College students tend to do their work at various times of the day or night. It depends on their other responsibilities. Some work during the day and have a family so they do their schoolwork at night. Others prefer to do it then, and it can mean there is a need to email a professor late at night.
It isn’t rude to email a professor late at night, it is a perk of the technology we have today. Emailing them at a time that works well for you adds to the convenience of such communication.
It would be harder if you had to contact them during office hours or call them. You can send an email, on the contrary to a nighttime text message, late at night. There is a good chance they will read it the following morning and you will have a reply when you check your email.
However, you should give them 24 hours to reply to you. If you send them an email over the weekend or a holiday, it may be 48 hours before you get a reply from them. Of course, you should only email your professor at night if you need to share information with them or get clarification about something.
Try not to put off assignments until the last minute. They may be considered late or not accepted. Emailing your professor at night hours before an assignment is due to tell them you need more time or you don’t understand how to do it isn’t going to get you off the hook!
No matter why you email a professor late at night, it isn’t rude to do so. Make sure the message is friendly, to the point, and addresses them properly.
If you have an emergency come up that prevents you from completing an assignment or attending class, email the instructor. Give them as many details are you are comfortable with to make sure you can be excused.
Most professors will work with you, but the policies may require you to present documentation. Unfortunately, they have heard lots of excuses over the years so don’t lie! If you need to back up what you share with them, you don’t want to lose your credibility.
You may not know enough yet to elaborate, but you still want to email them at night and let them know something going on. You can always follow up later. Letting them know something is preventing you from staying on top of the class is essential. Don’t wait and then reach out to them days later hoping they can work with you.
What to say:
“I have a family emergency and I won’t be able to commit to the class right now. I will reach out to you once I have more details and know the depth of the situation.”
“Please excuse me from class until further notice. I had something unexpected come up that I must deal with.”
“Due to circumstances beyond my control, I won’t be able to get my assignment done. Can I have an extension for it? I will be happy to share details with you if you need them.”
“I have an emergency and I won’t be able to come to class. I will be back as soon as I can and get on track again.”
“I have to miss the exam in the morning due to an emergency that came up tonight. Can you work with me to take it at a later time?”
“I am in the hospital and scheduled for surgery tomorrow. I will be unable to come to class for a bit or complete my assignments.”
“I had a nasty fall tonight due to the weather. Can you please excuse me for a few days while I rest and heal?”
An illness can come on suddenly and prevent you from your class commitments. This can be for a day or two. It can also be for a few weeks if the illness is serious. It isn’t rude to email your professor at night and let them know what you are up against.
They will appreciate the information and you staying away from others while you are under the weather.
What to say:
“I have symptoms that may indicate flu disease and I would like to get my test results before I come back to class. Thank you for understanding.”
“I may have the flu and don’t want to expose anyone else to it. Please excuse me from class until I feel better.”
“Due to unexpected health issues, I won’t be able to turn in my work due this week. I am seeing a specialist and have a referral from my visit to the emergency room. My school work is important to me but I have to focus on my health first.”
“I have a seriously ill child, and I can’t take them to daycare in the morning with a fever. If they don’t feel better when we wake up, I won’t make it to your class. I do have my paper completed and I am attaching it in case I can’t give it in to you in person tomorrow.”
“Due to not feeling well, I have not been able to complete classwork. I am seeking medical attention and ask for an extended deadline.”
Clarify Assignment Requirements
As you dive into various class assignments, you may discover you don’t fully understand them. There can be a certain section you get stuck on. You may have a few questions that influence how you proceed with it.
Don’t put in the time or effort on an assignment and then discover after it gets graded that it isn’t accurate. Email the professor, even late at night, and they can get you some details.
Don’t just tell them in the email you are stuck or you don’t understand it. Be very precise about what you need to be clarified so they can guide you.
What to say:
“Can you clarify what needs to be done on the assignment question #4?”
“I am stuck on the assignment with the last part of it. I am correct I need to site all my sources there and have at least three of them listed?”
“What is the page or word length for our essay assignment? I don’t see that information in the details. Thank you!”
“For our group assignment due Friday, do we turn in one with all our names on it or does each of us need to turn one in to be graded?”
“I don’t understand the second part of the instructions for the assignment. Can you explain them in further detail?”
A great deal of work is conducted online, your entire class may take place that way. When you have hiccups such as a technical issue, make sure you address it. Your professor needs to know, and it is fine to email them about it late at night.
What to say:
“I didn’t get a confirmation for my assignment I just submitted. Can you confirm you received it? I am also attaching it here to verify it was done on time.”
“I can’t get logged into the discussion segment of our class. Are other students having this same issue? Should I reach out to IT?”
“I am unable to log into my class. I have tried the password reset but that didn’t work. Can you help me gain access?”
“I can’t get into the assignment area of the online class. I see where it is but it doesn’t give me the chance to open it up. Do I need to take further action to get this access?”
“I have tried to work on assignments but keep getting a system error. Is our access down at this time?”
Explanation of a Grade on an Assignment
You may be disappointed with a grade you received on a previous assignment. If there is no feedback with it, you don’t know how to do better next time.
Ask the professor to help you understand the low grade so you can improve on the next work you turn in.
What to say:
“I was reviewing my grade for the week 2 assignment. Can you give me some feedback about why I got marked so low on it? I want to be able to do better with the assignment due at the end of the week.”
“I worked very hard on the assignment so I am disappointed with my grade. Can you point out what I should have done differently?”
“I am not sure why I got a C on my paper I turned in. I don’t see any comments from them and I am interested in your thoughts on it.”
Schedule a Phone or in Person Meeting
You may be interested in a phone conversation or personal meeting with your professor. It may be late at night when the thought comes to your mind. Email them about it and they will respond when they see it.
As long as you are polite and to the point in your emails it won’t be seen as rude if you send it late at night.
What to say:
“Can I set up a time to meet with you during your office hours? A Monday or Thursday afternoon would work best. Thank you!”
“I have some thoughts to discuss with you. Can we talk on the phone at your convenience regarding them?”
“I need to discuss with you some issues with other students in the online class. Can I come in to do so? I feel more comfortable talking about it in person.”
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.