Communicating with Professors

Communication with professors is essential to clarify course content, to discuss assignment expectations, or to communicate if you are running into difficulty with an expectation. Your professors likely explain their preferred method of communication in the syllabus. You should pay particular attention to:


How to Communicate with Professors

Your Professor will likely give you their email address, office location, and office hours. In a college setting, email is generally the preferred method of communication, but sometimes in-person conversations are more efficient for asking and answering questions such as answering multiple questions about an assignment. Consider when you will choose either option depending on the situation. 

Some professors hold drop-in office hours on specific days/times of the week - you do not need an appointment for drop-in hours. Other professors may ask you to sign up for a specific time to see them. Check the syllabus, Canvas, or the professor's email signature line to find the "sign up" method. If you have a conflict with the hours posted, email the professor to let them know you have a conflict. Give the professor the times in the week you would be available and ask if they could meet with you during one of those times. 


When to Communicate with Professors

Communicate early, not at the last minute. Professors will let you know when tests are taking place or when papers are due. It is your responsibility to plan ahead. If you have a paper due on Friday at midnight, make sure you begin earlier in the week or even the week before. This will give you time to ask your professor any questions long before the due date. You may not get a timely response if you email them a few hours before the assignment is due. 


How to Write Effective Emails 

When you are communicating via email or online, it can be tricky since you cannot read a person's facial expression or hear their tone of voice. You should endeavor to make each communication professional and meaningful. Here are some tips: 


Review Emails Before Sending

When writing an email to a professor about something potentially uncomfortable, such as a grade change or extension, read the email aloud to yourself or someone else before sending it. This way, you can ensure the correct message and tone are getting across to the recipient


Check Your Grammar and Spelling

When writing an email, start with a greeting.

Ex: Dear Professor Smith, Good afternoon, Hi Dr. Jones, etc. 

Do a quick spelling and grammar check.


Do You Need to Ask this Question? 

Professors encourage students to ask questions. However, double-check your Canvas page and the syllabus to make sure your question has not already been answered. If not, ask your professor clearly and concisely. 


Email Templates for Communicating with Professors

Below are a few examples students can use to email their professors when they are overwhelmed and aren't sure what to say. 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 and should be edited to reflect your specific situation.


Email Templates

Dear Professor, 

I'm sorry that I have not turned in the last two assignments. Recently, I have been struggling to focus on my work. I've been overwhelmed by my classes and other things that are going on. I'm currently working with someone in Learning Success Strategies to help me better manage my time and balance the work I have. 

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

Thank you, 


Dear Professor, 

I'm sorry I have missed the last couple of classes. Recently I've been struggling and overwhelmed, which has made it difficult to come to class. I'm currently working with Learning Success Strategies to get some support. I have also connected with the Counseling Center

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

Thank you,


Dear Professor, 

I want to reach out about __________ assignment that we have coming up. I've been reading over the instructions on the syllabus/Canvas, 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 would appreciate it if we could set up a time to talk this through more so I can get get back on track. 

This is what I currently understand: ___________________________________________________

Here are some questions I have about the 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, but I still don't understand how to approach studying for this quiz/test. I've connected with a tutor at the Learning Center and have talked to Learning Success Strategies about some study techniques, but I'm not sure that will be enough. 

I would appreciate it if we could set up a time to talk through this more so I can get back on track. I'm concerned about the following topics: __________________________________________________. 

Thank you,


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