Here’s exactly how to email your professor about not attending class:
- Read the rules for missing class before emailing your professor.
- Email your professor as early as possible.
- Don’t lie in your email – you’ll get caught out.
- Let them know you’ve done your homework.
- Don’t ask for more work from the teacher.
- Do ask for the class worksheets or lecture slides.
- Attach evidence of hardship if you have it.
- Always use a polite and professional salutation in your email.
- Don’t be a repeat offender.
- Follow up in person at the next class to apologize.
If you’re just here for the sample email templates, jump there now by clicking here.
1. Read the rules before emailing your professor
Before you send off that email to tell your teacher that you’re not attending class, it might be a good idea to see if there are any rules governing what to do if you’re not going to make it to class.
There’s two places to look:
- Log onto your university’s website and check if there’s a university-wide or school-wide policy governing absences. Most university websites have a student resources section. Simply do a search in that section for an ‘absences policy’.
- Check your course handbook for any mention of an absences policy. The course handbook is something the teacher usually writes up at the start of each semester saying what their expectations of you are. You’ll find it on your course’s webpage or LMS (Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, etc.).
If there’s a policy, this means you’ll have some clear instructions that you’ll need to follow.
Look, I’m a professor and I haven’t got a clue what the policies are. But when a student emails me and says “Hi, I’ve checked the policy and it says I should do this…” I usually am pretty impressed and give the student the tick of approval because it looks like they’ve been diligent!
If there’s no clear policy or you can’t find it after searching for and/or through the above two documents, never mind. Move on to Step 1 …
2. Email your Professor as Early as Possible
Teachers hate last minute emails. It comes across as sloppy, ill-prepared and worst of all, as if you don’t care about your learning!
We understand that if it’s an emergency you can’t help it.
But if you’re not going to be attending class next week … tell your teacher right away!
It’s polite, it shows you’re dedicated to your studies, and gives your teacher the opportunity to provide you with additional support materials.
Sometimes your professor might give you what’s called an ‘in lieu’ task. This is a little activity instead of the class activity that they can assign … and then they won’t give you any penalties for missing class if you complete this task.
Email your professor early because, frankly, it’s the right thing to do, and they’ll have a better opinion of you for doing it.
If you can’t make it on the day because of an emergency – just email them as soon as you can! If you’re reading this blog post that probably means … you should email them right now! Or … straight after you read the following tips …
3. Don’t Lie
When you email your professor, don’t lie.
There are two people who always know when you lie: your teacher and your mother.
I had a student once who told me he couldn’t make it to class because the train drivers were on strike. Little did he know that we lived right next to each other, and I managed to get the train to work that morning just fine. No picket lines anywhere.
If you lie, you’re more likely than anything to end up looking like a fool.
As I argue in my post on 21 most common excuses for skipping class, lies from students are SO see through. You’re better off just saying:
“Hey, I’m going to miss class for this small, stupid reason. I’m sorry, and I’m going to make up for it.”
Tell the Truth. Then tell them you’ll do better next time.
The trick once you’re told the truth is to tell your teacher that you’re planning on fixing your mistake in the future. You want to show your teacher that you’re being proactive so it doesn’t happen again.
Check out the email template at the end of this post to see how you can be honest and contrite while also suggesting ways you’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.
So to summarize this point: if your teacher finds out you lied, you’ll lose their respect for good. So you’re better off just telling the truth and showing how you’ll do better next time.
4. Show you’ve done your Homework
If the teacher set weekly readings, quizzes, tests or activities, make sure you let the teacher know that you’ve done them.
If you show your teacher that you’ve done your homework, they’ll at least acknowledge that you haven’t been slacking off.
Showing that you have done your homework will also make your reason for missing class more believable. Your teacher will look at you and think “This student is engaged and paying attention, and is genuinely just missing class as a one-off.”
Showing you’ve done your homework might also convince your teacher not to dock any points. This is especially important for students who have a percentage of their mark assigned for “In-Class Participation”.
One way to show you’ve done your homework is take a photograph of the notes you’ve taken on the weekly readings and embed them in the email itself. This will say “Look, here’s some proof that I’ve made a big effort this week, and I really regret that I’m going to miss out on the class to discuss it.”
5. Don’t Make more Work for the Teacher
We HATE when students’ laziness creates more work for us.
What does this mean for you missing class?
Well, it means:
1. Don’t Request a Meeting
You shouldn’t ask them to have a one-to-one meeting with you later in the week. Later in this post, I’ll talk to you about attending drop-in hours, which is a better option.
But a special meeting just for you is telling the teacher: “I don’t value your time.” You missed the arranged seminar time. You miss out.
Why would your professor want to create an extra half an hour of work for themselves because you couldn’t make your commitment?
2. Don’t Request an In-Lieu Task
It also means that you shouldn’t ask them to create new activities for you. If they choose to create an in-lieu task, that’s on them. But don’t ask them to do it.
You’ll see that both of these options are perfectly reasonable, but only if the teacher suggests it.
Below, I’ll suggest some other things you can ask the teacher to do for you that won’t take much of the professor’s additional time, which means you can show you care and you’re committed to your studies, without annoying them!
6. Ask for the Class Worksheets or Lecture Slides
In your email to your professor, quickly let them know that you’d love them to send through any class worksheets or lecture slides that you’ll miss out on if they’re handy.
This will show the lecturer that you’re willing and committed to learning and that you really don’t want to miss out on anything.
But, it’s also something that won’t waste the teacher’s time.
There’s a good chance your teacher will have a few documents they can quickly flick off to you that will show you what’s going on in the class for the day.
I know I have folders for each week and whenever a student emails me saying they won’t make it to class, I flick off all the files for the week and ask them to read through them to keep up to date.
So this is a good option for showing you want to do well without wasting the teacher’s time or annoying them.
7. Attach Evidence
If you have a good excuse for missing class, it’s good to provide some evidence so they know you’re legit.
Frankly, unless I see evidence, I don’t believe a soul. I may be jaded, but I’ve seen every trick in the book. And really – they’re usually pretty poor excuses anyway.
So just attach some evidence. It’s not that hard!
Here’s some simple ways:
- Car broke down? Send a picture of your smoking engine or that flat tire.
- Kid’s sick? Send the receipt from the doctor (or better yet a doctor’s certificate).
- Traffic Jam? Send a picture of yourself in the traffic jam!
As you can see, evidence doesn’t necessarily have to be official. It just needs to be something to show the teacher that you’re genuinely missing class for a legitimate reason.
8. Use a Salutation
A salutation is the line at the beginning and end of an email that usually reads “Dear,” and “Regards,”. And students are increasingly forgetting to use it.
Students these days are REALLY bad at sending emails.
Don’t treat an email like a text message. Actually write your email like it’s a formal (or at least semi-formal) discussion.
This means that the email needs:
- An opening line that says “Dear Teacher,”
- A closing line that says “Regards, Chris”
- Capital letters and correct punctuation
- A quick edit before sending it off.
Nothing – I mean nothing – infuriates teachers more than students who send emails like they’re text messages.
We complain about it in the faculty lounge ALL the time. It’s out number 1 thing to complain about.
So be polite and (semi-)formal in your email if you want your teacher to treat you seriously.
9. Don’t be a Repeat Offender
This is obvious. But there’s probably a less obvious point that you should know as well. This is:
If you’re late to class or miss it entirely, you can bet that every other teacher you currently have will know about it. So when I say ‘Don’t be a repeat offender’, I mean not only in Professor A’s class, but also Professor B and Professor C’s class.
If you’re that student who turns up late every time, we will remember. If you’re that student who skips class all the time, we will remember. And the more you lose your teachers’ good graces, the more you’ll start being seen as a “bad student”.
10. Follow Up: Turn up to the Teacher’s Drop-In Hours (But don’t hang around)
Here’s the real clincher that’ll get you back in your teacher’s good graces.
I told you earlier not to ask for a special one-to-one tutorial. It wastes the teacher’s time and drives us all up the wall.
So, what do you do?
Do a little bit of research on your course webpage (Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, or whatever system your university uses) and find out when the teacher has drop-in hours.
Turn up to those drop in hours to personally apologize and ask no more than 3 questions about the weekly content.
Turning up to drop-in hours shows you respect the teacher’s time and haven’t asked for any special privileges. You turned up when you were supposed to turn up.
Why no more than 3 Questions?
Because you wasted enough of their time already.
Asking 3 Questions means you make an appearance, show your face and show you’ve tried to catch up. But it also shows you respect their time and want to be in and out as quickly as possible so they can get on with their day.
11. Sample Email Template 1: You’re Sick
Dear [Lecturer’s Name],
I’m very sorry to say I am going to miss the class on Tuesday.
I have fallen Ill and have a case of the dizziness – it’s making it hard to get out of bed. I will aim to bring a Doctor’s certificate in to class next week for you.
I had a look over the lecture slides on the weekend, and I think I understand them well enough. I am wondering if there were any worksheets or materials that you were planning on using in class that you could quickly send off to me to look over them as well?
Again, I sincerely apologize and do hope to be back on my feet next week to catch up.
12. Sample Email Template 2: Transit Delays
Dear [Teacher’s Name],
I’m currently sitting on the i5 highway trying to get in to class. Unfortunately there’s been an accident a little way up and the highway is at a standstill.
I do hope to make it in time, but it’s looking unlikely.
Apologies for this!
13. Sample Email Template 3: A Work Commitment
Dear [Professor’s Name],
I am wanting to get in touch about missing class next week.
There has been a staffing problem at my workplace and they have needed me to come in to work on Tuesday (which is obviously when we have our class!).
I have been clear with my work that I should not be scheduled for work days but it looks like these competing commitments have clashed this once. They have assured me that this is a one-off and they will find a solution for the following Tuesday.
I will do my best to look over the materials you have provided for this week and I have asked some friends for them to share their notes with me.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.