The Twenty-Three Unwritten Rules of College Etiquette

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

All colleges, no matter where they are located and no matter how big or how reputable they are, share some similar "rules of the road." These rules are really more about interpersonal interactions in college than they are about college itself. Nevertheless, the failure to abide by these simple rules gets students into heaps of trouble with their peers every year. 

Respect And Follow Your School's Honor Code

This is at the top of the list, because it is the most important rule of all. Don't cheat.



Even if you don't get caught, nothing will kill your reputation with your classmates faster than hearing, anecdotally or otherwise, that you were willing to cut corners to bail yourself out.

Go To Class And Get There On Time

It is disrespectful to your professor and distracting to your classmates to walk in to a lecture or seminar late. Sure"everyone is going to screw up every now and then, but don't make it a habit. It is rude, and if you do it too often, your professor will notice and may dock your grade for it.

Similarly, you should do everything you can to avoid missing class. If you don't think the professor has something valuable to teach you about a subject and can do so skillfully, don't take the class.

Be Prepared For Class And Be An Active Participant

A large part of the learning experience in college is what students teach each other, both inside and outside of class. If you have a question about a subject in lecture, raise your hand, wait to be called on, and ask it. Chances are, others are confused on the same point and will be grateful to you for stopping the train.

If it is a seminar or small-group class and your professor routinely solicits your active participation"then participate! Don't be afraid that you'll say something stupid. The only way to learn and gain confidence in learning is to stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Don't assume that the people who are talking actually know more than you do. In all likelihood, they are just more confident.

Don't Monopolize The Discussion

Having said that, no one likes the person who doesn't know when and how to shut up. Inevitably, there will be someone in your class missing this social filter - who thinks that his or her opinion on every minor point should be voice - who has his or her hand raised from the minute class begins until after it ends, and then also monopolizes the professor after class. This is the person who makes every question into one of politics or religion or whatever his or her hot-button issue might be.

Don't be this person.

Keep A Lid On Religion And Politics

Unless you are actually taking a religion or political science or political philosophy class, or have actually been invited to do so, try to keep a lid on your personal political and religious views. Nothing will polarize people to you faster than getting a reputation for being a screeching knee-jerk liberal, an unthinking gun-toting conservative, or a religious zealot (no matter what your faith). And once you have this reputation, it will follow you everywhere"into your other classes, into the dorms, and into your social life. If it is germane to the classroom discussion, then by all means express your views and listen to others. But do so with care.

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