How to Make Your Professors Like You (And Become Friends Too)

Grades are important, and depending on what your plans may be after college, they can be SUPER important.

As the classroom environment in the United States can differ greatly from those around the world, making friends with professors can have a tremendous impact on your grades.  While some professors will take extreme measures to make sure they have no bias when grading, others may be influenced if they see your name at the top of a paper.  But beyond the possibility of better grades, making friends with your professor will be helpful as they can act as a mentor in your college career and throughout life.

The awkward wave – one way to say hello to your professors on campus.

Below are a few tips to help you make friends with professors, and they’re not all that different from making friends with anyone else.  After all, professors are people too, not just grading and letter of recommendation-writing machines!

  1. Introduce yourself and have something to say – Generally, the best time to introduce yourself is before or after class and always give the professor a confident greeting.  Also, make it a point to say something besides your name.  A few things come to mind: why you’re taking their class, any previous work of that they may have written, general questions that weren’t answered during the class, etc.  
  2. Say hello to them outside of the class – On campuses, it can be common to see your professors out and about.  If you can, try and say hello as everyone always enjoys seeing a friendly face.  But be careful as people can generally tell who’s a suck-up, and that’s one way to ensure that while you may become friends with your professor, you may no longer be friends with some of your peers.
  3. Show a genuine interest for their work and a natural curiosity about them – The key word here is “genuine” as fake interest can often be smelled from a mile away.  Your professor, just like everyone, wants to feel important and they want to feel as if their work matters.  If you don’t know much about their work besides teaching, try asking them about any recent trips they may have taken, as that can help open them up a bit and build some rapport.
  4. Have a different opinion? Tell them, respectfully – Nobody likes a “yes man” if they know you’re only agreeing to please them.  Professors often like students to take a stance and defend it.  Beyond showing the courage and thought to have a different point of view, it shows what type of student you are and can help distinguish you from the other students.
  5. Don’t Annoy Them – The obvious “don’ts” include texting, talking, or anything that can be seen as disrespectful in class.  However, when talking to your professor one-on-one, be sure to let your professor have their space if they need to get something done, and always try to be mindful of their time.
  6. Do Your Work – At the end of the day, actions do speak louder than words.  If you have been meeting with your professor and telling them how much you love the class, nothing looks worse than not doing the homework.  But more than that, always try to surpass the mere expectations as initiative and creativity will almost always be rewarded.

Readers, do you have any long-standing relationships with your professors?  Did you find it was an easy transition to become friends?

8 Responses to How to Make Your Professors Like You (And Become Friends Too)

  1. I am 14-year tenured faculty. I blog as The Chatty Professor (http://ellenbremen.com) and I wanted to respond to this piece. I thought there were some excellent tips here, primarily the tip about doing your work. I do want to make sure that students understand that your professor does NOT have to be your friend, however, in order for you to get good grades or a recommendation letter! This is a very common misconception that students have.

    I wrote a post on my blog back in 2011 about this topic:
    http://ellenbremen.com/like-awesome-on-facebook-not-for-grading/.

    Basically, “Like” is a bonus in the student-professor relationship. Some professors will connect with you, serve as wonderful mentors, and stay in touch with you for a long time. Others will feel like a thorn in your side and you’ll be glad to be done with them after the term.

    You do not need to “get on your prof’s good side” or go out of your way to make your prof notice you. There are boundary issues here that students shouldn’t risk, and professors cannot grade you higher because they enjoy your company. If you are professional, diligent about your assignments, contribute in class and engage yourself, then really, all you need is a comfortable, congenial working relationship with your professor, and you will do just fine.

    Ellen Bremen, M.A. @chattyprof

    • Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for such a thought out and well informed response. We always appreciate any feedback, and we’re happy to have you read our blog!

      You are absolutely right. Your professor does not have to be your friend in order to get good grades, as simply doing the work, exceeding expectations and showing interest will reward someone. Also, there are certainly boundaries that should not be crossed.

      The impetus for this post was that some students blame their disappointing marks on their professor, saying simply that “they didn’t like me,” or “they’re just mean.” Doing your work is absolutely critical to success, which you mentioned. Yet, having a friendly relationship with a professor can change one’s perception of a professor from “mean” to simply “tough” when that student’s definition of success is not met.

      Beyond grades, some students also don’t realize the tremendous wisdom and mentoring that can come from being good friends with a professor, who is often much older and wiser. While relationships will definitely not develop with the professors of every class a student may take, it is important to develop relationships…even if it’s simply training for making similar relationships outside of school.

      Thanks again for the comment!

  2. But being your Professors friend does have it’s benefits for example it can make class more entertaining because they will be more willing to joke with you and not be completely stiff. it just overall makes class more interesting/entertaining.

  3. The friendship or mentoring evolves eventually, by time. Being friendly is always a positive attribute for anyone, for professors and for students. Many of those tips are pretty much helpful and seems like I ‘ve been there! I had my college professor as my mentor through my last two years of college, and still we keep contact, and sometimes I get referrals from him for jobs! So having a mentor is a great experience. Also, I have been doing my homework and class work on time, as I was crazy about some of the subjects he was teaching, so was getting good grades, no matter what. All in all, don’t bother your professors , but if you see certain subjects are your favorite try to make a connection with those instructors, as they will be tremendously helpful with advice and tips in that field!

  4. super cute! thanks for sharing!

  5. Ian Hyneck says:

    I’ve taught at the university for many years. I have discovered that joking and being too friendly with the class is risky. Some students don’t have a sense of humor. Sometimes they consider your jokes as personal attacks, especially if you tease about their work. I have since promised myself that I will no longer joke with my students. I am not here to be liked. From now on, it’s all business

  6. Cherryl says:

    Is it okay to email my former professor from the last semester? I just thought about her and I want to send her a quick email just to say “Hi” and nothing else.

    • admin says:

      Hi Cherryl, thanks for your comment! Yes, of course. Many professors find it nice when students show appreciation for them, even if it’s just a quick email. Additionally, a simple “Hello” can lead to a great conversation!

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