College is a new environment with sometimes new-to-you social obligations and norms. Read on for my 12 modern etiquette tips for students!
If you have a question that pertains to your personal circumstances and does not involve information relevant for your classmates, ask it before or after class, or via email, instead of asking right as class is ending. It makes everyone late for their next class and is only helpful to you.
If the professor is ok with you eating a quick lunch or snack, do so quickly, quietly, and with minimal impact on other students’ learning. Skip eating the most obnoxiously loud foods if you are going to be in an echoing chamber room for a lecture. And please, for everyone, avoid the smelly stuff if possible. A tuna fish sandwich is the lunch that keeps on…stinking.
Don’t have multiple conversations going at once. If the professor is talking, listen. If your classmate is talking, listen. If you are talking and a pair of students are twittering away in a corner, feel free to pause, give them a pointed look, and wait for them to realize they are being rude before continuing.
This also applies to conversations via texting and social media. As in, wait to have them until after class ends.
With Professors, Deans, and Administrators
Refer to instructors and administrators in both person and writing by their appropriate title. If someone has a PhD, call them “Dr. So-and-So” (not Miss, Mr., or Mrs.). You can also use “Professor So-and-So” for anyone you know teaches in some capacity for the school.
Knock on office doors, even open ones, to announce your presence. Ask if they are at a good stopping point or if they would like you to wait somewhere. They will appreciate the opportunity to wrap up an email or sentence, and can then better focus on your meeting.
These aren’t your buddies or friends. You can act friendly if you see instructors outside of the university-setting, but don’t invite them to dinner or a party, gossip about other classmates or professors with them, or ask them on a date (SERIOUSLY, NO).
With Your Roommates
Don’t assume another person’s possessions are available for communal use, even if left in a common area. As in, ask before you snarf down your roommate’s bag of Doritos after class.
Similarly, when sharing space be mindful of what is potentially distracting or annoying to another. Ask if you can play music or if they prefer you wear headphones. Don’t blast the tv if someone is obviously studying. Divide up those necessary chores (like emptying the garbage or cleaning a sink) instead of assuming the other person will do it. Oh, and don’t be a martyr – if you don’t like something about your living arrangement, speak up and initiate a discussion with your roommate about how to improve the situation together.
Be mindful of guests. Perhaps agree on a time limit for overnight guests and always check with your roommates in advance that they are comfortable with the invited person staying one or more nights. Do not do anything that requires your roommates to be complicit in breaking school rules, such as hosting an overnight guest of the opposite sex if your dorm is strictly single-sex.
Attending School Social Functions
It is polite but not necessary to bring a small gift to a faculty member’s house for dinner, but scale it to what is reasonable. Anything too elaborate looks like you are trying to curry favor with a professor. A small plant or flowers, non-alcoholic beverages, or a dessert is a nice gesture.
On campus, make sure to know and adhere to the function’s dress code.
If you will be interacting with alumni, dignitaries, or local leaders, understand what your role is in being there. Are you meant to listen and learn? Ask questions? Speak about some aspect of student life? Make sure to participate and contribute to the event’s success.