How To Make Your Students Like You More

In a recent tweet, we asked people whether it’s important for a PhD student to like their supervisor.

The overwhelming majority voted yes.

And it makes sense, no one wants to get stuck with someone they don’t like for four or five years. It also makes sense that we will be more collaborative with someone we like.

So, as a supervisor, how can you get your students to like you more?

There are some obvious answers like being nicer and more helpful, offering constructive criticism instead of just destructive criticism, and being supportive. These are all good qualities, but we’ve covered them previously and in our supervisor course.

But, there’s one way that almost everyone has overlooked.

As academics, we all love a good paper. So, let me draw your attention to this paper, “Pets go to College: The Influence of Pets on Students’ Perceptions of Faculty and Their Offices” (

The paper asks a simple question, how do students view faculty members with pets in their offices.

To test this, they showed a bunch of students offices with and without pets. The pets were either a cat or a dog.

They then asked the students how they perceived the office AND the faculty member whose office the pet was in.

Interestingly, the students thought that the office and the professor to be more comfortable and friendlier if it contained a dog.

The students also thought that the professor had more free time on their hands if they had a cat in their office than if they had a dog.

So, along with all of the other aspects of getting your students to like you, one simple method is to simply bring your dog to work with you.

For bonus points, you could even let your students pat your dog during meetings.

Now onto a different, but somewhat related, topic.

Teaching your students how to write academic papers is important, however it can take a lot of time, taking time away from other aspects of supervising.

To reduce how much time you need to spend on this activity, you can get them to read our book, “How To Write An Academic Paper 101”. It walks them through all of the aspects from formulating a good research question, to planning your paper, to selecting the right journal, to writing each section of the paper, to how to work with coauthors, and how to address reviewers’ comments.

Find it here:

P.S. if you don’t currently have a dog, get one.