When Should You Write Your College Essay?

If you’re like most students, you may be dreading writing the essay for your college applications. And if you’re reading this blog you may be wondering how long you can put off this daunting task? Well, I always say, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today – and this definitely applies to writing your primary essay, also referred to as your personal statement. Ideally, you should start writing your college essay the summer before your senior year. You want to give this essay the time it deserves and the summer, when you are free from school work and extracurricular activities, is the perfect time to tackle it.

Don’t let not having an idea of what to write about prevent you from getting started. The Common Application has a series of topic prompts that you can choose from and our blog What Should I Write My College Essay About can also help give you a jump start. And don’t stress about having to write a lot of essays. Your primary essay goes to all of the colleges you are applying to, at least the schools that are on your Common Application, and most that are not. So at least you most likely only have one major essay to write! Click here to read about using the same essay for different colleges.

When Should You Have Your College Essay Finished and Ready to Submit?

You may be wondering, if you start writing the essay right after you complete your junior year, when should the essay be finished. August 1 begins the very busy time for students who are applying to colleges, given that the new Common Application becomes available then. At that point a student can continue with their application work and compile their supplemental essays. Our goal with students who we can begin working with on their primary essay in June/early July is to have it completed, reviewed and ready to be copied into their application(s) no later than the end of July.

At Signature College Counseling, we like to let our high school juniors finish off their junior year and then we get started guiding them through writing their primary essay. Typically that is around mid-June, but for some schools that can be as early as the end of May or early June. For our students that are going away in July or the entire summer, as in heading to be a camp counselor at a sleepaway camp or an extended vacation with their family, we start BEFORE the end of their junior year, sometime in early May (or after AP exams if the student is in AP classes). This is so they finish their primary essay/personal statement prior to going away for July or the summer. We like all of our students to have their essays finished and ready to go by the end of July.

How Long Does It Take to Write the Essay?

The amount of time it takes to complete writing the college essay varies by student – the time they can devote to this task, as well as the complexity of the essay and the student’s abilities. What you don’t want to do is start the essay knowing that you will have to put it away for a period of time because you are going on vacation, or have to do schoolwork. You want to be able to give this very important piece of writing the undivided attention it deserves. When you do this, you will be surprised at how quickly the process can go. For some students it may take a week, some just a few days and others a few weeks. What I will say is that the longer it takes the more laborious it becomes and the more it drags out.

So when it comes to writing your college essay, the short of it is, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today and give this key task to your college applications the due time it deserves.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone and by email.