ADD and E-Mailing a College Instructor

ADD and E-Mailing a College Instructor

When I was a college tutor, I quickly found out that some college instructors were good at offering students extra help that wasn’t mentioned on the syllabus. One student always started each math class off by failing the first three tests. He would get a mid-forty percent score on the first test, do better on the second, and by the third test, he would get an almost passing score. This drove everybody crazy! He would study, get help from the professor, take tutoring, and work really, really hard for the whole semester. By the comprehensive final exam, he would score anywhere from the high eighty percents to the mid ninety percents. It was incredible to watch.

Many instructors recognize that a student might completely fail a test for a variety of reasons. Some instructors write on the syllabus that they will drop the lowest test score. Others are not comfortable dropping a score, so they will replace the lowest score with the final exam score. My student’s teacher said that he would replace the lowest three failing scores with the final exam score, if it was higher than the test scores. It was 97%! My student and I were thrilled!

When he checked grades, imagine my student’s surprise to see that he had a “C” for the course. He did the math, and his average for tests should have been in the low nineties. He called and asked what he should do. I suggested that he e-mail the instructor detailing what he remembered about the deal that they made. The instructor, who has over 100 students, did not remember. He replaced one test score, because that was what was on the syllabus, and the student’s grade rose to a “B.”

There is a way to prevent this kind of mistake from happening to you. Write a professional e-mail after you and your instructor talk. Send it off right away, while you both have vivid memories of what you discussed.

Whenever you make special arrangements with an instructor, get it in writing. There is a simple way to do this. E-mail the instructor and get the details of the arrangement in the e-mail. Recap what you talked about. Be professional in your e-mail. Here is a sample e-mail:

(Subject line-give a brief description of the action-Sandy Lane's grades)

Dear Professor Davidson:

Thank you for talking to me about my grade in your class. I appreciate the accommodation that you made for me. Having my lowest three failing grades replaced by my final exam score is more than generous of you. Thank you so much!

Your student,
Sandy Lane

Now, if there is any discrepancy between what was offered and what you remember, your instructor can e-mail you corrections. This e-mail also lets the instructor know that you appreciate the kindness that he did for you. It is also a way to connect with your instructor.


Notice that it is not an informal e-mail. There is a subject line that identifies what you talked about. There is a greeting or salutation. The body of the e-mail recaps what you discussed. There is a closing statement. The signature identifies you. Words are completely spelled out. It has complete sentences. Before you send a professional e-mail, proofread it. Make sure that it is a good representation of the serious student that you are. Then, put in the hard work that is necessary to bring your grade up as high as you can get it to go. That is the best way to thank your instructor!


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Content copyright © 2019 by Connie Mistler Davidson. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Connie Mistler Davidson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Mistler Davidson for details.