Mind your (college) manners

Jessica Lentine

Proper etiquette helps make a favorable impression on professors

Credit: Beth Rankin

By the time most people get to college, they have become familiar with the basic rules of etiquette. They know not to put their elbows on the dinner table and not to answer their cell phones during a movie, but what about etiquette in the classroom?

Many students are not aware that there are such things as good and bad manners in class. Professors often keep comments about rude behavior to themselves, but students should not think that their impolite conduct goes unnoticed.

Here are a few pointers to help you stay on your professor’s good side.


When e-mailing a professor, keep in mind that he or she is probably very busy and it may take some time to get a response.

Junior marketing major Colleen Miller said she thinks it’s important to always remain polite and respectful.

“They’re taking time out of their schedules to help you,” she said. “So try to be courteous and understanding.”

She also said it’s a good idea to be as specific as possible about what kind of help you need. This saves time for both the student and the professor and eliminates “e-mail tag.”

Be on time

It seems that there’s always at least one person who just can’t make it to class on time, no matter how hard he or she tries.

Fifteen minutes into every class period, this person walks into the room, whispers “excuse me” to everyone in his or her row before unzipping bags, pulling out papers and essentially making as much noise as possible.

This is annoying to other students and disrespectful to the professor, so it’s important that you try not to be this person. In case you oversleep or get caught in traffic, sneak in quietly and grab a seat in the back of the room.

Leaving early

Economics professor Sherry Creswell said because she teaches in large rooms, students coming late to class is not as much of an interruption as students leaving early.

“I’ve had students let me know this is a necessity on a particular day,” she said, “and I ask them to sit in the back of class in an aisle seat to lessen the burden on other students around them.”

Talking during class

Avoid talking during class at all costs.

If you miss a crucial piece of information that pertains to the lecture, it’s all right to quietly ask the person beside you. However, your classmates and professor would probably prefer that you compare notes after class is dismissed.

“Talking in class is the biggest problem I’ve encountered,” Creswell said. “It’s usually fellow students who take issue, so I redirect the offending parties ASAP before it gets ugly.”

Eating in class

If a professor doesn’t mind students eating in class, he or she will probably let you know at the beginning of the semester. Otherwise, don’t take food to class with you.

If you missed lunch and must grab something to hold you over, pick up a small snack. Don’t sit down in class with a sandwich or a salad and expect not to disturb anyone.

Cell phones

Most professors cringe at the thought of a ringing cell phone interrupting his or her lecture. That cringe turns to a cold scowl when a student actually answers the ringing phone during class.

“It’s really rude to talk on your cell phone during class,” said Matt Durdella, senior marketing major. “If the conversation is really important, then leave class to talk.”

It is best to turn your phone off and return all calls after class is over. If an emergency does arise, quietly exit the room to take the call, and explain the situation to the professor after class.

Contact general assignment reporter at Jessica Lentine at [email protected].