Guidelines for Effectively Communicating with your Professors

  • In person

  • Via email

  • Student 'insurance'

In person:

  1. Do the one-two step. 1. Make an appointment. 2. State your case.

  2. Treat the professor with respect. Be polite, but also respect time boundaries.

  3. Plan your time and place for best results.

    1. It's important not to confront faculty in the classroom around other students; this removes your chance at privacy.

    2. It's important not to confront faculty right before class when they are mentally preparing for class; this prevents the faculty from focusing on you. You are more likely to be seen as an interruption than to be helped.

  4. Give faculty time to respond: request office hour time, or time after class for a few minutes, especially if the faculty is part time. Part time faculty are not paid for office hours, full time faculty are supposed to keep office hours.

    1. If the faculty is part time, ask when you may meet with them.

    2. If the faculty is full time, ask about their office hours.

  5. Express some interest in course content in meeting. Show what you have already learned, and be prepared to ask very specific questions about what you do not understand. General questions won't help you as much as specific ones:

e.g. I don't understand Topic A. (Question is too general.)

Why is Topic A red and Topic B blue? (Specific question.)

Communicating via email:

  1. If the issue needs to be talked about face to face, ask in your email to do this.

  2. Remember that the faculty member isn't available 24/7. Expect that there may be some delay (24 hours or longer in some instances) before you receive a response.

  3. Find a friend and exchange email addresses in case you miss changes in classroom information.

  4. Be careful about overusing email with faculty, especially for questions that could be asked in class, or where information is available in the syllabus or easily accessed elsewhere.

  5. Don't use colors, smiley faces, or fancy backgrounds on email; they take up too much space in the reader's mailbox.

  6. Think about the reader.

  7. Always include a topic in your subject line, and

  8. Always sign your name at the end of each message. It's a kindness to include your section number and student ID with your name.

  9. Avoid Texting lang. ( shrt cts. And slng.).

  10. Be respectful and don't use all capitals (shouting on- line).

  11. Golden rule always applies. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

  12. Avoid 'YOU' statements.

  13. Review, reread, and rewrite before pressing 'send.'

  14. Avoid using c.c.'s.

  15. Write to faculty first, solo, before you bring a lot of other people into the issue.

  16. Be careful about forwarding long email trains, they can confuse the reader.

  17. First review all content of messages you are planning to forward.

  18. Remember, think about your reader. Remember that if the professor can't see your face, and does not have access to nonverbal cues, overly emotional messages may be misinterpreted.

  19. Remember that email is not confidential. You cannot prevent a recipient from sending it all over.

  20. Don't add your professor to your friend's list at the end of the class.

  21. Choose your email name carefully. Your job may depend on it.

Student Insurance Plan:

  1. Contact the Ombudspersons for discussion and resources if communication is failing.

  2. Review that syllabus throughout the semester. The syllabus explains the faculty expectations for the semester, both for you and for the faculty member. Be aware that changes may be necessary during the semester. Bring the syllabus to class, and check course changes on the course website if appropriate.

  3. Understand course policies before you visit faculty to discuss a concern. Reread the syllabus, or the professor's home page, if necessary.

  4. YOU have a right to ask questions and to request further clarification on various aspects of the course…..respectfully and tactfully.

  5. Keep all of your course work and course materials until the end of the semester and after you have learned your official grade. If there are questions about a grade, you can review your work and compare it with the requirements for the course.

  6. There are two (2) formal processes you can continue on with…Grade Appeal, and Request for Special Consideration.

    1. Grade appeal has a time limit. Do not wait to start a grade appeal.

      Deadlines for filing a grade appeal are available on the Ombuds website, Look at the FAQ page.

    2. Request for Special Consideration is a petition for your particular needs. Forms are available through the Admissions Office website; Forms.

  7. Finally, learn the college drop policies, and be aware of drop dates. This is your responsibility. If you sense that things aren't going well in a particular class with a particular instructor, don't wait until it's too late.

If you have any questions or concerns, come to the Ombuds office. We are located in Letters and Science 124. You can make an appointment online


Phone: 310-434-3986


Professor Lucy Kluckhohn Jones

Professor Yvonne Ortega

Dr. Eric Oifer