Stepping foot on a college campus for the first time means learning how to adapt and succeed in an environment and culture that is very different from anything you have ever known. Based on a survey from faculty, here are some tips that will help you navigate this transition more smoothly.

Face-to-face Meetings and Greetings

  • Use the formal form of address (“Dr. Smith” or “Professor Jones”). Do not use Mr., Mrs., or Miss and NEVER their first names! Once engaged in conversation, they will tell you how to address them in the future.
  • Knock before opening any door
  • Even if open, stay out of a private office unless/until invited in
  • Always announce your presence ("hello," "excuse me" etc.)

Communicating with Instructors

  • Follow their individual instructions, usually listed on the syllabus
  • Office hours is where you’ll find the nice instructors
  • Email [described in more detail below]
  • After class if they invite you but not before
    • Drop in without an appointment out of office hours
    • Phone outside of business hours
    • Catch them on the fly if you happen to bump into them

Emails to Instructors or any other Willamette official

  • Use your official email account
  • Put Course, and/or reason for email in subject heading
  • Address formally (“Dear Dr. Jones”)
  • Identify yourself (“I am Amelia Bedelia”)
  • Describe your status in detail (“I am in your MWF 4 pm section of ANTH 144”)
  • Summarize communications completed to this point (“We talked last Friday after class and you told me to email you.”)
  • State why you are writing (“I’d like to schedule an appointment to meet with you.)

Lecture Behavior (a formal music recital)

  • Arrive on time (if you walk in after it begins then you owe the instructor an apology)
  • Stay in your seat (if you stand up or change your seat then you owe the instructor an apology)
  • Stay until dismissed (if you close your notebook, stand up, or put on your coat before being dismissed then you owe the instructor an apology)
  • Do not talk (if you talk or whisper during class then you owe the instructor an apology)
  • If you consume any drink or food without first getting permission then you owe the instructor an apology
  • If you have an open newspaper or are reading anything other than your assigned text, then you owe the instructor an apology.
  • If you battle sleep then you’ll look silly and will be hilariously distracting and thus, will owe the instructor an apology

Asking Questions

  • Generally, questions are GOOD!
    • Repeat points you did not hear, see, or understand
    • Clarify things you do not believe
    • To simply question “why”
  • Some questions are BAD!
    • When answer is on the syllabus (this is the worst)
    • When they are personal (you, classmates, or instructor) unless invited to ask this kind


Student Entitlements:

  • An instructor who shows up, on time, and teaches
  • Communication and time with instructor
  • Answers to your questions
  • Fair treatment
  • Fair reasonable grading schemes
  • A class that conforms to the syllabus

Students are NOT entitled to:

  • Passing grades because they need them (to graduate, to avoid probation, to keep financial aid, etc.)
  • Grades they feel they have earned
  • Miss class without penalty or consequences because they need to (wedding, vacation, job interview)
  • Miss exam without penalty or consequences (because the need to or because it was an accident)
  • Passing grades because they either attended every class, or did every assignment
  • Easier grading standards because their life is more demanding than most students (e.g., single mother of 3, working full time, taking care of your sick parents, lost an arm, wrecked car, etc.)


The content of this site and related documents are drawn from, or influenced by, the Learning Corner at Oregon State University.

Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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