Emailing faculty can be quite different from emailing friends and colleagues. Faculty are bombarded with thousands of student emails. The difference between a well-written versus poorly email can make a large difference in terms of (1) whether you get a response, (2) the timeliness of the response, and (3) the quality of the response that you get.

Usually, faculty are very willing to help you understand something. But you should definitely help them help you. Having a good relationship with faculty members can open the door to mentorship opportunities and other assistance.

<aside> 💡 If you are considering applying to graduate school and need a faculty member to write a letter of recommendation, having a good relationship with them can make the difference between a moderate and a strong recommendation.

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Checklists

Content

  1. Make sure to introduce yourself and provide your full name in the email.
  2. Include the relevant background (find a connection with the faculty member)
  3. Ask specific questions and avoid broad questions.
  4. Include any relevant information, such as the date and time of the class you are asking questions about.
  5. Ask if the professor has any additional resources or materials that can help you better understand the material.
  6. Provide an “out”, like ask if it is possible to arrange a time to talk with the professor in person or zoom, especially if your question is long, complex or requires a lot of writing.

Writing Quality

  1. Ensure that your email is clear and concise, so the professor can understand what you are asking.
  2. Include the course name and number in the email subject line.
  3. Include a clear subject line. Include class number if it’s a class-related question or ask
  4. Front-load the “ask” after providing the necessary information upfront.