A Letter to College Students (from all Profs)

Dear Students,

Before the academic year begins, I have a few things I’d like to discuss with you. Please listen carefully. No, no, no-don’t speak. Just listen. In fact, take out your phone and record what I am about to say.

Number one: Read the course description before you register for my course. Pay close attention to the course title and number as well. The numbers are not arbitrary. 100, 200, and 300-level courses increase in difficulty. This means that my 300-level course is probably not suitable for you first semester freshman year.

Number two: If I email you before the beginning of the course, please read that email. In all likelihood, I am relaying some important content in that message. In fact, I AM relaying important content. For example, you may need to have some readings done prior to the first day of class. You are responsible for those readings whether you read the email or not. If this bothers you, drop my class.

Number three: If I email you during the course, please read that email. Again, I am either a) clarifying course related information (scheduling, assignments, readings); b) providing you with extra information to aid in your learning process; or c) asking for your feedback/input on course related issues. If you do not read the email, you are still responsible for that content. If this annoys you, drop my class.

Number four: I do not exist for your amusement. I have a life of my own. I do not sit in front of my computer waiting for you to email me at 10:52pm so I can give you feedback on your paper draft. You have friends for that. Use them.

Number five: This is MY course. I choose what time we begin, end, if we have breaks, when assignments are due, course readings, grading scale, and learning goals. Now, on the first day of class, I always negotiate these things with my students. If you are absent on the first day of class, your vote will not be counted retroactively. And if I choose to not put any of these issues up for negotiation, I have that right. If you think this is unfair, drop my class.

Number six: IT IS ON THE SYLLABUS. You will hear me repeat this at least one time per 35 minutes of class. I will repeat it now as an example of what you will hear in class: IT IS ON THE SYLLABUS. In case you are confused, the ‘it’ I am referring to is whichever piece of information you ‘swear’ is not on the syllabus. This includes but is not limited to: the title of the course, the course description, the course number, my email address, my office number, office hours, required texts, due dates for all assignments, due times for all assignments, the grading scale, policies regarding late work, policies regarding absences, policies regarding athletic travel. So, for what I wish would be the last time: IT IS ON THE SYLLABUS.

Number seven: Excuses—I don’t need them. If you have excuses, drop my class.

(you may stop recording now)

Have a wonderful year 🙂


9 comments on “A Letter to College Students (from all Profs)

  1. historian says:

    I cannot believe Professors have to send these letters. As a high school teacher, all of this is a familiar refrain… but I tell my students college professors do not stand for any shilly-shallying and I am disappointed if that is a battle you have to fight as well. Let’s blame the parents!

    • I don’t blame the parents; I blame the students. Beginning in at 10-11 years, students have the cognitive capacity to be autonomous, anticipate consequences, and engage in problem solving. In no way are parents to be held accountable for students who are too lazy to read an email or too entitled to take the initiative to find an answer to a simple question. Too often we as teachers have babied our students and not cultivated accountability or active participation in the learning process. So we share in that blame. We created this issue, now we must bear the consequences.

      • AS a prof, whenever a student asks one of those ‘simple’ questions (regarding an assignment or a class procedure), I defer him/her to their fellow students who have somehow figured it out. For example, student asks, “I didn’t know that there would be essay questions mixed into the True/False, M/C questions, and besides, I didn’t even know that the online quiz was timed!?” My answer (to the rest of the class), “Did anyone else in the class get their rights (to knowledge of question types) infringed upon? No, then maybe those who feel that way can contact those students who have somehow figured it out…like reading through ALL the clear instructions that I have left for you on EACH assignment….now, are there ANY other questions like this one?”

  2. Kaethe says:

    If I ever teach at the collegiate level again, I am stealing this letter and reading it aloud to my class on day one.

  3. […] A letter to College Students This is one the general public seemed to enjoy. In fact, it had the all time high viewership for my blog. I came up with this in jest, but apparently, many teachers feel the same. […]

  4. […] mentioned this topic in A Letter to College Students (from all profs) in which I was providing some advice to students about how to ask for letters of recommendation. […]

  5. Reblogged this on theotherclass and commented:

    As another academic year comes to a start, I want to take this opportunity to reblog a few posts I wrote last fall. The posts will be reblogged in three parts on three consecutive days. These posts are mostly words of advice for college students, especially for those who think college is high school part II. Much of what I say in the following post is written in jest though grounded in factual experiences. Though the tone is light hearted and hopefully begets a few smiles, the message is real: college is a professional endeavor and as such, should be treated professionally.

  6. Steven Gay says:

    I absolutely love this. Having been both a high school teacher and teacher to Veterans at a University, I’ve had to repeat these same words on numerous occasions. In fact, I’ve actually given my adult students a reading directions test (http://schoolsites.leeschools.net/cym/kristanr/Additional%20Documents%20and%20Forms/Following%20Directions%20Quiz.pdf) just to assess their ability to listen and read and to remind them of the importance of reading. After giving this to them in the beginning of the course, the questions about assignments, exams and projects diminish, but I still get those few students that ask questions. Those are typically the ones that failed the reading test.

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