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At College

Ah, Dear Reader, so you're off to engage in the Rigorous Intellectual Pursuits offered at a Fine College. The Etiquette Grrls commend you! However, consider yourself warned: rudeness abounds within the Ivy-Covered Walls of Academe. When the Etiquette Grrls reflect (as we are wont to do at length) upon our Academic Past, we cannot help but wish someone had dispensed Etiquette Advice to Most of the Other Freshmen, who, from Day One of Orientation, seemed Hell-Bent upon Behaving Like Idiots. Therefore, this month's feature represents Our Attempt to make Other People's Bright College Years more pleasant and Rudeness-Free.

In the Dorm
Be advised, Dear Reader, that while Your Dorm is essentially Your Home for the next several months, you are not the only Occupant of it. In Hallways, Stairwells, and Common Rooms. You are likely to have Neighbors, and you must be respectful of them. Therefore, you are not allowed to Roam the Hallways in Your Unmentionables or to traverse the distance between Your Room and The Shower sporting only a Bath Towel. This is disgusting. Also, have you noticed the Door between Your Room and The Hallway? This is where Your Room stops. It is Very Rude to use a portion of The Hallway as a TV room, kitchen, conservatory, etc., even if Your Room's dimensions resemble those of a Broom Closet. Furthermore, if Your School is kind enough to have Janitors empty your garbage can nightly, you should simply place it outside your door before going to bed and bring it back inside Your Room in the morning. No one else should be subjected to the Sight, Smell, or Sounds of Your Trash for a lengthy period of time.

Filling Out Your Roommate Selection Form
First, fill out the damn form yourself, no matter how tedious you find Paperwork. The Etiquette Grrls personally know of a few Bad Roommate Situations which were the direct result of someone allowing Her Mom to complete her roommate questionnaire and of course, Mummy assumed that Her Little Baby wouldn't dream of Drinking, Smoking, or Staying Up Past 11. Secondly, even if you do fill out the form yourself, do not lie, and do not present an Idealized Version of yourself! If you smoke, check the "smoking" box. Otherwise, we assure you, you will either be forced to Go Outside in the Bitter Cold to have your cigarette, or you will take to sneaking cigarettes in your room, annoying your roommate, who had previously assumed you were Perfectly Compatible.

Your Roommate
Unless you were born under a Very Fortunate Star, you probably will have Roommate Issues. Any time one is forced to share a small space with a Total Stranger is Difficult Indeed, and the Etiquette Grrls sympathize with you, Dear Reader! However, there are several Small, Polite Things you can all do to make the Living Situation more harmonious. First, agree to keep the Common Room neat. If you have your own bedroom, you may keep it as cluttered as you please, as long as you keep the door shut and nothing reeks or becomes Infested. However, if your desk is in the Common Room, you should take care to keep it as tidy as possible. Make sure the Refrigerator stays clean, and institute a policy about Unclaimed Food. Also, discuss with your roommates whether or not you want to share certain food items; if you share things, you should share the expense and the responsibility of replenishing them when they have been consumed.

The Etiquette Grrls adored decorating our Dorm Rooms with Laura Ashley Comforters, Real Curtains, and Nice Furniture From Our Parents' Attics, and we encourage you to make an effort to make your room look as nice as possible. Above all, avoid purchasing cheap furnishings from "bed 'n' bath stores," as they are quite uncomfortable, poorly made, and, dare we say, Rather Tacky. You would be much better, Dear Reader, buying an older, slightly shabby velvet couch from A Local Secondhand Shop than buying an inflatable glittery one.

Your College Wardrobe
While the Etiquette Grrls realize that for many young people, college represents Sudden Freedom from the constraints of Prep School Dress Codes, we were entirely shocked to find that so many of Our Peers took this as license to wear nasty sweatpants and ripped t-shirts to class! Dear Reader, college classes, whether they be seminars or lectures, are Public Events, and you should dress presentably! While a skirt or dress is not required for girls, nor a coat and tie for boys, you should always wear neat, clean, attractive clothing.

In Class
Sadly, the Etiquette Grrls witnessed some absolutely Atrocious Behavior in their college classes. During a class, one may not do or say anything that may potentially distract anyone else in the room. Yes, the Etiquette Grrls realize that for many, introductory College Composition courses are painfully unchallenging, and let us not begin to discuss how they are frequently scheduled at Inconvenient Hours, such as 8 AM. However, this does not give anyone permission to tap a pen constantly upon a desk, yawn audibly, manicure one's nails, place trades avec one's Broker, etc. If a class promises to be a Yawn Fest, we suggest fortifying yourself beforehand with some Good, Strong Coffee. And yes, Dear Reader, if it is a small class (or a larger class wherein you are likely to be Called Upon), it is very rude indeed not to Follow Along (not to mention probably Rather Detrimental to Your Grade). Here are some further tips on how to conduct yourself in class:

  • Do not respond to every single thing the Professor says. We doubt you're taking a one-on-one seminar. Other people deserve to talk, too.
  • Do not actively try to prove the Professor wrong, just for the sake of doing so. Similarly, don't try to make Your Classmates look bad in order to Show Off. No one likes a brown-noser. There's nothing wrong with responding to what your classmates say, and being critical of their points, but when you do so, you must always be polite. As the Etiquette Grrls learned on the Debate Team, never, ever make an ad hominem attack.
  • Do 'phone your Professor if you will be absent from a small class due to illness. This is common courtesy. If you must miss class due to An Emergency, 'phone afterward and explain.
  • Don't expect any Special Favors just because you Play a Sport, are in The Play, etc. No one is making you do any of these things, and it's wrong for you to expect extensions because of your Extracurricular Activities.

Which Classes to Take
There are courses one needs to take, and courses one feels one really should take. Whatever your major, we are sure you know what those courses are. However, most Degree Programs allow you to select Electives, which can be Great Fun! When you're choosing Electives, keeping a few points in mind can make for a much more pleasant, stylish College Experience.

First, consider your sleeping habits. It is entirely possible (as one Etiquette Grrl's Senior Schedule proved) to take A Full Courseload and have no class before 10:30, no classes on Thursday afternoons or at any time on Friday, and no classes at night. And, this Etiquette Grrl took wonderful classes that she adored! This was accomplished by careful perusal of the Course Guide and by Pulling Rank wherever possible (make sure you understand how Your School accords Priority Enrollment in Classes).

If you are an Underclassman, and there is a course you absolutely need to take (because your College Experience will not be complete unless you take the one-time only offering on Anagrams in 20th-Century Literature, or what have you), you may find that making a Polite, Personal Appeal to the Professor can Work Wonders. Simply find out when the Prof has Office Hours, show up ten minutes early, and ask if you may speak with him or her about the Seminar on Blah Blah Blah. You should outline why you wish to take the course (note: this should be genuine; any Prof who hears something like, "Uh, 'cause my girlfriend is in this class," should Laugh in Your Face) and plead to be allowed to enroll. However, do not attempt to Bribe the Professor. This is Bad Form.

Finally, consider Your Surroundings. At many Older, Well-Respected Schools, Lecture Halls are Rather Uncomfortable. The chairs are made of Hard, Puritanical Wood. The desks are Infinitesimal; their surfaces are Entirely Covered with Wee Carvings. This, Dear Reader, is Charming! The Etiquette Grrls adore lectures in such classrooms! Whenever we were given the option of a Lecture Course in A Nice, Old Room or one of those Late 1970's, Bowl-Shaped, Orange-Carpeted Rooms, we chose the Traditional Setting every time. It's just more, well, Collegiate.

Social Life at College
Contrary to Popular Belief, this doesn't have to revolve around Keg Parties, Dear Reader! Just because you live in a dorm does not mean you cannot have a party with Real Drinks, Elegant Music, and, dare we say, Yummy Hors d'Oeuvres! In fact, after you and Your Crowd have attended umpteen Beer Bashes (because we're pretty sure, Dear Reader, you won't be able to avoid them entirely), it would probably be Welcomed By All if you were to throw a Traditional Cocktail Party dans your room. Some colleges with Lovely, Old Gothic Dormitories even have Rooms with Fireplaces, which (assuming they are Still Functional) practically demand their inhabitants have Cocktail Parties on Crisp Autumn Evenings!

The Etiquette Grrls hope that our Dear Readers who are currently adjusting to Life at College will settle in quickly and have a Wonderful Year! Enjoy your classes... occasionally postpone reading Paradise Lost in lieu of watching a bit of football (which the Etiquette Grrls did rather Take To in college, as it was, of course, of the variety played by Preppy Schools of No Real Football Consequence)... and always, always Behave Graciously!


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