What to Say (and Not Say) to Your College Professors

Talking to college professors can be daunting to say the least. It is important to have clear communication, but saying something offensive or that can be viewed as unprofessional can ruin your chances of being successful in a class. Luckily, there are some clear guidelines for talking to professors that will allow students to get the answers and help they need without causing any accidental damage. Here is the best way to communicate with professors, along with things students should never say:

The Right Way to Communicate

One of the most important things to remember is that possible issues need to be addressed early. If you really need an A in a class, meet with the professor during office hours and express your understanding of the syllabus, your desire for an A, and the willingness to work hard for the grade. Follow up by asking for tips for success. The early-bird rule also applies to assignments. Complete all assignments to the best of your ability and as soon as possible. This will allow time to meet with the professor for a critique of the work as well as some tips for improving the grade.

In the case of absences, early exits, or other emergencies, explain the situation along with a plan to cover any deficits. Let the professor know that the problem is unavoidable and that you are keeping up with the assignments according to the syllabus. It is also a good idea to express that such situations will be limited to strict emergencies.

In short, every communication with a professor should include a detailed explanation of what has been done to achieve success as well as a proposal for completing work and meeting any deficits. This shows that you respect the professor and the class and that you are serious about your academic reputation.

What Not to Say

Just as there are ideal ways to speak with a professor, there are things that should never be said. Here are some of the easiest ways to kill any chance of success with a professor:

  • “I took this class for an easy A” – This demeans the professors syllabus and course plan and shows disrespect for all of his or her hard work. If a class turns out to be more work than expected, do the work and accept it as part of what must be done to succeed.
  • “Did I miss anything important?” – Yes you did. Every class will include important information and it is the student’s job to find out what was missed and to make up work. That is why it is vital to make good connections with other serious students in every class.
  • “I was so busy I couldn’t get the work done” – Unless there was a severe personal or family emergency, there is no excuse for not completing assignments. Time management is one of the most important skills for a college student and failing to complete assignments shows a lack of dedication and maturity.
  • “I didn’t know there was a test or an assignment due” – That is why all courses have a detailed syllabus. If an assignment was not completed or a student does not study for a test, the grades will reflect that. Generally speaking, college professors do not accept excuses and making this statement is a sure way to ruin an academic relationship.
  • “Have you answered my email?” – College professors have many students and cannot devote themselves to one. If a response is expected, it is the duty of the student to check for one. Allow ample time for an answer and send a follow-up after a few days, if necessary.

Students cannot let fear of failure stop them from communicating with college professors. By following this advice, students can make sure communication is effective and positive and will promote success instead of sabotaging it.

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