Communicating with Your Professor
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time at university, it’s that it is okay to ask questions. Not only is it okay, it’s also vital to your success as a student. Whether you are well-versed in this, or have no idea how to start, I think it will be beneficial for anyone in their professional lives to know how to effectively communicate with other people, particularly those who are teaching you. Below is a list of tips and tricks that I have learned through the years to enhance your professional communication skills.
Every professor at Missouri State is obligated to have a number of office hours every week during which they must be available to students for questions about the class and other student support. These will be listed on the course syllabus and may be in-person or virtual meetings. Utilize this resource! It will not only give you a chance to connect with your instructor, but it will also set you up for success in the course.
Barring in-person interaction, the number one way most professors prefer to be contacted is through email. Here are some general rules to follow:
- Rule #1: Always use your university email (Bear Mail) when contacting your instructors. In addition, always put your course number and section in the subject line, or as the first line in the body of your email (ex. COM 115-001).
- Rule #2: Before sending the email, make sure you are addressing the instructor correctly. If you’ve been in class and know their preferred title, great! Use that. If not, first you should go to MissouriState.edu and type their full name in the search bar. Once you’ve found their profile, check their education to see if they have a doctoral degree. If so, use Dr. If not, and you aren’t sure whether Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Mx. is appropriate, your go-to should be “Professor [their surname]”.
- Rule #3: It’s nice to start with a greeting. This could be a simple “Hello,” “Good morning,” or “Good afternoon,” depending on the time of day. Technically, you can email professors during the night hours, but just know that it is unlikely for them to respond until the following morning.
- Rule #4: Use appropriate language. Avoid any profanity or unprofessional terms.
- Rule #5: As a general rule, keep it formal at first. It is sometimes the case that you and a professor will become more comfortable with each other over time, and then you can pull back to more casual writing while maintaining the professional relationship.
These are just a couple of the common ways to reach out to your professors. I also recommend speaking up in class if you have a question. You never know if someone else is wondering the same thing! Some instructors like to linger after a class is over or show up to class a bit early, both of which are great times to chat with them about your coursework or get to know them a bit. Bottom line: your professors are here to help you succeed. They are a fantastic resource, and there’s no sense in letting that go to waste. Thank you for reading, and I will leave you with this quote from Stephen Covey,
“Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.”
(Bio: My name is Georgia Grace Wright, a senior at MSU majoring in Communication Studies with minors in both Creative Writing and Anthropology.)