LOL, OMG, WUT? Writing a Professional Email

As classes are now in full swing, many students find themselves needing to communicate with professors beyond the classroom setting. The easiest way to do that effectively is, of course, dropping by a professor’s office during his or her office hours. However, with busy schedules and different office hours for each professor, sometimes it can be hard to find the time to drop by a professor’s office, and sending an email is often the next best way to get in touch. With today’s smartphones, it takes just a quick moment to jot a note to a professor and send it instantly.

Not so fast! Emailing a professor – and any professional, I may add (your coach, area coordinator, academic coaching expert, etc) – requires a level of respect and courtesy. Sometimes, students forget that email is still a form of communication, and that it is important to set the right tone when communicating both in person and online with any individual who is considered a professional. Getting into the habit of sending out appropriate emails is helpful not just in academics, but certainly also will aide with internships, job interviews, and the real world. So, without further ado, here are some tips on how to write a professional email:

1. Write a subject line. Professors are busy people, and may receive a multitude of emails every day. Including a concise subject line will help them remember your email and retain the important information. For example, if you are emailing about a missed class, a subject line of “Missed class 10/31/14” will let them know the exact date you are addressing before they even open the email. Similarly, writing “Essay #3 Assignment,” “Advising Appointment,” or “Lecture Notes Question” will let them know the purpose of your email ahead of time. A short subject line is very helpful and demonstrates thoughtfulness.

2. Use the right title. When writing the email, it is appropriate to begin with “Dr. Appleseed“- writing “Dear Dr. Appleseed” is also fine, but not truly necessary. Title is EXTREMELY important; if your professor is a doctor, he or she spent many years earning that title, so it is definitely necessary for you to use it. If you are unsure of if your professor has a doctorate, you can search them on the Utica College webpage and read their credentials, or look at the syllabus for the class. When in doubt, you can also address them as “Professor Appleseed“. Then, when the professor emails you back, look at how they signed their name and use that as an indicator of how to address them in the future. Another important part of the correct title is correctly spelling your professor’s name. Take the extra minute to ensure your spelling is correct; you don’t want to start off the email on the wrong foot!

3. Be concise, but OMG, don’t use abbreviations. Emails are not short stories. A professional email should be to the point and only a few paragraphs at most. If you find yourself needing to write a small novel, perhaps the topic would be better discussed in person. Likewise, if you are addressing a subject briefly but could add more information, you can end the email with “Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. I am also available to meet with you if you would like to discuss this more in depth in person.” As far as the email itself, keep it short and sweet- but don’t use Internet slang (LOL, 2GETHER, HW) in order to keep it brief! Remember, you are communicating with a professional, not your Facebook friends.

4. Wrap up the email respectfully. As I mentioned before, leaving the lines of communication open with your professor will let them know you are willing to talk more in person if necessary, which is always a good thing. If you are sending an email because you need something (such as help with an assignment, or to set up a time to meet), finishing up with “Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from you”  demonstrates that you are appreciative of their help. This also shows that you are expecting a response. This is important because professors are busy people, and may not necessarily feel inclined to respond to an email unless a student specifically indicates that they would like an answer. If you do not need an email back, a simple “Thank you” is always suitable ending. You always want to finish an email with the expression of your gratitude for their time. Don’t forget to sign the email with your first and last name, so that your professor knows who is writing to them!

5. SPELL CHECK! Double, triple, and quadruple-check your email for any spelling and grammar errors. Nothing ruins a professional email faster than a silly mistake! Typos are totally normal, but can be easily avoided by looking over an email before pressing send. It is always worth the extra minute to look over your email and make sure it is a flawless piece of scholastic merit before sending it off into the permanent abyss that is the World Wide Web.

It may seem strange at first to write emails that include subject lines, professional titles, cohesive messages, conscientious endings, and plenty of spell check. However, with enough practice (and trust me, in four years here, you will get plenty of practice), writing a professional email will become second nature. Good luck, and TTYL!

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Missing My Sisters

College is all sorts of exhilarating. However, some days, the excitement wears away, and you may find yourself sitting in your room, missing your friends and family. Homesickness and loneliness are very common feelings among both first year and returning students. Personally, I have two younger sisters and I miss them every day. My sister Melissa attends SUNY Geneseo, and my sister Whitney attends Boston College. Last year was the first time in our lives that we were all apart for more than a few days, and it was tough on all of us.

Left to right: Melissa, Whitney, and I, last summer (2013) before they went off to college.
Left to right: Melissa, Whitney, and I, last summer (2013) before we all went off to college.

Dealing with separation anxiety and feelings of loneliness is something I have grown better at as I have gotten more adjusted to college life, but it is certainly still difficult. However, there are several things I have found especially helpful for me and my sisters when it comes to coping with missing one another:

  • Taking pictures

When my sisters and I are together, we take lots of pictures and print them out. Then, when we return to school, we have lots of photographs to tape to our walls and stick on our mini fridges. These pictures make me smile and remind me of happy memories, rather than keeping me stuck in the moment and being lonely. Surrounding yourself with images of your friends and family may help you to feel less homesick. Similarly, taking pictures with friends on campus and sending them to my sisters helps them feel connected to me while I am away at school. This is also great because it keeps me from dwelling on my life at home and allows me to focus on enjoying the present moment. Remember, while you have family and friends back home that loves you and supports you, you also have your UC family here that has your back.

  • Keeping in touch

My sisters and I have a special group chat on our phones that we are constantly using. We send each other funny stories from our day, pictures of cute puppies, recipes we want to try together, and weird articles we read. This helps us feel more connected throughout the semester, so if we have to go a while without seeing one another, we still feel included in little parts of each others’ lives. Keeping in touch with your friends during your busy day doesn’t have to mean scheduling an hour-long Skype date; it can be as easy as forwarding a link to a funny YouTube video. Sharing those few minutes of time with your loved one might just make your day.

  • Visiting one another

Obviously, the best way to keep from missing my sisters is to visit them. However, with three busy schedules to coordinate, planning a trip is easier said than done. But for those occasions when we can find time to visit one another, we jump at the chance. One of my best memories from last semester was when Melissa and I surprised Whitney by showing up on the BC campus on St Patrick’s Day just to take her out to lunch. Though it may require effort, planning time to visit your friends’ colleges can help you better understand your friends’ (or siblings’) new world. Meeting their friends, exploring their campus, and eating in their dining hall is a great way to connect with them in this new part of their life. Plus, it will help you better understand who they are talking about when they tell you stories about their friends!

Melissa, Me, and Whitney at Boston College last spring
Melissa, Me, and Whitney at Boston College last spring
  • Handwritten letters

I absolutely love writing letters to my sisters. I often make them cards with plenty of glitter and stickers, and try to make the envelopes as jazzy as possible so that the mailroom staff at their colleges know just how cool and crafty I am. There is nothing better than a handwritten note, and writing to your friends is sure to make their day. Whether you make a card yourself out of construction paper and Sharpies or buy one from the Dollar Store, I guarantee your friend will love it.

  • Returning to normalcy

The most important part of missing my sisters for me is making sure we have time together during holiday breaks and summer that is relaxed and normal. After a busy semester, it can feel strange to go back home to your “old life,” and spending time with high school friends may feel weird. This is totally normal, but you don’t need to let it deter you from maintaining your relationships with your friends and family from home. Recognize that you are growing and changing as a person, and so are they. Spending time with friends from home without putting pressure on the situation- in other words, just hanging out like you used to, instead of making every get together into a huge reunion- will allow your relationship to develop naturally and will help you both feel more comfortable when it comes time to return to school once more.

Melissa, Whitney, and I at a Syracuse Chiefs game this summer (2014). Just hanging out together like we used to helps us feel better when its time to go our separate ways for the semester.
Melissa, Whitney, and I at a Syracuse Chiefs game this summer (2014). Just hanging out together like we used to over breaks helps us feel better when it is time to go our separate ways for the semester.

While homesickness and loneliness are totally normal things to experience at school, don’t let it keep you from enjoying your life at UC. Share your feelings- with your roommate, your RA, your professor, a counselor, or that random guy that sits next to you in Bio. Chances are, they have felt the same way, and will be willing to talk to you until you feel better. Keeping communication open with your UC family, along with keeping in touch with those you are missing using the tips above, will help you cope with missing your friends and allow you to enjoy your semester here at UC.

 

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Freshmen Mistakes- And How to Avoid Them

Being a first-year student is tough. Whether you commute from the area or live on campus, college is a huge transition into adulthood. It is important to remember that as a freshman, you deserve a lot of credit for putting yourself out there, challenging yourself, and venturing here in pursuit of becoming a better person.

Left to right: Me, Trax, and my friend Sarah at a UC hockey game during our freshman year
Left to right: Me, Trax, and my friend Sarah at a UC hockey game during our freshman year. Freshman year is tough, but not too tough that you can’t give Trax a little love!

That being said, there are several mistakes I commonly see first-year students making. While plenty of upperclassmen have made these same mistakes in the beginning of their college experience and lived to tell the tale, these mistakes are definitely avoidable. Being an individual who does not get any pleasure from seeing others suffer, I will take this moment to explain some common mistakes, as well as how to prevent them, in the hopes that I may ease the transition for even one individual out there.

 

FRESHMAN MISTAKE #1:  STAYING IN YOUR ROOM

Residence halls rock. As an RA, I totally love that you are comfortable and happy spending time in your room. But there’s a whole world out there, and you won’t get to fully experience it if you’re just gazing at the residential quad from your window in North Hall. Don’t be afraid to leave your room and check out a free event on campus or go to a club meeting. Heck, even wandering in the lounge of your residence hall is better than being alone in your room all day. Keep in mind that everyone is new and awkwardly trying to make friends, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

FRESHMAN MISTAKE #2: EATING EVERYTHING

Me and my friend Heather enjoying a milkshake at Johnny Rocket's in Syracuse, NY during my freshman year. One milkshake is great. A milkshake every day is even better, until none of your pants fit.
Me and my friend Heather enjoying a milkshake at Johnny Rockets in Syracuse, NY during my freshman year. One milkshake is great. A milkshake every day is even better, until none of your pants fit.

One of the perks of being independent in college is being able to eat whatever, whenever. Our cafeteria has tons of different options every day, and there is a plethora of local restaurants just a few minutes from campus. However, what many students (including myself) learn the hard way is that just because a million options are available to you at all times doesn’t mean you should consume every one of those million options on a daily basis. Personally, I interpreted the “all you can eat” option at the dining hall on campus as a challenge. I soon earned the nickname “The Human Garbage Disposal,” and not long after that, I couldn’t fit into any of my jeans. Learning self-discipline takes time, but the sooner you master it, the better. Don’t get me wrong- there’s nothing wrong with enjoying food, having dessert, or spending time with friends at a restaurant. I would just advise you against making midnight McDonald’s runs a regular habit. Your body will thank you.

FRESHMAN MISTAKE #3: OVERSHARING ON THE INTERNET

The Internet is great. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are a convenient and fun way to stay connected with family, chat with friends, and pass the time between classes. However, the Internet is also public and permanent. Sometimes students forget that the things they share with friends can be easily spread to employers, future mother-in-laws, and Santa Claus. I advise all freshmen to THINK BEFORE YOU POST! As MaryEllen said during Summer Orientation 2014, “#YOLO does not mean it’s #Appropriate”. It’s great to share pictures of you having fun at school, but just consider what your grandmother would say if she saw the picture. Don’t let a funny picture you post this weekend keep you from getting a job when you graduate.

My boyfriend and I at a UCPB event our freshmen year. This picture is totally cute and Facebook appropriate; in fact, his grandmother commented on how much she loved it. You can enjoy the Internet and share fun moments from your life on it- just be mindful of what you are posting!
My boyfriend Ryan and I at a UCPB event our freshmen year. This picture is totally cute and Facebook appropriate; in fact, his grandmother commented on how much she loved it. You can enjoy the Internet and share fun moments from your life on it- just be mindful of what you are posting!

FRESHMAN MISTAKE #4: BEING AFRAID OF MISTAKES

I’m sure you will receive plenty of advice throughout your college experience about what you should or should not do. However, college is your time to learn and grow as an individual, and part of that learning process is making mistakes. Some mistakes may be more fun to make than others (I am, of course, talking about the Johnny Rockets milkshakes that I gained 15 lbs on because I treated them like their own food group). Some mistakes may be more detrimental than others (staying in your room and missing a fun event isn’t as serious as posting a picture that costs you an internship down the road). But all mistakes are opportunities for you to learn and be one step closer to being the best person you can be. So, enjoy your freshman year, and don’t let the fear of making a mistake keep you from living your life. But maybe think twice about that tweet you were going to send about staying in your room and eating an entire box of Oreo’s. Just a suggestion.

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ThinkFast!

The fall semester at UC is in full swing! Classes began last Tuesday, but prior to that, the campus was abuzz with the Utica College Programming Board’s (also known as UCPB) annual Welcome Week. Each day, the UCPB held an event that was completely free for UC students and allowed first years and returning students alike to get out of their residence halls and get to know one another. The week kicked off on Sunday with a movie projected on a giant screen out under the stars in the residential quad. Other events included Bookstore Bingo, a Glow Paint Dance Party, and- my personal favorite- ThinkFast.

ThinkFast is a game show style event that was back this year by popular demand. Students formed small teams- some chose to play solo, while I opted for a group of six with my friends- and received pagers. Trivia questions were shown on a screen, and teams used the pagers to buzz in their answers and earn points. After many rounds of video, music, and pop culture questions,  the top two teams were selected, along with two “wild card” teams, to compete in a more competitive round of trivia. The winning team received $200 cash and eternal fame and glory.

My friends and I were excited when we showed up for ThinkFast, as the promise of a $200 cash prize is enough to make any college student drool. The excitement turned into sweaty palms and nervous jitters as we began to increase our scores throughout the trivia rounds; the pressure was on, and we had the eye of the tiger. At the last minute, we scored high enough to be in the competitive final round, so among our celebrations, we quickly elected our brilliant and very cultured friend Laura to be our representative. Laura rose to the occasion, and baffled everyone with her vast array of knowledge on everything from the first animal to be in space (a dog) to the real name of Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean). Meanwhile, our group cheered Laura on with more enthusiasm than the pageant moms on Toddlers and Tiaras. By the end of a very intense game, Laura won our team the honor of first place and the $200 cash prize (which, divided among six girls, adds up to $33.33 each). The crowd went wild, and it was clear to everyone exactly how Laura earned her 4.0 last semester. ThinkFast was a celebration of all Utica College has to offer: camaraderie, scholastic wordplay, friendly competition, and lots of laughter.

Though Welcome Week is now over, I am certain that everyone will forever remember our wise and fearless leader, Laura, and her group of extremely loud and perhaps overly enthusiastic teammates. Welcome Week always gets students excited to start out the semester, and this year was no different. After ThinkFast, the Strebel Student Center was buzzing with laughter and conversation among newfound friends. As a senior this year, the end of Welcome Week was a little bittersweet, but seeing all of the underclassmen making friends and having fun made the whole experience better. And besides, there is no other way I would rather have ended it than with a butt-kicking win at ThinkFast with my friends, and $33.33 in my pocket.

Our winning team, left to right: Me (Elaine), Mary, Keezy, Laura, MaryEllen, and Cassie
Our winning team, left to right: Me (Elaine), Mary, Keezy, Laura, MaryEllen, and Cassie
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