Talking to faculty can be intimidating for any student, new and experienced. Many students have a difficult time writing emails to a professor or wondering how they should address them. Let’s review some tips on communicating with faculty.
Remember, your professors are people too! Communicate respectfully and expect the same in return. They are a great resource and are here to help you understand the course content.
How should I address my instructor?
Many instructors on the first day of class will let you know how they wish to be addressed. (First name / Professor / Doctor) Make a note of this on your syllabus near the instructors contact information in case you forget later on in the quarter.
Ask! If you’re not sure how they preferred to be addressed, ask them before or after class J. (Example: “Excuse me professor, I was wondering how you prefer to be addressed?”)
I need extra help, how can I meet with my instructor outside of class time?
UW Bothell instructors all have office hours and most will also work with you to schedule meetings if those times do not work for you.
Check your syllabus for their office hours and talk with your instructor before or after class.
Some instructors may ask you to send them an email to schedule a time to meet with them.
Be on time to your appointment
Introduce yourself again (name and course that you are enrolled in) and start the conversation with a smile.
Have specific questions ready and written down. This way the instructor can see exactly where your concerns are.
Avoid board questions such as “I don’t understand algebra” or “I need extra help”. Tell them exactly which part of the content you are not understanding.
Talk through the problem. If you do not understand the instructor’s response, point out the area which was unclear to you.
Thank your instructor and ask to come back if necessary.
How should I format an email to my instructor?
Start by addressing them correctly. This can vary from professor to professor. If you don’t know their preferred title, start by calling them “professor”.
Write your email in a professional format. Avoid abbreviations and slang. Treat the email as though you were writing it to a coworker.
Make sure your intentions are clear in your email. Avoid broad questions such as “I need help” or “I don’t understand the content”. Focus on specific questions such as “I’m having a hard time understanding the theme of chapter one.”
Sign the email with “thank you” and include your full name (first and last)
See below for some examples of these do’s and don’ts in action.
Bad Email Etiquette Example:
I need help with the final paper lol. You never explained the format so can I just do whatevs?
Correct Email Etiquette Example:
My name is Ashley Smith from your Tuesday/Thursday Intro to Psychology course. I am having a difficult time understanding the guidelines for our final paper. It is unclear to me if the paper should be double spaced, and which format is appropriate. If you could please steer me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate it. Please let me know if you would prefer to meet with me in person to discuss the final paper and we can set up a time to meet.
University of Washington Bothell
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