It’s a little hard to believe that after four years of writing papers, taking tests and filling out applications, your high school days are winding down.

But before you go, there’s still time to take advantage of a valuable resource that’s right in front of you to help you prepare for your next journey — your teachers.

You may not have thought too much about what else you can learn from your teachers aside from the regular coursework they teach. While some may have been mentors, role models and even confidantes, your teachers offer a wealth of experience and information that they’re happy to share if you simply ask.

“We are there to help students be their best selves,” says Bernadette Walsh, a college counselor at Huntington High School in New York. “It’s what it’s all about,” she adds.

High school is your dress rehearsal for the main stage where you can make mistakes while you learn, says Walsh. Your teachers are there to help you develop the skills you’ll need to succeed when you get to college. Here are some tips to make the most of the time with your high school teachers before you graduate.

Pay Attention to How They Treat Others

Take some time to observe your teachers doing what they do best, suggests Walsh. Does your teacher approach even the most challenging subject with humor and lightness? Does your teacher look people directly in the eye when speaking to them? Is your teacher kind and compassionate to students and faculty members alike?

They’re there to listen, support, provide advice and even a shoulder to lean on.


Watch, too, how your teacher manages a class full of diverse personalities. In college, you’ll be interacting with people from all over who share different cultures and experiences — maybe even for the first time — so it’s important to be open minded and respectful. You might notice that in turn, others will respond with mutual respect. Think about how you might mirror some of those behaviors when you are meeting new people and interacting with professors and students in college.

Cultivate stronger relationships

If there’s a teacher you’ve admired but don’t know well, a great way to break the ice is by volunteering to help them with a club or project. While working side by side, you can ask about that teacher’s own college experience, lessons learned and career choices.

If you’re nervous or worried about the future, chances are your teacher understands exactly how you feel, suggests Walsh. “They’re there to listen, support, provide advice and even a shoulder to lean on,” she says.

By taking the risk and reaching out to a teacher now, you’ll strengthen your ability to ask for help and self-advocate when you’re on your own.

Seek Out Your Toughest Teacher

Everyone has had that one teacher who seemed to be extra tough in class. In fact, that teacher may be the one to give you the most honest feedback about what academic skills you need to improve on before you step into a college class.

Maybe you need to strengthen your public speaking and presentation abilities? Perhaps your note taking needs some more practice or you often make too many careless errors on assignments?

By facing your fears and weaknesses, you’ll learn to accept constructive criticism and at the same time focus on practical lessons and solutions that you’ll need for a smooth academic transition to college.

Ask for Help to Assess Your Skill Set

A teacher who’s watched you work, learn and grow in class is a great resource to help you understand how to further develop soft skills that include communicating with others, managing stress and staying organized.

Knowing when to lead and when to follow, how to initiate discussion or motivate classmates are important qualities that come with practice. Your organizational abilities and how you respond to pressure also develop with time and self-analysis. Your teacher can point out not only what you do well but also what small improvements might help in the long run.

Don’t forget that the school librarian is also a teacher, and someone who can help you evaluate your research and technology skills, says Walsh.

Strengthen Your Writing Skills

Whether you pursue an engineering or liberal arts degree, having solid writing skills will serve you well during college and later in your career. Even math majors have to write papers!

Now is the time to ask for detailed feedback on assignments, college essays and scholarship applications. Work hard to incorporate edits and comments to produce a better draft than the first. “Your teacher has had plenty of time to analyze your work,” says Walsh, and can provide specific details about how you can bolster your writing.

By collaborating with your teachers, you will improve your existing skills and the ability to deal with the challenges that college — and life — will throw your way, says Walsh. Learning to take your teacher’s constructive criticism, to question, accept and improve as you move forward will prepare you to achieve your goals in college.