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Ten templates for emailing professors

How to unapologetically ask for help and get what you want from your professors without sending rambling emails.

A lot of my friends come to me for advice on sending emails to professors and ask how they should email their professors on a certain topic. A lot of times, their first drafts are rambling and contain unnecessary or too much information, and after a few minutes I work with them to figure out a better way to ask for what they want without apologies or anxiety. Here are my most-used templates for emailing professors on common topics such as extensions, late work, and absences.

Information about technical difficulties

There have been times where I had trouble with my computer or using assistive technology to complete an assignment on time, or I was worried that technical difficulties would cause me to miss a deadline. At one point, the technical issue involved my entire student account so I had to send the email to my professor from a non-school related email account. In order to verify my identity, I included my student identification number, though I did have a professor that requested a photo of my student ID and a random object on the table for extra verification.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

I am currently dealing with a technical issue related to my desktop computer and how it interacts with my screen magnification software. I am getting an Error 1600 message, which means that my computer is enlarged 1600% and it’s impossible for me to see anything on the screen. I have an appointment with the assistive technology department to troubleshoot this issue tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know what was going on in case the issue takes longer to resolve.

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Requesting a specific partner or presentation time

When organizing group projects or trying to figure out a time to present a project, most professors are happy to ensure that you can complete assignments or present on a timeline that works well for you. I have had no problems getting professors to let me go first/last in a presentation or make sure that I am in a group with someone who is used to helping me with assistive technology. While these instances are rare, professors are also understanding if you request not to work with a specific student, and often don’t need a detailed reason as to why – in one instance, my friend had a protective order against another student in the class and asked the professor that they not be assigned together.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

For Project 2, is it okay if I work in a group with Jolene instead of Kylie? Jolene is used to reading things out loud for me, and it’s easier for us to focus and work on the project if I don’t have to focus on troubleshooting assistive technology.

In addition, I will need to present first on the presentation day as I will not be in class for the last 15 minutes due to a meeting.

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Asking for an extension

When I ask for extensions, I try to make sure that it is for a relatively short amount of time and typically connected to another issue. My most common request is for a twelve-hour extension, which I have never had a professor turn down, though I have requested a longer extension on certain projects if the reason I am requesting an extension is due to illness.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

I am having trouble getting my program to compile and keep getting an Error 123 code saying I have spacing issues, but my vision is getting super blurry due to exhaustion so they are hard to fix properly. Is it okay if I submit the assignment by noon tomorrow so I can work on fixing it in the morning? I can also drop off a printed copy of the code I’ve written at your office hours tomorrow.

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Documenting illness or injury

I’m great at writing these emails, partially because I have an unpredictable chronic illness. I tend to send these emails from the emergency room or wherever I am, but you don’t have to do that – just send it at your earliest convenience.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

I left campus by ambulance on Tuesday and am currently in the hospital to have my appendix removed. I will not be in class on Monday, and will need to reschedule my midterm exam as I will be resting at home. I expect to return to campus in two weeks.

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Documenting planned absence

If you are having a planned absence from classes that has nothing to do with illness or injury, I recommend writing the email at least two weeks before you leave. If there’s an academic reason you will be missing class, make sure to mention that too.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

I will not be in class from September 24 or September 26th as I will be attending the Grace Hopper Celebration for women in computing. I will turn in all assignments due for the week before I leave for Texas. Please let me know if there is anything else I need to do for class that week.

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Sharing information about a disability services file

At the beginning of each semester, I share my Disability Services file information with my professors in a short email. I prefer to go over this information on the first day of class, but I also write a summary of my condition and ask for confirmation on the textbook ISBN so I can make sure it is available in an accessible copy – since some professors don’t post course syllabi before the first day of class, I have to ask for this information over email.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,
My name is Veronica, and I am in this section of that class. I have a file with Office of Disability Services for low vision and testing accommodations. I need materials in a digital format so that I can enlarge them to a font size I can read. This will not be needed for exams, as I will be taking tests in the Office of Disability Services testing center. I also use various other assistive technologies, which I will bring on the first day. I’ve attached my faculty information sheet which contains additional information about my accommodations.

Before the semester starts, may I get the name/ISBN of the textbooks and other materials for the semester? I want to make sure I can have them in an accessible format for the first day of class.

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Questions about grades

One time, I was trying to figure out how I got a 10% on an assignment I had worked on for hours. While I didn’t eliminate the possibility that I misunderstood everything, a quick clarifying email to the professor confirmed that there was an error in the grading system, and I received a 100%.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

I noticed on the course website that I received a 10/100, or 10%, on Homework 9. Can you confirm if this is the correct grade?

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Requesting extra help

While I pride myself on being able to find the answer to almost any homework question online, there have been moments where I just stared at the screen and wondered how I was supposed to approach a particular problem. Instead of telling the professor I am confused over everything, I like to narrow down the problem to the specific concept I don’t understand and see if they can help. Some professors prefer that students contact the class assistant or TA for homework help, but the email format remains the same.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

On Question 9 of Homework 6, I can’t figure out how to eliminate 25% of the population. I have tried using the subtraction function and multiplying the population by 0.75, but neither of these things are working and it shows the population is unchanging. Do you have any tips on how to solve this? Or should I come to office hours to talk about this?

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Looking for internships or on-campus jobs

One of my friends got an interesting internship at their university by asking their professor if they knew of any local internships or on-campus jobs for students. This gives students great experience and allows them to find internships without having to travel all the way across the country – unless they want to!

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

I’m currently looking for a Spring 2019 or Summer 2019 internship or on campus job related to data science or assistive technology. Do you know of any companies or departments I should look into? I would prefer to stay in this area if possible and am open to in -person, hybrid or remote options.

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Getting into a waitlisted class

Many professors have the power to issue overrides for students to enroll in their classes, assuming prerequisites are met. I used this method when I was trying to get into a Python class and the professor was happy to force add me to their class roster so I could get access to the course website.

What to include:

Sample email

Dear Professor,

I’m a data science major and am interested in taking CDS 123 (class identification number 123456), but I am currently unable to enroll. Are you able to manually add me to the class if I send my student identification number?

Related links

More tips for emailing your professors

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com

Updated January 2024; original post published July 2020.

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