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How to Write Your Professor an Email

Emailing a professor can be intimidating! Here is some guidance and advice to help make the process easier. Note these are my thoughts and may not be how every professor prefers to be contacted.


Personal Relevant Context


  1. I personally love hearing from my students. I want you all to succeed and am excited to hear from you!

  2. I need to remain fair. If the email is related to a course policy I will refer back to my syllabus and only make exceptions in extreme cases. That being said, I can often provide additional advice or support, so please reach out!

  3. I am busy and get a lot of emails.


Putting those together I generally want emails! However, I want emails that are easy to read and are put together in a way where I can quickly assess what is needed from me.


General Formatting Tips


  1. When writing an email to someone for the first time I always address the email using their highest title. Professor > Dr. > firstName lastName. This information can often be found online by looking up the person's name. When in doubt just go with Dr. or Professor. After you get a reply, you can look at how they signed off their email to you. That is how they can be referred to by you in the future. For example, if I write an email to someone and they sign off with their first name, I write subsequent emails addressing them by their first name.

  2. Remember that this isn't a text message! Use punctuation and proofread the email before sending. I always try to start emails with "Hello <name> " and end with "Best, <my name>"

  3. Double check you spelled their name correctly. As someone with a non typical American name it always leaves a bad impression if someone spells my name wrong.

  4. Make the subject line specific and concise.

  5. If they don't respond within a week, send a follow up email. If it is an urgent matter, you may follow up sooner but wait at least 24 hours.


General Content Tips


If you want to work with a professor...


  1. Keep it brief, a paragraph or two is great. If they want more information they will ask.

  2. Include an explanation as to why their specific work or research is of interest to you. Do not send the same email to everyone. Take 20-40 minutes to read recent material online on their work or student's work. I personally don't respond to these types of emails if they aren't personalized.

  3. Add 2-4 sentences on relevant qualifications you have and include your resume. You often don't need to write multiple paragraphs.


If you are requesting something...


  1. Be specific and clear with what your ask is. Having this towards the beginning helps.

  2. Explain the situation but don't go into too much detail. I would like to know what is going on but don't want specific medical details or a multiple paragraph story.

  3. Be timely. Request the service, help, letter, or extension as soon as you know you will need it (within reason).


Good Example 1


SUBJECT LINE: Requesting Access to CS 128 Lecture Slides

Dear Professor Schatz,

I was a student in your section of 128 last semester and very much enjoyed the course. I wanted to review the material but noticed I no longer have access to the lecture slides. Would you be able to grant me access?


Best,

<Student Name>


Good Example 2


SUBJECT LINE: Potential Research Collaboration Request

Hello Professor Schatz,

I am a 2nd year student here at UIUC who has just finished taking 225. I am reaching out to see if there is an opportunity to work with you on an education related research project. I saw your previous work on creating community in an introductory computer science course and really connected with the idea. The work was done at the University of Michigan but I was wondering if you had considered doing something similar at UIUC. I personally see big value in creating community in the intro courses and would love to help contribute. I am happy to meet in-person or connect via zoom if you have time to talk further. I have also attached my resume. Thank you for your consideration.


Best,

<Student Name>


Good Example 3


SUBJECT LINE: CS 128 Quiz Extension Request

Dear Professor Schatz,

I am currently a student in CS 128. I saw we have our first quiz in two weeks on the <insert dates>. I have a religious ceremony that will prevent me from being on campus during those times. Is there a way I could take the quiz at a later date? Here is a link to a description of the ceremony <link> which includes the dates I can't be on campus for.


Best,

<Student Name>



These are my personal preference and opinions but hopefully they will help you communicate better in general as well!





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