Ideal Common App Essay Timetable

Hello Again to College Application Essays

As an essay coach, I’m often asked, “What’s the Common App essay timetable? When should my kid start writing The Essay?” 

I’m so glad you asked! It’s not as easy an answer as “the 4th of July”– though that CAN be a good time to start.

The Common App Essay, AKA the Personal Statement, is the spine of many college applications, unless you’re applying to MIT or one of the state universities that does not use the Common Application.

I’ve had families contact me for the first time on December 25th (yes, Christmas DAY) for applications due on January 1. Don’t be that family! This past year, I got an email from a student at 8pm on New Year’s Eve — application due January 1st. Don’t be that student!

If it’s not Christmas, what should be your essay timetable? While you can begin writing your Common Application now because the essay prompts are already available — as are theUniversity of California Personal Insight questions — most students comfortably begin when they get out of school in June.

If possible, the summer before senior year is a great time to do some or all of your admissions essays–Common App and supplements. But it’s not always possible — and I’ve worked with many students throughout the fall on the process. But once June and July come around, the sooner the better IS a good frame of mind.

Depending on the colleges you choose, there may be a wide variety of required essays . If you want a list of prompts for the Common App, University of California, Texas, and Michigan, and prompts for about 30 colleges for this past year, please email me and I’ll send you a Word Doc.

If you’re not sure about your college list, these are two resources I love: One is free — — and one is about $25: The Best 387 Colleges, published every August by Princeton Review. And the number in the title goes up every year, so that the title will not stay the same.  You can read about these resources on my post. 

If your goal for the summer is to write your Common App essay or those of non-Common App universities (ie MIT, the University of California or Texas), it’s doable if you start early in summer; don’t wait for August. Oftentimes, the supplements for many colleges are not finalized or known until August 1, when the Common Application itself goes live. Sometimes, colleges DO publish the supplemental essays before August 1. It’s unpredictable!

There is a lot to keep track of, particularly if you haven’t been through this process before.

Please let me know if you want suggestions, support or advice as you and your family approach this high stakes period. It’s often stressful and can leave parents and students feeling lost and helpless. If that’s where you are, shoot me an email or give me a call. Do yourself a favor, and don’t wait until Christmas Day. Or New Year’s Eve.

To find out more about what I can do for you and your application, Please click here. To learn more about my values as a college admissions essay coach, please click here.

If you’re interested, I can help with college selection.

And to find out why I love this year’s Common App essay prompts, please click here.   1-855-99-ESSAY (East Coast time!) 

Thanks for visiting.