@Siv Just to clarify a bit – I am not of the camp that a 12-year-old should be driving this bus. (Others will disagree.) I do not think that any of my kids could have driven this application cycle at the age of 12/13. And they are all wonderful, competent, successful kids.
But, for the recommendations, yes that is a conversation that needs to happen, with a meeting, between student and teacher. Ideally, student would ask for the meeting, and then show up with a document that talks a little more about their background, hopes, dreams, strengths and weaknesses. (Every part of the application should be pointing the arrow at the same target.). So that document, by the way, would come out of the “who am I” brainstorm that would also lead into essay writing.
The goal is for admissions officers to pass what I call the cafeteria test which is this:
one admissions officer is sitting down with other admissions officers in the cafeteria for lunch, and casually chatting, he says: oh so I’m reading the application of the kid who…XYZ." That XYZ should be really easy and clear to communicate, such that the other colleagues are like “oh yes I read that one yesterday!”
So what is XYZ? Well – if it’s a really long list of school activities (even impressive ones), and great SSATs and top grades, and teachers who say great kid good grades…well…that’s not passing my cafeteria test.
You want someone to be able to say: I’m reading about the kid who plays basketball and was the MVP even though he is the second shortest person in his class, and so he created an event called Underdogs Win that celebrates people overcoming odds.
Or XYZ is: I’m reading about the girl who played tuba her whole life and discovered that she was great at carrying heavy objects so she became a volunteer at goodwill in the furniture department, so now she wants to grow up to be a social worker.
(Obviously I am making up random things. But my point is: understanding who you are, and why, and what that means for the future and then communicating that in a clear way will help AOs talk about and remember your kid in a compelling way.)
Back to the kid having the recommender meetings:
if you want to pave the way a bit, I think it’s totally fine to reach out to a teacher and say something like just wanted to give you the heads up that Timmy will be reaching out next month to talk to you about doing a recommendation for boarding school. It’s been his dream for years, and I wanted to let you know that we fully support him, and I will be available to answer any questions you might have about the process. I know he’s looking forward to telling about all this himself, so I’ll let him do the talking, but I wanted to put this on your radar. (or whatever).
Finally: you know your kid. There are definitely kids who drive the entire bus who go to boarding school successfully. There are also kids whose parents hire consultants, who are paid very well to drive that bus slickly and smoothly, and they go to boarding school successfully too. And everything in between. So, I don’t personally think that the app process is some great test of how ready they are to head out to boarding school. (But of course, if they seem to resist all of it, then of course, that might be a yellow flag.)