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I am an undergrad student who has recently taken a course under a professor. I sent him an email last Thursday for confirmation that I will be allowed to register for his course (it has not started yet).

I did not receive a reply for the next two days, but did not find anything amiss in that, since professors do take their time while responding to emails, and the weekend was approaching.

I received a reply three days later on Sunday night with a positive response and some general information about the course and the first class. About 10 minutes later, I received another email as a correction to the first response.

I did see both the emails on my phone late in the night since I can access GMail on it, but I didn't respond yet at the time, since emails typed on the phone seem to have weird formatting at times. So, I decided to respond to the email the next day (today, Monday) on my laptop once my classes are done (this particular class hasn't begun yet).

But today afternoon, I received a rather curt email from the Professor asking me why I haven't responded yet and if I am still interested in taking his class (I very much am). This surprised me since it hasn't even been 24 hours since his last email and the course does not begin until 2 days from now.

I know I should have responded from my phone right when I saw his response last night, formatting issues notwithstanding, and I do tend to procrastinate answering emails, so that is my mistake. But I did not think it would be a big deal.

Of course, now my course of action is to just apologize, but I would like to know if this was an outlier or the standard in academia.

I know that it is common to wait a few days before expecting a response from a professor, but is there a standard regarding student replies to a professor?

If it matters, I am from a country in Asia.

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    Was there any reason why the professor was expecting a response at all (other than maybe a thanks)? Was there some information he needed immediately from you?
    – GoodDeeds
    Sep 27 '21 at 11:10
  • @GoodDeeds Apart from thanks and a general acknowledgement that I read his email, he wasn't expecting anything. There was no question or anything.
    – user147417
    Sep 27 '21 at 11:12
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    "I received a rather curt email" How sure are you about that? How explicitly was the professor saying that he was unhappy? Sep 27 '21 at 11:49
  • @Snijderfrey I'd rather not give too much away in case the prof finds this (arguably there's already a lot of info here), but you can take my word for the fact that he sounded irritated in the email.
    – user147417
    Sep 27 '21 at 12:20
  • "I know I should have responded from my phone right when I saw his response last night" No, you shouldn't have. No professor expects students to answer emails late in the night on a Sunday night.
    – Stef
    Sep 27 '21 at 19:16
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There are maybe cultural & disciplinary differences, but personally I never expect a student to reply outside of normal working hours (9-5ish), and I also tell my students not to expect a reply from me outside of those hours.

It's unclear whether your request was time sensitive (Was there a waiting list for the class? Were other students waiting to hear if there was a spot for them?). If it was, then I would have expected a response on Monday morning. If not, then I think a response within 24-48hrs would have been absolutely fine. Finally, if the professor did expect a quick response, then they really should have said this in the email to avoid confusion.

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  • Thanks for the answer. About the time-sensitivity, I don't really know if there was one because he didn't mention any. One situation I can imagine is registering me for the course on Moodle, but the class doesn't start until 2 days, so I don't know. regarding the waiting list, I would be very surprise if that was the case, since the course is from a small department in the university, and the very reason I had to email him for confirmation is because undergrad students aren't affiliated to this department, so undergrads taking this course is rare.
    – user147417
    Sep 27 '21 at 11:18
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    @user147417 Two days is not exactly a long time before the course starts. The professor might have had some free time just then allowing him to do some organizational stuff. Sep 27 '21 at 11:52
  • @Snijderfrey I think you could be right about this, my fault that I hadn't considered this.
    – user147417
    Sep 27 '21 at 12:21
  • @user147417 Two days is a very short amount of time before the class starts. Indeed, it probably already "started" this week, and is only scheduled for Wednesday (if I'm reading right). In short, your prof probably needed to add you and was worried he might not have time or see your email if you waited any longer to reply. You don't need to keep apologizing for everything, but in this case, yes, they were probably anticipating a prompt reply. Sep 27 '21 at 20:29
  • It's easy for someone who has been in the university system for a long time to forget students don't know all the ins and outs. Sep 27 '21 at 20:29

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