How to Thank a Favorite Professor

Whether you’re about to graduate from college or you just finished your first semester, you may have encountered a professor (or two or three) who had a major impact on your college career. It could be the extra time he spent making sure you passed a class; it could be the way she exposed you to a passion you didn’t know you had for a certain field or topic; it could be his teaching style that made you feel inspired and motivated after every class meeting.

Being a professor is hard — and often thankless — work. If you’ve had a truly great professor and want to thank him or her, consider the following gestures:

A heartfelt, handwritten note.

Think back to the last time you received a handwritten thank-you note or card. It likely wasn’t that recently. And yet receiving something that someone took the time to write out and plan makes nearly everyone feel fantastic — and that’s before they even read what’s inside. Consider writing a simple but genuine thank-you note or other card. It might seem like a basic gesture, but it can have a grand effect.

A heartfelt email.

If handwritten notes aren’t your thing (or if you’re worried about your handwriting), consider spending 20 minutes or so crafting an email that expresses your thanks. You can specifically address why and how your professor had such a significant impact, or you can talk generally about how grateful you are for all of their work.

A small but personalized gift.

If you know your professor loves a certain kind of candy or coffee, for example, consider giving them a small-denomination gift that shows you’ve remembered something that’s important to them. Don’t go too big, though; a huge gift certificate, for example, might seem, well, like too much. Consider something that’s more in line with a college student’s budget.

A donation to a cause that’s important to him or her.

If, for example, you connected with a professor over a shared personal passion or political activism, consider making a donation in honor of your professor. You can combine it with a thank-you note (see #1, above) to make the gesture even more personal.

Asking them to sign a copy of one of their books.

If your professor has published any books or, say, works of poetry lately, you can likely find copies in your campus bookstore. Grab a copy of their latest publication and ask your professor to sign it for you. It’s a win-win; you’ll get an autographed copy and they’ll likely be flattered you asked.

A gift card to a place you had a conversation at.

Whether it was a scheduled meet-up at a nearby restaurant or a casual run-in you had at a campus coffee shop that led to a longer conversation, a gift card to that specific place can be especially meaningful. You can make the whole package especially personalized by including the gift card with a note saying something similar to “Thank you for our conversation at ABC Location; it really had an impact on me. Here’s a gift certificate so you can have another meaningful conversation with a future student, too.”

Something you made by hand.

Are you a great photographer? Awesome painter? Budding poet? Skilled with wood? If so, consider making a small memento as a gesture of thanks. Accompanied by a small note, these kinds of gifts are personal, meaningful, and meant to last.

Give them a book that means a lot to you.

If you and your professor connected on a particular topic, consider giving him or her a copy of a book (or other piece of work) that means a lot to you that you think they also might enjoy. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive; as with all of these gift ideas, it’s the thought that matters the most.