading over the instructions on the syllabus/Blackboard, but I still don’t understand how I’m supposed to approach this assignment or organize my thoughts. I’m feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed and was wondering if we could find a time to talk this through more so I could get on track.

This is what I currently understand:

Here are some specific questions I have about this assignment:

Thank you,


Dear Professor,

I wanted to reach out about the quiz/test that we have coming up. I’ve been looking over my notes and the study guide on Blackboard, but I still don’t understand how I’m supposed to approach studying for this quiz/test. I’m feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed. I’ve scheduled a time to connect with a tutor and talked to LSS about some study strategies but am not sure if this will be enough.

Would it be possible for us to find a time to talk this through more so I could get on track? I’m really concerned about the following topics ______ and am not sure how to organize myself to study effectively.

Thank you,


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