Let’s play college professor-student Jeopardy. The answer is, “I emailed the information last week.” What’s the question?
The correct response is, “What’s on the next exam?” Other acceptable options include, “When’s the final?” and “How do I find the material on Blackboard?”
As a psychology professor, I’m often asked by students and parents for college success tips. The first and most straightforward piece of advice is what I preach every lecture, “Don’t forget to check your email.”
College Students Have Email Phobia
College students grossly underestimate the importance of email. They will readily check their Instagram account every few milliseconds yet totally ignore email. There are a couple of reasons for their email phobia.
This generation places email in the same category as Facebook – it’s an old people thing. They believe the function of email is to sign up for Amazon Prime, YouTube Premium, or social media accounts. Other than checking for the activation message, they see absolutely no reason to use email.
There’s also a learning curve associated with email. Efficient use of email requires mastering an application and creating an organizational scheme. Sadly, today’s students often don’t have the desire or patience to learn tech skills beyond click, like, and swipe.
Assuming your semi-adult child will take advice, and that’s a huge assumption, parents can help their kid master an “old people” thing. The following are email tips I provide students, which can be also be used by parents.
How to Use Email Like a Pro
1. Use a stand-alone email application
Brower-based email programs are adequate for skimming and ignoring messages. For college, a desktop email client, such as Apple’s Mail or Microsoft’s Outlook, is a better choice. (A PDF program, like Preview or Adobe Reader, should also be installed.)
2. Send emails from a “real” address
I jokingly tell students not to contact me via their fake email accounts. But I’m serious. A university’s spam screener or an email application’s filter will dump Hotmail and Yahoo messages into the junk folder. Google email is not much better. The safest bet for communicating with university personnel is sending a message from an “edu” account.
3. Know your boss
I don’t argue with students’ basic premise – email is an old people thing. I, however, point out that old people run universities and businesses. They can ignore my Facebook page, but if they want to pass General Psychology, they need to read my emails.
4. Forward Blackboard announcements
Students should always forward notifications from Blackboard or other online instructional platforms to their university email account.
5. Activate the junk filter
To my surprise, my college-bound son let me help him organize his Mail account. It was immediately apparent why he avoided email – the junk filter was not activated, and there were 100’s of worthless messages.
6. Delete old messages
My son watched too many episodes of Hoarders – he kept every email, and there were over 1000 messages. I gave him the parental lecture that purging is a life and email enhancing habit, and I showed him how to turn on the automatic empty trash after 30-days feature.
7. Create saved mailboxes
Most students believe that not deleting an email is the same as saving a message. It’s not. I encourage students to dedicate a saved inbox for each course and don’t delete class emails until the end of the term.
8. Bursar is a magical word
I tell students that “bursar” is Latin for “This is important, do not delete, and immediately forward to the parents.”
Helping your college-bound child learn how to use email is a requisite to a successful academic career. The life lesson won’t guarantee good grades, but at least your kid will know what’s on the next exam.
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