How to Email Your Professor and Get a Response

As you know, professors are usually very busy. As a result, they’re often very difficult to contact. Some of them don’t check email very often or aren’t in their offices when they say they will be. Some won’t stay after class to answer questions or talk with students. As for other professors, they often mean well, but are just so swamped with work and emails and other things to respond quickly. In all those cases, here are some ideas that will virtually guarantee that you’ll get a quick response from your professor when you email him or her.

First, whenever you think you need to email your professor to ask a question, make sure you can’t learn the answer from the course syllabus. If you ask a question that you could easily look up on your own, the chances of your professor passing over your email are extremely high. And if you continue to email the professor these sorts of questions, he or she might dismiss emails from you in the future, which could be bad, especially if you suddenly have an emergency.

If you do need to email the professor, try to be courteous and follow email etiquette. Identify yourself and what course section you’re in; it’s best to use an email address with your name in it, like the official one you were given by the school. You should type complete sentences and use proper capitalization. And be sure to have a signature. You’d be surprised how many students treat emails like text messages. By following email etiquette, you show the professor that you value his or her time and will more likely get a response.

Another thing you can do to get a response is talk to your professor in class and ask him or her when is the best time to email. Ask your professor what a fair response time might be. By bringing this up at the beginning of the semester, you can get the professor to acknowledge the importance of communication between teacher and student. You could even get an email policy out of the discussion, especially if you ask it right before class during the first week.

But if you’ve done all you can, and you still haven’t heard back, it might be time to contact the department. They’ll be able to get an answer for you.

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