What should I email a professor if I’m sick and …

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    Keep it simple:

    “Dear Professor Somethingorother,

    I’m feeling very under the weather and need to miss class today. I’ll be sure to get the notes/assignments from someone in class as soon as possible. See you Monday (or whatever).




    1. Don’t go on a harangue about the gruesome details of your illness. We don’t want to hear about how you spent the whole night throwing up or how much mucous you’re spewing. Of course we care about your well-being, but you’re an adult, and only you can determine if you’re well enough to attend class.
    2. We do appreciate your not dragging your walking biohazard into class if you think you’re contagious.
    3. Never ask “What did I miss?” We don’t have time to repeat material just for you. Make an effort to make friends in class so you have someone to help you catch up.
    4. (This may be just my rule) Don’t assume that a doctor’s note is going to garner you an “excused” absence. Generally, if you’re not in class for any reason, it’s an absence.
    5. And for the love of God, please don’t end your e-mail with “Sorry for the inconvenience.” I assure you, your absence is no inconvenience to us whatsoever.

    Dear Professor,

    I regret that I am un-available to attend this week’s class due to illness. I do not wish to miss anything of your wonderful class, so I have requested a friend of mine in your class to take notes for me as well as a obtain a duplicate set of handouts so that I will not be left behind in any way. Please excuse my absence and I look forward to returning to your class in the following week. Thank you for your understanding. Wish me a speedy recovery.


    James E. Sullivan


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    “I’m sorry. I am ill and will have to miss class on ‘day.’ Please let me know if there is anything I should do beyond getting notes from a classmate in order to miss as little as possible.”

    Just something simple and polite, not defensive or whiny. If you attend a school that uses things like doctors statements and you go for care, get one.

    When you are actually ill, there isn’t much you or the professor can do about it. You are extending a social courtesy and letting them know you weren’t just skipping class and do care about doing well.


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    For high school classes,

    Dear Mr. Smith,

    I apologize for my absence in today’s class, but because I am sick I’m unable to go to school. I will do all the work I can from today’s class at home and discuss with you next class on anything else I missed.


    Elizabeth Lambert (3rd Period Adv. Language Arts)

    And you can adjust the wording to however it fits your situation. I literally just did this today.


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    Short and sweet. Memo to Professor Morning Class From: You

    Re: Attendance

    Please accept my apologies for not attending the (time) (class name)class on (date) (or you can give a period of time. I am ill and will be home recuperating. I hope to return to class soon. Thank you. OR I have contracted a virus and am likely to be contagious. I hope to return to class as soon as possible.

    Your professor does not need to know your temp, how many times you’ve thrown up or any other symptoms. If he or she wants ‘proof’ of you illness (unlikely that they will), he or she will let you know. Short and sweet. Remember, you’re sick and don’t feel like writing a novel.

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    “Dear mr/mrs. so-and-so,

    I’m writing with regard to the upcoming class and am writing to you to let you know that I can’t make it. The reason for my absence is that I’ve recently contracted [INSERT ILLNESS] and am unable to attend your lecture. Even though I feel too ill to attend, could you please write in your response what I could do in my own time so that I could cover the material of the lecture.

    Best regards,


    It’s not really that difficult to write an email. Address it, begin politely stating your purpose and then explain briefly the reason for taking time out of their day. Make no impositions on them but ask politely for them to help you help yourself. Finish it off with phrase carrying positivity and respect.

    If there is really a need for you to email your professor (and that’s a big “if”), then you should just say that you’re sick and will be missing class. In this, as in many other things in life, the best option is to just go ahead and be truthful. In case there is a special reason why not missing that particular class was important (there was a quiz, or an exam, etc.) then you should also attach a doctor’s note or state clearly that you will get one over the course of the day and bring it later to the professor.

    However, for many professors (including me when I teach), and this is the reason I said above that that’s a really big “if”, it really is immaterial whether you go to class or not. When it’s up to me, I never take attendance, and honestly I think it’s none of my business if a student misses classes or not, since the student should be responsible for understanding the material. If the student attends but does terrible at exams because they weren’t paying attention, then attendance was worthless. If the student doesn’t attend but learns the material by reading (or by any other method) and does well in the exam, it would be stupid on my part to penalize the lack of attendance. Obviously, if you miss class and intend to come to office hours to make questions so you can catch up, then letting me know that there were serious reasons why you missed the class is only the polite thing to do. But otherwise, there’s really no need to e-mail me, and I know many professors have similar policies.

    It’s good to ask them what you should do to make up for your absence, and be sure to cite back to them anything in the syllabus that works in your favor. It shows that you actually care about the class, and that you took the time to be invested in this class. Something like

    Dear Professor, I won’t be in class because of XYZ illness, and I’d like to keep up with the material, as I find this class interesting, important, etc. Looking at the syllabus, steps ABC are what I will do to make up for this absence. I was wondering if there is anything else I should do or if you have anything for me to work on.


    Sick Student

    It does depends on the professor in my experience, and the school you are attending. I went to a small school where I got to know my professors personally, so sending them an email was always a good idea.

    You email them and politely inform them that you’re sick and will be missing class. Your professor may or may not respond, and depending on their policy, they may or may not excuse your absence.

    For myself, I grant students two – three “free” absences per semester (equivalent to the one sick day a month that I get at work) — no questions asked. You can use those absences without hurting your attendance/participation grade for when you’re really sick, or have to go to your dog’s funeral, or just want to soak up some rays on the first nice warm spring day of the semester. But use them wisely — I don’t catch you up on anything that was covered in class, and if you are sick more later after you’ve used the “freebies”, I’m not going to let you be excused, unless you can give me solid, valid proof of why you needed to be absent (and sorry, those vague doctor’s notes saying you went into their office and the doctor told you to take two aspirin and stay in bed for a couple of days) isn’t going to cut it with me).

    Professor x,

    I’ve got a serious cold. I’m going to skip your 2 PM class in order to avoid infecting my classmates. I’ll pick up notes and the day’s assignment from Jennifer.


    Your name here

    It’s a nice thought to tell the professor you’re sick!


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    If you feel you need to let your professor know you’ll have to miss a class, just keep it simple: “Dr. Jones, I will be absent from Archaeology 221 Section A on 2019 June 21 because I have a medical procedure scheduled for that day.” Take the same approach to requesting an extension for an assignment due date or some other dispensation.

    Sometimes, things come up without warning: sudden illnesses, accidents, deaths in the family and the like. Reasonable instructors recognize that such things happen. Of course, when it happens too often, even the most understanding instructors might suspect they’re being played. I had one student with recurring tales of woe that could have come from a bad parody of bad soap operas.

    Before you bother with notifying your professor, check the course and institution requirements. Some courses require a minimum level of participation. On the other hand, some professors take the attitude that coming to class is the student’s responsibility — for them, as long as you get the classwork done and write your exams, you’re good to go.

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