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Alexandra Piacenza
Noodle Expert Member

March 10, 2021

Ethics isn’t just for courtrooms and lawyers, it’s important in your everyday life as well. How will you act on campus? Will you have the know-how to do the right thing?

Some say the true tests of character are the things you do — or don’t do — when no one is watching. As a freshman, there is a certain undeniable thrill in being liberated from the watchful eyes of parents. This is when your own judgement is the most important.

Forming Character

Do you walk by the man or woman doing the campus landscaping without a second thought, no less a pleasant “good morning"? Do you feel you have a right to instant service from the clerk in the registrar’s office? How often do you make the cafeteria staff’s job a little easier by placing your plates and silverware to the designated areas?

Ethical behavior is not always about dramatic decisions, like matters of life and death, or breaking the law. Miriam Schulman, communication director at the Makkula Center for Applied Ethics, points out that it’s your habitual behavior that may have the most impact.

“It’s ... something you do all the time. And as you [do], you’re forming your character. We want students to see that. They can have a role in who they are," says Schulman.

Ask Yourself If You Are:

  • Taking into account the pressures individuals are under.

  • Considering the effect your behavior will have on others.

  • Striving to understand why one course of behavior may be more responsible or ethical than another.

And who knows, someone you respect may visit campus unexpectedly, and unethical behavior can reflect badly on you. Consider the experience of one mother attending a function at her daughter’s campus:

"One of the food service workers started chatting with me while she took care of my request. I told her my daughter is a student at the school and she knew my daughter's name. The lady responded, "blonde pony tail and plays field hockey." She just gushed about my daughter and how considerate and personable she was ... Sometimes you wonder if your children will get it. Well, I got my answer and it brought a joyful tear to my eye."

A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

Check out Ethics and College Life Part 1: What Kind of Roommate Will You Be?


Harrington, R. (2011, May 2). Top 10 Ethical Questions For Incoming Students. The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Grasgreen, A. (2011, July 15). The Ethics of Student Life @insidehighered. The Ethics of Student Life @insidehighered. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from