Effective Communication in College

5 Simple and Obvious Tips for Better Communication Don’t start a sentence if you don’t know how it ends.

10 Simple Tips for Using Email We all use email, but, sometimes we use it too much or use it inappropriately. To get the most out of email we need to use it carefully and judiciously. These are 10 tips to get the most out of emailing.


Email Basics

  • Caps – Never use capital letters while typing and email message to anyone. For starters, caps are considered impolite and resemble shouting in speech (Ellen Dowling).
  • Proof read – Always proof read your email prior to sending it. It may take you a minute, and it may take you 10, but after all you’ll be sure that the message you sent is free of grammatical, vocabulary and appropriate usage errors. Always run spell check.
  • Subject Line – what you write in the subject line is almost as important as the email itself. In most cases, what your subject line is determines whether or not the recipient will read your email, or even when he/she shall read it.
  • Compose Your Signature – Having a signature looks professional and saves typing the same information every email. Always set your college email account signature to: Your Full Name, student ID# 54321. 

How to Effectively Communicate with Your Professors

Venn diagram labeled Communication Skills with three equally overlapping circles labeled oral, written, non-verbalThree Steps for All Students:

  • 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.
  • It is important not to confront faculty in the classroom around other students; this removes your chance at privacy.
  • It is 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.
  1. 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 regular office hours.
  • If the faculty is part time, ask when you may meet with them.
  • If the faculty is full time, ask about their office hours. (If they do not include office hours in their syllabus, check their office door for posted office hours. Most colleges require full time faculty to post office hours every semester. If they do not post hours, or you show up several times during their posted hours and they are not there, then you should let their supervisor know immediately because part of their contracted pay is holding office hours for student contact. The supervisor of faculty is usually the “Chair” of the department.)
  1. 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 will not help you as much as specific ones (example: I don’t understand Topic A. [Question is too general.] Why is Topic A red and Topic B blue?  [Specific question]).

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. (You may be able to email the entire class or individuals through your school email portal.)
  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. Do not 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. (Tip: Create an email signature with your full name and student ID number, so you do not have to type it every time you send an email!)
  9. Avoid Texting slang (Do not use shrt cts, 2morrow, “4” instead of for, or IMO).
  10. Be respectful and do not use all capitals (CONSIDERED SHOUTING ONLINE).
  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.’ (Turn on automatic spellcheck, so all your emails are spellchecked before sending.)
  14. Avoid using Cc:’s unless you are documenting an incident.
  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, delete all unnecessary information.
  18. Remember, think about your reader. Remember that if the professor cannot 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. Do not 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 a Student Development Specialist/Academic Counselor/Advisor for discussion and resources if communication is failing.
  2. Review the 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 every class, and revise it by adding scores from returning tests and essays, crossing out deleted or changed assignments and due dates.
  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 through the end of the semester until after you have learned your official grade. It is best to keep it neat and orderly, so that if there are questions about a grade, you can review your work and compare it with the requirements for the course.
  6. There is one (1) formal process you can continue on with if you truly believe your grade is incorrect… Grade Appeal. Grade appeal has a time limit.  Do not wait to start a grade appeal. Your college handbook should have the steps necessary to initiate an official grade appeal. Many schools no longer print their official student handbook, but instead make it available in PDF form on their website. This makes it easier to search the handbook for information using keywords like “grade appeal”.
  7. Finally, always learn the college drop policies. Every semester be aware of drop dates; Mark them on your calendar!  This is your responsibility.  If you sense that things are not going well in a particular class with a particular instructor, do not wait until it is too late.

A Word About Social Networking The Internet has significantly changed the way our society connects with one another, does business, and socializes. Today’s youth have never known a world without the Internet, which is a piece of information adults must put into context when they think about and compare, generationally, social networking to face-to-face communications. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than 93% of both teens (12-17) and young adults (18-29) in the United States use the Internet regularly, and more than 70% use social networking sites. Furthermore, among online teens, 62% use the Internet to get news about current events and politics, 48% use it to make purchases (books, clothing, and music), and 31% use it to get health, dieting, or physical fitness information.