Send a token of gratitude to your college professor to warm his heart and bolster his enthusiasm for teaching. Let him know what it is you’re grateful for and give him a few examples of what made your semester memorable. Your appreciation can provide the basis for a lasting relationship with a mentor who helped to influence your life. Keep in mind that a thank-you letter should only express your gratitude. If you are interested in obtaining a letter of recommendation, save it for another time.
First Things First
Before you put your pen to paper, take a moment to decide whether you’ll write the thank you by hand, type it up or send it electronically. A handwritten letter of appreciation can appear thoughtful. However, if your professor is tech-savvy and you’re an environmentally friendly student, you might want to skip the handwritten card and send your gratitude to your professor from your college email address. However, when sending your gratitude through email, be specific in the subject line. You don't want your appreciation to end up in the junk folder accidentally.
Skip the Generics
When you begin your letter, address the professor according to your relationship with her. If you were on a first-name basis during the semester, it is permissible to address her similarly in the thank-you letter. Otherwise, her title and last name -- “Professor Martin” -- make an appropriate form of address. Avoid generic phrases such as “You were the best professor.” Instead, explain what it is you appreciate about her contribution to your semester in her class. For example, thank her for her enthusiastic mentoring and availability outside of teaching hours, or offer your appreciation for her patience and guidance.
Make It Personal
Enhance the sentiment of the thank-you letter by providing examples of particular situations that made your professor’s tutelage memorable, whether that means the humor he infused into his lectures or his outgoing personality on a class trip to Europe. If a substantial amount of time has passed since completing the professor's course, include some brief, relevant information about what has taken place since then. For example, if your former English professor sparked your passion for the Fourth Estate, let him know that you completed your degree in journalism and have since obtained work for a national newspaper.
Conclude your thank-you letter by wishing your professor well in the upcoming school year. You can let her know that you would like to keep in touch during the next academic year or, if you have completed your post-secondary studies, during your future endeavors. End with a respectful salutation and sign your name beneath. Under your signature, print your name and the name of the professor’s course. If you have graduated, include the year of graduation.
- University of Delaware: How to Use Proper Email Etiquette When Writing to Professor
- U.S. News; 18 Etiquette Tips for E-mailing Your Professor; Jeremy Hyman and Lynn Jacobs; September, 2010
- Emory University: E-Mail Etiquette
- Dr. Robyn Silverman: How to Write a Thank-you Note to Teachers: 9 Things to Remember
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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