Classroom Etiquette

One of the most important things for college is the new code of etiquette for college lectures. It’s very different from high school but still important for making sure that your professor has a good opinion of you.

Here’s my guide to lectures and college classes, how you should behave in lecture. The advice will go through cellphones, bathroom breaks, sleeping and more.

  • going to the bathroom

At my high school, we had passes to go to the bathroom. It was very embarrassing: students had to get the teacher’s attention and signature in a pass book to go to the bathroom. Even worse, for each class, you were only allowed to go to the bathroom twice a semester. 
Fortunately, college lectures allow you to go to the bathroom whenever you want. It is of course preferable to go before or after class, but in the case of emergencies it’s easy to slide off during a lull. Many professors even have a mid-lecture break if allotted more than an hour. 
In my mind, there’s no shame in needing to use the bathroom and I don’t much care if students or professors judge me for drinking lots of water and then needing to use the restroom. Your body needs what your body needs.

  • eating and drinking

Eating is really up to the professor. Some professors will make clear at the start of class their policy on eating, especially if it’s verboten. Most don’t mind students drinking water or coffee during a morning class along with a quiet granola bar. Evening classes tend to be quite lax about food policies, often expecting students to eat. For example, my Monday evening class goes from 7 pm – 10 pm so the professor told us on the first lecture that food was alright.
I’d personally suggest something you can pick up and put down while taking notes. As always, try to eat quietly without making a mess. Nachos for example are a bad idea: loud and messy salsa. Foods without strong odors are considerate of the people around you. 

  • sleeping

Of course you shouldn’t be sleeping in class. But we all have moments where we dose off during a particularly dull lecture due to a late night cramming. 
If you expect to be falling asleep, consider skipping the class. There’s nothing to be gained from sleeping through a lecture; it may even reflect worse on you than missing one lecture. If you decide to attend and sleep through, sit in the back of the class. There’s nothing worse for you and others than being the student snoring in the front row. 
If you absolutely don’t want to fall asleep but may fall to temptation, have a friend or seat mate periodically tap you to wake you up. It may be a little embarrassing to ask a stranger sitting next to you for a favor, but that embarrassment may also keep you from falling asleep.

  • cellphone

Put your cell phone on silent during lecture.
Let me repeat that: Cell phones should be on silent during class.
This isn’t high school; no one’s going to confiscate your phone. But everyone will turn to look at you, especially if you have a hilarious song for your ring tone.
Personally, I suggest putting your cell phone on your lap during lecture so that you can check the time without loudly rummaging through your bag. If the professor has a no cell phone policy, turn your phone off and leave it in your bag to totally minimize the temptation. 

  • laptops

Most professors have a clear policy on laptops. If they’re allowed, try not to drift off topic while using them; some professors will walk around the room in order to get a view of your laptop.
If laptops aren’t allowed, they’re really not allowed. Don’t bring them. 

  • late/leaving

If you are entering late or leaving early, try to do so respectfully. If you know in advance, send the professor an email before the lecture to apologize and explain. If it’s just a case of sleeping in, enter the room quietly and accept the fact that you may have to settle for a seat in the back. If you need to interrupt other students’ view or the position of the lecturer to get when you need to be, wait until a natural pause. 
For important reasons to leave, pack your bag quickly and quietly. Often it’s easier to dump everything in your bag and reorganize outside of the lecture hall rather than deal with the dirty looks from students trying to take notes.
Unlike high school, it’s normal that you have other commitments and most college classes don’t take attendance. There’s no need to feel terrible for a few late entries or early leavings so long as you are considerate of others. Most likely a professor won’t remember the one time a student shows up late so long as there wasn’t a scene. Don’t sweat it. Just be polite.

  • chatting

Whisper. To. The. Person. Next. To. You.

Stop talking when lecture starts. There’s nothing that professors hate more than not being able to start their lecture on time because of people obliviously chatting. Take note of the time and quiet down when lecture is supposed to start; it’s for your own good to make sure that the prof gets through all the material. I’ve had a few professors who have put material that wasn’t covered in lecture on exams because they blamed chatty Cathys for not making it through the information in class. Don’t be that kid.

Do not yell to the person across the room. Don’t pass notes. Don’t constantly text. These are the other things that professors notice.

If you have questions, you are super welcome to comment so that we can share our experiences and advice.

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