College Etiquette (5 Rules That No One Tells You in High School)

written by: Amani Liggett


Some things in life are just learned by experience and observation, and some of the rules of college often fall under this subject.

  • The first thing you will have to account for is being on time to class. It is important to make small notations about which professors have specific rules about getting to their class on time, as some may even lock the door after a certain amount of time has passed. Generally, it is an unwritten rule that if you are going to be past 15 minutes late to class, it’s best not to show. This is unless you have already cleared it with the professor ahead of time that you will be coming in late. Coming in late is distracting to everyone, and in many older lecture halls, the doors tend to echo loudly when opened or closed. It is best to find a friend in the class who can give you the day’s notes and a brief summary. Or better yet go to the professor’s or TA’s office hours and explain that you didn’t want to disturb class by coming in late and ask for a quick review of the lecture.
  • Don’t be the one to monopolize lecture time with your discussion points. Please don’t be this person. This person always seems to be missing an essential social filter that leads them to believe his or her opinion out-ranks the professor’s. It is very annoying and time-consuming to have to listen to this person’s diatribe about their own personal experience in the matter. Also, if you are one to skip ahead in the reading or the coursework, there is no need to announce it to the class by trying to discuss ahead of the day’s curriculum. If you’re in a Mystery Fiction class, don’t spoil the ending and say who the killer is just to prove you’re a fast reader.
  • The third rule relates to the first in that actually getting to class on time can be a bit nerve-wracking. This is especially true on a large campus around noon. Everyone is trying to get to class on time at the exact same time as you, whether by walking, driving, skating, or biking. The rule is simply to be courteous to others. Don’t zoom by with no respect to other’s safety, even if you are late. We all want to get to class in one piece!
  •  Keep you’re religious and political beliefs to yourself. Maybe it was cool to be outspoken in high school, but unless you are presently sitting in a religion, political science, or philosophy class, try to keep it to yourself in college. Even if you are burning with the desire to say something, chances are, no one wants to hear it. And the professor will inevitably get annoyed at the student that starts an off-topic debate that goes on for twenty minutes because everyone gets all riled up. It goes without saying that you do not want to annoy your professors or get on their bad side. Who knows when you might need a recommendation letter?
  • Lastly, there is food. This is important. Most high schools do not allow any type of food or drink in class, so the tendency when one gets to college is to overdue the new privilege and bring whatever you want to lectures. Try to keep it mostly at small snacks; foods that wont produce a strong odor, or result in messy or noisy eating. Also, be prepared to share. Bringing shareable food, such as crackers or candy, to a classroom where half of the occupants may have skipped breakfast in order to sleep a bit more may result in moochers. Beware the moochers. Good luck!

The Ugly Hangover of College Student Loans

Unemployment for college graduates is one-third that of high school graduates

More than 3 million college students will bask in the pride and relief of earning their diplomas this year. However, once the newly minted graduates peel off their caps and gowns and bid goodbye to the last of the party stragglers, the real life hangover begins in earnest.  Part of this hangover is the current shaky job market, although the good news is that unemployment for young people with college degrees is one-third that of those with only a high school diploma. The real crux of the morning-after affliction is the heavy burden of repaying student loans. And what a burden it is. Student loans are one of the most toxic debts, and they require extreme consumer caution and responsibility.

In the midst of all the youthful hubbub of starting school and looking no further ahead than the upcoming weekend on the town (or the vague notion of graduation down the road), many young people don’t consider the implications — or the fine print — of taking out student loans. Unlike other types of debt, student loans are particularly hard to wriggle out of. Homeowners who can’t make their payments can foreclose; credit card debts can be relieved in bankruptcy. But scrapping a student loan is next to impossible, especially when a collection agency becomes involved.

As tuition rises, many people borrow heavily to pay their bills and the interest piles up fast. Short-term relief may come in the form of deferments (postponing repayment due to going back to school, unemployment, or working in certain fields), but the interest will still accrue. Applying for forbearance (negotiating reduced or suspended payments due to financial hardship) is another short-term relief option, but again the interest accrues and the monkey’s choke hold on the backs of borrowers continues to tighten.

Horror stories abound, including the family practitioner highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article whose original $250,000 student loan has ballooned to $555,000. Loan deferrals, relentlessly compounding interest rates, and a single $53,870 fee when her loan was turned over to a collection agency now keep her awake at night. Her damaged credit has prevented her from buying a home or a new car, and she foresees paying on this loan for the rest of her life. In another frightening case, a laid-off factory worker faces $120 garnishments of her $300 unemployment check to pay the student loan she took out for her also-unemployed son.

Student loans are one of the most toxic debts

If you are in trouble:

  • Contact your lender to negotiate manageable monthly payments.
  • Consider a rehabilitation agreement, which could help your credit report.
  • Apply for income-based repayment, which caps the amount of your income you pay toward student loans.

To avoid trouble:

  • Minimize the amount you need to borrow. It’s not “free” money.
  • Read the fine print. Then read it again.
  • Don’t hide. Notify your student loan servicers every time you change your home address, telephone number, or e-mail address.
  • When you possibly can, pay more than the minimum on your student loans every month, as there is no penalty for early payment on either federal or private loans through Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student loan lender. This will also pay down your loan faster.
  • Know what you owe so you have a clear view of your existing debt.

No hair-of-the dog remedy will ease the effects of this kind of hangover, but channeling the results of that hard-earned education into smart financial management will ultimately clear the way for a brighter future and disengage that nasty monkey from your back.