Building Communication Skills
Communication skills are a necessary tool for navigating your college experience. There will be times where you have to communicate your needs to professors, staff, supervisors, family and friends. Below you will find four steps that will help you initiate communication and examples of how to construct emails or engage in dialoge when communicating your needs.
Step 1: Own Your Current Circumstances
When emailing and/or preparing to engage in dialogue with individuals (such as professors, staff, supervisors, family and friends), share a general overview of your personal concern and own that you have missed classes, assignments, exams, emails, text messages, etc.
For the past three weeks, I have been absent from class due to my experience with [insert general overview of your personal concern], and, as a result, I have fallen behind in my course work. I understand that my absence has affected my grade in the course.
Thanks for taking time to meet with me. I just want to share that I've been experiencing [insert general overview of your personal concern] and therefore haven't been able to respond to your phone calls and voicemails.
Step 2: Name your current steps in addressing your concerns
Whether it be in email or discussion, be sure to share some specifics of how you are seeking support to address your concerns. It's in your best interest to demonstrate how you are taking initiative to care for yourself. If you are unsure how to seek support in addressing your concerns, submit a CARE referral so that a staff member can assist you in developing a plan of action.
Email and Discussion example:
I am currently seeking support from the [Wellness Center, health care provider, Student Accessibility Center, Office of the Dean of Students, etc.] and have developed a plan of action that will assist me in finishing the remainder of the year as best as I can. My plan of action includes outreaching to [professors, staff, supervisors, family, and/or friends].
Step 3: Ask for help and consideration
Once you've owned your circumstances and shared the ways you are seeking help to address your personal concerns, it is always important to directly ask for support and be sure to be specific and realistic in this request.
I would like to ask for your consideration and flexibility in the following ways [offering an assignment/exam extension, meeting with me during office hours, providing additional feedback on my assignment, etc].
I would like to ask for your support by [scaling my work hours down from 20 hours to 10 hours a week, scheduling my work shifts to Tuesdays and Thursdays, removing me from this listserv so I receive less emails, etc].
Step 4: Be prepared to follow up and take action
This step is most important as it is very natural to ask for help and then dread reading the response. Just because we ask to be supported in certain ways, doesn't mean we will always get it the way we expect it. After requesting specific and realistic support, you must read the email responses or follow up with that individual to ensure that they have received your email.
When the response is favorable:
If your professor, staff, supervisor, family or friend responds to your request favorably, this is great. However, it is then your responsibility to follow through on what you have agreed to do. For example, if your professor gives you an assignment extension, you must uphold that new deadline and follow through on completing the assignment. Should you experience another issue, do not hesitate to update the person who is working with you so that they can determine whether or not they are able to further support you.
When the response is not favorable:
Sometimes your professor, staff, supervisor, family or friend is unable to honor your request. For example, sometimes it is too late in the year to get extensions on exams and assignments. However, if this happens, you can still connect with your Academic Advisor to create a plan of action for addressing your academic concerns. Possible outcomes can result in requesting an Incomplete, Course Withdrawal, retaking classes in the summer, or taking a break from school to fully focus on your needs and concerns.
Sample Email Template
Here is a sample email template addressed to a professor. Please note that this is just a template. Feel free to add or change pieces of this template to better fit your needs. This also provides a way for you to practice engaging in dialogue with professors, staff, supervisors, family and friends.
Greetings [Insert professors name]
For the past three weeks, I have been absent from class, and as a result, I have fallen behind in my course work. I understand that my absence has affected my grade in the course. I am currently seeking support from the [Wellness Center, health care provider, Student Accessibility Center, Office of the Dean of Students, etc.] and have developed a plan of action that will assist me in finishing the remainder of the year as best as I can. In developing a plan of action, it has become apparent that I need to ask for help. I would like to ask for your consideration in [offering an assignment/exam extension, meeting with me during office hours, feedback on my assignment, etc]. If I do not hear back from you this week, I will be sure to follow up with you in person.
[Insert your name]
- When emailing individuals for support, make sure your email is brief and to the point. If your email is longer than 3 paragraphs, you should schedule an in-person meeting so that your request is not lost in the email or misconstrued.
- Make sure that your request is specific and realistic. For example, if you have missed 10 classes, it may not be realistic to ask for make-up assignments; however, it may be more realistic to request an Incomplete so that you have more time to realistically complete your assignments.
- Always consult your academic advisor when trying to address academic concerns.
- Know who your academic advisor is. If you are unsure who that is, visit your LOCUS account to find their contact information.
- If you are experiencing mental health concerns, seek support from the Wellness Center. Click here to set up an appointment.
If you are looking for support the Office of the Dean of Students in navigating how to initiate communication with professors, staff, supervisors, family and friends, please submit a CARE Referral by clicking here.