Of the many essential skills in college, knowing how to write your professor is one that should not be overlooked. Whether for claiming the last seat in a class, getting answers to course questions, or generally making a positive impression, a strong email can go a long way. The following is a simple framework from which you can base your own emails.
Starting out: can’t go wrong with “Dear”
Some say “Dear” sounds overly formal. It’s not! Using “Dear” is the most direct way of showing your professor an essential level of respect. While “Hi” can be appropriate in causal settings with your friends, never use it when emailing your profs for the first time.
Dear Professor Taylor,
If you have never written to or met the professor in question, the best way to start the email is with a quick self-introduction. Keep it basic to things like your name, class year, and major (when applicable).
My name is Faisal Kirdar and I am a Senior majoring in Neuroscience.
Why are you writing?
A good second sentence will get right to the point: why are you writing? This is where you state your purpose. This should also be stated in the subject of the email in no more than 4 words.
I am writing to inquire if it is possible to go over a few course topics; in particular I am having trouble understanding molecular orbital diagrams.
If you have a question, be sure to ask it
Often the reason you’ll write your professors is to ask a question or several questions. It’s important not just to say I am writing to ask you about molecular orbital diagrams; you must also give something specific to which your professor can respond. If the question is very specific and can be answered quickly via email, ask it. If it requires more interaction, then the question should be geared toward scheduling an appointment to do so.
Is there a convenient time for us to meet this week?
Arm your professor with relevant info
Provide as much relevant information as you can. If you are requesting a time to meet, let them know your availability. This will make it easier for your professor to respond promptly.
I’m available Mondays and Wednesdays from 12-4 PM.
Tell them what you want them to do
Make it even easier for your professor to respond to you by finishing the note with a clear, polite instruction.
Please let me know what time is most convenient for your schedule.
End with a friendly and polite send off
It is important to end the email on a positive note and further demonstrate your respect for the professor. This ensures a strong impression and in some cases encourages the professor to respond more quickly.
Thanks for your help and I look forward to hearing from you.
In your college careers you will write
hundreds thousands of emails, many of which are bound to differ from one another. The two main things to always keep in mind are: have a purpose–why are you writing this professor–and demonstrate respect. Doing so will both improve your relations with your professor and get you what you want faster.