The Language of Professionalism Begins in College

6/07/2022 by Elvis Santos

Writing an email in high school for most students probably wasn’t a big deal, but it is frequently used throughout students' college experience and certainly beyond college. It’s an essential skill set that college students must instill as they start to communicate with professors, academic advisors, counselors, and even their peers. Proper email etiquette practices are encouraged for college students and to help you tap into any uncertainties, here are five email etiquette rules to help before hitting the send button:


  1. Using a Professional or Personal Email

Most people have several personal email addresses used for different purposes such as one assigned for shopping coupons or one used for just job applications. College students are assigned a college email that they can access to communicate with professors and faculty members. I would highly recommend college students use their college email address during their time as college students as it makes it easier to stay connected with professors. Most important school documents such as exams, assignments, financial aid, and any sensitive documentation are typically sent to a college email. If it is easier to get a reach of you at your personal email, you can politely ask the sender to use your personal email in the “cc” line to send not only important documents to your school email but also your personal email as well. Also, if you’re using a personal email, make sure it looks and sounds appropriate. During my college years, I recall working alongside one of my class peers, and I will never forget their email address: I guess he was a huge Marvel super comic fan? It shows. My advice? Use your first and last name for a clean, minimalistic email address that looks professional.


  1. Be Patient for a Response

It’s safe to say that most of us have many things going on in our lives and try to get them done all at once. As a career counselor, I experience many college students having an expectation of receiving an email response a few minutes after they sent me an email. What some are not aware of is that I’m wearing multiple hats within the position from student counseling, business development, employer outreach, and conducting workshops. Professors and faculty members can respond to an email within 24-36hrs of receiving your email as they work on responding not just to your email but to other emails coming from other students and external emails. We live in a fast-paced world where many of us want a response from our friends, family, peers, and even professors immediately, whether via text message or email. Remember that the person receiving the email also has deadlines, projects, and ad hoc projects that they also need to respond to. My other recommendation is if you have not gotten a response to your email within 36 hours, you can send a second email and remind them to get back to you as a reminder from the first email.


  1. Did you proofread your email?

Have you ever been in a rush to reply to an email, finished composing your email, hit the send button and didn’t take the time to proofread it? By the time you send it, it’s too late any make corrections and if you misspelled any words or the person’s name, it could turn off the recipient, especially when applying for a job. It’s very important to use precaution and proofread your email before hitting the send button. Talking 2-3 minutes to make sure your email is clear, readable, and has correct content can make a significant impact. Small email etiquette in the body of the email such as introducing yourself, proper font, and size, are subtle details you’ll be judged positively. The mistakes and errors in your email won’t go unnoticed! Did you go for an interview and want to send a. thank you email? Go for it but make sure to review and use the suggestions I included above. Spell-checkers such as Grammarly or the built-in spell-checker within Microsoft Outlook are great tools; however, I would still recommend reading it through. Another tip I find helpful is reading your email aloud to make sure what you wrote makes sense and again clarifies what you wrote and the recipient understands your email. When you write an email with lots of misspellings and grammar, you look unprofessional and give any importance which is a poor image and reflection of you.


  1. When to use Auto-Reply

Receiving emails daily is almost inevitable, especially when you’re on vacation, unavailable, or other matters, your email inbox will be flooded. If this happens to be the case, using the auto-reply feature comes in handy and is one I recommend using as long as it has the right and appropriate content. Here’s an example of an auto-reply response I received from someone after sending them an email regarding a job opportunity I thought they’d be a great fit:


"If you emailing ' 'bout the car the payment is in the mail. If this is Weekday I am walking around. If you've got somethin' to sell your wastin' your time, I'm not buyin' If it's anybody else state your purpose, you know what to do And P.S. if this is MIA I still love you, and I miss you."


Inappropriate and should not be an auto-response and more importantly, if a professor sends you an email or a job opportunity might arise. If you’re going to use the auto-reply feature, here are a few tips: make sure you set a time frame for long you will be unavailable for example., “Hi! Thank you for your email; I will be unavailable from August 1st to August 3rd”. The recipient will understand you will get back to them as soon as you get back after August 3rd. Second, craft your body message as I shared rule #3, have time to proofread your message, its professional and has the right ingredients that encompass you’re away and return date. Lastly, remember to turn off auto-reply when you are ready to review your emails. I have encountered instances where I email a student, receive an auto-reply and get a response from the student shortly while I think they are still away out of the country on vacation.


  1. Email vs. Text Message

It’s safe to say most people have a smartphone and most of us have an addiction to sending text messages to our friends and family. Some college students tend to blur the lines between text messages and email which should be separated given both have a different purpose. The first suggestion I recommend is to avoid using acronyms in any email. Examples such as TTYL(talk to you later), BRB(be right back), and OMW(on my way) are a big No and quite frankly unprofessional. Remember that sending emails is another form of building communication skills so do your best to keep it professional as this is a skill you will be using well beyond your college experience. Second, if you’re using a smartphone to send an email, make sure not to add your body message in the subject line. I can’t tell you how many times I received from students doing this and it looks like an entire body message in one long sentence. Please take your time to compose your email it is in the right second. The last tip is that even though sending a text is a great and quick way to convey your message, look at sending an email to improve your communication and writing skills. These will be essential skills in the workforce and will illustrate to your colleagues and management that you can not only professionally conduct yourself in person but also using technology.