Incoming student etiquette

Also applies to new administrators.  Just sayin’.

Dear student,

If a professor’s door is closed, do not try to open it even if you hear typing inside.

If the door is open or slightly open and you see a professor hard at work in his or her office, do not just walk in.  Do not stand in the doorway and ask if you can come in for a chat to discuss things without introducing yourself.

If you must introduce yourself before classes start, the proper protocol is to:

1.  Knock gently on the door. Wait patiently and quietly until the professor has finished what he or she is doing and has given you hir attention.

2. Say something to the effect of, “I can see you’re busy but..” or “I’m sorry to bother you,” or “May I have just a moment of your time?”

3. Introduce yourself. This is imperative. Do not ask if you can come in for a chat without saying who you are. And don’t just give your name. Say something like, “Hi, my name is Jane Smith, I am a new student.”  If there was an interview weekend and you met the professor at that point then you may add, “you may not remember me, but I sat at your table at one of the interview weekend dinners/enjoyed your talk/etc.” Do not make the professor ask who you are.

4. Do not get upset if the professor does not remember you. Especially do not get upset if you have not said what your name is or that you are an incoming student. Double especially do not get upset if the interview was over the phone. You wouldn’t recognize the professor either if ze didn’t have a nameplate.

5. Say what you need. If you just want to say hi, then just say you wanted to say hi, and then say it. “I just wanted to say hi, and I’m looking forward to your class on Monday.” If you need to have a more extended chat, then ask to make an appointment. “I have some concerns about my schedule and was wondering if it would be possible to make an appointment with you to discuss them before classes start.” Do not make the professor ask what you want. The professor will probably not want to just sit around and chat with you for no specific purpose, not when the school year is about to start and ze is trying to get everything finished up before classes.

6. Do not get upset if the professor is busy and cannot spend a lot of time with you right now.

Best,

Prof.  Not-brought-up-in-a-barn

That’s all I have. Do you all have any etiquette suggestions?

18 Responses to “Incoming student etiquette”

  1. Louise Says:

    I have a sign on my door at eye level that says ” if the door is closed please knock & WAIT” … now, it I can just get students to read the WAIT part…. grrr!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m a big proponent of locking the door. My undergrad adviser had a sign on his door that said, “I am NOT HERE… even if you hear typing inside.” I think I might have to make one too. Of course, in his day, typing was on a typewriter which is significantly louder!

  2. Kellen Says:

    Haha, as obvious as you think this is, I definitely could have used this as a new student. There is a lot of advice out there saying you should get to know your professors, but not a whole lot of advice on how to do that if you don’t have a problem with the homework!

    Also, it’s not until now, where I have a job where people interrupt me all the time, that the phrase “Sorry to bother you/Do you have a minute” makes much sense to me. I never thought it would actually make people less bothered that you were interrupting them, but amazingly, it does! (It works on me anyway.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Office hours are a great time to stop by!

      And yes, it is amazing what a little politeness can do. :) It keeps civilization from crumbling.

      • Kellen Says:

        Man, I wish I could set office hours at work. I answer to (and do work for) pretty much everyone who is more senior than me. And they all interrupt me constantly and don’t seem to understand how much slower that makes me at getting to their task because I have to pause whatever I’m doing and look up what they’re asking about… one day… I’ll be in charge! Maybe.

  3. First Gen American Says:

    The professors weren’t very approachable at my school. I survived on advice from TA’s. I can’t imagine barging in on someone like the way you describe. That being said, I do think it’s good advice for all students, regardless if it’s a professor, TA, administrator, etc. For many, this is the first taste of the real world and if a student hasn’t worked or volunteered somewhere before college, they don’t always know what’s rude vs normal.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      So far no professor has done this to me! But it seems to be a regular epidemic with this year’s incoming class, and not just students!

      (yes, yes, #2, I should just close my door… but I HATE it when they wiggle the handle)

  4. Foscavista Says:

    My door sign is – “If the door is open, come on in! If the door is ajar, please knock! If the door is closed, you’re out of luck! Schedule an appointment.”

    My door is open only during office hours.

  5. phd me Says:

    If only we could get this put into first-year student orientation – although it isn’t only the newbies who need some etiquette tips.

    One tip: looking incredibly harassed and disheveled every time a student shows up at your door. Turns out, this appears to be my normal state – a few of my returning students have expressed concern about my work load, bless ’em – but it does help convey that, yes, I am very busy.

    As for the door, I only open it during office hours. I’ll usually answer when someone knocks. I’m lucky that my office isn’t in a high traffic area so people have to search me out; I’ll answer quick questions then or schedule meetings for later.

    Best advice, though: work from home.

  6. bloggerclarissa Says:

    Also, if you enter the office and you see the prof talking on the phone, don’t start discussing what you came to discuss. Wait for the prof to finish the conversation.

    We might be multi-taskers but participating in two conversations at once is too hard for most of us.

  7. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    F*cke these little pisant motherf*ckers. F*cken ingrate littel dickewaddws.

  8. Weekend Reading: Plutus Awards Edition | Invest It Wisely Says:

    […] Incoming Student Etiquette (Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured) […]


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