Posted on 17-12-2009
Filed Under (Appropriate behavior) by Anita Kelly

This week Sarah wrote:

“I have a question for you about the appropriateness of thanking your professors at the end of a semester. Every once in a while, I feel so strongly about a professor that I want to thank them in an email or letter. I have had a few professors who have really gone out of their way to help me out. When this happens, and the end of the semester comes, it feels so unnatural not to send them a thank you letter. At the same time, it feels slightly unethical to me to send a professor a thank you note or email whenever my grade is not yet determined. I fear that they will feel pressured to give me a grade higher than I deserve. I also fear my professor will perceive my gratitude as an attempt to get a better grade. Do you think that thank you letters are appropriate, and if so, how can I write one in a way that my professor won’t perceive it to be an attempt to obtain a higher grade?”

Dear Sarah,

A solution is to send the thank-you letter after your grade has been submitted. But don’t worry if you send it a little early. We professors very much appreciate the sweet letters that students sometimes send us at the end of the term. We don’t see it as ingratiation. You can be as extreme as you want in your appreciation, which goes a long way to make your professor feel good and want to help students even more.

Thank you for your question for all of us to read! –Anita

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