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Communication at Harvard

If there’s one stereotype that the movies get horribly wrong about Harvard kids it’s that we’re all socially awkward. Hell, I’d even go so far as to say a lot of you secured the opportunities that have made us stand out in the admissions process purely because we were better, more articulate communicators than those around us. That being said, there’s a learning curve to everything, including communicating at school. This paragraph isn’t going to teach you how to nail that initial conversation with your Annenberg crush, but it’ll do something way more important: make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself in front of the administration of Harvard. Unlike your dhall crush that was secretly hoping you’d have a more charming pick-up line than commenting on the gold-to-brown ratio on their Veritaffle, professors and TF’s have no incentive to forget the weird communication blunder you made when you first addressed them. In fact, world-class academics tend to have memories that would make card-counting in a casino a walk in the park. This is all a long-winded way of saying you don’t get to mess up your work-related emails around these parts. So let’s get down and dirty with a little crash course of common scenarios you might find yourself in in freshman year that needs you to address admin members along with some Do’s and Don’ts about the way to go about it. 

Scenario 1 - Emailing Proctors about roommate troubles. 

First and foremost, the roommate agreement exists for a reason. Contrary to popular belief, your proctors don’t cease to exist outside of the realm of study breaks and the occasional birthday message on the GroupMe that’s less inhabited than remote parts of the Sub-Saharan desert. They’re at school to study too, so don’t waste their time with something that you can sort out with your roommates. If you’ve tried referring to the roommate agreement or the grievance falls outside of that scope, then it’s time to escalate it to your proctor. Nothing less, understood?


  • Lead with the information most relevant to the problem. They don’t care that you have been having a great time in Wigglesworth thus far and don’t regret your decision regarding the scent you picked for your diffuser in the common-room. 
  • Be polite and courteous. It costs you nothing to throw in a please and thank you into the mix there. It wastes minimal time and goes a long way.
  • Send it from your bright and sparkly email.
  • Type it in Times New Roman so you seem as studious as your 3am hikes to the laundry room make you seem.


  • Send it from your fifth grade email address - they don’t know who is (and quite frankly, they don’t want to find out).
  • Don’t send it in comic sans. Paraphrased: respect yourself, kid. 

Scenario 2 - Asking a TF for an extension.

No matter how smart and clever your friends and family have led you to believe you are, you’re still a human being capable of time mismanagement. Own up to it and address it early with an email to your TF asking for an extension. It makes their lives a whole lot easier knowing they’re going to receive your paper a few days later rather than a crisis-email at 4am the day it’s due explaining why you are the biggest victim humanity has ever produced and the expectation of submitting this paper on-time is the greatest injustice ever committed. 


  • Cite the fact that you’re sorry for the very legitimate inconvenience this is causing them.


  • Embellish the sob-story until it’s scored to Stairway to Heaven.
  • Cite how much you speak in section even though no one else does.
  • Cite how you do the bare minimum by showing up to your 9am section on time every time besides that one time and a few other times too.
  • Cite the fact that you’ve had a clean sheet regarding submissions up-until now.
  • Expect them to say yes just because you sent this email. They owe you nothing and ultimately it is your fault if you don’t meet the requirements of the deadline. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world if you get a slightly worse grade for a late submission. The world keeps turning when people get A-’s too, you know?

Scenario 3 - Asking a professor about their office hours.

Congratulations kiddo, you’ve cracked the code to how to get the best out of your Harvard education. Office hours are the unspoken rule of success around here. If you go to them, you’re going to have a far less bumpy ride than some of your less diligent peers will. That being said, there’s some serious Icarus-potential here. Professors are the bid-dogs around campus and the way you address them is the most important feature of your communication at Harvard. 


  • Bring up what you found interesting in lecture if it’s relevant.
  • Lead with the fact that you’re enjoying the class or finding it interesting and rewarding if and only if that’s the truth.


  • Call them by their first names (unless they’ve specifically stated that you can). This should be intuitive, but there’s an assumed baseline of respect at work here.
  • Open the email up with a “Hi.” like they’re your ex and you’re drunkenly texting them from Jefe’s at 3am. “Dear Professor [Blank],” is more of the move in this case. 
  • Write them a novella because you admire their work and have always wanted to study under them and you’re getting flushed just from typing this email. 

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Rheede Erasmus,  Editor in Chief
Brammy Rajakumar, Publishing Director
Hannah Phan, Studio 67 Managing Director
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