Originally from WordProConsultancy
There comes a time in the course of a semester, when you look at your grade and realize that you are a few (or many) points away from the grade you need: to get to that GPA required to apply for the scholarship your mom told you about, to keep your sports scholarship, or to simply pass that general education class you hate with a passion.
If you are lucky, you might catch it early enough in the semester and come up with a strategy to steer it in the right direction. It could mean attending classes more regularly, or participating more in classroom discussions to improve your classroom attendance and participation grade.
On the other hand, you might be late noticing your grade until there’s a little under a month left to the end of the semester. In this case, classroom attendance and participation might not be very helpful, and the only viable solution would be to reach out to your professor to see how you can save your sinking ship.
This is where writing an email to your professor comes in. Remember, the ultimate goal is to persuade the professor to help you improve your grade.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to write an email to your professor in a way that is likely to get you a favorable response.
STEP 1: Use A Clear Subject Line
Having a clear subject on your email makes it easier for your professor to know which course you are in and the purpose of the email. Remember, you are not the only student in that class. Your professor could be teaching at least 3 different undergraduate classes and two graduate classes.
Making your class clear means that your professor will spend less time trying to figure out what you are talking about, making him/her more receptive to what you might have to say.
Step 2: Use Proper Salutation
Due to the increased popularity of social media and smartphones, communication has become increasingly informal. This has in turn spilled over to formal settings, resulting in students communicating with their professors as if they are talking to their peers.
Using proper and formal salutation in an email to your professor is very important because just like the subject line, it sets the tone of the email and influences how the professor reacts to your request. Many professors’ pet peeve are students who don’t seem to put much thought in their communication, as it comes across as rude or disrespectful.
Some courses are taught by teaching assistants, something you may not be aware of. If you are not sure what title to use when addressing your professor, using “Prof.” is a safe default option as it is better to use a higher title than a lower one. In fact, many instructors who aren’t professors feel rather special when their students refer to them as professors. Why not take advantage of that and get some brownie points? After all, you are trying to get a favorable outcome!
Step 3: Say Who You Are In Relevant Detail
As mentioned earlier, most professors teach at least 3 classes. This means that they have at least 50 students who they interact with on a weekly basis. In many cases, the professor could be teaching 3 different sections of the the same course (e.g. ENGL. 102) that meet on the same day at different times. Moreover, the sections could have students with the same first name, or the same first and last name.
Providing detailed information of who you are (i.e. both names, course, section and student ID number or whatever form of unique identification your college/university uses) ensures that your professor can easily locate your information, saving a lot of time. It also helps the professor know who you are and thoroughly prepare before meeting you, as opposed to having to open more than one file of people with similar names, wondering who will walk into the conference.
Step 4: Show Willingness To Work For It
One of the biggest misconceptions that students have is that they can just ask their professor to give them the three or four point they need to move from a B+ to an A, and it automatically happens. Or that they can get the professor to give them the desired grade because “I deserve it.”
Asking your professor to bump up your grade a day or two before grades are officially due will get you nothing, if not a carefully worded scathing reply to your email. You should show that you want and are willing to earn a better grade.
Requesting for something such as extra credit assignments shows the professor that you acknowledge the importance of the course, and that you are willing to work for it. Other opportunities could be that you missed submitting a major assignment, or if it is a writing class, that you did not write as well as you could have in a particular assignment, and the professor could ask you to revise it for a better grade. Show the professor that you are taking the initiative to improve your grade.
Finally, mentioning that you would like to speak to the professor face-to-face means that you are willing to face your shortcomings. A face-to-face conference is also a wonderful opportunity to explain your tardiness or poor class attendance and participation, if you haven’t done so already.
5. Sign Off Professionally
Now that you have your thoughtful email drafted, remember to sign off as professionally as possible. This gives you consistency and credibility as a student who puts a lot of thought in what he/she has to say. Remember to include your full name and unique identification number at the bottom. That way, your professor has multiple ways of finding out who you are.
Let us know how it goes.