In the Loop
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As the end of another academic year draws closer, we grow more and more accustomed to the Columbia lifestyle. But we all remember the struggles we faced as first-years to adjust to the unwritten rules of Columbia. College calls for a very different set of norms than high school, which can make for an awkward transition for all.

If you’re an incoming first-year or just a Columbia student in need of a refresher on campus etiquette, Spectrum has compiled a list of unwritten rules to follow in your dorm, at the dining halls, and in and outside the classroom.


Keep track of your laundry, and don’t leave your clothes in the dryer all day.

Don’t be surprised if you find your clothing strewn atop the dryer three hours after your cycle finished. Avoid doing laundry in between classes or during a particularly busy day—you’ll probably forget about your clothes. Set a timer to make sure you get them in a timely manner.

Don’t eat leftovers or takeout in your room; it’s going to smell.

This is basic roommate etiquette. Dorm rooms are already small as they are, and your day-old Chipotle leftovers won’t make it any better. If you insist on eating in your room, then at least offer to share.

If you are able to take the stairs, you don’t need the elevator to go up one floor.

Elevators are a scarcity at this school. People are already in a rush in between classes, so using the elevator to go up to the third floor of Hamilton at 11:38 a.m. before 11:40 classes start is not helping anybody. In buildings where the elevators are notoriously slow and in high demand (like Hamilton or Carman), we advise taking the stairs to not only save time, but also to get those steps in.

Have your ID ready at the main desk of your dorm, so you don’t hold up everyone else.

This goes for dining hall lines as well. It’ll make it easier for the people signing you in and everyone else waiting behind you.

Dining Hall

Don’t. Cut. The. Pasta. Line. (Or any action station line for that matter.)

The lines might be confusing, especially at Ferris and JJ’s, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check with someone who’s waiting to make sure you’re in the right line. We take action stations seriously, so don’t be surprised if somebody ends up snapping at you for cutting. We know it can be an effort to guess which lines to follow when you’re not yet familiar with the dining halls, but it’s better to ask than to cut, or worse yet, to waste your time at the sushi line instead of the bagel line.

You should know what you want to order by the time you get to the JJ’s counter.

The line is usually already long in the first place, giving you plenty of time to think of what you want to order. In any case, you should have your JJ’s order down, unless you’re considering shaking things up with a different order. This also goes for your Diana smoothie and sandwich order.

If you’re a first-year with extra leftover swipes every week, help out your upperclassman friends.

Mandatory first-year meal plans include at least 15 swipes a week, and a lot of first-years never actually use them all up. If you’re a first-year in a similar situation, then make sure to ask your upperclassman friends if they need a swipe, especially if you know they’re off the meal plan.


Drop a class if you’re not going to take it, so others can get off the waitlist.

Registration period is an “every man for himself” time. But, you should still consider other people if you decide you’re not going to take a class. If your registration slot is still open, drop that class and do it as soon as possible because chances are there might be tons of other people looking to take it, especially if it’s a Core class.

If someone has been sitting in the same seat for a while in class, it’s their “assigned” seat now.

College means no assigned seats, but realistically, the same rules apply here as in high school. If someone’s been sitting in the same seat every day for a couple of weeks into class, it’s unofficially their assigned seat. Don’t blame them if they give you a couple of angry glares if you sit in their spot.

Don’t use a professor’s office hours to get on their good side; others have real questions.

It’s great to have a solid relationship with your professor, and you should strive to make that connection, but if you spend all of office hours discussing topics that don’t really have anything to do with the class material, then it’s not fair to others who might be struggling with the class and need the professor’s time.

Library/Outside of class

Don’t take up a full group study room just for yourself.

Especially the Milstein ones. Group study rooms are probably the most sought-out commodity at Columbia (after a Goldman Sachs internship). If you’re waiting for friends to join, then make it really obvious that there will be other people in there with you.

If you meet up with people you know at the library, go somewhere else where talking is allowed to have a conversation.

You might think your hushed whispers do the trick, but they really don’t. With finals season coming up, be especially mindful of library etiquette and take your conversation somewhere where you can talk to your heart’s content.

If you’re printing hundreds of pages of reading, let others know before they wait in line.

Some people may be rushing to print their essays or problem sets before classes start. If you’re printing out your 75-page poli-sci reading, then let others know before they start waiting for their turn so they can use other nearby printers.

Reserve your cardio machines at Dodge.

This is an official rule at Dodge, but a lot of people don’t seem to know about it (or just refuse to follow it). Sign up for a time slot, and if you change your mind, then scratch out your name. This helps avoid confusion and interrupted workouts.

There are designated smoking areas for a reason; use them.

Walking past Butler can be like walking past a chimney. The smoke is a (literal) killer combo, especially. when combined with the wind. If you’re going to be smoking outside of Butler (or anywhere else that’s near the entrance to a building), make sure to hang around the ashtray area so that nonsmokers don’t get smoke in their face as they walk by.

If you’re planning on staying at the library for an extended period of time, please wear deodorant.

You might be proud of the fact that you camped out for four days straight in Ref without having somebody steal your stuff, but it’s still a hefty price to pay to sacrifice the comforts of your dorm room and bathroom. So, if you’re going to be camping out this finals season, make sure to go back to your room to shower and clean up, or at least, wear deodorant.

Don’t stop in the middle of College Walk to catch up with that friend you haven’t seen since NSOP; people are trying to get to class.

The rush between classes is real, especially if you’re trekking from Milbank to Hamilton. Everyone’s trying to get to class on time, so you should either walk at the same pace as everyone else or move to the side, somewhere safe from the traffic.

Staff writer Lina Bennani Karim can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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