Communicating with Instructors

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe some of the benefits of interacting with your instructors.
  • List guidelines for successfully communicating with an instructor.
  • Write polite, professional, and effective email messages.

Talking with Your Instructors

Mentor and mentee in officeMost instructors encourage students to stop in during office hours or to talk a few minutes after class. Students who take advantage of these opportunities feel more comfortable in college and more connected to the campus.

Talking with instructors provides students with the following benefits:

  • Students who communicate with their instructors often receive valuable feedback, gain insights into how to approach their course work, and generally walk away with increased confidence.
  • Research shows that students who feel connected enough to communicate with the faculty and staff at their college are more likely to persist in their studies and graduate with a degree.
  • Talking with instructors is a valuable way to learn about an academic field. Most instructors will share information and insights with you about choosing your major or potential future careers in their field.
  • Getting to know some of your instructors puts you in an ideal position to ask for a letter of recommendation or a reference in the future.
  • An instructor who knows you is a valuable part of your network. Networking is very important for future job searches and other opportunities. In fact, most jobs are found through networking, not through classified ads or online job postings.

Communicating with Instructors

Contact information for all instructors can be found in the Employee Directory on the College’s website. In addition, full time professors post office hours on their doors, and many adjunct instructors do as well. Whether in person, on the phone, or via email, students should not hesitate to contact their professors.

Here are some guidelines for communicating with your instructors:

  • Prepare before going to the instructor’s office. Go over your notes on readings and lectures and write down your specific questions. You’ll feel more comfortable, and the instructor will appreciate your being organized.
  • Introduce yourself. Near the beginning of the semester, your instructor may not have learned everyone’s names yet. Unless the instructor has already asked you to address him or her as “Dr. ____,” “Ms. _____” or “Mr. _______,” or something similar, it’s appropriate to say “Professor _______.”
  • Be professional when talking to an instructor. Usually students come to office hours prepared with questions and concerns and to request extra help, but some professors encourage students just to stop in during office hours to check in. Regardless of the reason for your visit, it’s important to be professional and avoid checking your cell phone while you’re talking together.

Email Best Practices

Email has become a primary form of communication in business and education, so everybody should learn to use email. Unless otherwise directed by your professor, use email rather than the telephone to communicate non-urgent matters.

Getting Started with Email

  • You have an MCC Student Outlook email account. You should activate your email account immediately and learn your new email address, which ends with
  • Email is Monroe Community College’s official means of communication. Many letters that used to be mailed to students are now sent only via email. 
  • Expect to receive time sensitive information that may need an immediate response, so check email frequently.
  • If you don’t have your own computer, find out where on-campus computers are available for student use, such as The Electronic Learning Center or Center for Academic Reading.
  • The student technology help desk in the LeRoy V. Good Library at Brighton or in the Learning Commons at Damon can help students with email issues.
  • Most people view email like a telephone message and expect you to respond fairly quickly.
  • Be sure to use good email etiquette when writing to instructors.

Email clipartComposing Emails

Approach writing an email as you would any other form of professional communication. The following are some guidelines for sending emails to your instructors:

  • Use the subject line to label your message effectively at a glance, such as “May I make an appointment?”
  • Address email messages as you do a letter, beginning “Dear Professor ____.”
  • Most instructors expect communications to be in full sentences with correctly spelled words and reasonable grammar.
  • Get to your point quickly and concisely.
  • Don’t use capital letters to emphasize. All caps look like SHOUTING.
  • Avoid abbreviations, nonstandard spelling, slang, and emoticons like smiley faces.
  • When you reply to a message, leave the original message within yours. Your reader may need to recall what he or she said in the original message.
  • Be polite. End the message with a “Thank you” or something similar.
  • Include your full name after your closing.
  • Proofread your message before sending it.

Exercise: Using Email Netiquette

Read the email below, written by a student to an instructor, and respond to the questions that follow. This website explaining Netiquette will be a useful resource.

What’s up, Professor!I am in your class and haven’t logged into Blackboard in a while because I was busy. Did I miss anything important? Can u send me a list of assignments I missed RIGHT AWAY so I can work on them?

BTW, here is the assignment from the first week of class, you will accept it for full credit even though it is a few weeks late, right? :-) !!


What rules of netiquette does the student violate in this email?



If you were the instructor, how might you react to this email? What questions would you have about it?



Rewrite the email so that it is consistent with good netiquette.



Key Takeaways

  • Getting to know your instructors has many benefits, such as academic advice and future networking opportunities.
  • Prepare in advance before meeting with an instructor and communicate respectfully, honestly, and sincerely.
  • Follow accepted guidelines for professional use of email.


1. Name three benefits you might gain from talking with an instructor.



2. What should you do before going to see your instructor during office hours?



3. Write an appropriate opening for an email to an instructor.