Professor Email – How to get a Response

Every high school graduate must learn how to send a professor email. Parents, give this information to your high school graduate and even your college student!

As a faculty member at a large university, I’m amazed at the poorly constructed emails that I receive. While I do respond to all students, I can tell you that I’m more likely to send a faster reply to emails that are written well and have the information I need to respond.

If you want to get a response from your university professor, follow these suggestions!

Professor Email – Why is it important to Know How to Email?

Email is a primary method of communicating with your professor in a college setting. You will not see your professor on a daily basis like you did in high school. And, when you are in class, you may be competing with 200 other students for an answer to a question. After class you might have a few minutes to ask a question before you are off to your next class! The dynamics between a student and professor are different in college!

Does It Really Matter How I Construct My Email?

YES – how you write your email matters to your professor!

If you want a favorable reply, then write a concise, easy to read email with all of your pertinent information. If your email rambles and does not give your identifying information, don’t expect a timely reply.

Email Outline

Below is an outline of a good email that you can send to your professor.

  1. Salutation – Dear Dr./Mr./Mrs./Ms First Name Last Name,
  2. First Paragraph1 Sentence Only.The reason for your email.
  3. Second Paragraph – List the class you take:
  4. Third Paragraph – Details Paragraph 
  5. Fourth Paragraph – Give the outcome you desire
  6. Fifth Paragraph – Say something pleasant,
  7. Closing
Professor Email

Email Cheat Sheet

Email Outline Explained

1. Salutation – Dear Dr./Mr./Mrs./Ms

  • Yes, use “Dear”. You want seen as a serious college student!
  • If you are unsure of the title (Dr. Mr, Mrs.) look on your syllabus, it will be there. This is so very very important! Check your syllabus. Check your syllabus. Check your syllabus.  Can you tell that most students don’t do this?
  • Be careful about using Mrs, Ms, or Miss. As a female, I’m regularly sent email to “Mrs. Olivieri” rather than “Dr. Olivieri”. Really? Why wouldn’t students notice this? The student is showing a lack of respect to my earned degree. For some professors, this oversight can be a serious turn-off for some. You do not want to offend your professor. Do not give your professor a reason NOT to email you back!
  • Spell. Your. Professors. Name. CorrectlyYou wouldn’t believe the students who do not take the time to spell my last name (Olivieri) correctly. My name is clearly on the syllabus, posted class notes, and class schedule.

You want to avoid any reason for your professor to NOT to want to email you back. The greeting and spelling of their name could be the difference in getting a reply or getting ignored. Being a college student isn’t easy.

2. First Paragraph Should Be 1 Sentence

  • The reason for your email.
  • Do NOT make this more than 1 sentence.
  • Do NOT make your instructor guess as to what you want in the email. Use the Direct Approach, always.

Examples

  • I have a question about Concept A in my class.
  • Can I schedule a time during your office hours to get clarification on Concept A from class?
  • I will miss class on Month, Day because I will be traveling with the university debate team.

3. Second Paragraph – List the class you take

  • Reminding your professor which class you are taking is a HUGE time saver for your professor.
  • Do you want your professor spend time looking up what class you are taking or answering your question?
  • This is a courtesy that is very much appreciated by your professor.
  • If you have interacted with your professor in some other way, remind them here. For example:
    • I’m the student who asked about Concept A after class and you recommended that I email you.
    • Or, I sit on the front row and have purple hair.

Include the class that you take in the format below.

  • I am in a student in the class below:
  • Class: BIS 1012 Introduction to Business Information Systems
  • Section: 01
  • Date and Time: Tuesdays/Thursdays from 9:30 – 10:45

4. Third Paragraph – Details

  • Give further detail about your 1 sentence in the first paragraph.
  • Give sufficient facts, evidence.
  • Show initiative in this paragraph. Don’t just ask for an answer, let your professor know what you have already done to resolve this question before you sent the email.
  • Show initiative in this paragraph in how you have tried to resolve the question before you sent the email. 

Examples

  • I looked in the syllabus regarding your testing and grading policy. I have a question about the weight of tests vs homework.
  • I read material in the book about Concept A and I need further clarification.

5. Fourth Paragraph – Outcome and Conclusion

  • Tell your professor the outcome you want.
  • Restate your first sentence in your email with the outcome you are wanting.

Examples

  • If you could email back an explanation about Concept A or let me know if I should make an appointment with you, I would appreciate it.
  • Please contact me if you have any questions about my travel with the university debate team.

6. Fifth Paragraph – Final Sentence

  • Say something pleasant.
  • Leave your professor knowing that you are a student who is caring about others.

Examples

  • I hope you are enjoying the nice spring weather.
  • I look forward to seeing you in class next week.
  • I hope you have a good weekend.

7. Closing

  • Yes, you need to close with “Sincerely”, “Thanks” or something similar.
  • Remember to be professional.
  • Do NOT close with something personal or cute such as “Hugs”, “Warmly”, etc.

Example:

  • Sincerely,
  • Kathleen Olivieri
  • Email: kathleen@xxx.xxx
  • Cell: 662-xxx-xxxx

The Importance of Email Communication
In college, email is a common way to communicate with your professors. You have a better chance of hearing back from your professor, being understood, and getting a desired outcome if you can construct an effective email.

Your college professor will remember YOU because you took time to construct a well thought out, detailed email!

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you!

Best,
Kathleen
Communication Expert & Speaker

About Kathleen C Olivieri, PhD

Dr. Olivieri is a communication and presentation expert who has given over 1,000 presentations and written 100+ training manuals, articles and reports. Dr. Olivieri worked in Information Technology Infrastructure before teaching full-time for the College of Business at Mississippi State University. Join the conversation with me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/KathleenCOlivieriBiz/