It is that time of year again! Students are registering for classes, complaining about the server crashing, and sending emails to professors for overrides. Since I am teaching a highly sought after elective next spring, I now get the pleasure of reading the same request from a number of students asking “Can I get into your class?”. I know I am not alone in reading these requests. Although all the students asking will not receive an override into this course, due to physical space in the classroom and pedagogical issues, there are some things students should consider when asking for an override from any professor. [Note: With the exception of one or two requests received so far this semester, the requests have been professional and well written.]
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1. Use a full salutation.–As ironic as this sounds you will be amazed the number of students that send an email request that begins with “Hi”. I know you thought there would be more to that, me too, but no, the beginning of the e-mail is literally “Hi”. This is only acceptable if we are continuing a conversation, and even then this form of greeting is questionable.
2. Provide context.–Yes, you have made it clear in the subject line you are seeking an override, but you never indicate in your email the course for which you are seeking an override. Most professors teach more than one course, thus you need to indicate in the body of the email the course under discussion. If you placed this information in the subject line, write it again in the body of the email.
3. Consider the language and tone of your email–Using phrases in your email, such as “I need…,” “I have been screwed…,” “My degree depends on…,” “If you don’t let me in the course I won’t be able to graduate,” etc., is often read with much skepticism. Keep in mind that you are making a request, not a ransom demand. Thus the appropriate language and tone for such a request should be utilized.
4. Set reasonable expectations to receive a reply.– It is rather unlikely that the email you sent at 6 a.m. will receive a reply by 8 a.m., or noontime, or 5 p.m. It is also unlikely that you will immediately receive an override into the course. Overrides are often granted to hardship cases first.
5. Realize you are not alone.–Sure, you know other people are still seeking entrance into a course, but you must also realize you are not the only person emailing the professor. For example, yesterday I received approximately 15 emails from 15 students within a two hour window for one course. I am sure that does not sound like a lot, but take into consideration that some of these emails were literally minutes apart and all the students request were the same. This does not take into account the emails I will continue to receive until the first day of classes next spring.
Granted this post does not provide you advice for obtaining an override into a course. However, this post does provide you with an inside perspective of how some professors view your override request. Next time you request an override consider the receiver of the message and how they will respond. Professors understand your degree curriculum, so act accordingly.
What has been your experience with requesting overrides or receiving override requests? Comment below.