College is a time during which many students finally begin to get serious about their grades. Performing poorly in your classes can result in a low gpa, causing you to lose scholarships or even get kicked out of college.
College students can have multiple reasons for contacting a professor about a grade or grade requirements. Perhaps you are wondering what your average is, or you feel a particular grade was unfair. At times when face-to-face meetings are not as convenient for you or the professor, you can use email as a means to successfully address your concerns.
How to Contact a Professor
Before writing an email, really think about why you're writing it and what you want to write about.
A professor can teach multiple sections of the same class or completely different courses, so his or her time could be limited. Make sure you're prepared so you're not wasting you or your professor’s time.
You should also ensure that the question you are about to ask has not already been answered in the course syllabus.
Many professors put thorough information about their grading scale in the syllabus, which is often provided to you in the first week of class.
When you email professors, it’s a good idea to write the email through your college email account, which is typically an edu email address. This lets the professor know that it’s a student reaching out to them rather than a random contact.
In the subject line of the email, include the topic of why you're writing, the title of your course, and the section number. This will allow your professor to know exactly why you're writing.
Example subject line: “Grade Concerns, Stats 1000, Section A”
How to Write About Your Concerns
Even if you're friendly with your professor, it's still important to show respect and start with a formal greeting. For example, begin with, "Dear Professor Smith." You can also add some sort of expression of good wishes, like “Good afternoon!”
Begin your email with a description of who you are. Provide your full name, as well as the name and numerical identification of the class about which you are writing. Insert a polite request. Write something like, "I would very much appreciate your input concerning a matter pertaining to my grade in your class."
Describe in brief terms what your concern is. Be specific. For instance, you might write, "I do not understand why I received a D on the paper that I wrote, entitled, 'Music in the Classroom.'" Make sure you're polite and respectful in your concern, using proper email etiquette.
Defer to your professor's preference for addressing the matter. For example, you could write, "Could you please explain why I received this grade? If you would rather talk about it in person, please let me know. I would be happy to meet with you during your office hours."
Provide your contact information, including your email and phone number. End politely with an expression of gratitude and good will. You could say something like, "Thank you for your time and attention. I want to perform well in your class, and hopefully our communication will help me to do so more effectively."
Add a closing, similar to what you would use in a letter. Ideas for polite sign-off phrases to use in your email include: “Sincerely,” “Best regards,” or “Kind regards.”
How to Respond to Answers from Your Professor
Because your professor might be busy with his or her other classes, make sure you give them a proper amount of time to respond. Don't send a follow-up email if you don't get a response right away; you don't want to appear pushy.
If they do not call or email you before your next class, make sure at the end of your class to take a moment to speak with them after the other students have left the room. You could simply say, "Professor, I sent you an email last week about my grade. I know how busy you are and I wanted to make sure you saw it." At that moment, if time is available, your professor will take the time to speak with you about the grade. If not, he or she will schedule time with you then to discuss further. Just remember to be patient.
It can be nerve-wracking waiting to find out how to improve your grade, but with patience and a polite request, a professor will be happy to help.
General Tips to Remember
- Prepare for the email by thinking about why you’re writing it and what you are writing about.
- Respect your professor’s time.
- Write through your college email account.
- Have an adequate subject line with necessary information.
- Provide your name and information.
- Start and end the email with some form of salutation.
- Be specific about your concern.
- Be professional – no need for emojis!
- Maintain proper email etiquette and be polite and respectful.
- Don’t rush your professor to respond, reach out in class as follow-up if possible.
Below are sample email templates for common scenarios:
1. Regarding Extra Credit
Subject Line: Grade Concerns, Stats 1000, Section A
Dear Professor Smith,
My midterm grade was poor and I intend to work hard over the next few weeks to raise my grade. Is there a possibility for extra credit work?
2. Regarding missed class
Dear Professor Smith,
I missed class due to a serious illness and noted how this lowered my final grade. Is there a way to work for extra points? My calculations show 5 points would raise my grade.
3. Regarding letter of recommendation
Dear Professor Smith,
I thoroughly enjoyed your class this semester and plan to apply for a summer internship in your field. May I meet with you regarding a letter of recommendation?
Charlotte Johnson is a musician, teacher and writer with a master's degree in education. She has contributed to a variety of websites, specializing in health, education, the arts, home and garden, animals and parenting.