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21st century college etiquette: avoid crossing the line

Knowing how to cover your tracks after a misplaced text message or saving face while hung over in class is far more important for college students than knowing which fork to use or how to fold your napkin properly. Here are a few tips to keep you in good standing with your professors and friends and maybe even make your college life a little easier.

Darn it! I went out last night and … well, other than all of those disastrous pictures on Facebook, now I’m late to class due to … dehydration. I can’t focus and now my professor is calling on me! 

Partying is a facet of college life. Whether you do or do not participate, it will most likely affect you. But going out too often and missing class time is wasting you or your parents’ money, and it’s definitely wasting the professor’s time. If you waste professors’ time by coming in late and disrupting class, thedy may not “waste your time” by giving you study tips or reading over your term paper, which could prevent a better grade, or just passing the class.

Keep the partying minimal. There is absolutely no reason to go out every single night of the week. Your friends will still be there on the weekends, but your job opportunities if you flunk a few classes will dry up.

If you must go out, give yourself a time limit. The average college student needs between eight and nine and a half hours of sleep per night. If you have a 9:25 a.m. class, make sure you’re snug in bed between 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Give yourself enough time (about 30 minutes) to brush your teeth and hair and meander to class.

When called on and you have not followed the above tips, be honest. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know. You don’t have to detail why exactly you look and feel like you got hit by a truck, but just admitting that you weren’t paying attention looks better than floundering for an answer in your already addled brain.

At that party last night, I accidentally sent a text to Johnny that was supposed to go to Julie about Johnny. Or was it Janie? Anyway, I messed up. What do I do? 

More ubiquitous than the e-mail gaffe, the text message twist is terrible for everyone involved.

Double-triple-quadruple check to whom you’re sending the message. If you got the message from Julie, hit reply instead of crafting a new message. If you’re sending a new message, carefully select the recipient and check again right before you hit send.

If you did mess up, ‘fess up. Tell Johnny how you really feel. Getting things out in the open will help smooth over any drama faster.

Just don’t say anything personal or private over text messages. You don’t want to have any misunderstandings, and you definitely don’t want to end up on “Texts from Last Night.” If it’s so important to say, go find Julie and let her know. That way you’re sure that you’re talking to the right person.

If you really have to disseminate personal information,come up with a kind of code language so that no one else knows what you’re talking about.

Oh no! I think that e-mail I just sent to my professor came across as mean when that’s not what I meant at all! What do I do? 

This scenario has happened to almost everyone at least once. You e-mail your professor asking about the night’s reading and once you hit “send” you realize you wrote more of a demand for information rather than a request for help. Of course you don’t want your professor to think you’re insensitive, so damage control is the best option.

Preventative measures are key. Before sending anything at all through e-mail — to your professor, to your mom, to your roommate — read it thoroughly. Check for spelling errors, grammatical errors, and, most importantly, the tone of your e-mail. Bear in mind that with the absence of facial expressions, it’s laughably easy to misinterpret a message.

If you’ve already hit “send” immediately write another e-mail. It will appear first in their inbox, and chances are they’ll read that one first. Don’t send a message such as “Disregard other e-mail. Here is the real message.” Be cordial and polite and plainly state that you misworded the other e-mail, and then rephrase correctly, lest you drop two angry-sounding e-mails at once.

Talk to the professor in person the next time you have class to make sure the real message came across clearly. Following up will also help clear up any remaining misunderstandings that may have arisen.

I was invited to a friend of a friend’s apartment, but I don’t want to go. How do I decline the invitation? 

It’s a fact that you’re going to have friends of friends with whom you don’t get along. The worst you can do is insult your friend, but if you handle the situation properly, you don’t have to.

Do not go into the specific reasons you don’t want to go to the friend-of-a-friend’s place. Your friend should be happy with a simple “I don’t really want to,” or if you feel like stretching the truth, “I’m tired.” If you let them know that you think their best friend Johnny’s a dud (while better than sending it through text message), your friend will likely get mad at you.

Make sure it’s clear that it’s not a personal attack on your friend. You might just not feel like it, or you and Johnny might have bad blood. Regardless, it’s not about your relationship with your friend. It’s about you not wanting a relationship with your friend’s friend.



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