The College Essay Timeline

The early bird gets the worm, while the late bird procrastinates. Don’t leave your college essay for the last minute. This guide will outline the perfect college essay timeline plan to keep you on track!

What Is A College Essay Timeline?

A college essay timeline is a step-by-step plan that helps students manage their time and tasks effectively while writing a college essay. 

It helps students break down the writing process into smaller, more manageable chunks and allows them to make progress on their essay step by step. 

Student writes using the college essay timeline

The timeline typically includes tasks such as researching and brainstorming ideas, outlining the essay, writing drafts and revising and editing the final version. 

By following a college essay timeline, students can ensure they have enough time to complete and submit their essays before the deadline. It is important for students to be organized and follow a timeline to produce a high-quality essay that meets the requirements of their college or university.

When To Begin College Essay Timeline?

It is generally a good idea to begin working on a college essay timeline as soon as you can. College essays are vastly required by the majority of universities you apply to.

Don’t let it stress you out much; there is no need to skip fun senior-year events over this. However, getting a head start will give you enough time to research, brainstorm, and outline your essay. You need time to write as well as revise multiple drafts. 

Seniors tend to have so many questions when it comes to college essays. I know I did! For instance, can college essays be sad? Or can college essays be informal? I answer all of these questions in other articles.

Starting early will also help reduce the stress of completing the essay on time, as you will have a plan in place to follow and will be able to complete the essay in a more relaxed and focused manner.

If you are struggling to develop ideas for your essay, begin the brainstorming and research process as soon as possible. This will give you time to explore different ideas and gather information from various sources, which will help you craft a more substantial essay.

It is also essential to consider any other commitments or deadlines you may have when determining when to begin your college essay timeline. Make sure to allocate enough time for each task and build in some flexibility for unexpected delays or changes. 

By being organized and starting early, you can set yourself up for success and produce a high-quality college essay! It is all in the timing and how much effort you put into your work.

Can I Write My College Essay About Anything?

Weirdly, yes, but also no. There is an extent to what college essays can and should cover. Most colleges provide a limited list covering topics they would like students to cover.

Nevertheless, other colleges can simply leave it open-ended, so it’s the student’s choice on what to write. For some reason, this can be even more nerve-wracking for seniors trying to write their application essays.

If you want to know the complete answer to the question, “Can I Write My College Essay About Anything?” Check out my article all about it.

The College Essay Timeline Outlined

Below is an outline that provides a detailed overview of the tasks and milestones involved in the college essay timeline. Organized by months in increments of two at a time should give you plenty of time to get it done!


Before junior year comes to an end, you should start narrowing down the colleges you want to apply to. There is no need to begin drastically writing essays left and right.

At this time, most students will be studying and getting ready to take their final exams. These are the moments when students need to practice equations, ask questions, and focus on passing.


Researching colleges and narrowing down your college list is a vital step in the college essay timeline. It is necessary to do your research and consider a range of factors, such as the size of the school, the location, the academic programs and majors offered, the campus culture and student life, and the cost of tuition and fees.

To begin your research, you can start by looking at websites and brochures from the colleges on your list, as well as reading online reviews and speaking with current or former alumni students. You can also visit the colleges in person or attend college fairs to get a better feel for the campus.

Once you have gathered all of this information, it is time to narrow down your college list. 

This can be challenging, as you will need to weigh each school’s pros and cons and decide which is the best fit for you. Throughout this research phase, you might wonder if you can accept admission to multiple colleges. However, it is essential to be honest with yourself and consider your academic goals, interests, and values.

By researching colleges and narrowing down your list, you can make an informed decision about where to apply. Thus, you increase your chances of being accepted to a college that is a good match for you.


Summer is the best time of a student’s academic year. It’s sunny and warm, which is the perfect time to hit the beach. But many need to remember to hit the books too!

With no homework or exams getting in the way, it is the perfect time to brainstorm and draft two college essays. Though you technically only need one, having a backup never hurts.

Focus the topic of the essays on entirely different things so you can branch out more. You have a little over two months to get them done, so use your time wisely.

Final Drafts

By the middle of July, both of your drafts should already be finalized and ready to receive feedback. Having your college essays ready at the beginning of the school year is perfect. 

Completing your college essay over the summer can be a great way to get a head start on the college application process. Plus, it will greatly reduce your workload during the school year. 

Working on your essay over the summer will give you more time to research, brainstorm, and write without the distractions and demands of classes and other extracurricular activities.

Furthermore, it will give you time to thoroughly enjoy your senior year, which tends to be filled with various fun activities, trips, and other celebrations as a last hurrah until graduation.

To get started, it is a good idea to create a timeline and set specific goals for each week or month. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you have enough time to complete all of the tasks involved in the writing process.

While working on your essay over the summer, taking breaks and engaging in other activities is important to keep your mind fresh. It is also good to seek feedback from trusted sources, such as a teacher, counselor, or mentor, to help improve your essay.

By completing your college essay over the summer, you will have the opportunity to submit your application early and increase your chances of being accepted to your top college choices.


The following two months on the college essay timeline are strictly for making final edits and having the essay ready for submission. It is the perfect time to ask a couple of trusted individuals to read it and give you notes.

Refrain from going over the line with the number of people you ask. Aim for around 3-5, so you get enough opinions but not too many. Asking a teacher, counselor, and mentor can boost the academic aspect of your essay.

Nevertheless, asking a parent, guardian, or close friend can enhance your personal essence and show the college admission officers an inside of your personality, which plays a significant role in your admission.

Having your essay ready when back to school rolls around means you can be the first to ask your new or old teachers to review your work. Doing this can help you avoid the chaos that comes around when deadlines get closer.

As the year approaches its end and deadlines are evident, students tend to bombard teachers with college essays, recommendation letters, and unanswered questions.

Therefore, leaving it for the last minute is not a good look and can keep you from getting the attention your essay truly deserves. Being one of the first students to ask can also make you golden to your teacher!

It is also the perfect time period to have your definitive college picks. Once you know what universities you plan on attending, it is a great idea to shoot them an email, Maybe even start talking to some of their counselors or administrators.


Consider this time of year the most stressful. Teachers are being asked for recommendation letters, counselors need to ensure all students are on the path to graduation, and everyone is tense.

It’s time to finally submit your college applications; part of it is your essay. You will have to decide whether you will apply for early or rolling admission, but regardless of what you choose, your essay will be done thanks to the college essay timeline.

You can lay back and enjoy your Halloween candy and Thanksgiving turkey without having to cram your essay all in one night.


Now, ’tis the season of waiting. As December and January roll around the corner, students should already be getting their admission letters and emails.

It’s the perfect time to celebrate a job well done and choose which college is your final decision. This is the last and best step of the college essay timeline.

Final Thoughts

The time you invest into your college essay is genuinely minimum if spread out correctly and utilized the college essay timeline. By getting started early on, you won’t limit yourself to getting it done in a short time.

Plus, you won’t have to stress over it. And you’ll be able to go over your final draft as many times as you need. Furthermore, counselors, mentors, and teachers will have ample time to review it with you before chaos kicks in.

Procrastination is a big issue with seniors as their time in high school comes to an end. However, by setting small, consistent goals over a long period of six months, it will feel manageable. I hope the college essay timeline works for you!

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