How to Write an Email to Your Professor

In high school, emails were often delivered to your teachers through your school's online portal or via your parents. In college, however, things are a bit different. When reaching out to a college professor, you are the one crafting the message and sending it from your school account.

Sending emails to your professors might seem like no big deal. However, you should think twice before hitting send. Constructing professional emails when corresponding with your professor is an integral part of the student-teacher relationship. Things to remember when writing an email to your professor include properly structuring the introductory portion of your email, avoiding informal or relaxed language, and doing your research before sending your email.

Writing appropriate emails to your professor can make you seem earnest about your education. It also prompts your professor to take you seriously, and helps you get in the professional mindset that college demands. Keep reading to learn how to write an email to your professor.

Properly structure the introduction of your email to your professor

The introductory paragraph is likely the first thing your professor will read after receiving your email, so pay it special attention. If you have just begun the course, introduce yourself, and mention what class you’re taking. This can be as simple as, “My name is Kelly. I’m in your Literature 101 course.” If you feel it’s necessary to include more information, such as the class section number or the days of the week that the course meets, don’t hesitate to do so. You don’t want your professor to reach the end of the email and have no idea who you are. Yes, if your class is large or your professor is teaching many courses this semester, he or she might not be able to precisely place your face. But if you can provide clear details, you have a better chance of him or her remembering you.

Once you establish who you are and what class you’re in, dive into your question(s). You can say something along the lines of, “I’m reaching out to you because…” or, “The reason for my email is…” These are both great ways to introduce your question or concern in a professional manner. Explain your question or concern, as well as any ideas you have to remedy it. If you go to your professor with no solution in mind, expecting him or her to fix the problem, your email may not be well-received. Your professor would like to see that you thought through this problem before reaching out. It makes you look prepared, mature, and serious about the class.

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When writing an email to your professor, avoid informal or overly relaxed language

Even if your professor has a relaxed attitude toward students and allows you to call him or her by their first name in class, still make an effort to send formal emails. Remember—at the end of the day, your professor is your teacher, not your friend. Unless your professor specifically states that it is okay to address emails by first name, avoid it if possible. Some professors who hold the title of doctor also like to be addressed as such. Keep this in mind when reaching out to a professor. Always check what his or her formal title is, and address the email accordingly.

As previously stated, it’s important to have a structure to your email:

  • Introduce yourself

  • State your problem

  • Include any solutions you may have in mind.

By jumping right into the issue without an introduction, you risk using an informal tone. Avoid relaxed language, such as words you are likely to use when around friends. Reread your email once it is composed, and see if there are any words or phrases you can switch out for more formal language. When doing this, however, make sure the new words you choose actually fit the particular meaning. Often, students will try to sound professional and misuse words in the process.

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Do your research before hitting send on an email to your professor

Before you hit send on your email, verify that you can’t find the answers somewhere yourself. Check to make sure the information you are asking for cannot be accessed through your student portal or in the syllabus. Also ask your classmates if they can help with your concern. Yes, your professor is there to help, but make sure the help is actually warranted. The last thing you want to do when trying to reach out and make a good impression on your professor is appear unprepared.

At the end of the day, your professor is happy to answer any questions you may have about the course. He or she is likely teaching the class because he or she is passionate about the topic. When reaching out to professors via email, make sure to properly set up your introduction, avoid informal language, and research your question before sending your email.

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