How to Write a Great Thank You Letter to a Professor: Step-By-Step

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A good teacher will teach you the information you need to learn to pass a class but a great teacher will teach you things that will enrich your life in the long run. When someone goes above and beyond for you, it’s important to acknowledge it and express your gratitude. 

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What’s the best way to say, “thank you for your support” to a professor you enjoyed? Many professors really appreciate a heartfelt thank you letter. This kind of letter is generally longer and more formal than a quick email. 

Here, we break down how to write a great thank you letter to a professor step-by-step. We’ve also included some samples for reference. 

Steps for Writing the Best Thank You Note for Your Professor

Follow these steps and produce an impressive thank you note to say "thank you, Professor":

  1. Go postal
  2. Start and end with appropriate salutations
  3. Open by saying thank you
  4. Include a quote
  5. Give more specific details
  6. Be positive
  7. Be sincere
  8. Keep it short and sweet
  9. Say thank you again

Step 1: Go postal

If you’ve grown up in the modern era, you may do most of your communication digitally. Texts and emails are quick and effective ways to communicate. But there’s something special about sending correspondence through the mail. It feels more personal and intimate.

Take a little extra time to send a letter to your teacher or professor. You can mail it directly to the school to your professor’s attention or drop it off at the office. That personal touch will make your letter feel extra special. You can still type your letter if your handwriting isn’t the best.

Step 2: Start and end with appropriate salutations

When writing a formal letter, it’s important to address the recipient by his or her title. You can start it with something like, “Dear Professor Smith” or “Dear Dr. Jones.” If you’re unsure of your professor’s title, you can always check the college or university website.

When you close your letter, be sure to choose an appropriate sendoff as well. “Sincerely” is always a classic signoff before you sign your name. You can also use something like “with gratitude” in conclusion.   

Step 3: Open by saying thank you

When writing any kind of formal letter, it’s best to open with the general purpose of your letter. It sets up the expectation for what the rest of the correspondence will be about. 

Step 4: Include a quote 

For extra panache, you can open your letter with a quote about gratitude. Check out our list of thank you quotes for inspiration. 

Step 5: Give more specific details

In your next paragraph, you’ll want to expand on the reasons behind your thank you. Here is where you’ll give some more specific details about why you’re thanking your professor.

You could thank her for always being available to help you revise papers. You could thank your professor for being understanding when you had a personal crisis that interfered with schoolwork. You could thank her for writing you a reference letter. Just break down each idea into its own brief paragraph. 

Teachers and professors don’t always get specific feedback from students. They may get generic feedback in an end-of-year survey. But they will appreciate knowing what specifically they’ve done to make an impact on you. This section is really the heart and soul of your thank you letter. 

Step 6: Be positive

A thank you letter should be uplifting. You may be thanking your professor for helping you through some hard times.

Don’t dwell too much on the details of those difficulties. Instead, focus on the gratitude aspect of your letter. 

Step 7: Be sincere

You may feel like a formal letter has to be devoid of personality. That’s not always the case, though. A letter should show elements of your personality and character.

You can best achieve this by being sincere in your appreciation.

Step 8: Keep it short and sweet

Even if you’re overflowing with gratitude for your professor, you don’t have to go overboard. If your letter is too lengthy, your gratitude may actually be buried.

They say brevity is the soul of wit. But brevity is important in many other ways, too. 

Step 9: Say thank you again

If you had to write a term paper for your professor’s class, he likely taught you to wrap up the paper by restating your thesis. The same thing applies to a formal letter. Reiterate the reason you’re writing the letter at its conclusion. 

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Sample Thank You Letters to Your Professor

Here are some examples of what a thank you letter might look like for a few different occasions. 

Thanking your professor for a recommendation

Dear Professor Smith,

I just wanted to send a quick note to thank you for writing me a letter of recommendation. Truthfully, I had been on the fence about applying to grad school. When you asked what my plans for the future were and offered to write me a recommendation, it gave me the push I needed.

Over the past four years, I’ve learned so much from your classes. But the most important thing I’ve appreciated is your belief in me. Because you set such high expectations for me, I tried to raise my academic level to meet them. I’m a better researcher and writer because of you.

Again, thank you for seeing something in me and encouraging me to be better. Thanks for believing in me enough to write me a letter of recommendation. Your support means more to me than I can express.

Sincerely,

Abby White

Thanking your professor for teaching you

Dear Dr. Jones, 

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for teaching me this semester. I’ve never been moved to write a thank you note to a teacher before. But that’s probably because I’ve never had an instructor like you. 

First, I want to thank you for keeping the class reading list so affordable. For so many of my classes, the reading lists cost hundreds of dollars. You did a great job keeping it affordable for students working their way through school like me. 

Second, I want to commend you for your patience with all students. You were so understanding about the fact that people have real-life issues that can interfere with schooling. I think it’s especially great that you allowed a student to come into a lecture with her child when her babysitter was sick. I know a lot of other professors wouldn’t have been so understanding. I also appreciate that you have a flexible attendance policy for students with chronic illnesses.

Finally, I want to thank you for your teaching style. You really seem engaged with the material you’re teaching, and that makes it more exciting for students. I also appreciated the supplemental videos and notes you provided. It added more to my understanding of your course.  

Your understanding and compassion for all students are really admirable qualities. Thank you for making this semester so transformative.

With gratitude,

Matt Markson

Thanking a professor for working with you

Dear Professor Buckley,

I wanted to reach out and thank you for all the support you showed me last semester.

As you know, I had many health issues as well as personal dramas in my life last year. But when I approached you about dropping your class, you were determined to help me figure things out so I could graduate on time. Not a lot of professors would have recorded their own lectures so a student could attend class remotely. You went above and beyond for me.

I also appreciate you letting me have extended deadlines for my papers. Being able to get things in on a delayed schedule made a huge difference for me.

Henry Adams said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Please know that your influence on my life will affect me until the end of time. I will forever be thankful for your patience and kindness.

All the best,

Mary Lipton 

Thank Your Professor or Teacher with a Letter 

Teachers and professors can have a profound impact on our lives. When they do, it’s important to communicate what that means to you. Professors don’t gravitate toward wealth or prestige. At their core, they really want to make a difference in people’s lives.

Take some time to type or handwrite a letter to thank your professor for everything. Your professor will appreciate it more than you could know.  

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