Aim Higher: The Achieve Blog

College admissions is a long game. Plant the seeds for admissions early! What your kids choose to do in middle and even elementary school matters!

But fear not…planting those seeds doesn’t have to be daunting.


Part 3: Teacher Recommendations and Building Relationships.

Coming soon:

Part 4: Extracurriculars

If you take away one idea from this post, it’s this:

  • Learn to build meaningful relationships with teachers.
    • Teachers are people, too.
    • Engage teachers in and outside of class.
    • Carefully choose which teachers to ask for recommendations.

If you like more in depth info, read on:

Did I scare you when I said that the seeds of college admission success are planted in elementary school?!

Well, it’s true, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. 

One top priority: kids just need to learn how to talk to their teachers.

In fact, building relationships with teachers is one of the most important things kids can do at any level of school.

And it’s the core of getting great teacher recommendations.

Starting to build that skill in elementary and middle school is really helpful.

So how do you do that?


If kids need help, they need to ask for it.

Kids should regularly raise their hands during class or see their teachers after school or during designated office hours. Not only do kids get the help they need, but they show interest in a subject and start to build a personal relationship with their teachers.

If they don’t need help, kids need to engage the teacher in other ways.

They can ask a teacher for more information about a topic they’re interested in, show them an alternative way to solve a problem and ask if it works, ask the teacher if they like pets or chocolate or Angel Maid cakes (my daughter’s teacher LOVES Angel Maid cakes), or offer to be helpful in the classroom. Kids need to learn how to treat teachers like, well, people.

Tips on Building a Relationship With a Teacher

Teachers are people, too. 

I know, I know…but it’s true.

You can really enhance your education and your chances of getting great recommendation letters by getting to know your teachers in more meaningful ways.

Here are tips on building strong relationships with teachers:

  • Focus on teachers who seem open to getting to know students better.
  • Go to office hours regularly, even in classes in which you don’t need help.
  • Express an interest in the subjects they teach.
  • Raise your hand in class and don’t be afraid to give an incorrect answer.
  • Ask your teachers about their interests outside of school.
  • Ask teachers to be an advisor for a club or group you form.

The idea here is to engage in a meaningful way.

Teacher recommendations for college (or high school) admissions.

Want a great teacher recommendation letter? Ask the teacher in your best subject, right?

Not necessarily! Personal relationships with teachers are more important, and choosing teacher who are strong writers will help your cause.

Letters of recommendation have always been important factors in college applications, and now in a test-optional world they are even more important!

But not all letters of recommendation are created equal.

Some teacher are more willing to go to bat for you than others, and some simply write better letters.

So, kids have built strong relationships with teacher. What next?

Tips for Getting Great Teacher Recommendations.

Kids should:

  • Ask their counselor or advisor who they think will write the best recommendations.
  • Choose teachers who are strong writers (they don’t need to be an English teacher to write well.)
  • Pick a recent teacher (from junior or senior year for college applications.)
  • Always ask the teacher if they would feel enthusiastic about writing a letter of recommendation, and pay attention to their response.
  • Talk to them about your accomplishments in their class and in others, provide specific examples of those accomplishments so they can reference them in their recommendations, remind them of challenges you’ve overcome, let them know about extracurricular activities and hobbies, and share your goals for college.
  • And finally, ask your teachers EARLY for recommendations. We recommend 6-8 weeks before your first recommendations are due. Give them time to think about how to sell you best before they get swamped with more recommendation requests.

To learn how to maximize chances of admission, be sure to read our next post on The Changing College Admissions Landscape.

And as always, Aim Higher!

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