How to Email Professors in College

Email etiquette is always important in your life, but also key to making sure you land the right grade from a professor.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #352

Tip #2: Timing Is Key

As an entrepreneur, I’ve had over a dozen brilliant and creative interns in the past few years, who helped grow my businesses. All but one was what I would call “productive.” Person A (we’ll call them) would always email me at interesting times. Sometimes it 3 am, sometimes 4 am, sometimes he would tell me he was in his car, i.e. driving and emailing (I had to rectify that one). Now, being a night owl, I can handle the oddly early times, and understanding that college kids pull all nighters with their heavy workloads, I respected his hustle … but I’m not a professor who gave his assignments due a few hours from when he emailed me.

For example, if you email your professor the morning of an assignment being due, do you think he/she will really believe you are well prepared? And even if he/she doesn’t mind you being a late-night worker, it does say something about your work ethic and time management. I may be a little picky here but you have to look at the perception of your work and your time, when your professor analyzes you as an overall student. If you email your professor at 1 or 2 am, do you think they will reply back to you any time soon? NO! They—like most every other adult—are sleeping. So, why would you bother? The last thing a professor wants to do is wake up to an plethora of emails from the middle of night asking about work that should have been addressed days before, at a reasonable time no less. Will the late night emails happen? Yes, and it’s okay once or twice … but I recommend sticking to a proper time like morning, mid-day, or early evening when you know an answer is possible.

Tip #3: Don’t Hit REPLY ALL

Email has completely changed the way we communicate. It also created a ton of room for faux pas, so of course I can’t talk about email etiquette without discussing the biggest email snafu of all time, hitting REPLY ALL. We’ve all witnessed a REPLY ALL disaster and some (unfortunately) have been the sender of a REPLY ALL email, too. So, needless to say, we know the feeling of the embarrassment in one way or another. And when you can think back to how bad you felt (personally or for someone else) during a REPLY ALL situation, just imagine how detrimental it can be for a student who includes a professor in a REPLY ALL email. Kind of like calling the CEO a butthead on a mass email to the staff … that kind of bad.

When you email your professor, always make sure you see where it’s going and to who else is on the email chain. The main reason for this, is that your interaction—email or in person—with your professor should be private. If you include all 100 other students in your email about something only you are working on, and bring your life into theirs, it can come off as distracting. It’s like the expression, “too many chefs in the kitchen”—same thing goes for REPLY ALL to a community of people that do not necessarily have to be involved. If the professor sends a mass email out, which they most likely will do, take a breather, always proofread (as I said in Tip #1) and keep it a one-on-one situation.  

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.



About the Author

Richie Frieman

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