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.
Don't Embarass Your Fellow Students
If a classmate is struggling with an answer to a professor's question, don't be the person hotdogging with your hand in the air to prove that you know what your classmate doesn't. If you do get called on, be circumspect and respectful in your response. Try not to show up your classmates. It is fine to disagree with classmates on points of discussion; without such disagreement, classes would be pretty boring. But always be respectful in the way you address your classmates and the points they make. Never preface your responses with snide remarks ("That's stupid") or personal snipes ("That's because you're a tree hugger"). It might be funny for a moment - but that moment of comedy at the expense of a classmate won't make you any friends and will polarize certain members of the class against you.
Don't Talk To Your Friends In Class
You are in class to learn, not to socialize with your friends. If you are going to take a class with a friend or roommate, you'll learn more and focus more on the lecture if you sit apart from your friend and focus on the matter at hand. If you insist on sitting together, though, at least remember this rule. It is rude to the professor and disrespectful to the people around you for you to be whispering and giggling with your friends during class. At a minimum, it will annoy the people around you. At worst, the professor will stop his or her lecture and ask you to stop - which could be very embarrassing and have a negative effect on your grade in the class.
Turn Off The Gadgets (Cell Phone, Blackberry, Internet)
The same rule applies for all your electronic gadgetry. It is fine to take notes on a laptop (try to tap quietly so you don't bother your classmates), but it is certainly not fine for your cell phone to ring during a lecture, to be seen sending e-mails from your Blackberry during lecture, or to spend the lecture playing Internet poker. Professors aren't stupid - they will catch on eventually. Even if they don't, your fellow students will see you, and you'll get the reputation for being a slacker. Then, when you need notes from a lecture you missed, they'll be less inclined to give them to you.
Don't Talk About Or Complain About Grades
This is a biggie.
Everyone hates the "gunner" - you know, the student who constantly talks about and whines about grades. The one who is constantly going to the professor's office hours to try to glean what the exam questions are going to be or to brownnose or otherwise suck up to the professor.
Don't Go To The Professor's Office Hours To Lobby For A Better Grade
The only thing worse than the person who talks about grades all the time is the more cunning person who goes to his or her professor's office hours after a midterm or paper comes back and lobbies for an upward adjustment. Listen well to this piece of advice. Unless your professor has obviously misgraded your midterm by marking something wrong that was actually correct, don't go to office hours looking for a grade change. All that will do for you is get you a reputation as a gunner among the faculty and among your classmates. And that's a rep you don't want to get.
Keep Your Commitments
This is a simple one. There are opportunities to exhibit this trait all over the place in college - in your room, in the dorm or fraternity house, in class, and in your sports and extracurricular activities - and falling down here can have very detrimental effects on your reputation. Make commitments carefully, and once you make them, keep them.
Don't Be A Mooch
. . Neither is the mooch.
We've all met the mooch. The mooch is the person who asks to borrow money, but always forgets to pay it back. The person who, when you go out to dinner in a group, always throws less money in the pile than he or she owes, assuming that others will overestimate what they owe. The person who is always borrowing things, always eating more than his or her share of the pizza, and always taking a couple of beers out of the fridge without ever returning, buying, or replenishing. The person who bums a ride to the airport from you but never offers to pay for gas or parking, and is always late paying his or her share of the cable bill.
Clean Up After Yourself
You'd think this one would be unnecessary to put in print, but guess what?
Apparently it isn't.
Keep your dirty laundry out of common areas, put your books and papers away after class, and throw out your half-finished sub from the night before. When you get back from the bathroom, stow your toiletries, and don't leave wet towels draped all over everything.
Be A Good Listener
Listening is truly an undervalued and underappreciated skill.
When a roommate or a friend comes to you with a problem and wants to talk, take it as a compliment that your opinion means enough to him to have been solicited.
And then sit back and listen.
Keep Secrets And Don't Gossip
This is a corollary to the previous rule. Anything shared with you in confidence stays that way. For you to be trusted for your advice and counsel, you must first be seen as someone who can be trusted. That means not trafficking in gossip and never betraying a confidence. Not once.
Share Everything You Can
Share your class notes, clothes, iPod - whatever a roommate, friend, or classmate might need. In college, what goes around comes around. Someday it will be you needing the class notes, the shirt or dress for the big date, or the iPod for your long run when you really need to get away for a while. If you've shared with others, others will share with you. Building up some favor equity with your classmates is always a good idea.
Ask First, Borrow Second
To that end, you should never borrow anything from a friend or a roommate without asking first. This is how major roommate battles begin. Taking your roommate's iPod for a run without getting the okay first, even if you leave a note, is not okay unless you've worked out an understanding about that ahead of time. The one time you take it without asking will inevitably be the day that your roommate was going out of town and wanted it for the train ride.
Convey Messages Promptly
If someone calls or stops by looking for a roommate and you take a message, don't forget to leave a message. This is another way that major misunderstandings and roommate battles begin. All it takes to start a problem is one dropped message from the girl or guy whose call was eagerly anticipated but not received.
Control Your Use Of Alcohol And Drugs
Without passing judgment on the advisability of the use of alcohol and drugs generally, an important corollary etiquette issue does come up when you get so hammered or baked that you become a safety concern, a burden on your friends and roommates, or both. As with most things, you may screw up here and there on occasion. But if you find your roommates taking you to the Department of Undergraduate Health to have your stomach pumped or calling the campus police to break into your locked room because they're afraid you've passed out in a dangerous situation"you're taking advantage of these relationships.
Watch After Your Friends And Roommates
This, of course, is the flip side of the preceding rule. If you go to a party with some friends or your roommates, keep an eye on each other. Like it or not, bad things do happen at college parties, particularly when experienced upperclassmen, inexperienced underclassmen, and drugs and alcohol mix. Talk to each other and reach agreement before you go out about what the rules of the road are going to be. Do you all go home together at a certain time? Do you wait for each other? Is there a certain code you might want to use to express particular sentiments, such as "I like this person" or "This person scares me"get me out of here"?
Practice Safe Sex
You might be surprised to find this mention in an etiquette article, but the practice of safe sex is in fact not only an issue of health and wellness but also one of etiquette and respect toward one another. In this era of casual sexual "hookups" on campus, condom use should be the rule and should be assumed. It can sometimes be awkward to initiate a discussion about protection in the heat of passion. Often one partner will wait for the other to start the discussion, and the unfortunate result, many times, is that neither one does start, exposing both partners to the risk of sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy. Don't wait for the discussion. Assume safe sex to be the rule as a gesture of mutual respect.
Don't Date Your Roommates' Or Friends' Siblings Or Exes
Perhaps no single thing leads to disaster among friends and roommates faster than dating a friend's or roommate's sibling or ex. This phenomenon is so well known, it should practically be written into the code of conduct at your college or university"but of course, every year, there are you risk takers who throw caution to the wind and do it anyway.
Respect Individual Differences In Taste, Opinion, Politics, Religion And Sexual Preference
Although most of us are naturally drawn to people who look, act, and think like we do, college is a diverse world full of people who don't. You may end up with a roommate who is active in the opposing political party, a suitemate who dresses in a way you think is completely ridiculous, and a person across the hall who is thoroughly convinced that she will have failed in her life's mission if she doesn't save your soul from damnation. You may also encounter issues of diverse sexual preference for the first time.
Campus Confidential Mentors and Uber-Mentors:
Campus Confidential contains the collective advice of a a diverse group of people who have traveled the road to college. Some are recent college graduates who can counsel you on the college experience as it is today. Other are a few years removed from their college days and can provide a longer view of the decisions you will need to make before, during, and after college. Here is a little bit about the mentors and uber-mentors in these articles.
Dan Bissell – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B.A. Middlebury College cum laude, 1993. Major: Geology
M. D. University of Colorado School of Medicine, Adler Scholar, 2002
Tom Teh Chiu – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Brooklyn, New York
B. A. Yale University, 1993. Major: double major in Chemistry and Music
M. M. Juilliard School, 1995
M Juilliard School, 2001
Jim Bright – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
B. A. Duke University, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1997. Major: History
Amanda Cramer – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Paso Robles, California
B.A. Cornell University Phi Beta Kappa, 1993. Major: Mathematics
Graduate study in food science – Enology, University of California at Davis 1997-2000
Zoe Robbins – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B.A. (1) Wellesley College magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1997. Major: Economics
B.A. (2) University of Pennsylvania, 2001. Major: Nursing
Carolyn Koegler – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Hopkinton, New Hampshire
B. A. Tufts University, cum laude, 1993. Double major: History and Spanish
Erik Norton – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B. A. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1993. Major: Mathematics
Lyndsee Dickson – Campus Confidential Mentor
Concord, New Hampshire
B.A. New York University, cum laude, 2004. Major: East Asian studies
Kevin Donovan – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Boston College, honors in the major, 1993. Major: English, Minor: Creative Writing
Tiffany Chan – Campus Confidential Mentor
Concord, New Hampshire
B.S. New York University, 2005. Major: Communication Science
Erica Eubanks – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Tennessee State University, National Deans List, 2003. Major: Criminal Justice
Dave Irwin – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Middlebury College departmental honors, 2004. Major: American Civilization, Minor: Education
Chase Johnson – Campus Confidential Mentor
B. A. Duke University, with Phi Alpha Theta distinction in history, 2005. Major: History
Aaron Paskalis – Campus Confidential Mentor
West Point Military Academy, then transferred to UMass Amherst
B. A. University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2005. Major: Legal studies