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10 Stand-Out Tips for Emailing Your College Professor

Your professor sends the whole class an email, reminding all of you that the final marks are now posted and available on the learning website. You then proceed to open the website and find out that the mark you obtained was less than ideal. 

“Now what?” You wonder. Work has been turned in by the due date so you question why the professor has given you an unexpected mark. Has all of the effort and time you put into that assignment gone to waste? So, in order to clarify and discuss your mark, you start emailing your professor.

My name is ____ and I’m wondering why I got such a bad mark? I put so much effort into it.”

But hold on! Before you click “send,” you may want to reconsider the level of formality you are using. Maybe this Let’s address some points on written communication using these 10 tips for emailing your professor.

how to email college professor

1. Address your email using “Professor” or “Doctor” 

This is a piece of advice which I’ve received from my law professor. During her last lecture, she described why it is important to address your professor by “Professor,” or “Doctor.”

College professors aren’t like high school teachers – many of them are experts in their fields with a variety of global publications under their names. Therefore, in order to respect your professors’ skills and their efforts, it’s best to address them with the word, “Professor.” 

Moreover, many of them do hold PhDs, or doctorate degrees in their respective fields. People who hold such degrees are often addressed by the title ‘Doctor.’ So, another method of indicating respect is by utilizing their earned title, “Doctor.” 

Being a university student means respecting your classmates and your professors. So, a good way you can begin showing respect is by addressing them by their proper title. 

2. Include an opening statement 

The opening statement makes a huge difference. You never know what mood your professor is in when they open the email. They are human, have a personal life, and go through personal situations as well which might color their impression of you. 

Therefore, before you begin with your question, keep in mind to always add an opening statement. This can range from; “I hope all is well,” to “I hope you are having a good day.” 

Also, identify yourself and include the class name that you attend with that professor. This is particularly important when emailing a professor for the first time. Use your full name to avoid any confusion.

This opening statement is another sign of respect for your professor. And by respecting your professor, you can develop a better impression of you as a student overall. 

3. Explain your situation 

It’s not always a good idea to jump into the problem first thing, and immediately ask the question. The professor wants to understand your point of view, and perhaps, why the specific situation is a challenge for you. 

In the case of a low mark, before asking your professor why you got the mark, allow your professor to know maybe you interpreted the rubric’s instructions in an unintended manner. Tell them that because of the way the class syllabus is written, you have interpreted the criteria in a way which may have been different than how the paper was graded. 

By doing this, you’re explaining your own perspective, which may allow the professor to understand why you may be experiencing challenges. 

4. Then, ask the question

After explaining your situation, you can then proceed to ask the question which you may want answered. This will allow the professor to know what you’re specifically asking for, and to help you in the best way possible. 

5. Utilize an empathetic approach 

It’s a good idea to put yourself in the professor’s shoes. Ask yourself, what would my professor think when they see this question? 

If you think that your professor may reply that you haven’t followed a specific part of the rubric, make sure you ask them to explain the specific part of the rubric to you. Moreover, if you think that your question may be repetitive or redundant to them, apologize for the inconvenience. 

By doing this, you’re showing the professor that you’re understanding their perspective as well. In this way you also share a notice of any personal shortcomings.

6. Use formal language throughout your email 

Use proper email etiquette and refrain from using contractions or other slang in your email. Keep in mind that your discussion with your professor should be professional and courteous. So in that case, your email wouldn’t be misinterpreted for something else. 

7. Explain the situation, rather than interrogating the professor 

Although you may be tempted to ask questions when facing challenges, it’s best to give detailed information on why these challenges are problems from your own opinion and perspective. When you explain, the professor can better understand your perspective and help you achieve your goals as a student. 

And if you are able to communicate this clearly, your professor will likely have a good idea on how to help. Therefore, you two can find a great way to ‘meet in the middle,’ rather than to stand at either ends of the spectrum. 

8. Close with a summary when emailing your professor

After writing all the previous sections, ensure that you’re closing off your professional email with a summary of your goals as a student. This will allow the professor to see that you’re interested in learning more about the course materials, which they’ll always appreciate. In addition, they may be willing to lend a helping hand to get you to the next step

9. Thank the professor for their time 

College professors receive a lot of emails from dozens of students in their inboxes on a daily basis. So, when they’re addressing your email, it’s best to keep in mind that they may have to answer many other emails as well. 

In order to be understanding of their situation, thank them for their time in terms of assisting you. Let them know that you appreciate their help and dedication. 

10. Reread the email one more time before sending it off

Always re-read your email to your professor and ensure that the appropriate edits are made. Look over it once or twice and see if there are better ways to rephrase certain sentences and words.

Even try reading the email out loud to discover any flaws. Be sure the email is easy to read, has proper grammar, and that unnecessary jargon is eliminated. Review carefully for correct spelling.

Check the professor’s email address and contact information for accuracy. If you do not receive a response, remember messages sometimes end up in a spam folder. Ask the professor directly if they received your email rather than sending a follow-up email.

Now you have these 10 tips for writing an email to your professor, how would you rewrite the initial email above? Will you try to explain more of your situation? Or would you try to allow the professor to explain their perspective more? There are multiple methods to approach this, as long as you’re being respectful towards your professor. 

how to email college professor

Here is an example message below:

Dear Professor [Last name], 

Good afternoon, I hope all is going well.

My name is [First name] [Last name] and I am a student in your [class name] class. I have recently submitted an assignment for Week ___. The assignment is entitled “________” and the instructions state that “____________.” My topic was centered around _____. While writing the essay, I decided to focus on a specific perspective and present my arguments by utilizing the course materials learned in class. However, I’m wondering if there are better methods to present my arguments for future essays. By knowing better methods, I will know how to restructure my essay in the future to be more clear and cohesive. 

Throughout this course, I continuously want to improve and build upon such concepts. As a result, learning about my weaknesses will allow me to work on them. 

Thank you for your time and patience in terms of addressing my email. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

A Basic Template for Emailing Your Professor

Starting an email to your professor in a respectful and professional manner is essential. The email template below utilizes the aspects of the 10 tips for emailing your professor which were provided above.

  1. Formal Salutation:
    • Dear Professor [Last Name],
    • Dear Dr. [Last Name],
  2. Subject-Specific Greeting:
    • Greetings,
    • Hello Professor [Last Name],
    • Hi Dr. [Last Name],
  3. Include Salutation and Title:
    • Good morning/afternoon/evening Professor [Last Name],
    • Dr. [Last Name], I hope this email finds you well,
  4. Introduction (As needed):
    • Briefly introduce yourself using your full name if the professor may not be familiar with you.
    • Provide context if needed, such as your class name or section number.
  5. Acknowledge the Course:
    • I hope you are doing well. I am writing to discuss [specific topic related to the course].
    • I trust this email finds you in good health. I am a student in your [course name] class.
  6. Express Purpose Clearly:
    • I am writing to inquire about [specific question or concern].
    • I would like to discuss [topic] with you.
    • I have a question regarding [assignment, lecture, etc.].
  7. Summarize and Conclude:
    • Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you about [topic].
    • In conclusion, I hope to find a resolution for and appreciate your input.
  8. Sign
    • Best Regards, [First Name]
    • Sincerely, [Full Name]

Remember to keep your professional emails concise, focus on your purpose, and maintain a professional tone throughout. It’s also crucial to proofread your email for clarity and correctness before sending it.

Bonus Tip: Be Quick and Concise

Being concise when emailing your professor is crucial for several reasons, all of which contribute to effective communication and a positive academic relationship.

By keeping your emails concise, you respect their time and increase the likelihood of a timely response. Professors appreciate students who can communicate their questions or concerns efficiently, making it easier for them to assist you without unnecessary delays.

A concise email is more likely to convey your message clearly, reducing the risk of confusion. Professors need to quickly grasp the essence of your communication amid their busy schedules.

Moreover, concise communication reflects professionalism. Throughout your college career, cultivating professional interactions is essential for your future career and academic success.

Additionally, being concise respects the professor’s cognitive load. A long email can be overwhelming, making it challenging for your professor to extract the main points. By presenting your questions or concerns in a direct manner, your professor can focus on the content of your message without distractions.

Lastly, brevity fosters a positive impression. Professors, like anyone else, appreciate clarity and efficiency in communication. Concise professional emails convey a sense of respect for their time and an understanding of the importance of clear and focused dialogue.

how to email college professor

Summary: Emailing Your Professor 

We all feel the need to email our professors whenever we have an inquiry regarding our coursework or other accommodations. 

However, when emailing the professor, there are plenty of nuances to keep in mind such as utilizing good written communication skills. This includes addressing the professor respectfully and explaining your situation to the fullest extent. 

Moreover, it is also important to allow the professor to know that you understand their perspective as a student and are looking to improve in the course. 

By doing this, you can perhaps make a good impression and the professor may be one of your references in the future. Presenting your best self, even in professional emails, increases the chances of a positive letter of recommendation.

Review these 10 tips for emailing your professor, and the bonus tip! After all, you want to build relationships within your academic career and the best way to start that is to utilize good written communication skills.

About the Author


Candice is currently attending school for social service work. One of her passions is helping others through my writing. In her downtime, you'll find her listening to music, watching random YouTube videos, and writing about career goals and resumes. She hopes to start freelancing for writing and obtain a leadership position in a public services sector.