Between fostering a supportive, collaborative and welcoming learning environment, helping students to develop prime study techniques, and developing strong communication with parents and guardians, teachers are tasked with doing quite a bit for their students. Still, some of these processes stand head and shoulders above others in terms of importance.

One of the most vital roles that any educator will play in the lives of their students comes near the end of their time in primary education. Helping your students ensure that their college application process runs smoothly can be an arduous path as there are seemingly countless steps to it.

No two students will find themselves in exactly the same situation

To further this thought, no two students will find themselves in exactly the same situation. Some of your pupils will be looking at small liberal arts schools while others will want a large state university. Some will know exactly where they go and what they want to study, while others still will be overwhelmed with simply starting the process.

Regardless of where your student is in this timeline, you can serve as a phenomenal resource to them along the way. If you’re looking for some advice on how to help your students apply to college, take a look at these few tips:

Recommendation Letters

If you teach high school or have had a strong influence in a given pupil’s academic life through an earlier grade, then you can expect that some of your students will eventually call on you for recommendations. This process, though it can be stressful, should be taken as something of an honor or nod of respect. This student trusts you enough to aid in representing them to the schools they’re applying to.

Of course, you’ll want to do everything in your power to help them gain admission, but it’s important to remember to be realistic about the procedure. As The College Board has pointed out, it’s imperative that these recommendations are entirely honest.

With that in mind, you should have a conversation with each student you agree to write one for regarding their strengths and weaknesses during their time in your classroom. Make sure that the two of you have a mutual understanding of what you intend to outline in their letter. Further, if you feel as though a student who requests this isn’t someone you’re comfortable recommending, you need to politely decline the request. It’s only fair to both of you.

Establish a timeline

Whether you’re helping a student with the application process out of personal interest or because they’ve requested your expertise, one of the best steps you can take is to establish a timeline. As U.S. News & World Report has indicated, the time rising seniors have to apply to college is a small window.

Try sitting down with the pupils that you’re helping near the end of their junior year and ensuring that they understand all the requisite steps of the undertaking. Help them to not only develop a timeline of when they need to submit test scores, application fees, documents and recommendation letters, but also check in with them periodically. This certainly requires a great deal of effort, but it can be incredibly beneficial to your student in the long run.

Help them set realistic goals

When applying to college, it’s good for your students to set lofty goals for themselves. Still, it’s imperative that these goals align with the success that is possible for them based on their marks, test scores and other application components. Do your best to encourage your pupils to get into the best school that they can, but also take the time to ensure that they aren’t shooting too high.

For example, a B- student applying to Harvard and Yale might need something of a reality check. Be sure to be polite but honest with this feedback, as it can be crucial towards ensuring that they make the right choice when it comes time to pick a school.