Thoughts from a Peer Advisor: Emailing Your Professors

In this age of informal social media, it can be unclear about how to address your professors et al.  The “Hey there” salutation doesn’t go over very well and use of first names comes by invitation.  Check out the following piece  written by former peer advisor, Faisal Kirdar ’14, which remains current to this day.

“Emailing Your Professor”

Of the many essential skills in college, knowing how to write your professor is one that should not be overlooked.  Whether for claiming the last seat in a class, getting answers to course questions, or generally making a positive impression, a strong email can go a long way.  The following is a simple framework from which you can base your own emails.

Starting out: can’t go wrong with “Dear” 

Some say “Dear” sounds overly formal. It’s not! Using “Dear” is the most direct way of showing your professor an essential level of respect. While “Hi” can be appropriate in causal settings with your friends, never use it when emailing your profs for the first time.

Dear Professor Taylor,

Introduce yourself!

If you have never written to or met the professor in question, the best way to start the email is with a quick self-introduction. Keep it basic to things like your name, class year, and major (when applicable).

My name is Faisal Kirdar and I am a Senior majoring in Neuroscience.

Why are you writing?

A good second sentence will get right to the point: why are you writing? This is where you state your purpose. This should also be stated in the subject of the email in no more than 4 words.

I am writing to inquire if it is possible to go over a few course topics; in particular I am having trouble understanding molecular orbital diagrams.

If you have a question, be sure to ask it

Often the reason you’ll write your professors is to ask a question or several questions. It’s important not just to say I am writing to ask you about molecular orbital diagrams; you must also give something specific to which your professor can respond.  If the question is very specific and can be answered quickly via email, ask it. If it requires more interaction, then the question should be geared toward scheduling an appointment to do so.

Is there a convenient time for us to meet this week?

Arm your professor with relevant info

Provide as much relevant information as you can. If you are requesting a time to meet, let them know your availability. This will make it easier for your professor to respond promptly.

I’m available Mondays and Wednesdays from 12-4 PM.

Tell them what you want them to do

Make it even easier for your professor to respond to you by finishing the note with a clear, polite instruction.

Please let me know what time is most convenient for your schedule.

End with a friendly and polite send off

It is important to end the email on a positive note and further demonstrate your respect for the professor. This ensures a strong impression and in some cases encourages the professor to respond more quickly.

**Additional advice from Dean Brown: 

  1. If you haven’t received a response within a few days, don’t hesitate to resend your email with a note recognizing that they have may missed yours in the deluge of email they receive.  Because this does happen, most people appreciate it–I certainly do–when a student kindly brings it to their attention. 
  2. Don’t let an email stop you from contacting a professor, faculty advisor, dean or other source of support.  You can always follow up immediately after class with a professor or go to office hours, which will be posted in course syllabi, on office doors, in their emails, or on department/office websites.  If you can’t make office hours or would like a little more time than those allow (usually they are short visits), let them know that.

Thoughts from a Peer Advisor: On Being a Student-Athlete

Welcome to Wesleyan! One of the most common questions peer advisors get asked is simply, “Will I have time to get all my school work done if I’m also an athlete?” Being a student-athlete at Wesleyan is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling way to spend you’re time here, but it can also be stressful. But not to worry! There are tons of resources at your fingertips to help you stay on top of your responsibilities on and off the field (or, for me, in and out of the pool).

Going into my freshman year, my greatest anxiety about starting school came from my fear that I simply would not have the time to finish homework or study for tests while swimming nearly year-round. I quickly realized that the key to balancing my time was to make a detailed schedule at the start of every week and stick to it. I would write down everything that needed to be done for each of my classes at the start of the week, include all the time I had committed to training, and make sure I had time to myself to have fun and relax. You would be surprised at how helpful laying out your schedule can be, especially when it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.

But not everything has to be done on your own. I asked my swim coach if he had any advice or if he could help me stay on top of everything. Communication was key. Not only did he assure me that I was capable of completing everything and achieving goals in the pool, he made it clear that he was as committed to my success in the classroom as he was to my success as a swimmer. He would have my support if I needed extra time to study and had to sit out a practice or if I needed to leave practice early in order to make it to Biology lab. Though it may not even be necessary to have to miss a practice, it is comforting to know that your professors and coaches are not fighting for your time – they are fighting for your success.

But perhaps you are worried less about staying on top of schoolwork and more worried about having some time to yourself outside of the library or the gym. As I’m sure you know, Wesleyan is full of opportunities to have fun and be free outside of both of those venues.  I strongly encourage every student-athlete to try something new! Between theater, music, dance, clubs, and many others, there are definitely ways to divide your time and have fun away from a sports team.

There is no doubt that student-athletes have busy lives. There are times when we have to make sacrifices, but it is always worth it. Not only do we get to be proud of our success in school, but we also have a whole separate part of our life, with a second family, that has our backs. Though having two demanding commitments can be stressful, we (the peer advisors), class deans, our professors, coaches, and are all here to offer support. Our number one goals are to see you achieve and to make sure you’re happy during your time at Wes. I am confident you will do great things as a student and as an athlete! See you soon!

Aidan Winn ’18, Academic Peer Advisor

First Year Matters Reading: Citizen

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in our twenty-first-century daily lives and in the media. Some of these encounters are slight, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV – virtually everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our accountability in these situations is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

But what can we, as students, faculty members, staff, and administrators learn from Citizen, and, more importantly, what changes can we make after processing the deep, profound issues and messages that Rankine poses? As incoming freshman, you will take part in an ongoing dialogue with one another and with your mentors about both slight and overt racial aggression, and it is of the utmost importance that you learn how you might be contributing to or fighting back against these aggressions. Take the time to read and process Citizen, make an effort to understand how and why Rankine attempts to expose every day racism, and, most importantly, be ready to discuss this with your peers and mentors.

First Year Matters is an invaluable medium through which we can see whole new sides of issues like racism, and everyone stands to learn something about their own responsibility in our current racial moment. Citizen sheds light on everyday racism, both obvious and hidden, so in your discussions about Rankine’s message (or messages), take the time to appreciate how these mechanisms of racism play a role in your life, or, how they may not.

We hope you enjoy this First Year Matters selection, and we cannot wait for you to be a part of the ongoing discussion of 21st century racism and how we can effect change.

Aidan Winn ’18, Academic Peer Advisor

Advising Resources & Advice from the Peer Advisors

Advising Guidelines

With over 1000 classes offered in 45 majors, 17 minors, and 12 certificates, students have the opportunity to explore a wide range of fields and topics their first year. While choosing the right classes may seem like a daunting task, faculty advisors and peer advisors will guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that your schedule is balanced and appropriate. For more extensive information on advising guidelines, please visit the New Student Orientation website (http://www.wesleyan.edu/orientation/advising_guidelines.html).

Over the summer, new students will have the opportunity to rank seven first-year seminars and seven introductory courses. All of the course listings can be found on WesMaps (https://iasext.wesleyan.edu/regprod/!wesmaps_page.html). For questions about specific majors or departments, WesVising (http://www.wesleyan.edu/wesvising/) is a great resource with videos and FAQs from every department. Academic Peer Advisors are available to answer questions during the summer. If you have any questions about scheduling, course planning, or major requirements, you can reach a peer advisor at peeradvisors@wesleyan.edu. Class deans are also available throughout the summer to answer questions. Louise Brown is the Dean for the Class of 2021 and you can reach her at lsbrown@wesleyan.edu.

During orientation, all new students are assigned a faculty advisor. Your faculty advisor is responsible for approving your course schedule each semester. When you meet with your faculty advisor, plan to discuss not only your fall semester course plan, but also your educational goals, hopes and concerns at Wesleyan and beyond. During this meeting, you will have the opportunity to make changes (or not) to your schedule during the Adjustment period and Drop/Add. Prior to meeting with their faculty advisor, all new students will also have the opportunity to meet with an Academic Peer Advisor who will offer advice on course registration in preparation for meeting with faculty advisors.

It is never to early to begin thinking about your course schedule. With so many classes to take, the hard part will be narrowing down the courses so that you can create a well-balanced schedule that allows you to explore and hone your intellectual interests. If you have any questions about any step of the pre-registration or advising process, please reach out to an Academic Peer Advisor at peeradvisors@wesleyan.edu.

Stephen Chen ’18