college etiquetteFrequently college students overlook a basic way they can increase their success in a college course – classroom etiquette. Interactions in the college classroom influence the instructor, impact group dynamics, and due to normal human psychology, quickly label and categorize students. Thinking back on basic middle school rules like, “plan ahead, be polite, and participate appropriately” will benefit college students in their aim to succeed in higher education.

1. PLAN Ahead

Manage your time well. Arrive to class events on time! Plan to arrive fifteen minutes early so you can settle in, go the bathroom, or have extra time in case of an unforeseen event, like traffic. When given a break be sure to return on time. Do not leave early unless you have spoken with the instructor ahead of time. If you know there is a conflict between a scheduled class session or course assignment and a personal event then speak with the instructor before the course begins or on the first day of class to see if accommodations are possible.

Complete assignments early and have a plan “b.” Have assignments printed, stapled, labeled and complete in every way before you walk into the classroom. Do you have enough printer paper or ink at home? What about a presentation cover for your paper? Complete assignments early so if something goes wrong along the way you have time to troubleshoot. If using electronic communication to submit assignments, do so in plenty of time prior to the due date/time to cover glitches. When giving a presentation come with all necessary props, notes, and technology. Your presentation should be well rehearsed. Come with a non-tech version of your presentation in case your technology does not perform as expected.

Take control of your own learning. Read assigned chapters and other materials. It is obvious to the instructor which students have done so. Come to class with questions and comments already written out. Seek out the resources you need to complete your learning. If you need an audio version of the text – get it. If you need extra help – find it.


Turn your cell phone off. If you have it on vibrate, do not have it out or check it during class. If you are expecting an unusual contact, like a call from someone expecting a baby, let the instructor know this so there is no miscommunication as to why you keep looking at your phone.

Respect the speaker or presenter. Do not have side conversations when someone is addressing the class, whether the speaker is the instructor or another classmate. Whispering to a neighbor is the same as talking to a neighbor – just rude.

Eat meals before or after class, or during a break. Do not eat or drink in the classroom at all unless your instructor tells the class it is okay to do so. Even then, it is smart to keep your eating to simple snacks. At all times refrain from making your eating or drinking a distraction (think smell and sound), more important than the classroom learning, or a mess or inconvenience for others.

Dedicate classroom time to learning. Stay in the classroom, keep alert, and demonstrate you are engaged. Power naps, making shopping lists or the like, rearranging your papers, or being on your computer or PDA for non-related classroom tasks all are inappropriate and send a negative message to your instructor and classmates.

3. PARTICIPATE Appropriately

Know the preferred way your instructor wants students to speak in class. Usually instructors want students to raise their hand or be acknowledged in some way before speaking. Even during free flow conversations, do not speak over others or raise your volume to be heard.

Keep your comments and questions balanced and relevant to the topic. If you know you are a very vocal person then monitor yourself in class carefully. Keep tally marks of how many times you speak compared to others. If you are a very quiet person then you need to push yourself to share in class regularly. Set a goal to share “x” times in class each session. Whenever you make a comment or ask a question be sure it supports the topic being discussed and enhances the learning process.

Be an asset during group work and team assignments. Do not be dominant or passive. Think of group work as an entire circle that is divided into equal pieces representing each person in the group. Your comments and work produced should be equal to the others in your group. Check with your team often to clarify your role and make sure your part aligns with the whole assignment. If you feel things are not equal, respectfully communicate your concern and be prepared with a solution.

Be an active listener. Speaking is only half of the communication cycle. Listening is the other half. Demonstrate with your body language that you are listening. Turn your body towards the speaker. Make eye contact often. When appropriate, ask clear questions or make positive comments to clarify what the speaker said or to show you understood the message.

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