As a student, you are going to experience times when you need help with your studies. You might be unsure about an assignment question, you might be confused by a particular concept, or you might be stressed about the upcoming exams. And if you are studying via distance learning, where you don’t have any face-to-face interaction with lecturers, you will need to rely on your tutors for the necessary academic support.
If you have any questions about your course work, you are always welcome to approach your tutors for help. Just remember that your tutors cannot guess what your needs are: you will have to make contact with your tutors — and communicate your questions clearly — if you want to get the assistance that you need.
When it comes to contacting your tutors, your best option will usually be to send an email.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind when requesting help from a tutor via email:
Use a relevant and descriptive subject line.
This way, your tutor will immediately know what your email is about, and he or she will be more likely to open it. A good subject line might read as follows: “Enquiry regarding Assignment 1 for Safety Management 101”
Be polite, and use an appropriate form of address.
Always start your email with an appropriate form of address, such as “Hello Mr/Ms …” and sign it off with your full name and student number. This will help to give your message a friendly, yet professional tone.
Be clear and concise.
Make sure that your tutor will be able to understand what it is that you are asking. Compare the following examples:
By stating the problem clearly, and by asking a specific question that you would like your tutor to answer, such as in example B, you are much more likely to get a meaningful response from your tutor.
Don’t use text-speak (such as “ur” and “pls”) in your email.
Not only does this look unprofessional, but your tutor may have a hard time understanding what it is that you are trying to say. You should also avoid using emoticons (‘smiley faces’), as these don’t belong in formal communication.
Proofread your email.
Read through your email to make sure that you have:
- Stated your question or problem clearly
- Used a suitable tone
- Used correct grammar
Also use spellcheck to make sure that there are no spelling mistakes. If you make spelling mistakes, you will give your tutors a bad impression, as it makes your writing look sloppy.
Check that you have typed in the correct email address.
It’s easy to type in the wrong address by mistake.
Take care when sending attachments.
If you need to send an attachment, make sure that it is in an accessible file format, and that the size doesn’t exceed the maximum limit. Many email clients limit the size of attachments to 5 MB — and if your attachment exceeds this size, your email might not be delivered.
Say “thank you”.
If you receive a reply from your tutor, it is good manners to acknowledge receipt of the response by sending a “thank you” email.
By following these tips, you are more likely to establish good relationships with your tutors, as well as to get the type of academic support you need.
Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength. And asking for help early on in your studies will increase your chances of success.